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Rectangular yellow badge with Star of David and Ž kept by Theodora Basch Vrančić Klayman

Object | Accession Number: 2002.432.2

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    Rectangular yellow badge with Star of David and Ž kept by Theodora Basch Vrančić Klayman

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    Brief Narrative
    Rectangular badge printed with a Star of David and the letter Ž for Jew, kept by Teodora (Dorica) Basch (later Theodora Basch Vrančić Klayman) while a hidden child from 1941-1945 in Ludbreg, Yugoslavia (now Croatia). The badge belonged to a member of her extended family and was kept in their home during the war. This type of patch was used only from April to June 1941 and was replaced by small metal, or sometimes paper, badges with the Ž. In April 1941, three-year-old Dorica was visiting her maternal grandparents, Rabbi Leopold and Katerina Deutsch in Ludbreg when Germany and its allies invaded. Yugoslavia was partitioned and Ludbreg was in the newly formed Independent State of Croatia, ruled by the pro-Nazi, fascist Ustaša. Her parents, Salamon and Silva, and her infant brother, Zdravko, were arrested in Zagreb. Their housekeeper was allowed to take Zdravko from jail and he was brought to join Dorica. Salamon was deported to Jasenovac concentration camp and killed after escaping in 1945. Silva was sent to subcamp Stara Gradiška, and likely died in 1942 in Đakovo concentration camp. In 1942, Dorica's grandparents were deported to Jasenovac and murdered. Dorica and Zdranko were left with their maternal aunt, Giza, and her Catholic husband, Ljudevit Vrančić. Ustaša and the Germans worked vigorously to rid Croatia of Jews, but many neighbors helped hide the siblings. In 1943, Ljudevit was arrested. After his release, Giza was denounced as a Jew, sent to Auschwitz, and died soon after arrival. German forces left in April 1945. Most of the children's relatives were killed in concentration and labor camps, and Ljudevit Vrančić adopted them. Zdranko died of scarlet fever in 1946.
    use:  after 1941 April 30-1941 June
    use: Ludbreg (Croatia)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Theodora Klayman
    front, center, printed, black dye : Ž [Židov Jew]
    Subject: Theodora Basch Vrančić Klayman
    Teodora (Dorica) Rachela Basch (later Theodora Basch Vrančić Klayman, b. 1938) was born in Zagreb, Yugoslavia (now Croatia), to Silva (nee Deutsch, 1912-1942) and Salamon (Shlomo, 1907-1945) Basch. Silva was born to Josef Leopold (1871-1942) and Katarina (1872-1942) Deutsch, and had three siblings: Giza (1895-1943), Blanka (1905-1942), and Erne (1910-?). Salamon’s parents, Jakob (1879-1932) and Charlotta (1875-1942), immigrated to Zagreb from Bosnia. Salamon had several siblings, including Lina, Josef (1910-?), Arnold (1913-1945), and Bernard (Dov, 1915-?). Silva’s father was a rabbi for the town of Ludbreg. During the holidays, he hosted Salamon, who was working as a traveling cantor.

    Silva and Salamon married in 1936, and settled in Zagreb. They lived in an apartment near Salamon’s brush-making workshop, which employed about a dozen people. Silva had been an elementary school teacher, but she became a stay-at-home mother to raise Dorica and her younger brother, Zdravko (1941-1946).

    On March 25, 1941, Yugoslavia joined the Axis powers, which deeply divided the Yugoslav government. After a military coup, the country’s leadership denounced the Axis, prompting Germany to invade on April 6, 1941. The country was partitioned and Croatia became an independent state under the rule of the pro-Nazi, fascist Ustaša party, whose regime created a state of chaos and terror.

    Around that time, Dorica was visiting her maternal grandparents in Ludbreg. Leopold and Katarina lived in a house attached to the synagogue, and were at the center of the Jewish community that was largely integrated with the gentile population. Dorica spent a lot of time with her cousins, Zdenka and Vera, and their parents, Blanka and Rudi Apler, who owned a large fabric store in Ludbreg. She also became close with her aunt Giza, who had married Ljudevit Vrancic (1885-1970), a Catholic and the unofficial mayor of Ludbreg. Dorica had no real understanding of the beginning of the war. Although she did not experience the rampant antisemitism as in other towns, there was a general sense of uneasiness.

    In June 1941, Dorica’s parents and infant brother were arrested in Zagreb. Their housekeeper was able to visit them in jail and was permitted to take the baby, Zdravko. Giza’s Catholic husband was able to travel to Zagreb to retrieve him. Dorica’s parents were soon deported to the Jasenovac camp complex, a group of five camps located roughly 60 miles south of Zagreb. Silva was sent to the Stara Gradiška subcamp for women (Jasenovac V) on January 4, 1942. She was likely among the 1,161 women who were transferred to the Đakovo concentration camp on February 24. While there, she likely contracted typhus and died before the camp was dissolved in June 1942. Salamon was sent to the Kozara camp (Jasenovac IV, a tannery work detail), which was established in late January 1942.

    Dorica’s aunt, Blanka, and her family escaped south to Italian-occupied zone, which was safer for Jews. They returned to Ludbreg after a decree was issued stating that Jewish refugees could safely return to Croatia. The Ustaša and German forces controlling the countryside ignored the decree and by 1942, nearly the entire Jewish community of Ludbreg had been deported, including Dorica’s grandparents, Blanka, and her family. Since Dorica and Zdravko were from Zagreb, they had no records in Ludbreg, and therefore were not placed on the deportation lists. They were taken in by their aunt Giza and uncle Ljudevit.

    Although the Ustaša controlled Ludbreg, there was a large group of organized partisans actively resisting their influence. Battles between the Ustaša and partisans took place in the streets, and bullets would shatter the windows of homes. The children had to stay indoors, often hiding in the cellar. One night, the local mill was set on fire, burning the stockpile set aside for winter. Giza and Ljudevit owned a local vineyard, and their ability to barter saved them from starvation

    Ljudevit was arrested on suspicion of supporting the partisan resistance. He was sent to Jasenovac, where he saw Salamon, who was still alive despite having little food and being forced to perform heavy labor. As a banker, Ljudevit was assigned to work in the administrative offices, and he was released after about one year with other political prisoners. Shortly after Ljudevit’s release, Giza was denounced as a Jew and deported. Ljudevit searched for Giza in several cities, but he was unable to find her. Giza was deported to Auschwitz, where she died of intestinal illness on December 24, 1943. During Ljudevit’s search, Dorica and Zdravko hid with their neighbors, the Runjaks, and pretended to be their children.

    Around 1944, 6-year-old Dorica started school early, helped by a family friend who was a teacher in the local elementary school. When Ustaša troops were in Ludbreg, they used the school as sleeping quarters, so the children had class in their teacher’s backyard. The school included children from the surrounding villages, and Dorica was the only Jew in her school. Dorica wanted to fit in with her classmates, so she attended church and assimilated into the Catholic culture because the Ustaša regime was aligned with the Catholic Church.

    In May 1945, Yugoslavia was liberated, and the Ustaša fled to Austria. After liberation, Ljudevit learned the fate of the children’s family members. Salamon escaped from Jasenovac in 1945 with a group of Jewish prisoners, and they went into hiding in the mountains. While seeking food in a local village, they were caught by a patrol and shot. In the Jasenovac camp system, Dorica’s maternal grandparents, aunt Blanka, and her family were killed in 1942. Her uncle, Arnold, was killed in 1945. Their uncle, Bernard, and uncle, Erne, had been in the Yugoslav army and survived as prisoners of war, but Erne’s wife and daughter were killed. Their uncle, Josef, had fled to Budapest, Hungary, was briefly in Bergen-Belsen, and then immigrated to Switzerland in 1944. Their aunt, Lina Weesler, hid with her two children in the mountains with Yugoslav partisans. Both Bernard and Lina later immigrated to Israel with their families

    Ljudevit legally adopted Dorica and Zdravko. In the fall of 1946, Zdravko, age 5, died of scarlet fever. Dorica attended a boarding high school in Varazdin, and then the University of Zagreb in 1956, where she studied languages and music. In 1957, Dorica was invited to live in Switzerland with her uncle, Josef, and his family, so that she could study at the University of Lausanne. On her way, Dorica met Daniel Klayman (1929-1992), a Jewish American research chemist, who was returning to New York after a year as a postdoctoral Fulbright scholar in India. They courted via correspondence for a year before Daniel returned to Switzerland, and the two married in an Orthodox ceremony during the fall of 1958. They moved to the United States, where Dorica changed her name to Theodora (Dora). They settled for a time in New York before moving to the Washington DC area, where they raised two children. Dora earned college degrees in French and teaching English as a second language and became a teacher. Dora is also a longtime volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

    Physical Details

    Identifying Artifacts
    Physical Description
    Faded, rectangular yellow cloth badge with a small, six-pointed Star of David outline above a large Serbo-Croatian letter Ž printed vertically in the center with black dye. The edges are machine hemmed onto the back with white thread. There are small, red-brown spots on the bottom left and ink drops near the Ž. The lightweight cloth is nearly worn through at the bottom. At the top are 2 sets of small horizontal holes. The top set appears to be pinholes. The set about an inch from the top appears to be from the removal of stitches by conservation where this badge was previously sewn to a similar badge, 2002.432.3. It is not known when or why the two badges were once sewn together, though the donor does not remember them not being attached
    overall: Height: 7.000 inches (17.78 cm) | Width: 3.500 inches (8.89 cm)
    overall : cloth, dye, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The badge was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2002 by Theodora Basch Vrančić Klayman.
    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:
    2023-08-23 08:48:09
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