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Drawstring cloth pouch handmade by a Lithuanian Jewish concentration camp inmate

Object | Accession Number: 1997.31.2

Burlap pouch made by 21 year old Masha Wolpe while a prisoner at Stutthof concentration camp from July 1944 to April 1945. The pouch contained Masha’s few possessions – several spools of thread, lipstick, a bar of soap, and combs belonging to her mother and sister. Masha lived with her mother, Sonia, her father, Jacob, her brother, Elisha, and sister, Pearl, in Kovno, Lithuania, where they were part of a large, active Jewish community. In June 1940, the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania and in June 1941, Germany invaded and occupied the nation. By August, the Germans had forced the Jews in Kovno into a ghetto in nearby Slobodka. Within six months of the German occupation, over half of the Jews in Kovno had been murdered. Those who were not killed, including Masha and her family, were utilized for forced labor. Masha married Chone Altmann while living in the ghetto. In July 1944, the ghetto was liquidated and the prisoners were deported to concentration camps in German occupied Poland. Masha, Sonia, and Pearl were separated from Chone, Jacob, and Elisha and taken to Stutthof. Sonia died of typhoid in February 1945. In April, as Soviet forces advanced into Poland, Masha and Pearl were transported away from Stutthof by train and then by barge. They traveled by barge for eight days without food or water. Upon arrival in Kiel, knowing they were surrounded by British soldiers, the German guards forced the remaining prisoners overboard into the Baltic Sea and shot at them. Pearl was killed. Masha escaped and swam to shore where she was rescued by a British soldier. The burlap pouch and its contents were found tied to her wrist. Masha later learned that her husband, father, and brother were all murdered in Dachau concentration camp in 1944 and 1945. With no family remaining in Lithuania, Masha made her way to a displaced persons camp in Italy and later to Paris, where she attended school. In 1950, she obtained her visa and immigrated to the US where she was reunited with her uncle, Julius Wolpe, in Washington, DC.

Date
after 1944 July-before 1945 April  (creation)
Geography
use : Stutthof (Concentration camp); Sztutowo (Poland)
Classification
Containers
Category
Bags
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Masha Wolpe Baras
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Record last modified: 2018-03-07 15:39:12
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn12262