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HIAS identification tag issued to a 12 year old German Jewish refugee

Record Type:
1941 September  (received)
Accession Number:
received : Serpa Pinto (Ship); Lisbon (Portugal)
Brief Narrative:
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) ID tag issued to 12 year old Susi Hilsenrath in September 1941 for her voyage on the ship, Serpa Pinto, from Lisbon, Portugal, to the United States. Susi's family home in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, was vandalized by Nazi supporters during Kristallnacht on November 9-10, 1938. In August 1939, her father paid a woman to take Susi and her 9 year old brother, Joseph, to Paris, France. They were placed in children's homes in Paris, Versailles, and Broutvernet near Vichy. They were living in the Chateau des Morelles when HIAS located them. Their parents, Israel and Annie, with young brother Ernest had emigrated to the US. Israel asked HIAS to help him find his children. HIAS also arranged the permits that allowed Susi and Joseph to leave France to join their parents.
The identification tag was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2003 by Susan Hilsenrath Warsinger.
Identifying Artifacts
Object Type:
Name tags (lcsh)
overall : 16.500 x 4.750 in. (41.91 x 12.065 cm.)
overall : paper, ink, cloth
Conditions on Access:
No restrictions on access
Conditions on Use:
No restrictions on use
Subject : Susan Warsinger
Susi Hilsenrath was born on May 27, 1929, in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, to Israel and Annie Drimmer Hilsenrath. Israel was from Kolomaya, Poland, and owned a prosperous linen store. The family lived in a fancy house in an upscale neighborhood. Susi had two brothers: Joseph, born in 1930, and Ernest, born in 1938. The Nazi dictatorship took power in Germany in 1933. For a while, the family’s life remained unaffected. But as more anti-Jewish policies were enacted and Jewish businesses were boycotted, the family had to move to smaller and cheaper houses and neighborhoods. Susi attended public school until around 1936, when she had to leave and attend a one room school with the other Jewish children. On Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938, the family was living on the first floor of a three story building. Rabbi Alfred Jacobs lived on the second floor, and a non-Jewish family lived on the third floor. Susi and Joseph were in their shared room when bricks were thrown through their window. The children ran into their parent’s room, and Israel gave Susi all of his money, which she hid in her underwear. The family and Rabbi Jacob's family hid in the attic. Germans stormed into the house and found them. They cut off the Rabbi's beard and took him to jail. Israel was arrested, but was soon released because he was Polish. Susi and the others stayed in the attic for three days. The family on the third floor brought them food. Eventually they came down and cleaned up their home, The Jewish school was shut down.

The strict quotas made it unlikely that the family could get visas to emigrate. Israel heard of a French woman who took children across the border to France for a fee. A relative in Paris said that he would take Susi and Joseph for a while. In August 1939, Susi and Joseph left Germany with the woman who pretended that they were her children. Their uncle met them in Paris, and took them to a hotel. Annie had sent a trunk ahead for them. Joseph wet his bed, and their uncle wrote to their father to take back the children. He placed Susi and her brother in a house with fifteen to twenty other children run by Madame Zaltiski in the suburbs of Paris. In May 1940, the siblings were moved to another house. When Germany invaded Paris in June 1940, some nuns took Susi and Joseph to Versailles. There were numerous people hiding at Versailles, and the children slept in the Hall of Mirrors on straw mattresses. There continued to be letters back and forth between the children and their parents. For now, only their father wrote, because their mother had had a nervous breakdown. Eventually the nuns took the children to Brout-Vernet, where they stayed for a few weeks and watched German soldiers goosestep into Vichy. Susi was an obedient child and translated for a German soldier when asked. They were housed in the Chateau de Morelles which was turned into a children's home with 100-150 Jewish children, ages 4-16. Their teachers and counselors were Jewish, German, and French. The children played on the grounds of the chateau, and did not mingle with the children in town. Susi and Joseph were still writing letters to their parents, but had received no replies since they left Paris. The chateau was operated in the Jewish orthodox tradition. Food was kosher, they had to attend religious services, and there was no work on Shabbat. There was school, but they walked and did not write.

In 1941, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) came to the children’s home in search of Susi and Joseph. Israel had emigrated to the US and settled in Washington DC. He then brought Annie and Ernest to America. Israel had asked HIAS to help him find his children. Israel bought boat tickets for the children, which got lost, and, in September 1941, he sent new tickets. The children took the train from Vichy to Marseilles, and through the Pyrenees to Lisbon. They boarded the Serpa Pinto along with seventy other children. During the two week voyage, Joseph got sick. When they arrived in New York on September 21 1941, they were allowed to see their father, but could not disembark, because Joseph had developed a rash. They were sent to Ellis Island. After Joseph recovered, they joined their father and drove to Washington. Their mother was ill and frequently hospitalized. Susi went to an Americanization school to learn English. She studied with Rabbi Jacobs who had also emigrated from Bad Kreuznach with his family and lived nearby. She later learned that the residents and staff of the Chateau de Morelles children’s home were deported to concentration camps. Susi married Irving Warsinger in December 1948 and had 3 children. Susi had a career as an educator. She also dedicated herself to educating people about the events of the Holocaust.
Credit Line:
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Susan Warsinger
Funding Note:
The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
Physical Description:
Square orange paper tag with a rounded triangular top. There are 2 holes at the center top with a black string knotted through the holes to create a hanging tag. There is typed text in black ink on the reverse.
Record last modified: 2015-06-02 08:52:51