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Horse-shaped metal pin made by a Jewish prisoner in Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp

Object | Accession Number: 2006.363.2

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    Horse-shaped metal pin made by a Jewish prisoner in Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Pin given to Margarete Grünbaum (later Margaret Gruenbaum) in Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp by a fellow inmate who worked with her in the camp’s Arts Department between November 1942 and May 1945. Before Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany in 1939, Margarete lived in Prague with her husband, Karel, and their children, Marietta and Michael. In October 1941, Karel was arrested by the Gestapo and detained in Pankrác prison in Prague. On December 3, Karel was sent to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp, where he was killed on the 18th in the Small Fortress. On November 20, 1942, Margarete, Michael, and Marietta were sent to the ghetto-labor camp aboard transport Cc. Margarete was sent to work in the art studio where she made artificial flowers, teddy bears, and stage sets for theater productions. When the family received orders for deportation to Auschwitz killing center in German-occupied Poland in the fall of 1944, Margarete’s job in the workshop saved her family. She asked her boss, the Dutch artist, Josef Spier, to help her convince the German camp guard in charge of the department that her work, creating teddy bears and others toys for Germans for the Christmas season, was important enough to keep her and her children in Terezín. The guard wanted toys for his family, so he removed them from the transport list and they remained at Theresienstadt. They were liberated from the camp on May 8, 1945, by the Soviet Army.
    Date
    received:  1942 November 20-1945
    Geography
    creation: Theresienstadt (Concentration camp); Terezin (Ustecky kraj, Czech Republic)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Michael Gruenbaum
    Contributor
    Subject: Margaret Gruenbaum
    Subject: Michael Gruenbaum
    Biography
    Margarete Popper (1899-1974) was born in Leitmeritz, Austria-Hungary (now Litomerice, Czech Republic). In 1925, she married Karel Grünbaum (1897-1941), who was born in Ceska Kamenice, to Eduard and Elizabeth Zucker Grünbaum. They had two children, Marietta (1926-2008) and Michael (b.1930). The family lived a very comfortable life in Prague. Karel, like his father and brother, was a prosperous attorney. He was one of the most prominent lawyers at the firm of Petschek & Co. He was also active in several Jewish communal organizations, and regularly took Michael to the synagogue with him. In the fall of 1938, the Munich Pact was signed, allowing Germany to annex the Czech Sudetenland border region.

    On March 15, 1939, Germany violated the pact by seizing the remaining Czechoslovakian regions of Bohemia and Moravia. Karel was in England on business at the time, but he soon returned home. Not long after, he lost his position at the firm, and the family’s property was confiscated because they were Jewish. The family was forced to wear yellow Star of David patches and leave their apartment. Margarete and Karel moved to a smaller apartment, while the children moved in with relatives. Later, they were all forced to move to the ghetto in Prague, and Michael was expelled from school. In September 1941, Reinhard Heydrich became Reich Protector of occupied Bohemia and Moravia. The persecution of Jews increased, and deportation plans were formed by German authorities. In October 1941, Karel was arrested by the Gestapo and detained in Pankrác prison in Prague. On December 3, Karel, was sent to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp, which had opened about 60 miles north of Prague on November 24. Karel was transferred to the Small Fortress at Theresienstadt bearing the designation Return Undesirable (RU). He was murdered there on December 18, 1941. After learning of Karel’s death, Margarete began to entrust the family’s few remaining valuables to non-Jewish friends throughout the city, with the hope of returning for them later.

    Transports of Jews from Prague to Theresienstadt soon became frequent. On November 20, 1942, Margarete, Michael, and Marietta were sent to the ghetto-labor camp aboard transport Cc. Males and females were housed separately, so Michael was placed with a group of boys, later known as the Nešarim (Eagles), in the children’s home, L-417, under the leadership of Franta Maier. Margarete was assigned to work in the studio at the camp’s Art’s Department manufacturing teddy bears, artificial flowers, and stage sets for various camp productions. Her boss, a Dutch Jewish artist named Joseph Spier, was the head of the Arts Department and had a son Michael’s age. Michael worked in the garden and bakery, and sang in the children’s choir for the musical productions. Marietta worked in the camp laundry. Whenever Margarete’s family was placed on a transport list to the east, she would remind the key Jewish people in the camp that her husband had contributed so much to the Jewish community of Prague. This helped them get removed from several transport lists in 1943 and 1944. At some point during this time, Margarete received an encoded postcard from her sister-in-law, who had been deported to Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland. The text on the card was written with a downward slant, which was the agreed-upon signal to convey that her life there was in danger. The card also warned that Theresienstadt inmates were being deported to Auschwitz, and Margarete became more determined not to be deported.

    In the fall of 1944, the family received an order for deportation to Auschwitz. There were too few Jews left in the camp for Margarete’s previous approach to save the family from the transport. Instead she went to her boss, Joseph Spier for help. Margarete was able to help him convince the German camp guard in charge of the department that her work, creating teddy bears and others toys for Germans for the Christmas season, was important enough to keep her and her children in the camp. Since the guard also wanted toys for his family, he gave Margarete a signed slip of paper that excused her and the children from the transport. They still had to go to the assembly point, but were deemed protected and not deported. A few days later, they were sent back to the assembly point. However, due to their protected status, they were able to go wait in one of three rooms full of protected status people. They waited in the room furthest back from the train as the guards began loading the transport. Once all the selected people were loaded, more were still needed to meet the 1,000 person quota, so guards began pulling individuals that had been removed from the transport. People from the first and second waiting rooms were taken to the transport, but no one was taken from the third room where Margarete, Michael, and Marietta were waiting fearfully. Eventually, the full transport left, and the family was able to stay in Theresienstadt. Margarete, Michael, and Marietta were liberated from Theresienstadt on May 8, 1945, by the Soviet Army.

    Margarete, Michael, and Marietta returned to Prague and managed to get an apartment in their old building, which had belonged to some Germans who had been evicted. Margarete decided that the family should immigrate to the United States. While waiting for their US visas, Margerete sent Marietta to England in 1946, to pursue her studies. The following year, Marietta won a B’nai Brith scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin in the US. While studying there, she met her husband, Milton Emont. In February 1948, the Communist Party took control of the government during the Czechoslovak coup d’état. This caused Margarete and Michael to leave in April, when they flew to Cuba to await permission to enter the United States. After living there for two years, they were granted US visas and arrived in New York City on July 4, 1950. Margarete changed her name to Margaret Gruenbaum, found a clerical job, and rented a small apartment. Michael earned a degree in civil engineering from MIT in 1953. He spent the next two years in the US Army, serving as a draftsman in Washington, DC. After his service, he got a position with the Illinois Highway Department. In Chicago, he met Thelma Yutan (1932-2006). The couple married in 1956, and had three sons. After receiving his Master’s degree from Yale, Michael worked as a city planner and settled in Brookline, Massachusetts with his family. Marietta and Milton settled in Granville, Ohio, where they both taught at Denison University, and had two children.
    Michael (Misa) Grünbaum (1930-2023) was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic), to Karel (1897-1941) and Margarete (1899-1974) Popper Grünbaum. Karel was born in Ceska Kamenice, Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic) to Eduard and Elizabeth Zucker Grünbaum. Margarete was born in Leitmeritz (now Litomerice, Czech Republic). Michael had an older sister Marietta (1926-2008). The family lived a very comfortable life in Prague. Michael’s father, as well as his paternal grandfather and uncle, were prosperous attorneys. Michael’s father, Karel, was one of the most prominent lawyers at the firm of Petschek & Co. He was also active in several Jewish communal organizations. In the fall of 1938, the Munich Pact was signed, allowing Germany to annex the Czech Sudetenland border region.

    On March 15, 1939, Germany violated the pact by seizing the remaining Czechoslovakian regions of Bohemia and Moravia. Karel was in England on business at the time, but he soon returned home. Not long after, he lost his position at the firm, and the family’s property was confiscated because they were Jewish. The family was forced to wear yellow Star of David patches and leave their apartment. Margarete and Karel moved to a smaller apartment, while the children moved in with relatives. Later, they were all forced to move to the ghetto in Prague, and Michael was expelled from school. In September 1941, Reinhard Heydrich became Reich Protector of occupied Bohemia and Moravia. The persecution of Jews increased, and deportation plans were formed by German authorities. In October 1941, Michael’s father, Karel, was arrested by the Gestapo and detained in Pankrác prison in Prague. On December 3, Karel, was sent to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp, which had opened about 60 miles north of Prague on November 24. Karel was transferred to the Small Fortress at Theresienstadt bearing the designation Return Undesirable (RU). He was murdered there on December 18, 1941. After learning of Karel’s death, Michael’s mother, Margarete, began to entrust the family’s few remaining valuables to non-Jewish friends throughout the city, with the hope of returning for them later.

    Transports of Jews from Prague to Theresienstadt soon became frequent. On November 20, 1942, Margarete, Michael, and Marietta were sent to the ghetto-labor camp aboard transport Cc. Males and females were housed separately, so Michael was placed with a group of boys, later known as the Nešarim (Eagles), in the children’s home, L-417, under the leadership of Franta Maier. The boys all became quite close, and were able to participate in activities that Franta planned for them, even though some were officially banned by the guards. Sometimes they were able to read books and conduct secret classes. At other times, they played soccer with other groups of boys and participated in the camp musical and theatrical performances. Margarete was assigned to work in the studio at the camp’s Art’s Department manufacturing teddy bears and artificial flowers. Michael worked in the garden and bakery, and sang in the children’s choir for the musical productions. Marietta worked in the camp laundry. Whenever Michael’s family was placed on a transport list to the east, his mother would remind the key Jewish people in the camp that her husband had contributed so much to the Jewish community of Prague. This helped them get removed from several transport lists in 1943 and 1944. At some point during this time, Michael’s mother received an encoded postcard from his paternal aunt, who had been deported to Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland. The text on the card was written with a downward slant, which was the family’s agreed-upon signal to convey where she had been deported was bad. The card also warned that Theresienstadt inmates were being deported to Auschwitz, and his mother became more determined not to let the family be deported.

    In the fall of 1944, the family received an order for deportation to Auschwitz. There were too few Jews left in the camp for Margarete’s previous approach to save the family from the transport. Instead she went to her boss, Joseph Spier for help. Margarete was able to help him convince the German camp guard in charge of the department that her work, creating teddy bears and others toys for Germans for the Christmas season, was important enough to keep her, Michael, and Marietta in the camp. Since the guard also wanted toys for his family, he gave Margarete a signed slip of paper that excused the family from the transport. They still had to go to the assembly point, but were deemed protected and not deported. A few days later, they were sent back to the assembly point. However, due to their protected status, they were able to go wait in one of three rooms full of other protected status people. They waited in the room furthest back from the train as the guards began loading the transport. Once all the selected people were loaded, more were still needed to meet the 1,000 person quota, so guards began pulling individuals that had been removed from the transport. People from the first and second waiting rooms were taken to the transport, but no one was taken from the third room where Margarete, Michael, and Marietta were waiting fearfully. Eventually, the full transport left, and the family was able to stay in Theresienstadt. Michael, Margarete, and Marietta were liberated from Theresienstadt on May 8, 1945, by the Soviet Army.

    They returned to Prague and managed to get an apartment in their old building, which had belonged to some Germans who had been evicted. Margarete decided that the family should immigrate to the United States. Michael’s sister, Marietta, was sent to England in 1946 to pursue her studies. The following year, Marietta won a B’nai Brith scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin in the US. While studying there, she met her husband, Milton Emont. In February 1948, the Communist Party took control of the government during the Czechoslovak coup d’état. This caused Michael and Margarete to leave in April, when they flew to Cuba to await permission to enter the United States. After living there for two years, they were granted US visas and arrived in New York City on July 4, 1950. Michael’s mother changed her name to Margaret, and the family’s surname to Gruenbaum. His mother found a clerical job and rented a small apartment. In 1953, Michael earned a degree in civil engineering from MIT. He spent the next two years in the US Army, serving as a draftsman in Washington, DC. After his service, he got a position with the Illinois Highway Department. In Chicago, he met Thelma Yutan (1932-2006.) The couple married in 1956, and had three sons. After receiving his Master’s degree from Yale, Michael worked as a city planner and settled in Brookline, Massachusetts with his family in 1968. Marietta and Milton settled in Granville, Ohio, where they both taught at Denison University, and had two children. Thelma wrote a book, Nešarim, Child Survivors of Terezín, about Michael’s experience.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Jewelry
    Category
    Pins (Jewelry)
    Object Type
    Brooches (lcsh)
    Genre/Form
    Jewelry.
    Physical Description
    Thin, bronze-colored metal brooch cut out in the shape of a leaping horse in profile. The horse has elongated, thin, triangular ears; a narrow head and nose; and a graceful, curved neck with a stylized, button-braided mane. The horse’s body is short, and compact, and the legs extend out to the front and back in an almost horizontal line, with only two of the four visible. A long, flowing tail extends from the curved rump above the hind leg. The ears, face, tail, and hooves have engraved details. A hinge pin with a C-shaped hook is soldered horizontally across the back. The surface is discolored overall, and the pin is slightly twisted along portions of the neck and body.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm) | Width: 2.500 inches (6.35 cm) | Depth: 0.125 inches (0.318 cm)
    Materials
    overall : metal

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The pin was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2006 by Michael Gruenbaum, the son of Margaret Gruenbaum.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-31 10:14:18
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn36843

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