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War Medal 1939-1945 with ribbon awarded to a Jewish medical officer, 2nd Polish Corps

Object | Accession Number: 1999.180.3

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    War Medal 1939-1945 with ribbon awarded to a Jewish medical officer, 2nd Polish Corps

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    War Medal 1939-1945 and ribbon awarded to Dr. Edmund Lusthaus by the British government for his service in the 2nd Polish Corps, a unit of the British Armed Forces during World War II. When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Lusthaus was drafted into the Polish Army. Seventeen days later, the Soviet army invaded from the east. Lusthaus was captured and taken to a camp for Polish prisoners of war in Novosibirsk, Siberia, where he served as a physician. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the Soviet government released the Polish POWs to join the fighting. Lusthaus joined the volunteer Polish Army of the East, known as Anders Army, formed by General Anders with through an agreement with Stalin. In August 1942, the unit left Soviet territory and became the 2nd Polish Corps, British Army. The unit trained in the Middle East and fought against German forces in Tobruk in North Africa. In February 1944, they deployed to join the British 8th Army in the Italian Campaign. The Corps fought its way north and was honored for bravery in the May 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino. The unit was in Italy on May 7, 1945, when the war ended. When Edmund learned that his wife Helena and 7 year old daughter Elzbieta had survived and were in a displaced persons camp in Germany, he arranged to have them brought to Italy circa September 1945. Helena and Elzbieta had lived in hiding in Poland under false identities as Catholics. In December 1946, the family emigrated to England.
    Date
    commemoration:  1939-1945
    received:  1948
    Geography
    issue: Great Britain
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Elizabeth Lusthaus Strassburger
    Markings
    front, embossed around edge : GEORGIVS VI D: G:BR: OMN: REX ET INDIAE IMP
    front, below bust, engraved : PM
    reverse, left side, engraved : ECRP
    reverse, embossed : 1939 / 1945
    Contributor
    Subject: Edmund Lusthaus
    Subject: Elizabeth Lusthaus Strassburger
    Issuer: Ministry of Defense Medal Office, United Kingdom
    Biography
    Edmund Lusthaus was born on August 2, 1899, in Brzozow district of Sanok, Galicia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now in Poland. His parents were Berisz (Bernard) and Chana Gitla Lusthaus. He had a brother Benedykt. He attended medical school at Jan Kazimierz University in Lvov, Poland, and also studied in Vienna. He met his wife, Helena Amkraut, in Lvov where she was studying pharmacology. She was born in Przemysl on June 8, 1911, but grew up in Sanok. Edmund and Helena married on May 17, 1936, and settled in the resort town of Iwonicz, where there were few other Jewish inhabitants. Edmund established a private practice. On May 15, 1938, they had a daughter, Elzbieta, born in Krakow because Edmund insisted on going to a large city hospital. The family was assimilated and spoke Polish at home.

    When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Edmund was drafted into the Polish Army. Before reporting for duty, he went to Stryj to say goodbye to his parents. While he was there, the Soviet army invaded Poland from the east. Edmund was captured by the Russians in Stryj and sent to work as a physician at a Soviet prison for Polish political prisoners in Stryia, then Novosibirsk (Siberia). He was later transferred to a camp in Asino, near Tomsk. The prisoners worked twelve hour shifts in a lumber mill and most of the illnesses were caused by vitamin deficiency and overwork. During this time, Edmund was able to correspond with his family. His wife and infant daughter were stranded in the German section of Poland. But by November 1939, they had relocated to Tarnow to stay with Helena's mother, Sophie Lieberman Schiff. The Germans required all Jews to perform forced labor and Helena worked as a seamstress for the Germany Army.

    In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union.The Soviet government released Polish prisoners of war to join in the fighting. Edmund joined the Polish Army in the East, a volunteer military unit known as Anders Army, formed by the Polish General Anders per agreement with Stalin. In May 1942, they were in Uzbekistan and in August the unit left Soviet territory and joined British forces in Iran and became the 2nd Polish Corps, British Army. Edmund served as a physician with them for five years, traveling to Persia, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, and Italy. He was in Ancona, Italy in May 1945 when the war ended.

    That month, he learned from a colleague that his wife and daughter were in Landsberg displaced persons camp near Munich, Germany. They had survived the war by living under false identities as Polish Catholics in Milanowek, near Warsaw, where they had been given refuge with a Polish family. The city was liberated by Soviet troops in January 1945 and Helena had bribed a Russian soldier to smuggle them in shipping crates across the border to Czechoslovakia. From there, mother and daughter went to Vienna, Austria, where they were hospitalized for three months, then transferred to Landsberg. When a medical inspection team arrived at the camp, Helena recognized one of the doctors as a friend of Edmund’s who told her he was alive and stationed with the army in Italy. Edmund was able to send an ambulance to bring them to Ancona. At first, he was a stranger to his 8-year-old daughter Elzbieta. They lived for while in Senagalia until in October 1946, the British decided to permit Polish Corps veterans to settle in Great Britain. The family relocated that December to Bedlington, England. Edmund was demobilized in 1948 and became a doctor in a county school. In May 1951, they immigrated to the United States under U.S. legislation that allowed the immigration of 18,000 Polish veterans living as displaced persons in England. They were sponsored by Helena's maternal aunt and her husband, Dr. Michael and Selma Liebermanso. Helena's father had sent much of his property to the US which helped the family after their arrival. Edmund had pass the US medical board exams and obtain citizenship before he could practice medicine in the states. Edmund died, age 61, on April 20, 1960. Elizabeth (Liz) became a psychiatric social worker, married, and had two children. Helena passed away on March 1, 1987, age 76.
    Elzbieta Lusthaus was born on May 15, 1938, in Krakow, Poland to Edmund and Helena (Amkraut) Lusthaus. Edmund was born in Brzozow on August 2, 1899, and attended medical school at Jan Kazimierz University in Lvov. Helena was born in Przemysl on June 8, 1911, but grew up in Sanok and worked as an assistant pharmacist. Edmund and Helena married on May 17, 1936, and settled in the resort town of Iwonicz.

    When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Edmund was drafted into the Polish army. At the time of the invasion, Edmund was visiting his parents in Stryj which soon came under Soviet control after that country invaded Poland. Edmund was deported to a prisoner of war labor camp in Novosibirsk, Siberia. In November, Helena and her baby daughter went to Tarnow to live with Helena's mother, Sophie Lieberman Schiff. Helena's father, Isak Amkraut, was divorced from Sophie and lived in the Netherlands, where he owned a diamond cutting business. In the initial stages of the war, Isak was able to support Helena by sending her food and diamonds.

    In 1941, they were relocated into the Tarnow ghetto. Helena was assigned as forced labor as a seamstress in a German Army uniform workshop outside the ghetto. In June 1942, police rounding up Jews for deportation came to the apartment. Sophie told Elzbieta to hide under the bed, but Sophie was arrested and deported to Belzec killing center. Helena had been safe from earlier deportation actions, but now, afraid for Elzbieta, she went into hiding. She was able to buy false identification papers for Elzbieta and herself and, a few days later, they fled Tarnow using the false identities of Maria and Barbara Stachura, Polish Catholics. Christian friends of her mother had found a family willing to hide them for money. They settled in Milanowek, where they lived with Kazimierz and Genowefa Bandyrowa and their two daughters, Wisia and Hanka. The two girls took care of Elzbieta, known as Basia. During police inspections, they would smear her face with dirt to hide her Semitic features. The family knew they were Jewish but Elzbieta did not. She attended school and church and Helena worked as a pharmacist. After the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto in the summer of 1943, German authorities intensified their efforts to find Jews in hiding. Helena worried that they would be discovered and sometimes kept Elzbieta from school or hid her in the basement and drugged her to keep her quiet. The city was liberated by the Soviet Army in January 1945.

    After the war, they learned that the house in which they had been hidden was a safehouse for the Polish underground. Elzbieta was told that she was Jewish; she went to the church and asked the priest if that meant she would go to hell; he told her yes and to get out. They returned to Krakow and Helena placed Elzbieta in a convent for a week while she looked for surviving relatives, but most had perished during the Holocaust. She assumed that Edmund was dead and decided to leave Poland. In May 1945, she bribed a Russian Jewish soldier to smuggle them in shipping crates across the border into Czechoslovakia. From there, she and Elzbieta went to Austria and stayed for nearly three months at the Rothschild Hospital in Vienna, Austria. They then moved to Funk Caserne displaced persons camp in Landsberg near Munich and were transferred to a sanatorium for malnourished children in Strueth near Ansbach. In May 1945, a medical inspection team arrived at the camp. Helena recognized one of the doctors as a friend of her husband’s. He told her that her husband was alive and stationed with the 2nd Polish Corps, British Army, in Italy. Edmund was able to send an ambulance to bring them to Ancona around September 1945. In December 1946, the family moved to England. Edmund was demobilized in 1948. The family lived in Bedlington until their immigration to the United States in May 1951. They were sponsored by Helena's maternal aunt, and her husband, Dr. Michael and Selma Lieberman Mahler.

    They joined members of Helena’s family in New Jersey. Edmund had to retrain to get a US medical license. Helena worked in a bakery to support the family. In 1955, they moved to Maryland where Edmund had obtained a medical position. Edmund, age 61, died on April 20, 1960. Helena, age 76, passed away on March 1, 1987. Elizabeth (Liz) became a psychiatric social worker. She married John Strassburger in 1961 and they had two children.

    Physical Details

    Language
    English Latin
    Classification
    Military Insignia
    Category
    Medals
    Physical Description
    Circular, shiny, silver colored cupro-nickel alloy medal with a striped grosgrain ribbon. The medal has a raised rim and smooth edge, 1.375 in. diameter. On the front is an embossed image of a male head in left profile, the crowned effigy of George VI, with Latin text circling the border. The reverse has an embossed image of a triumphant lion trampling a 2-headed dragon that symbolizes the Axis Powers with dates embossed in the upper right. Artist's initial's are embossed on the front and the designer's on the reverse. At the top of the medal is a suspension ring with a cylindrical top bar through which the ribbon is inserted. The vertically striped ribbon has a narrow central red stripe flanked by narrow white stripes, wider blue stripes, and red stripes at the edges, the colors of the British flag. The ribbon edges are not sewn together.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 4.875 inches (12.383 cm) | Width: 1.375 inches (3.493 cm) | Depth: 0.125 inches (0.318 cm)
    Materials
    overall : metal, ribbon

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The medal was donated to the United States Holocaust Museum in 1999 by Elizabeth Lusthaus Strassburger, the daughter of Dr. Edmund Lusthaus.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-31 14:30:00
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn13588

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