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Hertha Spier collection

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 1996.A.0421

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    The Hertha Spier collection consists of a short booklet, in English, entitled "Hertha Speir, KZ A-21646; Płaszów-Auschwitz e Bergen-Belsen" which contains a letter written by Hertha Spier in which she describes her Holocaust experiences. Originally from Bielsko, Poland, she describes the German invasion of Poland and being sent to the Kraków ghetto in 1940. She details her experiences in the Płaszów concentration camp where she was forced to make toys and gifts to be sent to Germany. Hertha describes her and her sister Gisela Pemper’s (née Gruber) deportation to the Auschwitz concentration camp and later Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, the conditions within the camps, the death of her sister two weeks before liberation, and her own eventual recovery in Sweden. The booklet also includes a reflection on the movie, Schindler’s List. Also included are color copies of pre-war and post-war family photographs with some identifications.
    creation:  circa 1993
    inclusive:  1923-1946
    Collection Creator
    Hertha Spier
    Hertha Spier (1918-2020) was born Hertha Gruber in 1918 to Mauricy Gruber and Amalia Gruber in Bielitz (now Bielsko-Biała, Poland). Her siblings were Eugenie (Jenny) Gruber (b. April 5, 1905), Henriette (Jetti) Gruber, Gisela (Gisi) Gruber (April 19, 1911-March 29, 1945), and Max Gruber (b. September 20, 1907).
    At some point, her sister Gisela married Alfred (Fred) Pemper (1912-1965). A week before the start of World War II, the Gruber family left Bielitz and joined relatives in Kraków, Poland. On Yom Kippur, all the Jewish men were rounded up, forced to dig trenches, and then executed. Mauricy and Max Gruber survived this action in hiding. Eugenie Gruber was sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp, where she perished. It is believed that Henriette Gruber fled to the Romanian frontier to be with her fiancé, where she perished in a German massacre. In 1940, Hertha Gruber, her parents, and siblings Gisela and Max Gruber were imprisoned in the Kraków ghetto. During one of the actions, their parents were massacred in a forest. Hertha, Gisela, and Max survived the actions and were deported to the Płaszów concentration camp. On August 10, 1944, Max Gruber was sent from Płaszów to the Mauthausen concentration camp, where he perished. Hertha and Gisela were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp where they were tattooed with the numbers 21646 (Hertha) and 21647 (Gisi). During their time in Auschwitz, the sisters survived selections by Dr. Josef Mengele. They were sent on a march to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where Gisela died in her sister’s arms on March 29, 1945, two weeks before liberation. Hertha Gruber survived and at the time of liberation she weighed sixty-two pounds. She was treated in the hospitals for malnutrition and lung disease. She and other lung disease patients were sent to Sweden for treatment from the Swedish Red Cross. Hertha arrived in Luebeck on July 15, 1945. From there, Hertha was treated in a hospital in Karlstad, Sweden. It was during her convalescences that she learned her brother Max perished in Mauthausen, leaving her the sole survivor of her family. While Hertha convalesced, she earned money by crafting flowers which Margaret Feychting sold in Stockholm and sent money back to Hertha. On October 8, 1946, Hertha Gruber left Sweden for Rio de Janeiro, and arrived in Rio on November 8, 1946. She married Siegfried Spier and they had two sons, Lucio Spier and Mario Spier. Hertha Spier died in February 2020.

    Physical Details

    1 folder
    System of Arrangement
    The Hertha Spier collection is arranged in a single series.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Hertha Spier donated the Hertha Spier collection to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1996.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this collection has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2024-03-20 07:38:35
    This page:

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