Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later: Key Artifacts

Key Artifacts

  Westerbork – Auschwitz  Westerbork, a major transit camp outside of Amsterdam and on the border of the Netherlands, was a stopping point for Jews on their way to the East. This sign was nailed onto the side of a railcar, identifying it as a shuttle train to Auschwitz, ca. 1941. On loan from the Steven F. Cassidy Collection.   Children’s Books Die Judenfrage im Uterricht (The Jewish Question in Classroom Instruction), published in 1937, was part of required curriculum for teachers under the Nazi regime in Germany. The Poisonous Mushroom (1938), along with Trust No Fox on his Green Heath and No Jew on his Oath (1936) and The Poodle-Pug-Dachshund-Pinscher (1940), were part of a children’s books series published by Julius Streicher, editor of Der Sturmer, an anti-Semitic tabloid distributed throughout Germany. Geared toward children, these stories painted a negative picture not only of Jews, but of anyone considered a threat to the Aryan race. On loan from the Steven F. Cassidy Collection. Children’s shoes These children’s shoes were made by prisoners in Buchenwald concentration camp, ca. 1942. While interred in Auschwitz, many prisoners were similarly forced to manufacture children’s shoes, which would be sent back to Germany. Bella Ouziel was part of the Shoe Commando in Auschwitz, where she manufactured and sorted shoes. On loan from the Steven F. Cassidy Collection. Haggada During the Holocaust, this Haggada – the Passover service celebrating the liberation of ancient Israelites from Egyptian slavery – was hidden in the Weissensee cemetery in Berlin. After the war, it was dug up and used at a Jewish old-age home in Berlin in 1946 for a Seder for 30 to 40 Terezín camp survivors celebrating their second Exodus. On loan from the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education.     Prisoner uniform  This prisoner uniform belongs to Leo Willich, a prisoner at Auschwitz. In August 1944, Leo was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and later to Dachau. After the war, Leo kept this uniform in his closet for many years. He reflected, “When I have things that are troubling me, I will go to my little box and pull out my uniform, put it on, look at myself in the mirror, cry for a little while, put it back in the box, and my problems don’t mean anything anymore.” On loan from the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education.