From Our Artifacts Collection
A matzah cover that Berta Weinschenk had in Theresienstadt
The matzah cover is stamped with the following:
"ALTERSHEIM der IKG. XIX, HOHE WARTE"
This indicates that the matzah cover originated in the Home for the Aged of the Jewish community in Vienna that was located in the 19th district on Hohe Warte.
This building was established in 1871-2 as a home for the Jewish blind in Vienna. It is possible that the term “Altersheim” was given to the institution when the deportations to camps, among them Theresienstadt, began in 1941. We have no knowledge of how this item came to be in the possession of Berta Weinschenk who originated from Nuremberg, Germany.
Berta Gutmann was born in 1869 and married Jakob Weinschenk. The couple lived in Nuremberg. They had two daughters – Pauline and Hanna. Pauline married and established a home in France. Hanna married Jakob Buehler and they had two children - Ilse and Ernst. In October 1938 Jakob Buehler managed to emigrate to the United States, and from there managed to obtain emigration permits for his wife Hanna and the children who had stayed behind in Nuremberg with Hanna’s parents.
In spite of Hanna & Jakob’s attempts to obtain emigration papers for Hanna’s parents Berta & Jakob, on the 10th of September 1942 the elderly couple were deported to Theresienstadt near Prague. On the 1st of March 1943 Jakob Weinschenk died as a result of the terrible conditions in the camp. Over a year later Berta marked her 75th birthday in Theresienstadt on the 11th of May 1944, surrounded by friends who composed a poem that they wrote on a simple piece of cardboard, which has survived. It is possible that the matzah cover was left to Berta by a friend in Theresienstadt, perhaps one of those who signed their names at the end of the poem: Pauline Salomon, Paula Plaut, Hermann Plaut, Hamburger, Blanka Briska, Mathilde Heimberg, Marta Samson, Flory Ehrenwerth, Marta Kluth.
The Birthday Poem:
“The bravest woman in the entire room
Is this dear Mrs. Weinschenk….
“….And today she is 75 years old
We present to her our wishes
May my dream come true,
She herself could not wish for better
She sat, so I dreamed, among her loved ones
With wine and in good health
The room was comfortable and homely
We sang aloud with happy faces:
Little mother Weinschenk pour in
[a play on words: "Weinschenk" means host of a wine bar. "schenke ein" means pour in]
Long live little mother Weinschenk
Among your children and grandchildren.”
Berta’s friends’ good wishes came true and she survived in surprising circumstances. She related that in Theresienstadt in early 1945 a German officer asked: “Who wants to go to Switzerland?” She didn’t believe him for a minute, but because she wanted to die she volunteered. To her great surprise the train actually did arrive in St. Gallen, Switzerland, in February 1945. From there she continued to her children in the United States.
Berta’s elder daughter, Pauline survived the war in France with her son Herbert. Her second son Martin was deported to Auschwitz and murdered.
Berta preserved the matzah cover from the time of her imprisonment in Theresienstadt and throughout her life in the United States. After her death, her granddaughter Elsie Buehler-Simkovitz kept it and recently it was donated to Yad Vashem by Jakob & Berta Weinschenk’s descendants – the Buehler & Simkovitz families. The matzah cover was donated on the occasion of a ceremony held in honor of the donation of a pair of Torah finials for use in Yad Vashem’s Synagogue. Jakob and Berta Weinschenk originally dedicated the Torah finials at the beginning of the 20th century to their Synagogue in Nuremberg. Subsequently they were plundered during the Kristallnacht pogrom in November 1938, but miraculously returned to the couple’s descendants after 60 years thanks to the efforts of a German researcher, Ralf Rossmeissel.
Yad Vashem Artifacts collection, Gift of the Buehler & Simkovitz families, Israel & United States