The family story states that Rafael Knecht the son of Lewek came from a town somewhere near LODZ (currently Poland) and settle in Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki (currently Poland) around 1820. It is unclear if he came as a married man with a child or as a single individual. We do know, that Raphael and his wife Chaja Sura daughter of Hersz had 5 sons. His son David Hersh (Hebrew name Dawid Zvi) is the only one to survive to adulthood.
Dawid Hersh Knecht had a total of 9 children from two different wives. Two with his first wife Perla (1839 – abt. 1856) and seven with his second wife Sura Cypra Altsztejn (1837-1903). Only 7 survived to adulthood.
According to historical records, Rafael was a tailor by profession as was his son David Hersh and many of his sons.
Through the majority of the 1800’s and until the start of World War I, Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki was part of the Russian Empire. While under Russian control the town was know as Novo Georgieve (a 1902 map of the region from the Century Dictionary and Cycloepia, at a scale of 1 centimeter (cm) = approximately 50 kilometers (km)).
The Jewish population Nowy Dwor varied from 150 (25% of the population) in 1806 to a high of 4,737 (65% of the population) in 1897. Due to economic changes, the impact of the Russo-Japanese war and other political and racial conflicts, the size Jewish population of Nowy Dwor began to decline at the start of the 20th century. By 1931, the Jewish population had dropped to 3,061 or 42% of the population.
As with many, two of David Hersh’s sons Towie (“Toyva”) and Jacob (“Jack”) left Nowy Dwor at the start of the 20th century. Their destination was England. Upon reaching England, both changed their name from KNECHT to LEVY. For ease of use in the English community, the family changed the name to Levy, reflecting the Knecht family’s Judaic tribe of Levite. During World War I, Jack Levy joined and served with the British Army. Following WWI both both men and their families moved and settled in Canada. Jack Levy would latter enlist in the Canadian Army during WWII.
David Hersh’s daughter TOBA left Poland in 1920 with her four children to join her husband Hersh (Harry) ROTHSTEIN in the United States of America. All of David Hersh’s other children remained in Poland.
It wasn’t until the start of World War II before more of the Knecht family would leave Poland. The ones who did leave, head for relative safety in the Soviet Union including Iser
Knecht and his family (See: Camp “20th Quartal“). It was at this time that history took its toll on the Knecht family.
With World War II came the horrors of the Holocaust. During the Holocaust, a vast proportion of the family was killed (as documented in the Knecht Family Tree ) in the Concentration Camps and in the streets. The Nowy Dwor’s Yikzor Book documents the murder of David Hersh’s son, Aron Lieb, and covers the plight of the town of Nowy Dwor in the section titled “The Pain and Destruction of the Jewish Population“.
Despite the thoroughness of the Holocaust, some members of the Knecht family survived. They were able to confirm the death of parents, siblings and children in such places as Auschwitz and Treblinka. Of the five children of David Hersh who were alive at the start of WWII and living in Poland, not one survived. Many of their children and grandchildren also perished. The Knecht Family Tree documents these individuals.
Following the Holocaust, the surviving members of the Knecht family left Europe to start a new life. Descendants of Rafael and Chaja now live in Israel, Canada, USA, Australia and other countries.