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Concentration camp uniform jacket worn by a Polish Jewish inmate

Object | Accession Number: 1991.112.1

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    Concentration camp uniform jacket worn by a Polish Jewish inmate

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Blue and gray striped concentration camp uniform jacket worn by Uscher Mosak while imprisoned in Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and Ebensee concentration camps from December 17, 1942 to May 6, 1945. On September 5, 1939, the German army occupied Uscher’s town, Plonsk, Poland. After May 1941, Uscher, wife Perla, and children, Mirjam and Hirsz, were interned in the closed ghetto. In December 1942, Uscher and his family were transported to Auschwitz and separated. He was assigned prisoner number 84225 and was a tailor in the camp. On January 18, 1945, as Soviet forces approached, Uscher was sent on a forced march to Mauthausen in Austria, then transported to Ebensee. On May 6, Uscher was liberated by US soldiers and transferred to Bad Ischl displaced persons camp. He learned that his wife and children had been killed upon arrival at Auschwitz. Four of his five brothers were killed fighting in the Soviet Army. In November 1948, Uscher and his second wife, Lonia, immigrated to the United States.
    Date
    issue:  1942 December 17
    use:  1942 December 17-1945 May 06
    Geography
    issue: Auschwitz (Concentration camp); Oświęcim (Poland)
    use: Mauthausen (Concentration Camp); Mauthausen (Austria)
    use: Ebensee (Concentration camp); Ebensee (Austria)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Lonia Mosak and Doris Lazarus, in memory of Oscar Mosak, husband and father
    Contributor
    Subject: Oscar Mosak
    Subject: Lonia Mosak
    Biography
    Uscher Mosak was born on May 14, 1910, in Plonsk, Poland, to Hersch and Blima Igielnik Mosak. Uscher had five brothers. He was a tailor. Uscher married Perla Krynska, who was also born in Plonsk to a Jewish couple. Uscher and Perla had two children: Mirjam born on December 9, 1932, and Hirsz born on May 21, 1938.
    On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Four days later, the German Army entered Plonsk. Beginning on November 23, all Jews were required to wear yellow Star of David patches on their clothing. In May 1941, a section of Plonsk was closed off to form a ghetto and all Jews, including Uscher and his family, were forced to move there. In October 1942, German authorities began to liquidate the ghetto. On December 1, Uscher’s brother Josef, a cobbler, was arrested. Not long after, Uscher, Perla and their children, Mirjam and Hirsz, were put on a transport to Auschwitz concentration camp. They arrived on December 17, and Uscher was separated from his family. He was assigned a prisoner number, 84225, which was tattooed on his left forearm. Uscher worked as a tailor, repairing S.S. uniforms. On January 18, as the Soviet Army advanced on the region, Auschwitz was evacuated. Uscher was sent on a forced march to Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. He arrived on January 25, and was issued a new prisoner number, 121133. Later, he was transferred to Ebensee, a Mauthausen subcamp. On May 6, Uscher, weighing only 68 pounds, was liberated by American soldiers.
    On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. Uscher was transferred to Bad Ischl displaced persons camp. Uscher’s wife, Perla, and their children, Mirjam and Hirsz, were killed in the gas chambers when they arrived at Auschwitz in December 1942. While asking a group of recent arrivals from the Soviet Union about his brothers, who had been in the Soviet Army, Uscher met Lonia Kirshenbaum. Lonia was born on July 20, 1922, in Ciechanow, Poland, to Mendel and Esther Terkeltaub Kirshenbaum. In November 1942, Lonia was transported to Auschwitz. On January 18, 1945 she was sent on a forced march to Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. She was transferred to Neustadt-Glewe subcamp, where, in May, she was liberated by Soviet soldiers. Uscher’s American uncle, Louis Mosak, agreed to sponsor his emigration to the United States. On September 28, 1946, Uscher married Lonia. Uscher learned that only one of his brothers, Josef, survived. Following his arrest, Josef had been sent to Auschwitz as a forced laborer. On November 9, 1948, Uscher and Lonia sailed from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Boston, Massachusetts. The couple settled in Chicago, Illinois, near Uscher’s uncle. Uscher changed his name to Oscar. Lonia began working at a clothing factory. Oscar helped his brother Josef come to the US. Oscar continued to work as a tailor and opened a dry cleaning store. The couple had two daughters. Oscar, 66, died in March 1976, in Chicago.
    Lea Kirshenbaum was born on July 20, 1922, in Ciechanow, Poland, to Mendel and Esther Terkeltaub Kirshenbaum. Mendel was born in 1885 in Ciechanow, to Shmuel and Sura Kirshenbaum. He had 7 brothers and one sister. Esther was born in 1887 in Zakroczyn, Poland, to a Jewish couple. Mendel made signs and monuments in a small shop in their backyard. Lea had three younger brothers: Hershel, Shmuel, and Shia. Shmuel died from typhus as a boy. Lea’s family was observant. She spoke Yiddish at home and Polish at the public school she attended. Lea was an active member of the Zionist youth group, Hashomer Hatzair. She eventually transferred to the Jewish school. When she finished school Lea learned how to sew. In 1939, Lea’s parents sent Hershel to the Soviet Union, hoping to keep him out of the army if Poland was invaded.
    On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. German soldiers forced all the Jewish men in Ciechanow to burn Torahs and Jewish books in the street. Any Jew walking by a German officer had to kneel and remove their hat or be shot. Beginning on November 23, all Jews were required to wear yellow Star of David patches. One day, a German soldier told Lea he didn’t like how her patch was sewn on and demanded money. She had none with her, so he knocked her down and kicked her until her mother ran outside to give him money. Businesses were confiscated and valuables were taken. Lea’s home was destroyed and they were forced to share a cramped apartment with other families. Lea contracted typhus and was not allowed to see a doctor or get medicine. She was sent to a small hut on the outskirts of town. A doctor and his family lived there and helped her. After 8 weeks, Lea was weak, but healthy enough to return to her family.
    In September 1941, Lea and her family were transported to Neustadt ghetto, formerly known as Nowe Miasto. Her family was beaten for twenty minutes, and told to find a place to live quickly or they would be shot. The ghetto was overcrowded and the only place they could find was a stable. Lea found work in the Judenrat’s [Jewish Council] kitchen because she was young. In June 1942, Lea’s uncles and cousin, Aaron, Benjamin, and Ryvka Kirshenbaum, escaped. They were caught and paid the Germans to hang them in a different town so that their family would not be forced to participate. Ryvka fought back and was shot. In November, Lea and her family were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. They were locked in a crowded cattle car for three days with no food or water and many people died. When the train arrived at the camp, Lea was sent to the right and her parents, Mendl and Esther, and brother, Shia, were sent to the left.
    Lea was forced to undress and shower. The guards gave her a striped concentration camp uniform, cut off her hair, and tattooed the prisoner number 25702 on her arm. Lea learned that her parents and brother had been killed. She was assigned to a barrack with 1000 women near the crematoriums. Several people slept on each level of three tiered bunk beds. Lea found several friends from home and they tried to stay together. Each day, Lea received some coffee, a quarter loaf of bread, and a bowl of soup. She woke up at 5 am and had to stand, naked, outside for inspection. Unhealthy women were sent to the gas chamber. The rest were counted off, divided into groups of two hundred, and marched to a work site where they moved bricks, rubble and sand in wheelbarrows. If anyone died during work or the march, the prisoners had to carry the person back to camp to ensure that the count was correct. The guards beat the prisoners for any offense. Lea was once beaten so badly the guard left her for dead. If no new transports arrived, the guards selected camp workers for the gas chamber. During Chanukah in 1943, Lea’s entire barrack was lined up for selection. Lea was one of three women not killed that day. Lea avoided selection several other times by being near the back of the line, disappearing quickly, or pretending to be working when guards passed.
    In early January 1945, Lea watched as her friend, Roza Robata, and 3 other women were hanged for helping with a failed uprising in the camp. On January 18, the camp was evacuated and Lea was sent on a forced march. Any prisoner that stopped running or went too slow was shot. In February, the prisoners were loaded onto open trucks and transported to Ravensbrück concentration camp. At the end of the month, Lea was transported to Neustadt-Glewe, a subcamp of Ravensbrück. On May 2, the German guards abandoned the camp. Later, several downed Allied pilots told the prisoners that the war was over and they were free. Lea and a group of friends returned to Poland. Lea learned her entire family had been killed in Auschwitz. She did not know what had happened to her brother Hershel. Poland was very dangerous and many Jews who returned were killed in pogroms. Lea changed her name to Lonia to sound less Jewish. Lonia went to Łódź and joined a Kibbutz. She met people who had escaped from the Soviet Union and knew Hershel, who was trying to get to Poland. Lonia joined a Kibbutz in Bialystok and sent Hershel papers to help him return to Poland.
    In early 1946, Hershel found Lonia and told her that he had been imprisoned in a Siberian gulag. They joined Bricha, the movement to illegally move Jews from Eastern Europe, and travelled through Czechoslovakia to Austria. In June, they arrived at Bad Ischl displaced persons camp. Lonia met Uscher Mosak who was born on May 14, 1910, in Plonsk, Poland, to Hersch and Blima Igielnik Mosak. In December 1942, he was transported to Auschwitz. On January 18, 1945, he was sent on a forced march to Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, then transported to Ebensee, where he was liberated by American soldiers in May. Uscher had immigration papers and a sponsor in the United States. On September 28, 1946, Lonia married Uscher. On November 9, 1948, they sailed from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Boston, Massachusetts. Uscher and Lonia settled in Chicago, Illinois. Uscher changed his name to Oscar. Lonia worked at a clothing factory and Oscar as a tailor. They eventually opened a dry cleaning store. Lonia helped Hershel immigrate to the US. He changed his name to Harry and started a family. Lonia and Oscar had two daughters. Harry, 46, died in 1969. Oscar, 66, died in March 1976, in Chicago. In 2012, Lonia changed her name back to Lea Kirshenbaum.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Clothing and Dress
    Object Type
    Jackets (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Blue and gray vertically striped hip length coarse cloth jacket with long sleeves, a pointed, reinforced double layer collar with triangular brown stitches, and an eye closure missing the hook. The front opening has plackets on both sides with 4 black plastic buttons, 2 match and 2 are different, on the right and 5 finished, frayed buttonholes on the left. There is a single patch pocket on each side near the waist and a slightly smaller 1 on the left breast. All 3 pockets have a strip of cloth on the interior, creating faux piping across the top edge. On the interior neck band is a gray cloth hanging loop. The interior armhole seams have shiny gray cloth binding. The hems and seams are machine finished. There are 2 patched holes on the left sleeve: 1 on the side, patched on the interior and 1 on the back, patched on the exterior with different striped cloth. Both sides are taken in under the arms. The cloth is faded, stained, and has several holes.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 24.375 inches (61.913 cm) | Width: 15.750 inches (40.005 cm)
    Materials
    overall : cloth, plastic, metal, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The concentration camp uniform was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1991 by Doris M. Lazarus and Lonia Mosak, the daughter and wife of Oscar Mosak.
    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:
    2022-07-28 18:21:32
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn4301

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