On 24 January 2023, Yad Vashem Chairman Dayan will be opening a new exhibition at the Bundestag together with Bundestag President H.E. Ms. Bärbel Bas. The exhibition, entitled "Sixteen Objects," was initiated by the German Society for Yad Vashem (Freundeskreis) to mark Yad Vashem's seventieth anniversary. It features unique Holocaust-era items, one from each of the Federal States of Germany, whose stories are intertwined with individual Jews hailing from across Germany.
Lore Mayerfeld, who's doll, is included in this exhibition remarks:
"We made the decision to donate my doll to Yad Vashem as a family," said Lore Mayerfeld. "At home Inge can only serve to remind me and my family of the atrocities we witnessed and endured, but at Yad Vashem Inge (the name of the doll given by Lore as a child) can tell our story to the world. This is why I go to Germany. To tell my story and the stories of the Six Million who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators and who they tried to erase all evidence and traces of their existence. These objects are witnesses to their lives and their stories that they never had the opportunity to tell. Through this exhibition and the work of Yad Vashem, we bring the memory out of the past and into the present."
Exhibition co-curators Executive Director of the German Society for Yad Vashem Ruth Ur and Director of the Yad Vashem Artifacts Department Michael Tal state:
"By connecting the personal stories of these objects with the current modern locations in Germany, the exhibition creates a bridge between the memory of the past to present and future societies. The items presented, which are part of the Yad Vashem's Collections – both large, like the piano that once belonged to the Margulies family, or small, as in the case of Lore Mayerfeld's childhood doll that dons the pajamas she wore the night of the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht) – are a reminder of the countless lives and communities destroyed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust."
Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan explains:
"I travel to Germany for the first time in my life, well aware of my deep responsibility to the past as well as my commitment, more than ever before, to ensuring a better future. The weight of the memory of the six million mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters – murdered less then eighty years ago simply because they were Jewish – is at the forefront of my responsibilities as the Chairman of Yad Vashem. At the same time, we are acutely aware of divisive antisemitic and xenophobic social elements currently at play in Germany and around the world. On this important visit, I will open an exhibition featuring objects whose owners were persecuted and even exterminated by their own countrymen and have since found their home in the Jewish homeland, the State of Israel. Through these personal stories, we will ensure that the last wishes of the victims of the Holocaust are fulfilled: that the world will know who they were and why they were murdered."
The exhibition features archival items from Yad Vashem's Collections juxtaposed with contemporary photos of the places from where they originally came.
"We hope that the objects and their local histories will spark interest and a new way of engaging with the past," conclude the curators.
The exhibition will be on display in the Bundestag for four weeks, and then travel to Essen to be exhibited at the Ruhr Museum before returning home to Israel.
"Sixteen Objects" Exhibition
Toy kitchen belonging to Anneliese Dreifus from Stuttgart
Anneliese Dreifus lived with her sister Helga and parents, members of the Reform Jewish Community, on Gerokstrasse in Stuttgart. Her father, Max, owned a large men's clothing business. In 1930, her mother, Elsa, died.
When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Anneliese was forced to leave her school. After the 1938 November Pogrom (Kristallnacht), Max was incarcerated in the Dachau concentration camp. He was released on condition that he leave Germany. So, in April 1939, Max and his two daughters, Anneliese and Helga, immigrated to the United States with a container of personal belongings, including Anneliese's toy doll kitchen. Her daughter, Agnes Hartstein, later donated the kitchen to Yad Vashem.
A pair of silver Torah finials belonging to Jacob and Bertha Weinschenk from Nürnberg
Jakob Weinschenk (b. 1863) and his wife Bertha (b. 1869) were among the founders of the orthodox "Adas Yisroel" synagogue in Nürnberg, to which they donated a pair of silver Torah finials (Rimonim) – a precious silver adornment for the Torah scroll – engraved with their names. The Weinschenk family had been living in the region for nine generations.
During the 1938 November Pogrom (Kristallnacht), the synagogue was burnt down and looted; the silver objects were taken to a melting factory in Fürth. One worker identified the Rimonim as religious objects and kept them until her death.
Chana Bühler (née Weinschenk) immigrated to the United States with her family, but her parents and sister, Pauline, were unable to obtain visas. Pauline fled to France with her son Herbert. Her other son Martin was murdered in Auschwitz.
In 1942, Bertha and Jakob Weinschenk were deported to Theresienstadt. Jacob Weinschenk died there in 1943. In February 1945, Bertha was sent to Switzerland together with another 1,200 prisoners. From there she traveled to her daughter Chana in the United States.
The Rimonim were given to Jakob and Bertha's descendants in the US by the historian Ralf Rossmeisel. The family donated these items to Yad Vashem as a way to symbolize the continuation of Jewish life in Israel.
Medical tool that belonged Dr. Hermann Zondek from Berlin
Born to a father who was a textile merchant in Wronke Posen, Hermann Zondek (b. 1887) had a distinguished professional career, including serving as a doctor during WWI. In the period between the wars, his research was highly regarded. In 1926, he was appointed Director of the "Am Urban" city hospital in Berlin. Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann and Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher were among his patients.
In March 1933, Nazi stormtroopers burst into the hospital and imprisoned Prof. Zondek and other doctors in one room. He was released and ordered to leave Germany the same day. He immediately left for Switzerland and later immigrated to Eretz Israel. Despite lucrative offers from all over the world, Prof. Zondek decided to stay in the Jewish homeland. He became the head doctor of the Bikur Cholim Clinic in Jerusalem until 1951, when he transferred to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has been recognized globally for his specialty in metabolic diseases. Hermann Zondek's personal belongings, including this medical tool, are displayed in the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem.
Remnant of the "Maccabi" flag from the Ahrensdorf "Hachshara" (training farm)
Anneliese Borinski (later Ora Aloni, 1914–1997) trained at the Maccabi Hachshara camp in Ahrensdorf. There, she prepared Jewish youth for life on the kibbutz, and taught them Zionist and Jewish studies. At a certain point, the Gestapo took control of the farm until it was closed in 1941, and all the counselors and youth were relocated to Camp Neuendorf. When their deportation orders were issued, the members decided to cut up their "Maccabi Hatzair" youth group flag into twelve pieces, and promised each other that after the war they would meet again in Eretz Israel to reassemble the flag.
On 19 April 1943, a deportation train left Berlin bound for Auschwitz. On the transport were 600 Jews, including Anneliese. She kept her flag fragment with her, despite all body searches and selections. In January 1945, she managed to escape a death march near Leipzig, and was liberated by American forces. Of the twelve Ahrensdorf members who took parts of the flag, only three survived the Holocaust, and only Anneliese was able to fulfil the promise to take her flag fragment to Eretz Israel, to where she immigrated immediately after the war. In 2007, her son donated her piece of the flag to Yad Vashem.
Suitcase bearing the name and date of birth of Selma Sara Vellemann from Bremen
This suitcase was found in Berlin many years after the war, but there was no information about its owner or her fate. Researchers at Yad Vashem were unable to determine how the suitcase got to Berlin or any other identifying belongings, but, thanks to Yad Vashem's Archives, discovered that a woman named Selma Vellemann had lived in the retirement home on Gröpelinger Heerstrasse. On 23 July 1942, at the age of 66, she was brought to Hanover with the other residents. From there she was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto, and two months later sent to her death in the Treblinka extermination camp.
Torah Ark created by Leon Cohen of Hamburg and taken to with him to Theresienstadt
The Cohen-Walsrode family had lived in Hamburg-Altona, Germany, since the first half of the eighteenth century. They chose the name Walsrode to distinguish themselves from other families named Cohen in the Altonaer community. Leon Cohen (b. 1893) ran his own business as a shoemaker. During World War I, Leon was injured. Afterwards, he built wooden furniture during his spare time. He was an active member of the community, and joined the Chevra Kedisha Society to bury the dead. After the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht), he was forced to close his shop and took over the management of the local nursing home.
In 1939, he finished this small Torah Ark – inscribing on it the passage from Isiah 12:1: "On that day you will say: 'I will praise you, O LORD. although You were angry with me, Your anger has turned away and You have comforted me'" – a symbol of his faith and trust in God.
Leon and his wife Adele (b. 1907) were living with their children Daniel (b. 1935) and Betty (b. 1936) on the corner of Breite Strasse and Kirchenstrasse when they were deported to Theresienstadt. Leon took the Torah Ark with him and placed it in the ghetto's children's home. On 28 October 1944, Leon was deported on the last transport to Auschwitz. He left the Torah Ark behind in the care of the director of the children's home, Henrietta Blum. The Cohen family was murdered in Auschwitz; Henrietta Blum survived and donated the Torah Ark to Yad Vashem after immigrating to Israel. Today, there is a stolperstein (brass pavement plaque) marking the former residence of the Cohen family.
Doll taken by Lore Mayerfeld Stern from Kassel
The doll, named Inge, is wearing the same pajamas Lore Mayerfeld Stern wore when hiding during the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht).
Lore's father, Markus Stern, was arrested and sent to the Buchenwald camp. The neighbors offered to hide his wife Kaetchen and their little daughter in their house, to protect them from the mob that was breaking into and vandalizing Jewish homes. Lore, already in pajamas, hid with her mother at the neighbors until the pogrom was over. When they returned home, they found that the place had been torn apart, and was not fit for habitation. They moved in with Kaetchen's mother, Lena Kahnlein-Stern. After six weeks' internment, thanks to the US visa in his possession, Markus was released on condition that he leave Germany immediately.
Briefcase belonging to Josef Wolf from Greifswald
At the age of 18, Josef Wolf (b. 1900) settled in Greifswald. He married Charlotte Rotenberg, who, like him, hailed from Poland. In 1937, they had a daughter, Jutta. The family lived on Lange Street. In November 1938, Josef Wolf was arrested and imprisoned for four months in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After his release, the family planned their escape through France to Uruguay, where Charlotte's sister was residing. When dealing with authorities in Stettin, Josef was arrested again and sent to a forced labor camp. After his release, the family escaped to France, but when the war broke out there they were sent to an internment camp. With the help of the French Jewish community, the Wolfs finally escaped via England. From there they traveled by ship to Uruguay, but found the borders closed to refugees.
They traveled to Bolivia, where Josef died at the young age of 49. Charlotte and Jutta went to on to Uruguay. In 1950, they immigrated to Israel. This briefcase that belonged to Josef Wolf accompanied him during his detentions and on the run to Uruguay. His daughter Jutta later donated it to Yad Vashem.
Letter written by 11-year-old Siegfried Rappaport, originally from Hannover
The Rappaport family – Moritz and Maria (Miriam), and their four children: Paula (b. 1923), Resi (b. 1924), Siegfried (Sigi, b. 1933) and Paul (b. 1935)– lived at Escherstrasse 23 in Hannover. In 1938, the family was included in one of the first mass deportation of Jews to Poland, but they were denied entry at the border. Moritz was incarcerated and Maria fell ill and was hospitalized. Every morning, the children would visit their father in prison and then their mother in the hospital. One day, they learned that their father had secretly been taken to the border. His children never saw him again. He was later murdered, along with other Polish Jews.
Resi was sent on the Kindertransport; the rest of the family tried in vain to follow. In December 1941, the remaining family was deported to the ghetto in Riga. After nearly three years in the ghetto, they were sent to Stutthof, where they were separated. In 1944, at the age of eleven, Siegfried (Sigi) Rapaport found a long, narrow strip of paper and wrote a letter to his mother, in which he expresses his worry for her. Sigi was never reunited with his family. He was murdered during a death march. Miriam died of typhus after liberation. Paul was deported to Auschwitz and murdered. Paula survived and saved the letter her brother wrote, testifying to his resourcefulness and courage. Paula and Resi later donated the letter to Yad Vashem.
Evening bag belonging to Jenni Bachrach from Essen
The furniture wholesaler shop owner, Hermann Bachrach (b. 1880), and his wife Jenni (b. 1881) lived together with their adopted daughter, Eva (b. 1927). In November 1938, the Bachrach family decided to flee Germany, and began to search for opportunities. In 1939, Hermann and Jenni sent Eva on the Kindertransport to England. The young girl went to live with a kindergarten teacher by the name of Kathleen Morley. Hermann and Jenni remained in Germany in hiding.
In April 1942, Jenni was deported to Lublin and then to the Belzec death camp, where she was murdered. Eva learnt of the fate of her mother in 1944. At the age of 17, Eva joined a Zionist group, and in 1946 she tried to immigrate to Eretz Israel. However, she was caught and sent to an internment camp in Cyprus. One year later, Eva finally arrived in Israel and settled in Kibbutz Kfar Blum in the northern part of the country. There she found out the identity of her biological parents, Julia and Solomon Baum, and that she was their sixth child. She also learned that a number of her biological siblings had survived the war. In 1952, Eva received some of the personal belongings of her adoptive parents, including Jenni's evening bag. Years later, she donated the bag to Yad Vashem.
Matzah cover and stand made by Karoline Süss from Mainz
Hermann Süss (b. 1865), a wine merchant, had lived with his wife Karoline (b. 1876) on Gonsenheimer Strasse in Mainz since the turn of the twentieth century. Two of their five children died young, and the other three, Mina, Friedrich and Sigmund, immigrated to Eretz Israel before the outbreak of WWII.
Friends of the couple, Julius and Claire Picard, immigrated to the US in 1938. As parting gifts, Karoline Süss designed two objects for the Seder (Passover feast): a stand for matzah (unleavened bread) with the embroidered Hebrew inscription, “And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough they brought out of Egypt," and a cloth to cover the matzah with the inscription: “Seven days shall you eat matzah.”
In September 1942, the Süss couple was deported to Theresienstadt. Hermann Süss died in January 1943. Karoline Süss was deported to Auschwitz in May 1944, where she was murdered. In the 1950s, while visiting the Picards, the couple gave Michael Süss the matzah stand and cover made by his grandmother before the war. Later, he donated them to Yad Vashem.
Album by Lilo Ermann from Saarbrücken
Willi Ermann (b. 1897) was born in Holz to Gustav and Henriette Ermann, who owned a textile factory. Gustav served in the Imperial Guard, a very high-ranking official for a Jew. Willi was drafted into the German Army during WWI. After the war, Willi married Else Mayer (b. 1903), and settled in Saarbrücken. In 1926, they had a daughter, Liselotte (Lilo). In 1938, as the situation of the Jews in Germany worsened, the family decided to move to Paris. Gustav and Henriette fled to Luxembourg.
In March 1943, Willi was deported from the Drancy transit camp to Auschwitz, followed, two months later, by Else and Lilo. All three were murdered in Auschwitz. Lilo's poetry album, which she had brought with her to Paris, came into the possession of her grandfather, Gustav Ermann, who survived the war by hiding in a monastery outside of the French capital. After the war, he immigrated to Eretz Israel, and later donated the album to Yad Vashem.
Piano that belonged to Margulies family from Chemnitz
Menashe Margulies and Bracha-Leah (Rachela) Markel, both emigrants from Poland, met in Chemnitz and got married. The couple had two sons: Adolf (Abraham, b. 1920), and Szalay (Shlomo, b. 1923). In Germany, the family operated a textile trading business, much of which was based in Holland.
In October 1938, all "non-German" Jews were expelled from Germany. Menashe and Bracha-Leah managed to escape deportation, and went into hiding in the house of an acquaintance. Abraham was caught and deported to Krakow. Fearing for his family's safety, Shlomo returned from Leipzig to Chemnitz, where he found his parents in hiding.
The family quickly came to the realization that they needed to leave Germany. They decided to try obtaining immigration visas to Eretz Israel. Shlomo paid 2,544 RM for roundtrip tickets that would take his family to their ancient homeland.
Bracha-Leah went to the police to obtain a permit for Abraham to return to Germany in order to fly to Palestine with the family. Against all odds, her request was granted, and Abraham was able to travel to Berlin. On 21 March 1939, Menashe, Bracha-Leah, Abraham and Shlomo Margulies were reunited, and the four of them departed Germany. After three days, including stops in Munich, Rome, Brindisi, Athens and Rhodes, the family finally landed in Haifa. The shipping container with their belongings, including their beloved piano, arrived shortly afterwards. Shlomo Margulies later donated the piano to Yad Vashem.
Towel from the factory of the Laufmann family in Wolmirstedt
Hermann and Machela Laufmann had lived with their two children, Markus and Sigman, since 1924 in Wolmirstedt, close to Magdeburg, where they operated a successful clothing and shoe business. The large shop and apartment were located on Stendaler Strasse (today August-Bebel Strasse), and Hermann Laufmann was befriended by city dignitaries.
There were only two Jewish families in Wolmirstedt in the 1930s, but when antisemitic sentiment began rising throughout Germany, the Laufmann family was targeted by young people who increasingly harassed them: They beat Hermann and looted their shop, smearing the windows with tar. The frightened family decided to leave Germany. Machela organized documents to immigrate to France and they left Wolmirstedt in the middle of the night along with only some of their belongings, including a towel with a Christmas greeting given to the Laufmann family in 1928 by one of their customers. Eran Laufmann, the grandson of Hermann and Machela Laufmann, later donated towel to Yad Vashem.
Hanukkah menorah belonging to the Posner family from Kiel
During Hanukkah 1931, Rachel Posner, wife of Rabbi Dr. Akiva Posner, took this photo of the family Hanukkah menorah from the window ledge of the family home looking out on to the building across the road decorated with Nazi flags.
Rabbi Dr. Akiva Posner served as the last chaplain of the community of Kiel, Germany before the Holocaust. He publicized a protest letter in the local press expressing indignation at the posters that had appeared in the city, with the words, “Entrance to Jews Forbidden!” He was summoned by the chairman of the local branch of the Nazi party to participate in a public debate. The event took place under heavy police guard and was reported by the local press.
When the tension and violence in the city intensified, the Rabbi responded to the pleas of his community to flee with his wife Rachel and their three children and make their way to Eretz Israel. Before their departure, Rabbi Posner was able to convince many of his congregants to leave as well, and indeed most managed to leave for Eretz Israel or the United States. The Posner family left Germany in 1933 and arrived in Eretz Israel in 1934. Years later, the grandchildren of the Posner family loaned their family's precious heirloom to Yad Vashem to be included in the permanent exhibition in the Holocaust History Museum, on the condition that each year the menorah would return home to the family to be used over the Festival of Lights. This past Hanukkah, the iconic menorah traveled to Germany, where it was lit for the first time in 91 years in the residence of the Federal President of Germany H.E. Mr.
Diary that belonged to Miriam Feiner from Erfurt
Marion Feiner (later Miriam Ziv, b. 1921) and her older sister Charlotte (later Yael) grew up in a very cultural and musical family. Their father Joseph worked with composers. Thanks to his profession, the family often received tickets for music and opera performances. Marion was a gifted athlete, and was on her school's swim team.
When the Nazis came to power, Joseph Feiner lost his position and became depressed. From then on, Marion's mother Adela supported her family with a tailoring business. At the age of 15, Marion began writing in a diary she had received from her friend Lissy as a birthday present. In the pages, she documented the events of her and her family's life.
Marion and Charlotte joined the Maccabi Hatzair Zionist youth movement. In February 1938, the parents sent their two daughters with Youth Aliyah to Eretz Israel. Marion first came to Kibbutz Ginegar near Deganya in the north of the country. In 1940, Marion's parents were deported to Lwów (Lviv) and murdered in an unknown location. Marion's daughter Dalia later donated the diary to Yad Vashem.