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Woman's gold wrist watch kept with a Jewish concentration camp inmate

Object | Accession Number: 2009.360.1

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    Woman's gold wrist watch kept with a Jewish concentration camp inmate


    Brief Narrative
    Gold wrist watch carried by Marga Gussinoff throughout her imprisonment in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and Vittel internment camp from 1943-1944. The wrist band was added to the watch after the war. In 1943, Marga and her mother, Sarah, were arrested by the Gestapo at their apartment in Berlin, Germany. Her sister, Eva, was in hiding with a German woman at the time, but joined them after their arrest. The Gestapo demanded that they turn over all their money and jewelry, but 20 year old Marga "being that I was rebellious, I had this watch, a gold watch, and I decided not to give it to them. And I pick it, --and at the time I had nice hair--, and I put it in my hair. And this survived the Holocaust with me…”They were in Bergen-Belsen for 1.5 years, then were sent to Vittel, where they were liberated by the US Army in September 1944. After a short stay in a displaced persons camp, Marga went to Paris and got papers for the 3 of them to emigrate to Palestine. Marga used the watch for the rest of her life as a visual aid when she gave speeches about her experiences during the Holocaust.
    use:  1943-1944
    received: Berlin (Germany)
    use: Bergen-Belsen (Concentration camp); Belsen (Bergen, Celle, Germany)
    use: Vittel (Concentration camp); Vittel (France)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ilan and Terry Lakritz
    face of watch, below number 12 : RECTA / ANTIMAGNETIC
    reverse, shorter strap, stamped gold lettering : genuine / Alector / 14
    reverse, longer strap, stamped gold lettering : C / CONDOR / AUSTRIA
    Subject: Marga Lakritz
    Marga Gussinoff was born in Berlin, Germany, on May 17, 1924, to Russian Jewish parents, Isaak and Sara-Leah Gussinoff, born March 15, 1899. Her sister, Eva, was born on June 12, 1927. Her father had been a prisoner of war in Germany during World War I and decided to remain there, after the war ended in 1918. In the early 1930s, her father went to Russia to visit family, but never returned. They received one letter from him and never heard from him again. By this time, Hitler had become Chancellor of Germany, Kristallnacht had occurred, and the persecution of Jews was becoming increasingly severe. Because both of her parents were Russian, Marga and her sister also were considered to be Russians and received some protection from the Swedish Consulate throughout World War II.
    However, at 13, Marga was no longer allowed to go to school. All three women were made to do forced labor; Marga worked at a bookbinding factor, her little sister in a shoe factory, and her mother in a munitions factory. Marga had to wear the Jewish star and was harassed and sometimes beat up on the way to work for being Jewish. During bombing campaigns of the city, she would stay in her room because she would “rather be killed by the English than in the cellar by the Nazis.” One day in 1943, they heard that the Germans were planning to raid their apartment. Her younger sister, Eva, was sent to hide with a German friend. Marga and her mother spent two days and nights wandering the city, then went back to their apartment to get some things. But the concierge alerted the Gestapo who came and arrested them. They demanded all their money and valuable, but Marga “being that I was rebellious, I had this watch, a gold watch, and I decided not to give it to them. And I pick it, --and at the time I had nice hair--, and I put it in my hair. And this survived the Holocaust with me…”
    Marga and her mother were taken to Sammellager, a camp in Berlin where people where held while the authorities decided where to send them. Her mother attempted suicide, so Marga made the decision that her sister should join them, and her mother did get better. Soon, they were sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. They were placed in Barrack 29, Zonder Barracks, with other non-German prisoners. For 1.5 years, they lived “like on a death row,” 2 blocks from the gas chambers, with lice, rats, no food, and an open ceiling that let in rain, ice, and snow.
    In January 1944, a Sturmfuhrer came to the barracks looking for the Russian women. They were being transferred to another camp because of demands from a Swedish commission to see them in person. They were taken to Vittel, France, where a luxury spa had been converted to an internment camp. They were treated much better, as the Germans wanted them to appear healthy for the inspectors. Not long after they were seen by commission, the Allied Armies landed in Normandy, France. Vittel was liberated by the United States Army on September 12, 1944. Marga, now 20 years old, her mother, and her sister were sent to a displaced persons camp, La Bourbole, where her mother again attempted suicide. Marga was able to get transit papers for them and they soon left France to settle in Palestine. At first, they had to live in a camp in Haifa, and both her mother and sister became ill. Marga worked three jobs to support them. In a few years, Marga was married Mr. Lakritz and had a son, Ilan. They eventually emigrated to the United States. Her son, Ilan, married and had two children. Marga died in the Long Island area of New York on March 18, 2009, at the age of 85.

    Mrs. Lakritz spoke frequently of her Holocaust experiences for schools and other organizations, showing audiences her gold watch that “survived the Holocaust with me.” In 1998, in an oral history interview for a 14 year old middle schooler, she said:
    “Anyway, this is the basic of the story. I immediately decided once I was liberated, not to become bitter. I am grateful. I am very grateful. You understand? Some people are so bitter – I don’t blame anybody but my attitude was to be grateful and to help people. And this is why I devoted my whole life to helping people. And I hope I did, and I still do.”

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Wrist watches (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Gold metal watch with a round dial, and a gold metal square case, with a crown engraved on the right side. The face of the dial is offwhite and the time markings and hands are gold colored. At the bottom of the dial is a separate dial denoting seconds. A brown leather tapered band is attached by metal loops on the top and bottom of the dial case. The band was added after the war.
    overall: Height: 8.250 inches (20.955 cm) | Width: 0.875 inches (2.223 cm)
    overall : leather, metal, glass, paint

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The wrist watch was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2009 by Ilan and Terry Lakritz, the son and daughter-in-law of Marga Lakritz.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 21:51:06
    This page:

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