Chess pieces that Zigmund Stern carved for his son in the family's hideout
Chess pieces that Zigmund Stern carved while in hiding in Slovakia, 1944 Alfred and Richard Stern during the war. Alfred survived with his parents in hiding. Richard was murdered in Auschwitz Zigmund Stern Rosina Stern Maria Matulova with her husband Jan. Maria was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations for hiding the Stern family in her home
In the fall of 1944, Zigmund and Rosina Stern fled from Bratislava with their nine-year-old son Alfred, and began to wander through remote villages in Slovakia looking for hiding places. They sent their twelve-year-old son, Richard, to his grandparents in Budapest where they hoped he would be safe. They found a hideout for four months in the home of Maria and Jan Matulova, and then hid for a further three months in the home of the Potancok family in the village of Povraznik.
"…In the bunker of the Potancok family we were able to move around freely inside the house and in the yard", relates Alfred (Noah) Stern in his testimony. "Father decided to do something useful that would help us pass the time, of which there was an abundance. Using a medium-sized pen knife he carved chess pieces from small soft pieces of wood that he found in the yard. He worked on the project for two or three weeks, every day adding one or two new pieces. All the doubles looked identical and their beautiful design highlighted his skills. One day the task was completed and 32 carved chess pieces were the only decoration that adorned our room, enhancing the small surface next to the window. Father asked our landlord to buy a bottle of ink in the local shop. He painted one set of chess pieces with the ink and the other remained with its natural light wood color. Using the ink, father drew a chess board on stiff paper. In those days every man and youth from a cultured family knew the rules of the game of chess, so the residents of the bunker could pass the time in a comfortable and interesting way. There in the bunker at the age of nine, I learned all the rules of the game from Father and they're still clear in my mind today."
In March 1945 the area was liberated by a Romanian unit that fought with the Allies, and the family returned to Bratislava. On their return, the Sterns learned that their son Richard had been deported with his grandparents from Hungary to Auschwitz, where they were murdered.
In 1949 the Stern family immigrated to Israel. Maria Matulova was recognized as a Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Gift of Noah (Alfred) Stern and Miriam Chenchinski , Israel