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ID patch stenciled 139905 worn by a Polish Jewish concentration camp inmate

Object | Accession Number: 1997.18.1

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    ID patch stenciled 139905 worn by a Polish Jewish concentration camp inmate

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    Brief Narrative
    Prisoner identification patch with the number 139905 worn by 21 year old Shmuel Czyzyk when he was imprisoned in Dora Mittelbau slave labor camp, and its subcamp, Rottleberode, from January-April 1945. Shmuel, his parents, and three siblings were living in Łódź when Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany in September 1939. His father and brother left for eastern Poland but were caught by the Germans and interned in the Deblin ghetto. The rest of the family was sent from Łódź, and the family was held together in Deblin. In 1942, while Shmuel was at work, his parents and brother were deported to concentration camps. As Soviet forces advanced in June 1944, Shmuel was sent to Czechostowa slave labor camp, then the slave labor camp Kielce-HASAG. As Soviet forces neared that camp, Shmuel was sent to Buchenwald, then in January 1945, to Dora where he worked at Rottleberode building spaces within a mountain for a rocket factory. Forced on a death march as Allied forces advanced, Shmuel was liberated by Soviet forces. He traveled to Poland and found that all his family had been killed. He returned to Germany where he was hospitalized in Leipheim displaced persons camp. When an aunt was located in Chicago to sponsor his visa, Shmuel emigrated to the United States in June 1949.
    use:  1945 January-1945 April
    use: Dora (Concentration camp); Nordhausen (Thuringia, Germany)
    use: Rottleberode (Concentration camp); Rottleberode (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Samuel Cizek
    Subject: Samuel Cizek
    Shmuel Czyzyk was born on February 8, 1924 or 1925, in Pulawy, a district of Lublin, Poland, to Chaim and Basia. Chaim was born in 1897 in Konskowola to Szyja and Miriam Czyzyk. Basia was born in Pulawy in 1898 to Leib and Simcha Franenberg. Shmuel had two sisters, Bronia, born 1920, and Golda, born 1928, and one brother, Moshe, born 1922. The family was observant Jews. His father was employed as a baker and his mother earned money by making matzoh for the temple and by selling homemade jams. But the family was poor; they lived in one room, with a leaky ceiling and no electricity or indoor plumbing. They ate meat, a single chicken, only on religious holidays. Shmuel attended Jewish school, then a public school where his fellow students were all Jewish.
    In 1937, the family moved to Łódź where his father had gotten a better job. His older brother and sister got work in a factory. In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Łódź was occupied and everything changed: food was rationed and there were long lines to get bread. Shmuel had to wear a Star of David badge on the front and the back of his clothes. Jewish men were grabbed off the street for forced labor service. One day, Shmuel was forced by German soldiers to join a group that was ordered to fill in air raid trenches with their bare hands while yelling in German that the Jews were the ones who wanted war. His family decided to escape to Soviet controlled eastern Poland. His father and brother left first, but they were arrested in Deblin and incarcerated in the ghetto. Shmuel, his mother, and sister moved to the Krakow ghetto. At one point, Shmuel was taken from school and forced to work loading coal; he got severe frostbite that permanently damaged his fingers. In spring 1940, they were transported to the Deblin ghetto and the family was reunited. His father worked in a bakery and was paid in bread. Shmuel and other family members got paying jobs at the military airfield. While at work one day, his parents and older brother were part of a group that was taken and deported to the concentration camps.
    Not long after this, Shmuel was too sick to go to work. He was at home with his sisters when they heard loud speakers ordering all Jews to assemble in the square. Airport workers were ordered to step forward. People surged forward and the Germans began beating men back with their rifles. A friend of Shmuel's was told to point out the workers and about 10 males, including Shmuel, were taken out of the line-up. They were marched to a labor camp and placed in a dark barracks. After a while, the door opened and they learned that over a hundred people had been shot in the square and the rest deported to concentration camps. The labor camp had no SS guards and the workers were fed soup and bread daily. Shmuel worked shoveling coal into trucks and railroad cars. He heard about D-Day because a Jewish leather worker had a hidden radio. In June 1944, the Soviet Army was advancing near the camp and the inmates were sent Czechostowa, then to the slave labor camp Kielce-HASAG. Shmuel worked in a steel factory and received very little food. In December 1944, again because of Soviet advances, the prisoners were transferred to Buchenwald. The Germans asked for volunteers for another camp; Shmuel went because of the bad conditions at Buchenwald. He was taken to Dora-Mittelbau slave labor camp where he was shocked by camp life, with its frequent deaths from abuse, disease, overwork, and starvation. He volunteered to go work in Rottleberode where he worked constructing spaces inside a mountain. Conditions were brutal; the guards beat and killed workers for no reason. Accidents from the explosions used to blast away rock were frequent. Shmuel got a foot injury that became rotten with infection. In April 1944, the inmates were put on a death march. They were given no food and those who could not keep up were shot. At one point, they were taken by train to another camp, but soon were made to march again. He joined a group that said it could not march anymore; they were taken away to a barn, but when they awoke the next morning, the guards were gone. Soviet troops had liberated the area.
    Shmuel joined a group who decided to return to Poland. Once there, Shmuel felt that it was a mistake; he heard stories of survivors who had been murdered by the Poles upon their return to their villages. He decided not to go home. He went to Warsaw and got a travel permit from the International Red Cross and travelled to Deblin. He found men that he had worked with at the airfield, and after talking with them, decided to go to Lublin and register with the authorities. He listened to the nightly broadcasts which announced the names of survivors, but no members of his family had survived.
    In summer 1945, he went to Czechoslovakia, then Germany. He reached the Leipheim displaced persons camp where he was hospitalized. Once he recovered, he was given the status of stateless refugee. A US Army soldier found his aunt, Zlota Goodman, in Chicago and she sponsored his visa. He arrived in the US on June 24, 1949, and Americanized his name to Samuel Cizek. He learned about a cousin, Rachel, who had survived the war and emigrated to Canada. He went to visit her and encountered Esther Grossman, another survivor whom he had met previously in the DP camp in Germany. They married on January 27, 1952, and had three children. Esther, 88, passed away on March 13, 2012. Samuel, 89, died on July 7, 2013.

    Physical Details

    Identifying Artifacts
    Physical Description
    Offwhite rectangular cloth label with a number stenciled on the front in blue ink. The narrow, unfinished edges are folded over, but the long edges are selvage. It is heavily soiled from use.
    overall: Height: 1.125 inches (2.858 cm) | Width: 3.750 inches (9.525 cm)
    overall : cloth, ink
    front, stencilled, blue ink : 139905

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The identification label was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1997 by Samuel Cizek.
    Record last modified:
    2022-09-21 10:40:44
    This page:

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