From Our Artifacts Collection
The Penknife and the Matzah Cover
Lea Holczer was born in Kunzentmiklos in Hungary. She was 17 years old when she and her elder sister Jolan were transferred from Auschwitz to Langenbielau, a sub-camp of the Gross-Rosen concentration camp in Lower Silesia, Germany. Their mother Berta and their younger sister Rozs were murdered in Auschwitz. Their father, Rodolf, perished in Budapest.
When Lea returned to her family home after the war she was reunited with her brothers, Zsigmondt and Miklos, who had been conscripted to labor battalions and survived. At the home of a neighbor, Lea found the matzah cover that her grandmother, Chana Reasz had made in 1905.
Lea inherited her grandmother’s embroidery skills; when she donated the matzah cover to Yad Vashem through the Gathering the Fragments campaign, Lea related how her creativity had enabled her to survive in the camp. She had used a penknife that she had found and hidden in her clothing, to carve knitting needles from the bed boards. With threads that she unpicked from pieces of fabric, Lea knitted garments for the other prisoners in exchange for food.
As well as the matzah cover, Lea donated items from her time in Langenbielau: the penknife that she had used to carve the knitting needles, and a piece of cloth, taken from the textile factory where she worked, on which she had sketched scenes describing life in Langenbielau using a pencil that she had “acquired” from an inmate working as a registrar. The drawing is pinned with her sister Jolan’s prisoner number from Auschwitz. (Lea's pin with the consecutive number was not saved).
Lea married Dov Roth, also a survivor. They spent three years in the Pocking DP camp in Germany, where their son Zvi was born. In 1949 they immigrated to Israel, where their daughter Shulamit was born.