When visiting ANTIQUES ROADSHOW in June 2021 at Grounds For Sculpture in New Jersey, a guest named Bruce brought a collection of personal items that belonged to his late mother Manya, born to Jewish parents in Poland in 1926, since his time confined in a German Concentration Camp during World War II.
As Bruce told Books & Manuscripts appraiser Ken Gloss, “In February 1942, shortly after her 16th birthday, my mother was called to the station at 4 a.m. and, under armed guard, sent in a labor camp in Czechoslovakia called Oberaltstadt”, which was a sub-camp of the Nazis Gross-Rosen concentration camp network.
Among the items Bruce brought to ROADSHOW was a postcard that Manya managed to write and get delivered to her parents, dated May 25, 1942, a few months after she arrived at camp. As the postcard was written in an unknown handwriting, Bruce and his family believe that a German officer may have originally transcribed the letter in Manya’s name.
ROADSHOW was able to obtain a typed copy of the postcard, provided by a German transcriber, who informed us that the postcard was written in an unusual, or at least non-standard German dialect that was difficult to interpret. Ian Ehling, who also reviews books and manuscripts for ANTIQUES ROADSHOW and who is German, helped read the transcript and provided his interpretation of the content.
He confirmed that Manya wrote to him, “Dear Precious (Beloved) and Unforgotten Parents,” and was moved to hear them. She comments on the ongoing eviction struggles in Sosnowiec and lets them know “she is working and healthy and wishes the same to her parents.” She then discusses the “beautiful scenery” around her as she got two days off for a Sunday afternoon excursion.
Ehling goes on to explain that Manya wishes her parents good luck and promises to continue writing every two weeks, and offers the names of those to whom she sends her regards.
Two photographs also accompanied Bruce’s letter: an image of Manya taken a few years before the war, when she was 13 or 14 years old, and an image of Manya and several Germans in Oberaltstadt. Bruce noted how the second photograph is cut out in places, as Manya was told that if she was photographed with “Aryans” she could be punished, and Aryans could be punished for being photographed with a Jew.
Nonetheless, Bruce thought the photograph was important to his mother, as she kept it with her in her wallet for years after the war. Bruce’s family archives also included a blouse that he says his mother Manya may have made herself in Oberaltstadt from scraps of fabric she found in the factory where she worked.
Bruce explained that, fortunately, his mother survived her ordeal in Oberaltstadt, and in May 1945, after the camp was liberated by the Allies, Manya was reunited with her older sister and younger brother. Sadly, however, she also learned soon after that both of her parents, as well as a younger sister and brother, had not survived.
Acknowledging the difficulty of assigning a monetary value to such intensely poignant and personal artifacts, Gloss said: “There is the famous quote that people who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”, pointing out that we must appreciate and preserve objects such as these. to do such learning.
For insurance or museum donation purposes, Gloss placed an insurance value of $10,000 on Bruce’s collection.
See the German transcription of Manya’s postcard and photos of Bruce’s other family keepsakes below.
Postcard written in 1942 from Oberaltstadt labor camp in Czechoslovakia
Wohnlager I. Firma Kluge Oberaltstadt Kr. Trautenau Sudentengau for A. Lajonz[?]. Oberaltstadt. 25.V.42 aufwiderzein meine libe. Libe, teire un nicht fergesene Eltern. Ore pK von […] habe ich erhalten mit filfroid und treinen geleisen. Libe Eltern es wundert mihr zehr warum ihr schreib zu mir zo weinig ich habe schon nicht kein Kop zo fil zu iberkleiren was ist. Ich habe gehert dass dize Woche ist schrecklich gewein bei oich mit die umsidlung es zint fil Leute vort von Sosnowitz. Andeis(?) hat mich ein bisl beruig dass Lola Apfelbaum hat erhalten ein pk. von zu hauze, dass die ale Familie was(?) haben die Kinder in lager bleiben zu hause forloifik, bin ich zehr zufriden dass ich kann auch uplaizen(?). Bei mihr kein noies ich arbeit in bin gezund dass zelbe wünsche ich mihr fon oich imer zu heiren Liebe Eltern. ich kann oich benachrichten az dize Woche haben mihr zwei tage fajertage. Zontag nachmitag wirden mihr ale gemein(?) auf ein Asflug. Wir haben angeschaut wo herlich ist hir dass Landschaft. Liebe Eltern ihr konnt sei fon dize Annsehskarte nur(?) es kaini ich schreiben dass ich habe mihr gemust ein par schuhe borgen. Die Schuhe brauch ich zehr noitig […] […] L. Eltern es ist meiglich az die ich wirde zu oich schreiben nur zwei mal in monat ale zwei wochen, das mal bitte nicht zu iberscheiren(?). Zu Kochenn bitte mihr gar nicht zu schicken. Ich grusse und küsse die Libe Eltern und geschwistl zehr herzlich fon mihr oire nicht fergesene tochtl und swestl was hoft imer gute post zu bekomen Mania[?] . Ein besondere gruss für Moter[?]Bata[?]Pinkus, Sala[?] and Kirele[?]
Ein herzliche gruss vonn Sureke[?]. Fur matrix Ein gruss F […] Rosenberg
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