Bearing Witness: Stories Behind the Artifacts in the Yad Vashem Museum Collection

Artifacts Immortalize

The artifacts that Meyer Hack donated to Yad Vashem’s Artifacts Collection, as a memorial to their original owners who were murderedThe artifacts that Meyer Hack donated to Yad Vashem’s Artifacts Collection, as a memorial to their original owners who were murdered   More photos

Meyer Hack was born in 1914 in Ciechanow, Poland. He was deported in 1942 together with the Jews of Ciechanow, among them his extended family, to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. His mother and sister were murdered on arrival and Meyer and his brother were sent to forced labor, hauling carts of the Jews' personal effects and clothing back and forth between Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau). The clothing was sorted, the valuable items transferred to Germany, while the tattered clothing remained for use by the prisoners. After more than a year of hard labor, Meyer’s brother Gershon was so weak that he failed to keep up with the pace of work and was beaten to death by a member of the SS.

In 1944 Meyer was transferred to a work detail in the “Bekleidungskammer” in Birkenau, which received the clothing that was deemed fit only for incoming prisoners after its initial sorting. Meyer had to mark the clothes with a red X, and redistribute them as prisoner clothing. On occasion, he found that the deportees had hidden valuables in the linings of the clothing, prior to their arrival in the camp. Meyer safeguarded the items, hiding them in a hole that he dug behind his barracks.

In January 1945, the surviving prisoners of Auschwitz-Birkenau were taken on a death march towards Germany. Before he was forced to leave, Meyer retrieved the items from their hiding place and hid them in a sock, thus managing to keep them during his internment at Dachau and throughout a second death march in May 1945 from Dachau towards Munich. Meyer escaped from the second march and hid in the forests until he was liberated by the Allies in May 1945.

After liberation, Meyer managed to find Cesia (Sylvia) Birnbaum, the “sweetheart” he had met while in Birkenau, and they married. After a number of years in Munich, Meyer and Sylvia immigrated with their son Daniel to the United States in 1950. Their second son Henry was born in America.

For sixty years Meyer did not discuss his experiences during the Holocaust. On Monday, June 15, 2009 Meyer Hack arrived from Massachusetts to donate these personal effects to Yad Vashem’s Artifacts Collection, as a memorial to their original owners, who were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Gift of Meyer Hack, Brighton, MA, USA