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Pair of tefillin taken from a concentration camp by an inmate at liberation

Object | Accession Number: 2000.580.1 a-b

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    Pair of tefillin taken from a concentration camp by an inmate at liberation


    Brief Narrative
    Set of tefillin rescued by Yaakov Apelovitch, a 15 year old Jewish inmate in Auschwitz concentration camp, after the Soviet Army liberated the camp in January 1945. Tefillin are small boxes containing prayers attached to leather straps and worn on the arm and the head by Orthodox Jewish males during morning prayers. Yaakov took the pair from the Canada warehouse where confiscated belongings were stored. The inmates called it Canada because they imagined that country as a place of great riches. He gave the tefillin to Rachel Kutner in 1945, who later gave them to Morris Rosen. Morris was interned in the Jewish ghetto in Dabrowa Gornicza after the September 1939 German occupation of Poland. From 1942-1944, he was transferred through a series of concentration and labor camps. In February 1945, Morris survived a death march from Kretschamberg labor camp to Buchenwald in Germany, and one in April to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. He was liberated by the Soviet Army in May 1945. Morris emigrated from the New Palestine displaced persons camp in Salzburg, Austria, to the United States in 1949.
    found:  1945 January
    found: Auschwitz (Concentration camp); Oświęcim (Poland)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Morris Rosen
    Subject: Morris Rosen
    Subject: Yaakov Apelovitch
    Moniek Rozen (1922-2020) was born November 10, 1922, in Czestochowa, Poland, but grew up in Dabrowa Gornicza, an industrial town in the western region. His mother was Golda Chaja (nee Warszawska). His father, Jakub, owned a general store and the only government license to sell tobacco locally. Moniek had a sister, Bluma (b. 1926), and a brother, Josek (b. 1924). He had eight half-brothers and sisters from his father's first marriage to Pola Frochwajg, who died in 1919: Israel (b. 1914,), Leosia (b. 1911), Rozka (b. 1913), Rubin (b. 1912), Ruchcia (b. 1915), Sala (b. 1917), Tamara (b. 1919), and Yehiel (b. 1910).

    Even before the outbreak of World War II, organized anti-Semitism was increasing in Poland. In 1938, a boycott of Jakub Rozen’s store put it out of business. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Moniek fled east, but encountered German troops near the Vistula River and returned to Dabrowa. He found a changed town; the German had murdered many Jews and instituted anti-Jewish measures, including forced labor and the confiscation of property. In early 1942, they moved the Jews to a ghetto there. Moniek and 2 of his brothers were put to work in the Mittelstrasse labor camp as carpenters, bricklayers, and painters. Roundups of Jews for deportation become increasing frequent. Moniek often hid on weekends in an abandoned police station.

    In early May, there was a large scale round-up of females, age 13-30; over 450 young women were deported, including Moniek’s 16 year old sister, Bluma, who was sent to a labor camp, Gruenberg, in lower Silesia. On August 12, German officials ordered the Jewish populace to gather in a field for new identity cards. Several thousand, including Moniek’s parents, were deported to Auschwitz. Jakub and Golda were killed upon arrival. In October, Moniek was deported to a labor camp in Szczcakowa. He was put to work in a leather factory. In September 1943, he was transferred briefly to Sosnowitz and Annaberg concentration camps, then in October to Gruenberg labor camp. There he was able to visit his sister Bluma in the adjacent women’s camp. In April 1944, Moniek was transferred to Kretschamberg [Kittlitztreben] labor camp.

    In February 1945, as Russian forces approached, the Germans suddenly evacuated the camp. They took the inmates on a death march eastward that lasted six weeks and arrived in late March at Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. There were mounds of bodies throughout the camp. Moniek witnessed one man committing cannibalism. In early April, Moniek was transferred again, this time by freight train back to the west, ahead of approaching American forces. Many people died on the trip. Those still alive lay on the bodies to stay off the cold floor.

    The train entered an area being bombarded by Russian planes. Everything around the train was in flames. Moniek thought, “Now I’m not afraid to die. At least I’ve seen the way it’s going for Germany.” He saw more bombs descending. He said the Sh’ma and braced himself, but the bombs struck elsewhere. The attack, however, left the train disabled, so the German soldiers forced the passengers to continue on foot. After two weeks of walking, they arrived at the Thereisenstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia. Early in May, Moniek was liberated by the Soviet army.

    His brother-in-law, Szabtai Klugman, found him in Thereisenstadt. He was the husband of Leosia, who had not survived the war. The two men traveled in Czechoslovakia and Austria searching for relatives. Moniek ended up in the New Palestine displaced persons camp in Salzburg, Austria. In total, five of Moniek’s ten siblings survived: Bluma, Israel, Josek, Rozka, and Rubin.

    Rubin had settled in Palestine before the war and married a woman from America. Moniek prepared to immigrate to Palestine to join his brother. As war loomed in Palestine in 1948, Rubin and his family left for the United States and settled in Baltimore. Moniek instead immigrated to the United States in 1949, joining his brother. In 1953, he married a native of Baltimore, Miriam Miller. They were married 47 years until Miriam died in 2000. They had two sons. Morris shares his personal experiences of the Holocaust and volunteers at the USHMM so that the world will remember those who did not survive.
    Yaakov Apelovitch was born circa 1929 to a Jewish family. He was imprisoned in Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust. On January 27, 1945, he was liberated from the camp by the Soviet Army.

    Physical Details

    Jewish Art and Symbolism
    Object Type
    Tefillin (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    a. Square, black painted, leather box (batim) centered on a slightly larger black painted, square leather platform. The three-layered platform is sewn together with gut thread; the layers are separating. A dark brown leather strap inserts through the platform, and is knotted on one end and loosely coiled around the box for storage. The box contains four parchment scrolls inscribed with a Torah verse. The left and right sides of the box have an embossed Hebrew Shin letter; the left Shin has four strokes. The platform leather and paint are worn.
    b. Square, black painted, leather box (batim) centered on a slightly larger black painted, square leather platform. The three-layered platform is sewn together with gut thread; the layers are separating. A dark brown leather strap inserts through the platform, and is knotted on one end and coiled around the box for storage. The box contains a parchment scroll inscribed with four Torah verses. The platform leather and paint are worn.
    a: Height: 5.250 inches (13.335 cm) | Width: 4.125 inches (10.477 cm) | Depth: 2.250 inches (5.715 cm)
    b: Height: 4.125 inches (10.477 cm) | Width: 4.500 inches (11.43 cm) | Depth: 2.500 inches (6.35 cm)
    a : leather, paint, paper, ink
    b : leather, paint, paper, ink
    a. left and right side, left side, 4 strokes, embossed : Hebrew Shin letter

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The tefillin were donated to the United States Holocaust Museum in 2000 by Morris Rosen.
    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:
    2022-07-28 18:10:49
    This page:

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