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Charred electrical insulator from Auschwitz found by a Sinti inmate

Object | Accession Number: 1987.75.1

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    Charred electrical insulator from Auschwitz found by a Sinti inmate

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    Brief Narrative
    Partial charred porcelain electrical insulator from Auschwitz concentration camp acquired postwar by Hans Braun, a German Sinti man who was imprisoned there with his family from March 1943 to May 1944. It was the type used to connect electrical wires to the concrete fence posts around the camp. In early 1940, Hans, a forced laborer, broke a machine at a factory and was accused of sabotage. The Gestapo came after him and he fled Bernau and went into hiding. Hans was arrested twice, but escaped, until March 1943, when he was deported to Auschwitz, where he was reunited with his family in the Roma camp. Hans was infected with typhus for a medical experiment. In May 1944, he was transported to Flossenberg in Germany, and in January 1945, to Altenhammer. On April 16, Hans was sent on a death march. On the fourth night, he escaped after he heard rumors that the prisoners were to be killed. The next day, he was liberated by American soldiers. His entire family, parents, grandparents, and 10 siblings, perished, most killed or starved to death in Auschwitz.
    use:  approximately 1940 June-approximately 1945 January
    found: Auschwitz (Concentration camp); Oświęcim (Poland)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Hans Braun
    bottom, stamped, maker’s mark : interlocking S and P [S.L. Palme]
    Subject: Hans Braun
    Manufacturer: S.L. Palme
    Hans Braun was born on March 6, 1923, in Hannover, Germany, to Oswald and Rosa Ernst Braun, a Sinti couple. Oswald was born on March 1, 1898, in Brandenburg, Germany. Rosa was born on February 27, 1902, in Rydultau, Germany (Rydultowy, Poland), to Antonio and Anna Heilch Ernst. The Braun family owned a small carnival and traveled around the countryside during the summer to make money. They also lived in their horse drawn wagon. They spent winters at a Sinti compound in Bernau. Rosa and Oswald had 10 other children: Brigitte b. 1925, Vanda b.1927, Heini b.1929, Anneliese b.1931, Werner b. 1933, Waltrand b.1935, Elli b.1937, Helga b.1939, Roswitha b.1941, and Frieda b.1942.
    In January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. The Braun family continued to travel with their carnival in the summer. Beginning in 1937, the Nuremberg Laws were applied to Sinti and Roma individuals and increasing restrictions were placed on their movement. In fall 1939, Hans and his family began experiencing persecution and were no longer allowed to leave Bernau. Hans had to wear a patch with the letter Z printed on it to identify him as a Zigeuner. The Braun family received ration cards, but they could be exchanged for only half as much flour, sugar and meat as those issued to ethnic Germans. Hans and his father Oswald were forced to work at a factory manufacturing armaments for the German Army. Hans’ father made extra money by transporting things with his horses.
    Sixteen year old Hans was running a cartridge machine during the night shift when the machine broke. The next morning, Rosa told Hans that the Gestapo was approaching their wagon and he escaped. Hans was accused of sabotage and fled to Berlin, where he hid with his grandfather. The Gestapo pursued him and he was forced into hiding with Sinti friends in Berlin and then relatives in Eger. After several weeks, he escaped to Luxembourg, where a group of Sinti acquired false papers for him. Around Christmas 1941, Hans returned to Germany, and his mother snuck him into Bernau. Two days later the Gestapo came for him and Hans fled to relatives in Bamburg. After several weeks, Hans and a cousin, a German army soldier, were arrested and jailed. His cousin was discharged from the army. Four weeks later, Hans escaped through a courthouse window. He made his way back to Berlin, where he hid with Sinti friends. His mother brought him food once a week. While in hiding, Hans began a relationship with a German girl. At one point, she told Hans that his family had been taken away. Later, Hans and two cousins went to Luxembourg. After a few weeks, they were arrested while trying to go to Belgium. He later escaped from jail and evaded capture by disguising himself and hiding in a field in the rain. Hans made it to Luxembourg City, where he was captured by the Gestapo. He was sent to the jail where they were holding his cousins. All three were placed on a transport train to Berlin.
    In March 1943, Hans was put on a cattle car and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in German occupied Poland. The camp guards asked the new prisoners what they did, and Hans told them he was a harp player. The guards said there was no harp for him to play, so he would receive no bread. He kept asking if his family was there and looking to see if he could find them. Hans was assigned prisoner number 8219. The number was tattooed on his arm, his clothing was taken away, and his head was shaved. On his way to quarantine, Hans saw his parents and siblings, but did not recognize his mother at first because her head was shaved. He spoke to them briefly. They were weak and did not have enough to eat. After quarantine, he was moved to the Roma camp and placed in block six with his family. All thirteen shared one bunk with four tiers. Six to eight people were expected to fit in each tier. Hans learned that they had been deported that month, not in 1942 as he had been told. On March 29, his sister, Roswitha, died of influenza. There was not enough food, so Hans took an extra work detail to get bread for them. He received half a loaf for every night he helped collect the dead from the hospital barrack, load them into a truck, and take them to the crematorium. Hans got more extra bread by volunteering to disinfect the barracks. In July, his sister Anneliese starved to death. His mother, Rosa, contracted typhus and was taken to the hospital. On July 26, Hans visited her and tried to help by washing her dry mouth. She was very weak and he felt she had lost the will to live. Rosa, age 41, died the next day. Hans’ father, Oswald, was regularly beaten and he was very weak. Hans was once accused of stealing bread and put into the stocks to be beaten. By March 1, 1944, three more of Hans’ siblings, Frieda, Elli, and Werner, had died of starvation or typhus. Hans was taken to the hospital and given live injections of typhus as part of an experiment and had to stay in the hospital. He got very sick with typhus and dysentery. All of his teeth were beaten out of his mouth, and he was always thirsty, but could not drink very much water. While he was there, he saw Dr. Mengele conduct experimental medical procedures, like spinal taps, on children. Hans also saw the doctor collect organs from patients that had died. On April 13, 1944, Oswald, age 46, died in the camp. On April 15, Hans’ sister Brigitte was taken away on a transport. By early May, three more of Hans’ siblings, Heini, Helga, and Waltraud, had died from typhus or starvation.
    Around May 22, 1944, Hans was released from the hospital and transported to Flossenberg concentration camp in Germany. He was assigned a new prisoner number, 10423. On January 15, 1945, Hans was transferred to Altenhammer, a subcamp of Flossenberg. He was put on a work detail building ME 109 airplanes at the Messerschmitt factory under the supervision of civilians and SS guards. On April 16, the subcamp was dissolved and Hans was sent north on a death march with about 1200 fellow inmates. He and several other prisoners linked arms to stay upright while marching. Many prisoners died along the way and those too weak to continue were shot. They were buried in shallow graves beside the road. On the fourth night, as the prisoners reached a train depot, rumors began to spread about what would happen to them. American reconnaissance planes, which had followed the march, were flying overhead. Around one in the morning, Hans and two other men ran away and hid in a barn. Around three in the morning, Hans heard machine gun fire, which lasted for about an hour. The next day, they found a village and hid in a school. American forces attacked the village, which was defended by the SS. Hans made a white flag from things he found in the building and hung it out the window to make it seem like the town was surrendering. The soldiers stopped attacking and the Germans fled. Hans was now free. He learned that the rest of his transport had been shot after he fled. On May 7, Germany surrendered.
    Hans settled in Kehl, Germany, as a merchant. He believed his entire family died in the camps. He measured the passing of time from that period by how many of his siblings had died. Hans married twice and had three children. In 1956, Hans and his family immigrated to Canada and settled in Kingston, Ontario. Hans died in Canada.

    Physical Details

    Tools and Equipment
    Physical Description
    Partial, mostly bottom section of a cylindrical, white porcelain electrical insulator. It has a hollow hole through the center, likely for mounting on a rod. It is flat on the bottom, with straight sides with a rounded top rim that angles up to a narrow neck and then widens into a disc with a rounded edge, which angles into a second narrow neck. Half of the bottom and most of the top are broken off and charred black.
    overall: Height: 1.750 inches (4.445 cm) | Width: 1.125 inches (2.858 cm) | Depth: 1.875 inches (4.763 cm)
    overall : porcelain

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The insulator was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1987 by Hans Braun.
    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:
    2024-02-21 07:11:14
    This page:

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