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Pouch with a false base used by a German Jewish émigré to smuggle money out of the country

Object | Accession Number: 1991.133.1 a-b

Leather pouch with a false bottom used to smuggle money out of Germany by Erna Schlesinger (later Summerfield) and her daughter, Irene, when they immigrated to the United States in July 1939. The pouch was originally used to store detachable men’s shirt collars at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Jews emigrating from Germany were not allowed to remove valuables or money from the country, so Erna glued approximately 1,000 Reichs marks (about $250 US dollars) to the underside of the false, cardboard bottom. On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany. Erna’s sister, Ruth, and her family were very concerned about Hitler’s policies so they immigrated to Palestine. Erna and Irene stayed in Berlin, with Erna’s parents, Jenny and Adolf Pelz. In 1935, Erna’s step-father, Adolf, died. Later that year, the Nuremberg Laws were passed, severely restricting the rights and daily lives of Jews in Germany. In July 1939, Erna and Irene said goodbye to Jenny at the Berlin train station before boarding the S.S. Statendam in the Netherlands. They arrived in the United States in August, and settled in Boston, Massachusetts, with Ruth, whose family had moved there in 1937. Irene married in 1940, and Erna married Martin Sommerfeld (later Summerfield). Erna tried everything she could to get her mother, Jenny, out of Germany, but was unsuccessful. On March 18, 1943, Jenny was deported to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. On May 16, 1944, Jenny was deported to Auschwitz killing center in German-occupied Poland, and likely killed upon arrival.

emigration:  1939 July-1939 August
en route: United States
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Irene S. Woods
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 18:21:33
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