Marking Holocaust Remembrance Day 2022, the following items connected to parting from loved ones in the shadow of deportation are currently being shown in the temporary display case in Yad Vashem's Visitors Center.
Vera Fürst's Wristwatch, Yugoslavia
In the wake of the German occupation, Aleksander and Vera Fürst, both doctors from Yugoslavia, left home with their two daughters, Katarina and Miriam, and moved to Hungary.
In 1942, Aleksander was sent to Oradea to work, and some two years later, his daughters were notified that he had committed suicide following his receipt of a directive to move into the ghetto. "When [mother] learned that father was dead, for three days she spoke with me about us taking our lives together," recalled Katerina. "She put terrible pressure on me, but I wanted to live so much, I was twenty… So she said:
'You're right, you will get through this war, but I don't have the strength."
A short time later, Hungarian gendarmes entered the Fürst family home and ordered Vera, Katarina and Miriam to prepare for deportation. Vera left the room.
"I asked her [Vera], 'Why are you not getting dressed?'" Katerina later related. "'I'm not coming with you,' she answered. I realized that something had happened. 'What did you take? What have you done?' I asked her, and she replied: 'Nothing, nothing.'"
Vera swiftly removed the ring from her finger, took the watch off her wrist and gave them both to her daughter. It later transpired that she had devised a plan to take her own life if she was ever ordered to leave her home. She died a short time later.
Both girls evaded deportation thanks to a friend of their father, a Hungarian police officer, and they fled to their aunt in Budapest. They survived in one of the safe houses in the city.
Katarina safeguarded the ring and wristwatch that Vera had given her before she died, as a last and precious memento of her mother.
Belt from Fania Schulman's Beitar Uniform, Lodz
In January 1944, the Schulman family – David, his three sisters and their mother – were deported from the Lodz ghetto to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. Shortly before the deportation, David's eldest sister Fania gave him the belt from her Beitar youth movement uniform, saying, "Maybe you'll need it someday."
After two months at Auschwitz, David was sent to various labor camps, and towards the end of the war he was forced on a death march. He was shot while trying to escape, but a fellow prisoner who was a doctor treated him and saved his life.
"The belt gave me the strength and the will to live," recalled David. "I hoped to return it to my family, and this desire spurred me to hide it in different places – to tie it to my legs, to put it inside my shirt, even to bury it."
David was the sole survivor of his family, and therefore wasn't able to realize his wish to return the belt to Fania. It remained as a last memento of David's beloved family, none of whom David ever saw again.
The author is Director of the Artifacts Department, Museums Division.
This article originally appeared in the "Yad Vashem Jerusalem Magazine," volume 97.