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Identification tag 68122 worn by a Jewish slave laborer at Ebensee/Mauthausen concentration camp

Object | Accession Number: 2007.445.2

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    Identification tag 68122 worn by a Jewish slave laborer at Ebensee/Mauthausen concentration camp

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Identification tag issued to eighteen year old Lou Dunst when he was imprisoned in Mauthausen concentration camp in 1944-45. The bracelet was wired to his wrist and the band was made from Cyklon B cans that were used to gas the prisoners. In 1944, Lou and his family were deported from Jasina, Czechoslovakia (Yasinya, Ukraine), to Auschwitz II-Birkenau death camp. His mother, Priva, was sent to the gas chambers. Lou and his older brother, Irving, were sent to Mauthausen: Lou was given the id tag 68122 and Irving, number 68123. They then were sent to Ebensee where they were slave laborers building tunnels for the underground rocket factory. The death rate from disease, overwork, and starvation was in the thousands. Lou became delirious and so ill that he climbed onto a pile of corpses outside the crematorium, ready to die. But that was the day the US Army, 80th Division, entered the camp and freed the prisoners, May 6, 1945. Lou's brother found him and made sure that Lou got medical care as quickly as possible. They learned that their father, Mordekhai, had died in a concentration camp but their sister, Rusena, had survived.
    Date
    use:  1944-1945 May 06
    Geography
    issue: Ebensee (Concentration camp); Ebensee (Austria)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Lou Dunst
    Contributor
    Subject: Lou Dunst
    Biography
    Israel (Lou) Dunst was born in Jasina, Czechoslovakia, (Yasinya, Ukraine) in the Carpathians, on May 11, 1926, to Mordekhai (Markus) Dunst (b. 1892) and Priva (Pepi, b. 1892). His father’s parents were Daniel and Rakhel Dunst, and his mother’s parents were Rut and Yisrael Zimlichman. Lou had an older brother, Irving (Yitzhak, b. 1928) and an older sister, Rusena (b. 1930). His father was a grocer and had a general merchandise store. The family observed orthodox Jewish traditions and Lou began taking religious classes at the age of four. The town population was about 35% Jewish and he was often attacked by anti-Semites. The family was fairly well off by local standards and his mother would send him to school with extra food to give to those who had nothing.
    On March 15, 1939, Nazi Germany occupied the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia and made it a German protectorate. In May, Hungary seized and annexed the southern region on the Czech-Hungarian border which included Jasina. The Hungarians enacted laws restricting Jews from certain activities and professions, but they did not organize killings or deportations. Lou’s father’s business was taken away. Newspapers were censored but the family occasionally heard BBC broadcasts. His father was sent to a labor camp and Lou was put in a forced labor battalion.
    On March 19, 1944, Nazi Germany occupied Hungary and installed a government that would take action to exterminate the Jewish population; they were actively joined by groups from the local Ukrainian population. Jews were brought in boxcars from other areas and taken out on trucks into the country side and gunned down. One morning, Lou and his family were told to gather in the village center with the other Jews. They were put in a large building and, after several days, were taken to a Jewish cemetery and told to dig their graves before they shot. Nothing happened; they were taken back to town.
    A few days later, Lou and his family were loaded into boxcars, taken to the Mátészalka ghetto, and deported to Auschwitz II-Birkenau death camp. His mother was sent to the gas chamber upon arrival. Lou and Irving were separated from their father and sister and sent to Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. Lou was given an ID tag with the number 68122; Irving had number 68123. At one point, Lou was sealed into a gas chamber for hours. Then the doors opened and the commandment told them that the coal to burn their bodies was too expensive, so he would send them someone where their death would not cost the Reich anything. They were sent to the Ebensee sub-camp where they worked as slave labor building tunnels for a planned system of underground rocket factories. It was backbreaking, dangerous work and the death rate from disease, overwork, the freezing cold, and starvation was in the thousands, and cannibalism was rampant. Lou used paper from the cement bags to pad his body against the cold, but this was risky; if found with the cement bags, prisoners could get sentenced to 25 beatings. The guards aimed for the kidneys and most died. Lou saw people torn apart by dogs, constant beatings, and other torture techniques used to enforce discipline. Lou became what the inmates called a Muselman, a skeletal person with no flesh or muscles, close to death. He remembers crawling onto a pile of corpses outside the crematorium one day, ready to die.
    But on that day, May 6, 1945, the camp was liberated by the US Army, 80th Infantry Division. His brother found him delirious and near death and made sure he got medical attention as soon as possible. The brothers learned that their father had perished in Auschwitz. But they found their sister in Bratislava when they returned to Czechoslovakia. Lou contracted typhoid fever and recovered in the Catholic Podoly hospital. They did not return home because that area was under Soviet control. He and Irving crossed illegally into Austria and then went to Italy where they lived for 2.5 years. Irving emigrated illegally to Israel, but he was caught by the British and interned in Cyprus. He was released when the state of Israel was created in 1948. He married and had two sons. Lou eventually reached Canada and in the mid-1950s moved to the United States. He settled in California, married Estelle, and had one daughter. In 2006, for his 80th birthday, she arranged a reunion with the US Army staff sergeant, Robert Persinger, who had led the platoon that liberated the camp. Lou regularly speaks about his Holocaust experiences and the need for tolerance to community groups, school, and universities.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Identifying Artifacts
    Category
    Labels
    Object Type
    Name tags (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular metal tag with angled corners. It has a number stamped in the center and a hole punched in the right and left sides, so it could be worn as a bracelet.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm) | Width: 2.250 inches (5.715 cm)
    Materials
    overall : metal
    Inscription
    front center, stamped : 68122

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The identification tag was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2007 by Lou Dunst.
    Record last modified:
    2023-06-14 07:23:34
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn34180

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