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Circular leather Star of David badge worn in the Kovno Ghetto

Object | Accession Number: 1995.89.1083

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    Circular leather Star of David badge worn in the Kovno Ghetto

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Insignia found in the Kovno ghetto by Ephraim Guttmann, an airport worker and burial society member. In June 1941, Germany invaded and occupied Lithuania and by August, they had forced the Jews in Kovno into a ghetto. In July 1944, as Soviet forces were approaching Kovno, the authorities deported the remaining Jews in the ghetto to Stutthof and Dachau concentration camps and then burned it down. Ephraim survived by hiding in the bunkers. When the Soviet Army liberated the city on August 1, 1944, he was the first to collect and gather items remaining in the ghetto, including drawings, armbands, and hundreds of paper ephemera items. The “A” in this insignia patch more than likely stands for ‘arbeitsamt’ or ‘labor office’. This insignia is typical of what was produced by the Kovno ghetto graphics office headed by designer Peter “Fritz” Gadiel. Since the Germans prohibited radios and newspapers, the alternative was posting announcements within the ghetto. Elchanan Elkes, the Ältestenrat Chairman, turned to Gadiel to establish the graphics office, the Paint and Sign Workshop. Initially, the workshop provided simple signs to communicate orders to the ghetto residents, but eventually employed more artists and workers to create a wide range of items including ghetto currency, work passes, insignia, armbands and documents.
    Date
    use:  1941-1944
    Geography
    use: Kovno ghetto (historic); Kaunas (Lithuania)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
    Contributor
    Designer: Fritz Gadiel
    Original owner: Ephraim Guttmann
    Biography
    Fritz Gadiel was born in Germany in 1910. His training as a graphic artist began in Germany during the late 1920s-early 1930s, including study at the Bauhaus with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He was well on his way to a promising career as a graphic artist. After Hitler rose to power, Gadiel fled Germany. In 1939 he married Renée Silverman and they settled in Kovno to join her relatives. Since the Germans prohibited radios and newspapers, the alternative was posting announcements within the Ghetto. Elchanan Elkes, the Ältestenrat Chairman, turned to Gadiel to establish the graphics office, the Paint and Sign Workshop. Initially, the workshop provided simple signs to communicate orders to the ghetto residents, but eventually employed more artists and workers to create a wide range of items including ghetto currency, work passes, insignia, armbands and documents. Gadiel's workshop also served as a cultural center, presenting an art exhibition, and a records center containing archives with examples of nearly all the ghetto's official drawings, certificates, forms, and stamp impressions being hidden there. In July 1944, the ghetto was liquidated, and the Germans discovered him hiding there with others in a bunker built within the workshop. Gadiel was deported to Dachau, Renée was deported to Stutthof, the both survived. Their three year old son, Raanan, who was born in the ghetto, fell into German hands and along with other children, was killed.
    [Klein, Dennis B., ed The Hidden History of the Kovno Ghetto. Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1997, p. 111-113]
    Ephraim Guttmann survived the Kovno Ghetto where he was an airport worker and worked in the Burial Society. During and after the bombing of the Ghetto in 1944, he hid in the bunkers. When the Russians liberated the city, he was the first to "pick" at the remains in the Ghetto. As the story goes, he found Esther Lurie's drawings, and also Jacob Schlesinger's in addition to at least 50 unused armbands (which were eventually sold to Yad Vashem) and hundreds and hundreds of passes, permits, Ghetto money, signs, logos, work cards, and other ephemera. Upon his death, he left a suitcase full of these materials to his daughter, Sara Milo.
    [taken from memo written by Special Exhibitions found in file MILO SARA. kyra schuster 2/17/98]

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Identifying Artifacts
    Category
    Badges
    Object Type
    Insignia (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Circular leather badge with an image of a light green, 6 pointed Star of David on the front with a painted black letter "A" in the center. The star is on a dark green circular background surrounded by four concentric circles in white, gold, light green, and gold. The reverse is white leather.
    Dimensions
    overall: | Diameter: 1.375 inches (3.493 cm)
    Materials
    overall : leather, paint, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Kaunas (Lithuania)

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The badge was acquired by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1995.
    Record last modified:
    2023-06-16 08:25:24
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn10080

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