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Star of David badge printed Juif worn by a Jew in France

Object | Accession Number: 2004.331.2

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    Star of David badge printed Juif worn by a Jew in France


    Brief Narrative
    Star of David badge given to Dr. Witek Sierpinski after June 1942 by a Jewish friend who had worn it in France. After the German occupation of Poland in 1939, Witek worked in a psychiatric hospital in Lvov, Poland (Lʹviv, Ukraine). In November 1941, he moved to the Warsaw ghetto and joined the Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludnosci Zydowskiej w Polsce (TOZ), a ghetto health organization that helped the sick and starving. A former co-worker got him out of the ghetto. By 1942, he was active in various Polish resistance groups, particularly the Armia Ludowa [People’s Guard] (AL). He recruited medical professionals, trained aides, and provided care to AL fighters. In 1944, Witek illegally shared a room where he hid weapons and illegal literature, with Wiera Baksztanska, a Polish Jew living under a false identity. He returned to Warsaw which was liberated by the Soviets on January 17, 1945. Witek reunited with Wiera and the couple married.
    use:  approximately 1942 June-1944 August 25
    use: France
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Wiera Sierpinska
    front, center, black dye : Juif [Jew]
    Subject: Wiera Sierpinska
    Subject: Witek Sierpinski
    Wiera Baksztanska was born on November 12, 1920, in St. Petersburg, Russia, to Natan, an engineer, born on November 5, 1885, in Koenigsberg, Germany (Kaliningrad (Kaliningradskaiaoblast, Russia)), and Frida Grinberg, born in 1882. The family left Russia to escape Communism in the early 1920s and settled in Zoppot, Poland (Sopot, Poland). In the mid-1930s, the family moved to Warsaw, where Wiera’s maternal and paternal grandfathers lived. Natan was hired to build a train line, and in 1937, he became a partner in a construction company. Wiera graduated from Slowacki high school in 1937. She studied architecture at the Noakowski College for women until 1939.
    On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. The Polish authorities instructed military age men to leave Warsaw. On September 6, Natan left for Vilna, Poland (Vilnius, Lithuania), to stay with his sister. Frida was ill and stayed behind. Bombs destroyed the Baksztanska home and Wiera and Frida moved in with Wiera’s maternal step-grandmother, Judith. Her grandfather was in Palestine.
    The Germans enforced strict anti-Jewish regulations. In October 1939, Wiera saw a Jewish man get his beard forcibly cut off. In late 1940, German soldiers came to their apartment; they ordered the women to hand over their furs and vacate the apartment within 24 hours. The women were forced into the Warsaw ghetto which the Germans established on October 12, 1940, and sealed in November. Their building was next to the ghetto wall. In early 1941, they moved again. Frida sold gold coins to buy provisions and Wiera gained weight. She worked as an office clerk for the Zydowska Samapomoc Spolezna [Jewish Social Self-Help] (ZSS), and later at the ghetto post office, selling stamps and delivering packages.
    On July 22, 1942, the Germans began mass deportations to Treblinka concentration camp in Poland. Polish friends persuaded Wiera to leave the ghetto and sent her money. A friend from the post office told Wiera how to escape. On July 29, Wiera paid 500 zloty and joined a group leaving to perform forced labor. Once outside the walls, Wiera removed her armband and fled. She had her prewar passport, which did not indicate her religion. Her friend, Ryszard, obtained false papers for Wiera and Frida; they became Zofia Weronika and Jozefa Wojutynska. A priest issued them birth certificates which were needed to apply for Kennkartes [identification cards].
    Wiera rented a room and told the owners that she was from Krakow, that her mother would be joining her, and her father was a POW. Frida refused to leave the ghetto until Wiera threatened to move back if she did not come out. The women pretended to be Russian Orthodox so they would not have to attend Sunday mass. Frida made and sold cigarettes to kiosks. Wiera took a typing course and looked for employment. She found clerical work at a Mercedes Benz truck repair shop called Rheinishe Kraftwagongesellschaft, located at Fort Bema, a German Army base. The German supervisor, Mr. Essweig, employed workers from Western Europe, and another Polish Jew. His wife and three children lived in Germany. Every three months, he went home for a week, using the trip as a smuggling opportunity. Wiera, Frida, and Mr. Essweig became friends. He sent Wiera on vacation with his family to Bad Godesberg, Germany. Mr. Essweig asked another employee, Danusia, if she would go to Germany to help his wife with the children, but before she could leave, the Gestapo arrested her for being Jewish. In early 1944, Mr. Essweig rented a house in Bielany for his employees, and Wiera and Frida each got a room. A member of the underground resistance, Dr. Avigdor Margulies (Witek Sierpinski), illegally stayed in Wiera’s room where he hid weapons and contraband literature.
    During the Warsaw Insurrection, from August 1 to October 5, 1944, the Armia Krajowa [Home Army], known as A.K., made an attempt to retake Warsaw from the German occupying forces and failed. The Rheinishe Kraftwagongesellschaft evacuated to Breslau, Germany (Wroclaw, Poland). Mr. Essweig gave Wiera the shop key and she and Frida stayed in Warsaw. On August 1, 1944, Wiera and Frida took a tram to visit Ryszard and Roma, from whom they obtained their false papers. The train stopped outside the Gestapo headquarters and Weir and Frida were arrested. They were held for 48 hours; the key to Rheinishe Kraftwagongesellschaft shop in Wiera’s possession helped secure their release. They were sent to Pruszkow and lived with Manjsia, a widow of a Polish train worker. She got Wiera a job as a telephone operator for German Rail. Wiera obtained blank forms that identified the holder as a rail employee, and gave them to friends. Wiera and Frida stayed with Manjsia until December 1944.
    On January 17, 1945, Soviet troops liberated Warsaw. Wiera and Dr. Margulies were reunited. He had spent the war caring for wounded resistance fighters and training medical aides. The couple married and Frida lived with them in Warsaw. They had 2 daughters. Wiera later found out that her father, Natan, had been deported to Ereda labor camp, a sub-camp of Vaivara concentration camp, in Estonia, where he died in May 1944. In 1968, the family, including, Frida, emigrated to Haifa, Israel. Frida, 97, passed away in 1979. Witek, 86, died on August 17, 1995.
    Stanislaw (Witek) Sierpinski was born Avigdor Margulies on April 10, 1909, in Mikulince (Mykulyntsi), Ukraine, to Wilhelm and Chana Margulies. He attended medical school in Nancy, France, and graduated in 1933. From 1933 to 1939, Witek worked in Zofiowka, Poland (Sofiïvka (Volynsʹka oblastʹ, Ukraine)). In 1939, he worked at the Kulparkow Psychiatric Hospital in Lvov, Poland (Lʹviv, Ukraine).

    On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. The German authorities enacted anti-Jewish legislation; schools were closed, property seized, organizations disbanded, and men were conscripted for forced labor. In November 1941, Witek arrived at the Warsaw ghetto from Lvov. He joined the Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludnosci Zydowskiej w Polsce (TOZ), a health organization that helped the sick and starving. A nurse, Emma Fibich, who had worked with Witek in Zofiowka, found him in the ghetto through TOZ; she got him out and found him a rented room.

    By early 1942, Witek was active in the Polska Partia Robotnicza [Polish Workers Party] (PPR), a Communist organization, and the Armia Krajowa [Home Army] (AK), a non-Communist underground resistance group. He was known in the underground as Felek. He was contacted by Dr. Izolda Kavalska, known as Ziuta, and Yaakov Dyer, members of an underground organization of medical workers that provided aid to members of the Armia Ludowa [People’s Guard] (AL), a Communist underground resistance group. They invited Witek to a secret meeting held on April 14, 1942, at the home of a nurse, Ada Balaban. The doctors were tasked with recruiting medical professionals, gathering medicines and supplies, and training medical aides. Witek was appointed chief physician. By May 1942, there were 3 medical aid units available to AL members. Members of other groups, including Hashomer Hatzair, a Zionist youth group, were trained and added to the organization. To expand the network, Witek visited the Stavki hospital, headed by Dr. Herman Apemush. He also contacted others who provided him with training materials.

    Operations ceased in July 1942, when the Germans began mass deportations to Treblinka concentration camp. On August 17, 1942, Witek made contact with comrade Franchischek Yejy Voyak, known as Vitold, with the help of a Jewish girl named Lena Wolinska. Witek received orders to leave Warsaw and join an AL unit active in the forests outside Lublin. Before Witek reached Lublin, the unit was surrounded by Nazi soldiers and all members were killed.

    On September 15, 1942, Witek was sent to a resistance unit commanded by Pole Franchisek, in the village of Lusheviza-Mala. He lived in a one room apartment; his roommate, Mr. Crestaw, was active in the Narodowe Sily Zbrojne [National Armed Forces] (NSZ). The unit attacked police guardhouses, raided Nazi council meetings, and destroyed the lists of names of farmers obligated to provide food and other provisions. He simultaneously trained new groups of aides in the Opole region. In November, Witek returned to Warsaw, and sat on the aid committee.

    On April 10, 1943, the organization sent Witek to Bukovince in the Lublin district to the Tadesush Koschushko unit commanded by Gregor Korchinsky, known as Gjegosh. Witek was the liason between the unit and group leaders in Warsaw. He often returned to Warsaw and brought back information, medicines, dressings, and other supplies.

    In August 1943, Witek returned to Warsaw and organized groups of medical aides and partisans. As a result of a meeting chaired by Communist activist Ignatzi Luga-Savinski, Witek was sent to the Prava Podmieyska (Les’na, Prava) front. There were several safe houses for the doctors. Dr. Marian Baika stored the medicine. The doctors also handed out underground newspapers that were stored at the home of a lawyer, Viera Viotinska. Witek persuaded an architect, Chaplin-Rosenfeld, to join the group; a listening post was installed in his apartment and information gathered was sent to the underground press.

    Physical Details

    Identifying Artifacts
    Physical Description
    Gold cloth badge in the shape of a 6 pointed Star of David stitched with black thread to offwhite backing. The star outline is formed from 2 overlapping, dyed triangles and has French text in the center. On the reverse, there are loose basting stitches along the edges. Both sides are discolored and stained.
    overall: Height: 3.625 inches (9.208 cm) | Width: 3.125 inches (7.938 cm)
    overall : cloth, ink, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The badge was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Wiera Sierpinska, the wife of Witek Sierpinski.
    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:
    2022-08-22 16:21:32
    This page:

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