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Woman’s lab coat owned by a Czech Jewish inmate while a nurse in Theresienstadt

Object | Accession Number: 2001.3.3

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    Woman’s lab coat owned by a Czech Jewish inmate while a nurse in Theresienstadt

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    White, now stained, lab coat used by Hana Mueller Schiff, while a prisoner in Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp where she was a nurse in the infectious disease hospital ward from August 1942 - October 1944. In March 1939, Nazi Germany annexed Prague. Hana, 21, and her husband Rudolf Schiff, 23, were transported on August 10. Hana’s parents were deported to Treblinka killing center in October 1942. Her husband, his parents Richard and Marta, and brother Karel were sent to Auschwitz and killed in December 1943. On October 1, 1944, Hana was deported to Auschwitz, and then sent to Kudowa-Sackisch slave labor camp in Poland where she worked in an airplane factory. She was liberated on May 5, 1945, and returned to Prague. While searching for surviving family members, Hana met Karel Bruml. He had survived Terezin, Auschwitz, Auschwitz III-Monowitz (Buna) and death marches to Gleiwitz, Dora-Mittelbau, and Bergen-Belsen, where he was liberated on April 15. Hana and Karel found few survivors. They left for the United States in 1946, where they married.
    Date
    use:  after 1942 August-before 1944 October
    Geography
    use: Theresienstadt (Concentration camp); Terezin (Ustecky kraj, Czech Republic)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Estate of Hana Bruml
    Contributor
    Subject: Hana Bruml
    Biography
    Hana Müller (Mueller; later Bruml) was born May 30, 1922, to Richard and Hedvika Zappner Müller in Prague, Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic). Her father was born in 1885 in Chocen, Czech Republic, Austro-Hungary, to Emanuel and Antonia Müller. Richard was a tinsmith and owned a workshop. Her mother was born April 17, 1891, in Prague, to Isidor and Marie Heller Zappner, and had one sister, Gizela, born 1888. Hana’s maternal grandparents, Isidor and Marie (b.1856), lived with her family in the Jewish quarter; Isador died in 1925. The family was prosperous and employed a maid. They spoke Czech and German. Hana attended a Zionist school, then a Czech school. She attended business school for a year and worked as a typist.
    From 1933, when the Nazi regime came to power in Germany, Prague saw a large influx of Jews fleeing persecution. In September 1938, Germany annexed the Sudetenland border region. In March 1939, Germany annexed the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, which included Prague, which were governed by a Reich Protector. Other regions were absorbed by German allies and Czechoslovakia ceased to exist. Jews lost their jobs and their property. Hana’s father’s workshop was confiscated. He could not find work and it was difficult to get enough food. Hana tried to leave, but could not get a US visa or German passport. On September 1, Germany invaded neighboring Poland. Jewish men could be conscripted for forced labor at any time. On November 14, 1939, Hana married Rudolf Schiff, b.1919, at City Hall. They got their own room when one of the families boarded at Rudolf’s parent's home was relocated. Hana began working for the Palestine Office, which facilitated emigration to Mandate Palestine.

    In September 1941, Heydrich, SS Chief of RSHA, became Reich Protector, and prioritized the expulsion of Jews to concentration camps. Jews were required to wear a yellow Star of David badge at all times to make them easy to identify. Transports were announced daily in the papers. Rudolf and Hana learned that the transports were going to a camp in Terezin, Theresienstadt in German, about 40 miles north of Prague. Rudolf contracted scarlet fever and was hospitalized for several months. On July 20, 1942, Hana’s parents, Richard and Hedvika, and her grandmother Marie were sent to Theresienstadt. On August 10, 1942, Rudolf and Hana received transport notices. At the train station, they were assigned prisoner numbers, 984 and 1101, and taken to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp. Her parents told Hana that her grandmother Marie had died on August 3, and was buried in a mass grave. Rudolf was still sickly and was not assigned to work. Hana was well-connected and knew the nickname of the head of the labor department and used this information to get assigned as a nurse at the camp hospital. Men and women were housed apart and Hana lived with 8 nurses near the hospital. Rations were watery soup, and twice a week, a dumpling. Hana traded her wedding ring for extra bread and at times bought food on the black market. She worked 12 hour shifts, 6 nights a week, assisting the 4 doctors, cleaning the hospital and patients, and administering the small quantity of poor quality medicine. She was often charged with caring for the elderly and the terminally ill. The overcrowding, lack of food, and poor sanitary conditons in the camp aided the spread of disease and thousands died every month. Hana was given small, hard, pieces of caked soap that did not clean well, but it was all she had for herself, her clothing, and often, for the hospital. She became an infectious disease nurse, and received extra food and occasional access to a bathtub. She visited Richard, whose health had worsened, when she could and gave him much of her extra food. Their marriage was strained and eventually she told him she considered it over. On October 8, 1942, Hana’s parents, Richard and Hedvika, were deported east. In late 1942, several members of Hana’s extended family arrived, including her cousins Jiri and Irma Lauscher and their daughter Michaela, age 5. Several family members were deported east soon after arrival. Hana developed a relationship with a Jewish Czech doctor, Bruno Mandl (b.1912), and they planned to marry after the war.

    On July 5, 1943, Rudolf’s parents, Richard and Marta, arrived at the camp, and his brother Karel on September 11. On December 15, 1943, Rudolf, Richard, Marta, and Karel were deported to Auschwitz. On October 1, 1944, Bruno was deported and Hana volunteered to go with him. They were put on a dirty, overcrowded train to Auschwitz in German occupied Poland. As they neared the camp, the inmates told new arrivals to throw their belongings to them over the fences. A female prisoner did so, and was shot by a guard. She was the first person Hana saw killed in a camp. The new arrivals were directed to go left or right by a man wearing white gloves. Bruno was sent right. Hana asked to go with him and was shoved left. She was directed to a room and ordered to undress and line up to see if she was pregnant. Her hair was shaved and she had to take a cold shower. While she was showering, someone stole her last possession, a pair of warm boots. She was issued a filthy striped uniform and wooden clogs. She shared a pallet and a blanket with 4 other women in her barrack. Later that month, a man came to the barracks and chose Hana and 3 of her friends for labor. The women were given new uniforms and transported to Kudowa-Sackisch slave labor camp, a sub-camp of Gross-Rosen concentration camp in Poland. Hana was placed in an unheated barrack run by a cruel Sudeten German woman. Rations were small and they gave themselves hope by talking of the food they would make if they could. The factory was on the other side of the town and the walk was so cold that Hana turned a sock into gloves that she shared with her friends from Auschwitz. She worked on a manufacturing line in a Vereinigte Deutsche Metallwerke factory where she made airplane parts, alongside Italian and Soviet prisoners of war and some German soldiers that were being punished. Hana worked in 12 hour shifts with female SS guards. The poor quality materials often broke and Hana would be blamed. She spent her long shifts worrying that she would not survive. In April 1945, the factory ran out of raw material and work was halted.

    On May 5, 1945, the guards opened the camp gates and released the prisoners. Hana walked to the nearby Czech town of Nachod, where she was received warmly by the townspeople. On May 7, Germany surrendered. On May 8, Hana returned to Prague to look for her family. Hana’s mother and father, Hedvika and Richard, had been murdered at Treblinka killing center in 1942. Several family members, including her aunt Gizela and her husband and children, were killed upon arrival in Auschwitz in October 1942. Hana’s husband Rudolf and his family were killed upon arrival in December 1943. Her fiance Bruno had been killed when they arrived in Auschwitz in 1944. Her cousins, the Lauschers, returned to Prague from Theresienstadt. Hana changed her surname from Schiff to Suk. In order to claim her family’s property, Hana had to go to a government office to report them as deceased. While there, she met 33 year old Karel Bruml, born in Prague, who had survived Theresienstadt and several concentration camps. They planned to go to America and marry. In May 1946, Hana sailed to the US and went to live in New York City with a relative. In August, Karel arrived. On December 31, 1946, Hana and Karel, now Charles, married at City Hall. In 1947, the couple moved to Washington, D.C. Hana received a doctorate in clinical psychology and began a long, successful career. Charles was a commercial artist. The couple often returned to Prague to visit friends and family. Charles, 85, passed away on March 22, 1998, in Arlington, Virginia. Hana,78, passed away on August 7, 2000, in Arlington.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Clothing and Dress
    Category
    Women's clothing
    Object Type
    Coats (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Woman’s knee-length, white cotton lab coat with a pointed collar and long sleeves with narrow cuffs and 1 large mother-of-pearl button. The full-length front opening has a wide upper placket that tapers toward the bottom. There are 5 finished buttonholes, 4 mother-of-pearl buttons, and thread where a 5th button was sewn. There is a small patch pocket on the left breast and a large patch pocket at each hip. The interior collar has a hanging loop. There are princess seams on the back and an attached, adjustable belt with 2 mother-of-pearl buttons and 2 finished buttonholes. It has a 14 inch center back vent. The coat is very discolored with red-brown stains overall.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 40.375 inches (102.553 cm) | Width: 16.750 inches (42.545 cm)
    Materials
    overall : cotton, mother of pearl, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The lab coat was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2001 by Ruth Kraemer, the executor of the Estate of Hana Bruml.
    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 18:28:24
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn511980

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