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Silver vermeil cake server received as a wedding gift by a Jewish woman in prewar Germany

Object | Accession Number: 1989.232.2

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    Silver vermeil cake server received as a wedding gift by a Jewish woman in prewar Germany


    Brief Narrative
    Silver vermeil serving knife received as a wedding gift by Selma Herz upon her marriage to Hugo Pauly, circa 1927, in Eilendorf, near Aachen, Germany. It was a gift from Abraham Hollander, Anne Frank's maternal grandfather, who was a first cousin of Selma's mother, Caroline Menken Herz. The knife may have been a family heirloom that originally belonged to Rosa'a mother. Soon after the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship in 1933, the Herz family businesses were boycotted because they were Jewish. In early 1936, Selma and Hugo emigrated to Palestine with their 5 year old son, Kurt. They then emigrated to the United States in December 1938.
    received:  approximately 1927
    received: Eilendorf (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Jill Berg Pauly
    side of handle, nearbolster, hallmark with crescent moon and crown, stamped : 800WT
    Subject: Jill B. Pauly
    Subject: Selma Pauly
    Gisela (Jill) Renate Berg was born on May 1, 1933, to Josef and Klara Meyer Berg, in the small farming community of Lechenich, Germany, near Cologne. Her father was born there in 1896 to Max and Clara Davids Berg and had a brother Georg. Klara was born on November 13, 1904 in Linnich/Duhren to Bertha Schwarz Meyer. The Berg family had lived in the area since the 1600s. Josef and his brother worked with their father in his cattle business. Gisela had an older sister, Inge, born on March 27, 1929. The Bergs were an observant Jewish family. Max was the president of the local synagogue association.

    After Hitler was appointed Chancellor in January 1933, antisemitic restrictions became increasingly harsh. Max had to arrange to have a non-Jew run their business.That May, one of Jill’s uncles began removing large sums of money and putting it in Dutch banks. Her sister, Inge, was no longer allowed to go to the public school and was sent to live with her grandmother where there was a Jewish school she could attend. Warned by neighbors of the impending Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9-10, 1938, many family members went into hiding in Cologne. Their homes were broken into and most of their belongings were destroyed. Several family members lived crowded into one apartment. They could no longer enjoy such things as picnics, going to the moves, and taking vacations. Gisela was never allowed outside; her parents were so worried about her safety that they kept her indoors at all times. The following week, Jill's father, his brother, George, and cousin, Ernest, fled to the Netherlands to escape arrest. They were imprisoned upon their arrival for illegal entry. The police told Herman Meyer, Klara’s brother and a resident of Holland, that the men were going to be deported back to Germany the next day. Herman contacted Maurice Silversmit, a leader in the Jewish community in Rotterdam. He told Herman to confront the police and tell them that written permission from The Hague was needed to return them to Germany. This gave him time to hire an attorney and request asylum for the three men. This was granted, but they had to remain in a detention center.

    The family decided to look for another country where they could enter legally. Rosel (Marx) Berg, the wife of Karl, Josef’s cousin, had a relative who had emigrated to England in 1937. She called him daily from Cologne seeking assistance. This relative had a younger brother, Herman Strauss, who worked for a law firm in Kenya. He was able to secure the family visas for Kenya, a British colony at the time. Herman Strauss paid the mandatory 50 pounds per person for entry papers. Josef, George, and Ernest were released from the detention center in May on the condition that they leave for Kenya. Josef and George were the first members of the Berg family to arrive in Africa. They were interned in Camp Roever, then went to Nairobi where Josef rented a house from Lord and Lady Nepye. Ernest and Else Geisel were married in Maurice’s home before leaving Holland. They then went to Genoa, Italy, to meet more than a dozen members of the family who had left Germany: Inge, Jill, and their mother Klara, Sara Meyer Berg, wife of Joseph Berg and Gisela's maternal aunt, Rosel Marx Berg and her eighteen month old son Egon, Max and Clara Davids Berg, Jill’s paternal grandparents, and Berta Schwarz Meyer, her maternal grandmother. They sailed on board the SS Usambara and arrived in Mombasa, Kenya, in June 1939. Karl and Josef Berg arrived from Germany in August.

    After WW II began with the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, the British government arrested all adult male foreigners, including Josef, his brothers, and his father. They were released a week later with the condition that they work on the farms of British citizens conscripted for war service. The Bergs were classified as enemy aliens and could leave their homes only with the permission of a police commissioner. In late 1939, the Bergs purchased a 375-acre farm in Limuru and 125 acres in Maguga. They raised thoroughbred cattle and pyrethrum, a flowering plant used to make insecticide. There were two houses, quite different from the ones they had left in Germany. Gisela’s home had a tin roof and cement floors, no electricity or indoor plumbing, although after two months they did have running water. Karl and Josef had brought the Sefer Torah when they left on the last boat out of Hamburg. The family held their own religious services on the farm since they could not drive to Nairobi on the Sabbath. Other members of the local Jewish community attended and, from 1945-1947, her uncle George was cantor at the Nairobi synagogue. In order to earn money for the children’s school fees, Klara ran a vacation boarding house. They had guests every weekend. Their paternal grandparents also lived with them. They tried to have tutors at the farm for the girls, but this did not work. They were enrolled in the Limuru Girls School for three months. Gisela had never attended school and the language difficulties and isolation made it very difficult. They transferred to a British boarding school in Nairobi and Gisela changed her name to Jill because of the rampant anti-Semitism, as well as anti-German and anti-immigrant feelings. Jill was harassed by the other children and accused by some teachers of being a German Jewish spy and beaten with a ruler. She and Inge had to board with strangers to keep kosher and lived with three or four different families in five years.

    After Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, Herman Meyer, Adolf and Erna Meyer Baum and their daughter Hannah, who had left Germany in 1937, fled to Kenya with one suitcase. With the birth of Philip John Berg to Ernest and Else in 1942, there were seventeen family members in all. For a while, they could send packages and correspond with relatives still in Europe. But by summer, that stopped. Clara had three siblings, Max, Valentin, and Moritz, who, with their wives, Betty, Hedwig, and Ida, were last heard from in July 1942 when Max wrote to say they were all now deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp. Jill’s maternal grandmother Berta died ca. 1942 of lung cancer. Her grandfather Max, age 82 years, also died that year. Her grandmother Clara died in 1945. They were buried in the Jewish cemetery in Nairobi. Around this time, Jill’s parents rented a house in Nairobi to be with the girls.

    Many relatives from all sides of the family perished during the war. Clara, Jill's paternal grandmother, had nearly 100 cousins, but no survivors were found. The family made the decision to leave Kenya as soon as the war ended in May 1945. With the assistance of cousins John and Joseph Schwarz, who had emigrated to the US from Germany in 1939, they left Kenya on cargo boats and arrived in Boston in March 1947. The family settled in Vineland, New Jersey, where they operated a chicken farm and dairy business. In 1951, her sister, Inge, married Walter Katzenstein, a fellow refugee from Nazi Germany. In 1957, Gisela married Kurt Pauly. Kurt and his parents, Hugo and Selma Herz Pauly left Germany for Palestine in 1936, then left for the US in 1938. The couple had two children. Jill has volunteered for the USHMM for many years, sharing her experiences to teach "about hate and discrimination and the effects on mankind, and, always, every single time I enter the building, in memory of all who did not survive."
    Selma Herz was born on December 25, 1894, in Eilendorf, near Aachen, Germany, to Levi and Caroline Menken Herz. The Herz family had lived in this area since the mid-18th century. Levi, who owned several butcher shops, was born on January 26, 1867, in Zulpich, and had a brother Salomon. Caroline was born on November 12, 1859, in Eilendorf to Isaak and Sara Salmagne Mencken. Selma had one sister, Rose, and one brother, Alfred. Her twin died of influenza shortly after World War I (1914-1918). Caroline passed away in 1925. Selma married Hugo Pauly circa 1927. Hugo was born on February 10, 1894, in Darmstadt, to a Jewish Orthodox mother, Babette Hirsch Pauly. He trained as a chef in Switzerland and fought for Germany in WWI. Selma and Hugo settled in Aachen. Hugo was a butcher and managed several of his father-in-law’s stores. They lived with Levi in a house attached to one of the shops. Selma worked in the shop and helped with the bookkeeping. The couple had one son, Kurt Leo, born on March 26, 1930. They were reform Jewish and attended synagogue. It was a closeknit extended famil, with frequent large family gatherings, where Kurt could play with his cousins, Anne and Margot Frank. Kurt's maternal grandmother, Caroline Menken Herz, and Anne's grandmother, Rose Stern Hollander, were first cousins and close friends.

    After Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933, restrictive anti-Jewish legislation was enacted. Members of the SA (Sturmabteilung) stood outside the family’s stores and urged customers to boycott the businesses because they were Jewish owned. Hugo was forced to close one of the stores in Aachen. Selma was terrified of the Nazis. In early 1936, they decided to leave for Palestine. Selma’s cousins, who were Zionists, had moved there in the 1920s, and were founding members of a kibbutz. Hugo’s nephew, Walter, also lived in Palestine. Selma’s father decided to stay in Germany, but he was forced to sell his business to his non-Jewish apprentice. In spring 1936, Selma, Hugo, and Kurt left via train for Genoa, Italy, and then sailed to Haifa. Hugo owned a trucking business with Walter, but business was slow. They rented out one of the bedrooms in their apartment and offered dinners weekly in their home to earn some money. Selma’s uncle, Salomon Herz, his wife Lena, and their children emigrated to Palestine in the late 1930s.

    In 1938, Hugo’s sister-in-law provided an affidavit of support which made it possible for Selma, Hugo and Kurt to get US visas and emigrate to the United States. They sailed on the Queen Mary from Cherbourg, France, arrived in New York on December 15, and settled in Cincinnati. Selma worked as a housekeeper. Hugo worked peeling potatoes in a cafeteria and eventually became head chef of a restaurant and later owned a bakery. After the war, Selma and Hugo learned that most of their family members perished in the Holocaust. Only Selma’s brother, Alfred, who fled to Palestine, survived. Her father Levi was deported toTheresienstadt concentration camp, where he perished in 1943. Hugo had one surviving brother, who had emigrated to the US before the war. In 1948, Selma and her family moved to Vineland, New Jersey, and acquired a poultry farm. Kurt served in the US Army during the Korean War and later graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1957, Kurt married Jill Berg, whose family fled Germany after Kristallnacht on November 9-10, 1938. They emigrated to Kenya in 1939 and then to the United States in 1947. Hugo passed away in 1957, age 63. Selma passed away on February 1, 1978, age 83.

    Physical Details

    Household Utensils
    Serving utensils
    Physical Description
    Vermeil serving knife with a silver handle with a scalloped end and an incised border tapering to a cylindrical, vermeil bolster. The thin, flat blade has a notch below the bolster and then widens to an angled, wavy tip with a sharp point. One side of the handle has a stamped hallmark with the German national mark of a crescent moon and a crown, 800 for the silver standard mark, and WT for the maker’s mark.
    overall: Height: 10.375 inches (26.353 cm) | Width: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm) | Depth: 0.375 inches (0.953 cm)
    overall : silver, vermeil

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The silver serving knife was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1989 by Jill Berg Pauly, the daughter-in-law of Selma Herz Pauly.
    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:
    2022-10-07 11:10:34
    This page:

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