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Wool blanket found by a Jewish Latvian concentration camp prisoner after escaping a death march

Object | Accession Number: 2003.174.1

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    Wool blanket found by a Jewish Latvian concentration camp prisoner after escaping a death march

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    One of two wool blankets found by Ber (later Beryl) Miklin, and used during and after a death march from Stutthof concentration camp in January 1945. Originally green, Ber dyed this blanket blue and used the other to make a pair of pants. Ber, his wife, parents, two sisters, and two brothers were forced into the Riga ghetto in Latvia in September 1941 by the German occupying forces. Ber’s mother and wife died, and his youngest brother fled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Ber and his elder brother were transported to the Riga-Kaiserwald concentration camp in August 1943, and were assigned to forced labor. Ber’s father, sisters, and his sisters’ families were also sent to Kaiserwald, but later killed. The camp was evacuated in the summer of 1944, and most of the prisoners were deported to Stutthof concentration camp in German-occupied Poland. Ber and his brother David were in Stutthof for about six months, and David likely died during this time. On January 25, 1945, the SS began evacuating Stutthof, and Ber was among the prisoners sent on a death march. Ber escaped the march, and hid in the nearby forest. He traveled to Poznań, where local farmers allowed him to work in exchange for food. After the war, Ber moved multiple times before landing in the displaced persons (DP) camps near Munich. In the Neu Freimann DP camp, Ber met and married fellow-survivor Mirka (later Marian) Kestenberg. They had their first son in 1947, and immigrated to the United States in the fall of 1949. After a year in El Paso, Texas, the family relocated to Denver, Colorado, and had two more children.
    Date
    found:  approximately 1945
    Geography
    found: Poland
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Marian Miklin
    Contributor
    Subject: Beryl I. Miklin
    Biography
    Ber Itzhak Miklin (later Berl/Beryl, 1915-1998) was born in Rēzekne, Latvia, to Motel (Mordechai, 1873-1943) and Gitel Miklin (nee Serebro, 1880-1941). Ber had two sisters, Lena (or Lea/Leja, later Buschkin, 1905-1943) and Zipa (later Fogel, 1908-1943), and two brothers, David (1911-1945) and Phillip (or Faivušs, 1918-1945). Jews made up about a quarter of Rēzekne’s population, and Ber attended a Jewish day school and acquired Zionist beliefs. He did not keep Kosher and only went to the synagogue on occasion. He experienced some antisemitism, but it did not affect his life in a major way. Motel worked as a tailor, and began teaching Ber the trade at a young age. The family was poor, so in 1928, at age 13, Ber moved 150 miles to Riga to find work. He found a job as a tailor’s apprentice, and sent money home to his family when he could. He also returned to see his family periodically.

    Ber married Mera Kaplan (1918-?) and served in the Latvian military from 1939 to 1941. In August 1940, the Soviet Union annexed Latvia, which became the Latvian SSR. Around this time, the Soviets transported Ber’s family to Riga. In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and entered Riga on July 1. In August, the German authorities began developing for a closed ghetto in Riga, where Ber’s family was forced to move in September. In November and December, two Aktions conducted by the German Order Police resulted in the deaths of 25,000 Latvian Jews in the ghetto, which was then repopulated with Jews deported from other countries. Ber and his family were among those deemed healthy enough to work, and were moved to a separate area of the ghetto. Most of the Jews assigned to forced labor worked at sites outside of the ghetto. One sister worked as a seamstress, the other worked in a shoe factory. His brother David also worked in a shoe factory while Phillip was able to attend an international school outside of the ghetto. Life in the ghetto was very hard, and Ber’s mother, Gitel, died in 1941. Phillip fled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 1942, where he likely died.

    The Riga-Kaiserwald camp was established in March 1943 at the Mežaparks Forest, north of the central city. That summer, the German Security Police began transferring the Riga Jews to the administration of Kaiserwald concentration camp, which had 23 forced-labor subcamps. Ber and David were transported to Kaiserwald in August, and were assigned to work as electricians. Ber’s father, sisters, and his sisters’ families, were also sent to Kaiserwald, but later killed.

    German authorities began evacuating Kaiserwald in the summer of 1944, ahead of the impending Soviet army. Most of the prisoners were marched to Riga’s port, where they were put on ships to Danzig in German-occupied Poland, and force-marched again on their way to Stutthof concentration camp. Ber and David were in Stutthof for about six months; David likely died during this time. On January 25, 1945, the SS began evacuating Stutthof, forcing about half of the 23,000 prisoners on a march to Neuengamme. Ber managed to escape the march, and hid in the nearby forest. He made his way to the area of Poznań, Poland, where some of the local farmers allowed him to work in exchange for food.

    The area around Poznań was liberated by Soviet Forces in February, who hired Ber for a time. He then traveled to Lodz, where he stayed for half a year. Ber eventually made his way to Landsberg displaced persons (DP) camp near Munich, in the American zone of Germany, and later moved to the nearby Neu Freimann DP camp. While in the DP camps, Ber took tailoring and patternmaking courses through ORT (Obshchestvo remeslennogo i zemledelʹcheskogo truda sredi evreev, or Organization for Rehabilitation through Training). ORT was established in Russia in 1880, and following World War II, provided training courses to survivors to help them rebuild their lives in new countries. In Neu Freimann, Ber met Mirka Kestenberg (1925-?). Born in Slupia Nowa (now Nowa Slupia), Poland, Mirka and her two sisters were forced to work at an ammunitions factory in the fall of 1942. They were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Magdeburg, and Mauthausen, before they escaped by jumping off a transport train in February 1945. They worked for local farmers near Prague, Czechoslovakia, until the end of the war in May 1945. After multiple relocations, the sisters ended up at the DP camps near Munich. Ber and Mirka married at Neu Freimann in September 1946, and made plans to immigrate to Palestine. When their first son, Joszua, was born in 1947, they decided to immigrate to North America instead. The family left Germany on October 31, 1949, and sailed to the United States, where they changed their names to Beryl, Marian, and Mark. They initially settled in El Paso, Texas, but a lack of tailoring work for Beryl led them to move to Denver, Colorado. Beryl found work in a department store, and later opened his own tailoring shop. The couple had two more children, Jerry and Lorraine.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Furnishings and Furniture
    Category
    Household linens
    Object Type
    Blankets (lcsh)
    Genre/Form
    Blankets.
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, blue, woven wool blanket. The edges of the two short sides are machine-finished with a blanket stitch in a light tan thread, while the two long sides have a selvedge-edge finish. In one corner, is the outline of a rectangle, machine stitched in the same thread. Both sides of the blanket have overall, uneven, fading and discoloration, and large brown and white stains in the center. The tan stitching on the edges has partially disintegrated, and the exposed edges are fraying. There are multiple small holes in the wool, and one corner has a large tear.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 75.125 inches (190.818 cm) | Width: 61.500 inches (156.21 cm)
    Materials
    overall : wool, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The blanket was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2003 by Marian Miklin, the wife of Beryl Miklin.
    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:
    2023-08-28 09:14:26
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn513162

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