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Necklace of found materials made in a camp by an Austrian Jewish woman

Object | Accession Number: 2006.355.2

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    Necklace of found materials made in a camp by an Austrian Jewish woman

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    Brief Narrative
    Necklace created by Renee Konstandt, 18, from materials she saved while imprisoned in Auschwitz and other camps during and immediately after the war ended in May 1945. The ID tag used in the necklace was given to her by a friend in Auschwitz. In October 1941, Renee's parents were deported from Vienna, Austria, to the Jewish ghetto in Łódź, Poland. Due to a clerical error, Renee and her older brother, Raoul, 20, were not put on the transport. They were deported in January 1941 to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp. In May 1944, they were sent to Auschwitz, where they were separated. Renee was sent to Neuengamme. In March 1945, she was sent to Bergen-Belsen where she was liberated on April 15, 1945, by British forces. She returned to Vienna to search for her family, but no one had survived. With the help of an uncle in Philadelphia, she emigrated to the United States in 1947.
    creation:  1945 May-1946
    received: Auschwitz (Concentration camp); Oświęcim (Poland)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Renee Lang
    Subject: Renee Lang
    Renee Konstandt was born on August 20, 1927, in Vienna, Austria. Her father, Hugo, was born February 1, 1890, in Kostel, Czechoslovakia; her mother, Olga Braun, was born April 7, 1899, in Knittelfeld-Styer, near Graz, Austria. She had an older brother, Raoul, who was born on May 5, 1921, also in Vienna. Her father owned a chain of dry goods and linen stores around Austria. Renee enjoyed a pleasant, comfortable childhood, and was spoiled by her older brother.
    On March 12, 1938, German troops marched into Austria and annexed the country. Anti-Jewish legislation was soon enacted to exclude Jews from participation in cultural, economic, and social life. The November 1938 Kristallnacht [Night of Broken Glass] pogrom was particularly brutal in Austria. Most of the synagogues in Vienna were destroyed and Jewish businesses were vandalized. Thousands of Jews were arrested and deported to concentration camps. Her father was arrested in May 1938 and deported to Dachau concentration camp, but was released in December 1939. In January 1941, he was arrested again by the Gestapo and held in jail in Vienna for a month before being released. That October, both of Renee’s parents were deported to the Jewish ghetto in Łódź, Poland. Due to a clerical error, Renee and her brother remained in Vienna. Raoul was taken briefly to a work camp outside of Vienna in October 1942, but soon returned. The siblings were deported in January 1943 to Theresienstadt (Terezin) in the former Czechoslovakia. Renee first worked with infants and then was transferred to a small farm detail that worked outside the ghetto. Because of the constant hunger, she and the other workers would often try to smuggle food in under their clothes, despite the body searches and frequent beatings. She occasionally saw her brother, who worked as a tailor, and he would sneak her bread, telling her that he got extra. They remained there until May 1944, when they were transferred to Auschwitz, where they lost contact with each other. Renee was tattooed and shaved. Auschwitz was hell, with searchlights, vicious dogs, frequent roll calls, constant fear of beatings, even less food, and the horrible smell from the crematoriums. After two months, Renee was taken to Neuengamme, where the death rates of prisoners reached devastating proportions, with hundreds dying weekly. She and a group of friends were part of a work detail sent to clear debris from areas of Hamburg destroyed by constant bombings. It was winter and they were clad only in muslin overalls and clogs. Some French and Russian prisoners-of-war gave them sweaters and other items that they could spare from the supplies they received from the Red Cross. She remembers being told by a German officer that although the Germans were losing the war, they (the prisoners) would not see freedom because “we’ll gather all of you and gas you first.” In March 1945, as British troops advanced towards the camp, Renee and other inmates were forced into cattle cars, standing room only, with no food or water, for days. Occasionally the trains would stop and people would try to escape and be chased down by dogs or shot. When they reached their destination, Bergen-Belsen, Renee felt it was the end. She was ill with typhus, but her friends took care of her.
    On April 15, 1945, the camp was liberated by the British. After Renee recovered, she and a friend ran away from the camp because, although she was now 18, they were considered minors and did not know where they might be sent. She managed to get to Vienna to search for her family. Finding no one, she briefly worked for UNRRA, the United Nations Refugee Relief Agency. Her supervisor, Dr. Hochner, helped her get passage to England and because her uncle in Philadelphia, Herbert Brown, filed papers to sponsor her and paid for her journey, she was able to immigrate to the United States in 1947. She settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where she married Manfred Lang in March 1949. She eventually learned the fate of her family members. Her father had been in Łódź from the time of his deportation in 1941 until 1943, when he was sent to Auschwitz. In February 1945, he perished in Dachau. Her mother had also spent two years in Łódź and was deported with her husband to Auschwitz, where she was murdered in the gas chambers. Her brother had been deported from Auschwitz to Schwarzenberg, where he died in May 1945, during the final days of the war. In August 2011, Renee attended a meeting of Holocaust survivors in New York. While there, she was reunited with her cousin, Felix Konstandt, whom she had not seen or heard from since 1938 in Vienna.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Necklaces (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Cloth cord necklace made with found materials. At one end, attached with twine, is a section of silver colored metal link bracelet with a circular clasp; nearby is a piece of ribbon with a raised dot pattern; at the center of the cord is a dark gray metal identification tag, etched 421. Attached to a knotted area of the cord is a silver metal, oval, religious medal with raised borders and a suspension ring; it has an embossed robed Virgin Mary, standing with a halo above her head, stars and rays of light emanating around her body, and French text around the border. The reverse of the medal has an embossed design of hearts and crowns.
    overall: Height: 12.000 inches (30.48 cm) | Width: 1.750 inches (4.445 cm)
    overall : cord, metal, cloth
    etched on identification tag : 421
    embossed on medal : ... SECOURS A VOUS ...

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The necklace was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2006 by Renee Konstandt Lang.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-31 10:14:17
    This page:

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