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Luggage tag used by a Polish Jewish survivor

Object | Accession Number: 2014.426.4

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    Luggage tag used by a Polish Jewish survivor

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    Brief Narrative
    Luggage tag used by Regina Zak Goldwag while sailing on the Marine Flasher, the first transport of refugees to the United States in May 1946. Regina and her two children, Halina and Ludwik, were living in Warsaw when the German army invaded Poland, on September 1, 1939. Ludwik soon left to join the Polish army, but after Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned Poland, he got stuck behind the Soviet border. In October 1940, Regina and Halina were forced to relocate to Warsaw’s newly established Jewish ghetto. In the summer of 1942, they were introduced to someone who could smuggle them out of the ghetto. After escaping the ghetto, they lived on a farm in the countryside for several months until they began running out of money. They then returned to the city and began working as housemaids under the false names of Jadwiga and Halina Orlowska. During the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, Regina and Halina were captured by the Germans. They were imprisoned together as non-Jewish Polish nationals and deported to forced labor camps near Leipzig, Germany. In Germany, they worked at the Meier & Weichelt armaments factory, and then the Dr. Gaspary & Co. factory, making airplane parts. Following liberation in April 1945, the two women went to the Göppingen displaced persons (DP) camp, where they learned Ludwik had survived the war. In May 1946, Halina and Regina were able to immigrate on the first transport of refugees to the United States.
    use:  1946 May 10-1946 May 20
    en route: United States
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Annlee Herbstman, Bert Rosenberg, and Mark Rosenberg

    front, center, printed and handwritten, dark blue ink : REGINA GOLDWAG (handwritten) / (NAME OF PASSENGER) / Steamer (printed) MARINE SLASHER (handwritten) [SIC] / Room No. (printed) 38 B (handwritten) / Sailing Date (printed) 10 MAY (handwritten) / From (printed) BREMEN (handwritten) Pier No. / Booked to / Via / Full Foreign Address (printed) J. ROSENBERG / 4225 NORTH ST. LOUIS AVE / CHICAGO 18 ILL. (handwritten) / For Use Only For Continental Ports / N-2522

    front, bottom, printed, white and dark blue ink : STATEROOM
    Subject: Regina Goldwag
    Issuer: United States Lines Company
    Regina Goldwag (née Rivka Zak, later Epstein, 1900-1972) was born in Warsaw, Poland, to Chana (nee Kurlander, ?-1939) and Moshe Zak (?-1923). Moshe worked in transportation, distributing coal from Warsaw to other surrounding cities. Regina married Moses Goldwag (?-1926), an accountant at a publishing firm. During World War I (1914-1918), Moses fought as part of the militia, and Regina worked smuggling tobacco and cigars across zone borders. The couple lived in an apartment with Regina’s parents, and had two children: Halina (later Rosenberg, 1918-2013) and Ludwik (later Arie Zak, 1919-2005). When the children were young, the family traveled to the countryside outside of the city for the summers. Their neighborhood was a primarily Polish Catholic neighborhood, and Halina and Ludwik were the only Jewish children at their public school. The family was not religious, but they celebrated the holidays with Moses’ Orthodox parents, who lived on the other side of the city.

    Regina’s father died in 1923, and Moses died around 1926; making Regina responsible for supporting the family. She began working as a seamstress out of their home, and had a difficult time supporting four people. After completing the eighth grade at public school, Polish law excluded Jewish children from attending the public high school or attend university. Instead, Halina attended a private gymnasium for high school. However, Regina could not afford tuition, and she was unable to complete her education.

    Regina’s mother died in February 1939. The German army invaded Poland on September 1. In response, Ludwig and thousands of other men joined the Polish army, but the strength of the German forces pushed them to the east. Warsaw laid under siege for three weeks, creating massive food shortages. On September 17, in accordance with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet army invaded from the east. The Polish defense was overwhelmed and surrendered on September 27. The German army occupied the city two days later, while the rest of the country was partitioned between the Germans and the Soviets. Ludwik smuggled goods and people across the new German-Soviet border a few times before he was caught on the Soviet side.

    After two months, all Jews were ordered to register and were required to wear a white armband with a blue Star of David. In October 1940, the Germans decreed the establishment of a Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, and required all Jewish residents from the city and surrounding towns relocate there by November 15. Because the ghetto was severely overcrowded, Regina and Halina had to move into an apartment with other families. The ghetto was enclosed by a wall that was over 10 feet high, topped with barbed wire, and closely guarded. Life in the ghetto was difficult; food was scarce, sanitation was poor. Between 1940 and mid-1942, 83,000 Jews died of starvation and disease. Regina was enterprising, and managed to secure a little extra food and supplies from backchannel resources.

    Deportations from the ghetto began in March 1942. Regina and Halina began hiding in the attic of their building during the day to avoid selection. That summer, Halina was introduced to someone who could smuggle them out of the ghetto. Regina and Halina were able to get out, but only had the clothes they were wearing. Both of them lacked stereotypical Jewish traits; they had light blonde hair and fair complexions, which enabled them to blend in with the general population. Initially, they went to people in their old neighborhood, who let them stay for a couple days. Regina got very sick, but knew it was too dangerous to stay any longer. They left the city for the countryside, where they were able to find a doctor who could treat Regina without asking too many questions about their identities. After several days, they left the hospital and began moving from village to village until they found a farm where they stayed for several months.

    When they began running out of money, the two women returned to the city. A former customer of Halina’s connected her to a job as a housemaid in the outskirts of the city. She began working under the false name of Halina Orlowska, and lodged in the house of her employer. Regina was able to rent a room nearby. However, when she began to arouse suspicion, Halina’s employer allowed her to stay as well. Regina eventually found a job as a maid for a physician and his wife in the middle of the city.

    On August 1, 1944, the Polish Home Army (also known as the underground resistance) began fighting against the German occupiers, in a battle that became known as the Warsaw Uprising. When German forces started bombing the city, Regina was joined by Halina, who had escaped from a collapsed building. The pair were caught up in the fighting, and were taken prisoner by German soldiers. Due to their fair hair and complexions, they were mistaken for non-Jewish Poles and were put on a crowded cattle train with no food or water.

    On October 2, Regina and Halina arrived at a labor camp near Leipzig, Germany. They had to march daily to forced labor at the Meier & Weichelt steelworks, which had been converted into an armaments factory. On December 15, they were moved to another labor camp at Markranstädt, where they worked at the Dr. Gaspary & Co. factory making airplane parts. As the war was nearing its end, the factory began to run out of materials. In early April 1945, the advancing Allied forces led the German guards to abandon the factory. Regina, Halina, and other prisoners also fled, and found a farm on which to hide. They were found by the American army on April 5. Regina’s weight had dropped down to 90 pounds.

    Regina and Halina went to the Göppingen displaced persons (DP) camp, run by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), an international humanitarian organization. Halina obtained a job in the camp infirmary, dispensing medications. While in the camp, they asked one of the American soldiers stationed there to mail letters to two aunts, who lived in the United States. They received a reply saying that Ludwik was looking for them. After getting stuck in the Soviet Union, Ludwik found work as a lumberjack in a forest village near the town of Bereza Kartuska (now Biaroza, Belarus). During the war, he was turned in as a Polish officer and arrested as a Soviet prisoner of war. He was taken by train to the Komi region of the Soviet Union, adjacent to Siberia, to build roads as a forced laborer. Over the next year, he caught pneumonia, developed scurvy, and lost all his teeth. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Ludwik was one of the few Jews selected to join the newly-formed Polish brigade. They deployed to the Middle East and Africa, and were sent to Palestine to rest at the end of 1943. Like many other Jews in his situation, Ludvik decided to desert the Polish army. He then joined the Jewish Brigade of the British army, which he fought with until his discharge in 1946.

    On May 11, 1946 they boarded the Marine Flasher, the first transport of refugees to the United States. They arrived in New York City, on May 20, and then took a train to Chicago. They were met at the station by Regina’s aunts and distant cousin, Harry Rosenberg (1909-1999). Halina and Harry married on November 23, 1946, and raised three children near Chicago. On January 17, 1947, Regina married William Epstein (1876-1950), a Russian immigrant from Grodno (now in Belarus), who moved to the United States in 1904. The couple moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ludwik settled in Tel Aviv, changed his name to Arie Zak, and got married. In 1950, Regina traveled to Israel, where she reunited with Arie. While there, her husband died suddenly. Arie and his family immigrated to the United States in 1958.

    Physical Details

    Identifying Artifacts
    Object Type
    Luggage tags (aat)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, white and blue cardstock luggage tag with angled top corners and a white string. The string is approximately seven inches long and threaded through a circular punch hole centered along the top edge. The hole is lined with a metal and white paper grommet. The top third of the tag has a dark blue background, with the company name and flag logo, as well as instructions printed in white. The central portion of the tag is white with dark blue printed words and lines. Identifying information is handwritten in uppercase letters on the lines in blue ink. At the bottom of the tag is a narrow, dark blue band with the type of accommodation printed in white and dark blue. The tag is heavily worn and creased throughout. The surface is beginning to peel along the edges and the back is stained and discolored.
    overall: Height: 6.250 inches (15.875 cm) | Width: 3.125 inches (7.938 cm)
    overall : cardstock, string, ink, metal, paper

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The luggage tag was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2014 by Annlee Herbstman, Bert Rosenberg, and Mark Rosenberg, the grandchildren of Regina Goldwag.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 17:55:19
    This page:

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