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Friendship ring engraved GG made from silver spoons in the Riga ghetto

Object | Accession Number: 2003.407.1

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    Friendship ring engraved GG made from silver spoons in the Riga ghetto

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    Brief Narrative
    Engraved silver ring made from a spoon for Gerda Gerstl, 12, in March 1943 in the Riga ghetto. Gerda and her friend Hanka Spiegel had rings made for Hanka’s 12th birthday by Issi Lurie, a silversmith who worked with Hanka’s father Karl in the Luftwaffe uniform deposit. Gerda and Hanka traded their rings in fall 1943 when they were separated. Hanka kept Gerda’s ring until her liberation in March 1945, wearing it upside down on her hand and hiding it in her mouth during selections. Gerda and Hanka met at the Viennese school in the ghetto. Hanka and her parents were sent to Riga from Theresienstadt in January 1942. Gerda, her parents Oskar and Karoline, and sister Liesl were sent from Vienna in February 1942. Gerda’s parents were executed in the forest upon arrival. In fall 1943, Hanka and her parents were sent to Kaiserwald concentration camp in Riga, where Hanka’s father was killed. Hanka and her mother Dolli were sent to Stutthof concentration camp, then Sophienwalde labor camp, and were liberated by Soviet forces in March 1945. In October 1944, Gerda and Liesl were sent to Stutthof and later perished.
    creation:  1943 March 13
    use:  1943 March-1945 March
    creation: Riga ghetto; Riga (Latvia)
    received: Riga ghetto; Riga (Latvia)
    use: Kaiserwald (Concentration camp); Riga (Latvia)
    use: Stutthof (Concentration camp); Sztutowo (Poland)
    use: Bruss-Sophienwalde (Concentration camp); Dziemiany (Wojewodztwo Pomorskie, Poland)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Hannelore Temel
    Subject: Hannelore Temel
    Subject: Gertrude Gerstl
    Hanka Spiegel was born on March 13, 1930, in Brno, Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic), the only child of Karl Julius and Adolfine (Dolli) Berger Spiegel. Karl was born January 20, 1903, in Brno, to Emil and Friderike (Fritzi) Spiegel. He had no siblings. Emil and Karl owned a wholesale texile store. Dolli was born on November 27, 1905, in Brno, to Hugo and Ida Pauline Scheuer (b. 1883) Berger. She had two sisters. Hugo owned a grocery store and a wholesale store. Hanka saw her maternal grandparents daily and her paternal grandparents Saturdays. She attended public school and religious classes. She was one of three Jewish girls at school. After Germany annexed neighboring Austria in 1938, anti-Semitism increased in Brno. Czech boys waited outside the school to beat up the Jewish girls when they walked home.

    On March 15, 1939, Germany claimed the Bohemia and Moravia regions of Czechoslovakia, including Brno. Jews were persecuted and Jewish businesses were confiscated. The family lost their businesses. Her maternal grandfather Hugo had a stroke and died. In fall 1939, Jewish children were expelled from public schools. Hanka attended the Jewish high school and became a Zionist. Many Jews decided to flee the country. In 1940, one of Hanka’s aunts left for Colombia. In spring 1941, Jewish schools were closed, but the teachers offered private classes. Jews lost their bank accounts and had to turn over their valuables, such as jewelry, furs, and silver. Jews were not allowed to live in certain buildings, so Hanka and her parents moved. Their apartment was very crowded because Hanka’s maternal grandmother Ida, Ida’s sister Grete, Hanka’s paternal grandparents Emil and Fritzi, and another family moved in with them. On September 1, 1941, Jews were required to wear yellow Star of David badges.

    On November 27, Hanka, her parents, maternal grandmother, and great aunt had to report to the high school. After two days, they were sent by passenger train to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp, arriving on December 2. Men and women had separate barracks. Karl’s barrack was very cold and he developed rheumatism in his hips from a childhood injury. Karl learned that Ida and Grete were going to be sent to the east, so the whole family volunteered to go. On January 9, 1942, they were sent to Riga ghetto in Latvia. They lived in a crowded apartment with six other people. Dolli cleaned apartments of murdered Jews. The SS frisked the women and killed those who stole things like a sweater or glove. Hanka attended the Viennese school, but changed to the Dusseldorf school so she did not have to walk by the plaza where people were hanged. Dolli shoveled snow and bartered for food with the Latvians. She then worked in a carpentry shop near the port. She once tried to smuggle in butter, but was caught. She convinced the SS officer not to execute her. Instead he shaved her head and made her stand at the ghetto entrance wearing a sign that said “I bartered.” On April 3, 1942, there was a selection. Hanka’s grandmother and great aunt were sent away. They were told that the elderly were being resettled. On July 9, Karl was transferred to the shoe department of the Luftwaffe uniform supply warehouse in Kaiserwald concentration camp in Riga. He occasionally stole shoes to barter for food. In late October 1942, a man asked Hanka to hide him from the SS. She agreed and put him in the broken toilet in her building, saving his life. Later that day, the SS executed all Latvian Jewish policemen. When she was 13, Hanka began working in a tailor shop.

    In fall 1943, Hanka, Karl, and Dolli were sent to Kaiserwald. After they showered and were issued uniforms, Dolli was taken away and interrogated by the SS. When she returned, she and Hanka began working in the Luftwaffe warehouse, sorting military uniforms; those in good condition were sent back to Germany; the damaged were recycled. The workers deliberately damaged clothing so it could not be reused. Men and women lived in separate barracks but they saw Karl on the way to work, at lunch, and on some Sundays. They received more food at lunch than in the camp. On April 20, 1944, Hanka told her mother she did not want to go to work. Dolli made her go anyway, so she refused to ride with her parents in the truck and went on a trailer. The trailer crashed; Hanka’s skull was cracked and she was sent to the infirmary. Karl was distraught and accidentally called his boss by his former title, so he was demoted to sorting coats. Hanka caught the flu in the infirmary and begged her parents to bring her something to use to blow her nose. Karl stole a handkerchief for her, but was caught and fired. He was assigned to heavy labor with little food. His rheumatism worsened. One day, he tried to approach the fence to talk to them, but was beaten by a guard. On July 26, there was a selection. They had to give their number and ages and said Hanka was two years older and Dolli was five years younger. Hanka and Dolli were selected for a labor camp, but Karl was limping and put in a barrack with the sick and weak. Hanka begged an SS officer to let her father go, but he refused. When she spoke to Karl, he was angry that she put herself in danger and told her to never come back to see him. Hanka and Dolli heard that Karl was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.

    In August 1944, Hanka and Dolli were sent to Danzig, Germany (Gdansk, Poland). On August 9, they arrived in Stutthof concentration camp. Hanka was assigned prisoner number 61683 and Dolli number 61682. The barracks were severely overcrowded with no room to lie down. There were no sanitary facilities and little food. Hanka and Dolli’s kapo in charge of their barrack was a woman from Brno. Dolli’s father had saved her family by supplying their grocery store during World War I, so she looked out for them. In late September, there was another selection. Hanka had lost a lot of weight and was sent to the left, with the sick and weak. Dolli was sent to the right, but went with Hanka. Their kapo told them not to give their numbers to the SS officer. She registered their numbers and ages with the table on the right. She said Hanka was 20 and Dolli was 30. Hanka and Dolli snuck back through the barracks to the right side. They were caught by an SS officer, but let go. They were sent to Sophienwalde labor camp, a Stutthof subcamp. The women slept in wood shacks with straw on the floor. Hanka and Dolli built roads and buildings and carried bricks. In January 1945, they were moved to an unfinished building with no roof, but had bunks to sleep on. On February 10, the camp was evacuated. The camp commandant said that women who could not walk were allowed to stay in camp and wait for the Soviets. Dolli tried to convince everyone to go on the march because she did not believe him. The women walked for several days in the snow. On March 10, Hanka and Dolli were liberated in Bismarksdorf (Chynow, Poland) by Soviet forces.

    Hanka, Dolli, and other liberated prisoners traveled to the next town, which had been abandoned. Dolli and Hanka picked an attic apartment with a trap door. Overnight, Soviet soldiers broke in and raped the women on the lower floors, but could not get into the attic. Hanka and Dolli got typhus and were hospitalized until they recovered. In late April, they returned to Brno. All of Hanka’s relatives perished in the Holocaust. Hanka’s father Karl was executed in the forest near Riga in August 1944. Her maternal grandmother Ida and great aunt Grete were executed outside of Riga. Her paternal grandparents Emil and Friderike were sent to Theresienstadt, where Emil died. Friderike was killed in Auschwitz. Hanka’s maternal aunt was also deported and killed. In October 1946, Hanka and Dolli immigrated to Bogota, Colombia. Hanka changed her name to Hannelore, but went by Hanna. Dolli married Artur Freiberg. On July 15, 1951, Hanna married Max Temel (1905-1997). Max had a son, David, from a previous marriage. The couple had three children: Charles (b. 1953), Sofia (1955-2015), and George (b. 1962). In 1963, the family immigrated to Florida. Hanna worked as a secretary then went to college. Dolli, age 67, died on May 20, 1973. Hanna speaks at schools, reminding her listeners not “to forget to be human,” so “such things should never happen again.” She has also written about her experiences in the Holocaust.
    Gertrude (Gerda) Gerstl was born on February 7, 1930, in Vienna, Austria, to a Jewish couple, Oskar and Karoline Kohn Gerstl. Oskar was born on November 9, 1885, and Karoline was born on October 8, 1896. Gerda had an older sister Lisbeth (Liesl), who was born on March 6, 1926. Austria was annxed by Nazi Germany in March 1939. Jew were targets of persecution which worsened as the Nazis worked to make the country Judenfrei [free of Jews.]

    On February 6, 1942, the family was deported from Vienna to Riga, Latvia, on Transport 16. Upon arrival, Oskar and Karoline were separated from their children, taken into the woods, and shot. Gerda, 12, and Liesl, 16, were sent into the ghetto. Children under the age of 14 were not permitted to work and attended school. Gerda attended school with other Viennese children and three Czech children. She befriended a Czech girl, Hanka Spiegel (later Hannelore Temel) and they exchanged friendship rings made from spoons. In fall 1944, Gerda and Liesl were sent to Stutthof concentration camp in Germany, arriving on October 1. Gerda was assigned prisoner number 95098 and Liesl number 95099. They lied about their ages and said Gerda was born in 1926 and Liesl in 1925. Gerda and Liesl perished in the Holocaust.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Signet rings (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Small, circular, silver finger ring made from a spoon, with a flat, oval face with short sides, engraved with the stylized initials GG. The cathedral style band has a triangular hole in the top left and a partially cut triangle in the top right. A place and date are engraved on the band interior. The metal is scratched and the band is bent.
    overall: Height: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm) | Width: 0.625 inches (1.588 cm) | Depth: 0.625 inches (1.588 cm)
    overall : metal
    face, engraved : GG [Gerda Gerstl]
    band, interior, engraved : Riga “Ghetto” 13. III 43.

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The ring was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2003 by Hannelore Temel.
    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:
    2023-08-31 10:08:57
    This page:

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