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Silver teaspoon engraved Hilde given to a Jewish girl in prewar Germany

Object | Accession Number: 2004.31.1

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    Silver teaspoon engraved Hilde given to a Jewish girl in prewar Germany

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    Brief Narrative
    Child's spoon engraved with her name and given to Hilde Hermanns circa 1930, when she was a 7 year old child in Monchengladbach, Germany. When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, Hilde and her parents, Julius and Margarete (Grete), lived comfortably in Monchengladbach where her father ran a dry goods store with his siblings. The Nazi regime increasingly persecuted Jews, boycotting and taking away their businesses. Julius was arrested in September 1938 and sent to Dachau, and then Buchenwald concentration camp. He was released in April 1939, with the condition that he leave the country. He left on the MS St Louis, but it was forced to return from Cuba with nearly all passengers. Julius was given refuge in France, but interned after Germany invaded Poland in September and France declared war. Hilde was assigned as forced labor in a factory in July 1940. In December 1941, Hilde, her mother, Grete, and paternal aunt Sophie were deported to the Riga ghetto in German occupied Latvia. Julius was deported to Auschwitz in August 1942, and killed. On October 1, 1944, Hilde, 19, and Margarete, 45, were transferred to Stutthof concentration camp, where they perished. The spoon was preserved by her cousin, Jill Berg, whose family fled Lechenich, Germany, just before Kristallnacht in November 1938, and left for Kenya in May/June 1939.
    received:  approximately 1930
    use: Monchengladbach (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Jill Berg Pauly
    Subject: Hilde Hermanns
    Subject: Jill B. Pauly
    Hilde Hermanns was born on August 28, 1923, in Monchengladbach, Germany, to Jewish parents Julius Jakob and Margarete Goldbaum Hermanns. Julius was born on March 6, 1891, in Neersen (Willich), Germany, to Michael and Rosalie Davids Hermanns (1870-1938). He had five siblings: Fritz, Sophie, born on April 19, 1896, and Henrietta, born July 7, 1901, and two brothers who died in World War I (1914-1918). Margarete was born on March 26, 1899, in Gelsenkirchen, to Meyer and Paulina Vogelsang Goldbaum. She had two sisters, Erna, born April 18, 1907, and Else, born July 15, 1911. Julius was a textile merchant and owned a linen store with his siblings. Margarete was a dressmaker and Hilde worked as a seamstress.

    After Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, increasingly severe restrictions were placed on the Jewish population. Hilde’s paternal aunt Henrietta and her husband Sally (Sol) Meyer (1898-1980), with their 11 year old son Hans, left for New York in July 1938. Hilde's paternal grandmother Rosalie died of natural causes in 1938. On September 24, 1938, Julius was interned in Dachau concentration camp and then transferred to Buchenwald in October. In April 1939, he was released on the condition that he would leave the country. His relative, Julius Kaufmann, and Henrietta’s husband, Sol, arranged a Cuban landing certificate for him for a $190.00 fee. Julius booked passage on the MS St. Louis, sailing on May 13, 1939, to Havana. There was money for only one ticket and Grete and Hilde remained in Germany. After the ship arrived in Cuba on May 27, Cuban authorities denied entry to all but 22 of the 937 passengers. After a week, the ship was ordered to leave. Jewish aid organizations negotiated with Belgium, Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands to admit the passengers rather than return them to Germany. When the ship docked at Antwerp on June 27, Julius was given refuge in France. In September 1939, German invaded Poland and France declared war. Julius was arrested as an enemy alien and sent to an internment camp in Fresnay-sur-Sarthe and then to Saint Cyprien, where he found over fifty other St. Louis passengers. He corresponded with relatives about the squalor at the camps, the lack of food and supplies, and the need for rescue.

    By August 1939, Grete had obtained boat tickets for herself and Hilde, valid for two years, but in September the borders closed and there was no legal way to leave Germany. She was able to correspond with Julius in the internment camp, and they hoped she might find a way to get into Italy, along with Hilde, and Julius’ sister, Sofia, and from there to France. In June 1940, France surrendered and was occupied by Germany. Julius was now imprisoned as a stateless Jewish refugee in Gurs and later Les Milles internment camps.

    The situation for Jews in Germany was becoming increasingly dangerous. Grete had returned to Gelsenkirchen to care for her mother. In July 1940, Hilde was assigned as forced labor to a factory in Gladbach. She was still working in the plant when she was hospitalized with tonsillitis in August 1941. In December 1941, Margarete, Hilde, and Sophie were deported to the Riga ghetto in German occupied Latvia. On August 11, 1942, Julius, 51, was deported to Drancy transit camp and three days later to Auschwitz death camp, where he was killed. Grete’s sisters, Erna, 35, and Else, 31, were deported to Riga in January 1942 and presumably killed. On October 1, 1944, Hilde, 19, and Grete, 45, were transferred to Stutthof concentration camp, where they were killed. Henrietta (d. 1986) and Sol were the only members of their immediate families to survive the Holocaust.
    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."

    Physical Details

    Household Utensils
    Object Type
    Baby spoons (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Silver spoon with an oblong bowl. The narrow neck has incised lines along the edge and widens to form an elongated oval handle with a slightly pointed tip. The handle has an embossed floral garland border and a name engraved in the center. The reverse is smooth.
    overall: Height: 5.750 inches (14.605 cm) | Width: 1.250 inches (3.175 cm) | Depth: 0.500 inches (1.27 cm)
    overall : silver
    front, handle, cursive,engraved : Hilde

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The baby spoon was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Jill Berg Pauly, the cousin of Hilde Hermanns.
    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:
    2022-11-10 11:51:31
    This page:

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