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Steiff teddy bear used to smuggle valuables out of Vienna

Object | Accession Number: 2014.350.2 a-c

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    Steiff teddy bear used to smuggle valuables out of Vienna


    Brief Narrative
    Golden brown Steiff bear owned by Hans Butzke and used by his parents, Julius and Netty, to smuggle family valuables out of Vienna, Austria, when they left for Panama in early 1940. Jews were not permitted to take valuables from Germany, so Netty sewed the items, including a ring and possibly pearls, inside the bear. She told Hans not to let anyone take it from him, but did not tell him about the jewels hidden inside. The bear wears Hans’ baby clothes. On March 13, 1938, Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany. In early 1940, the family left by train for Amsterdam. German soldiers on the train took the bear away from Hans, 10. He screamed and the men threw the bear back at him while calling him names. The family sailed to Panama. A few months later, they reached the United States and settled in Brooklyn.
    manufacture:  1925-1935
    use:  1940
    manufacture: Giengen (Germany)
    received: Vienna (Austria)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Richard Butzke, Eva Butzke Wien, and the Butzke family
    left ear, button, embossed : Steiff
    Subject: John Butzke
    Manufacturer: Margarete Steiff GmbH
    Hans Butzke was born on March 28, 1929, in Vienna, Austria, the only child of Julius and Bronislawa (Netty) Freiberger Butzke. Julius was born on April 14, 1899, in Vienna, to Franz and Josefa Johanna Zohner Butzke. Julius, an accountant, was born to a Catholic family, but did not practice any faith. Netty was born on November 14, 1899, in Lemberg, Austro-Hungary (now Lviv, Ukraine) to a Jewish woman, Frida Freiberger. Netty was a nurse and served during the First World War (1914 – 1918). In March 1921, Netty began working at the Jewish Community of Vienna’s hospital. She and Julius married on June 15, 1923. Netty later became a senior nurse at the hospital and Julius was promoted at his accounting firm, Rosenzweig and Finkler. One of his clients was the composer Franz Lehar.

    On March 13, 1938, Germany annexed Austria, an act that was welcomed by much of the Austrian population. Anti-Jewish policies that stripped Austrian Jews of their rights were enacted. Hans’ parents, Julius and Netty, decided to leave the country. They began the extensive process of gathering the necessary paperwork. Although she was Jewish, Netty received a baptismal certificate from St. Stephan’s. In 1939, Netty stopped working at the hospital. In September, following Germany’s invasion of Poland, France and England declared war. In early 1940, Hans’ family secured travel visas. They were not allowed to take anything valuable out of the country. Netty sewed some jewels inside ten year old Hans' teddy bear, without telling him, and told him never to let it go. The left by train for Amsterdam, Netherlands. From there, they sailed to Panama. In mid-May, Hans and his father Julius sailed to New York City aboard the Aconcagua. In June, Netty arrived aboard the Imperial. The family settled in Brooklyn.

    On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. Later, Hans Americanized his name to John. In 1952, John graduated from the City University of New York. He married Rhoda (1931 – 2013.) Julius, 53, died later that year. During the Korean War, John served in the US Marine Corps. He and Rhoda had three children. Netty, 85, died in May 1985. John, 81, passed away on June 14, 2010.

    Physical Details

    Stuffed animals
    Object Type
    Teddy bears (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Golden brown, faux mohair, plush bear with moveable limbs stuffed with wood shavings. The bear has a round, firm, sculpted head, a pointed snout with remnants of a light brown stitched nose and mouth, 2 domed, brown glass eyes with black pupils, and 2 round ears, with a Steiff button in the left ear. The neck and shoulders are no longer stuffed and the head is loose. The bear has a plump, distended lower torso lined with cardboard. The long, cylindrical arms extend to the curved top of the legs. The 4 paws have brown felt paw pads and the feet have 4 stitched, black thread claw lines. The limbs are attached to the torso with hard cardboard sockets and metal pins. The bear is wearing baby clothes: an offwhite short sleeve shirt with an attached light pink vest embroidered with a boy holding balloons, with 5 white plastic shank buttons on the front and 3 on the back. It wears light pink, plastic lined underpants with 6 white painted side snaps. The fur has rubbed off in several places, especially on the head and near the repaired opening.
    overall: Height: 17.625 inches (44.768 cm) | Width: 12.625 inches (32.068 cm) | Depth: 4.750 inches (12.065 cm)
    overall : faux fur, cloth, wood, metal, cardboard, plastic, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The teddy bear was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2014 by Richard Butzke and Eva Butzke Wein, the son and granddaughter of John Butzke.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2024-04-15 15:14:26
    This page:

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