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Sailboat shaped picture frame with a red sail created for a labor camp inmate by a fellow inmate

Object | Accession Number: 2004.332.3

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    Sailboat shaped picture frame with a red sail created for a labor camp inmate by a fellow inmate

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    Brief Narrative
    Picture frame in the shape of a sailboat made for 25 year old Leia Kreimer in 1944 when she was imprisoned in Vapniarka concentration camp in Transnistria. It was made by Lazar, who had been a fellow inmate, in Rabnita prison as a gift for Leia. It has a red sail to represent communism. He had it smuggled to her with other inmates released from jail and sent back to Vapniarka. The inmates in Rabnita were forced to make sailing type items that were then sold. Lazar was executed in Rabnita. In mid-1941, the Fascist, antisemitic government of Romania sent Leia and her husband, Mechel, to Dornesti prison camp, where they were separated. In summer 1941, Leia was sent to a Jewish refugee camp in Zaleszczyki, Poland. In July 1942, she was deported to Swidowa labor camp. She escaped to Romania, but was jailed by the Germans for being a communist. In August, Leia was deported to Vapniarka and, in spring 1944, transferred to Grosulovo camp, then Targu-Jiu and Turnu Severin in Romania. The area was liberated by the Soviet Army on August 23. The majority of Leia’s family, including her husband, were killed during the Holocaust.
    creation:  1944 January-1944 April
    received:  1944 January-1944 April
    creation: Rabnita prison camp; Ribnita (Moldova)
    received: Vapniarka (Concentration camp); Vapniarka (Vinnytska oblast, Ukraine)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Leah Derera
    Subject: Leah Derera
    Leia Elerant was born on March 8, 1919, in Lipcani, Romania (Lipkany (Moldavian S.S.R.)), to Haim, an egg exporter, and Seiba Kreimer Elerant. Haim was born to Avrum and Frida Elerant. Seiba was born to Fruma and Shmiel Kreimer. Leia had two younger sisters, Nehoma and Genia, and one younger brother, Asher. The family was Orthodox, and Seiba kept a kosher home. Leia attended public school, had private Hebrew lessons, and participated in the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement. She spoke Yiddish, Hebrew, Romanian, and some Russian. Leia later worked as a dental technician. In 1937, she married her maternal uncle, Mechel (Muni) Kreimer, born in 1912. He had a fabric store in Lipcani.
    The German-Soviet non-aggression pact of 1939 returned the Romanian provinces of northern Bukovina and Bessarabia, in which Lipcani was located, to the Soviet Union. Romania had a long tradition of antisemitism, which was emboldened by the rise of Nazi Germany. General Antonescu and the fascist Iron Guard seized power in late 1940. Mechel’s business was confiscated. He and Leia moved to Cernauti and lived with an acquaintance of her father. She worked at a factory making rubber shoes. Leia supported the Soviet system until she was unable to receive a passport because she was Jewish. In summer 1941, she and Mechel walked to the Soviet-Romanian border, and stayed with her paternal uncle and his family. They learned that the Romanian authorities planned to kill anyone housing refugees from Cernauti, so Leia and Mechel left. Romanian soldiers stopped them, and an officer on horseback took Leia’s valise, wedding ring, and their watches. Leia and Mechel were taken to the Romanian police, put in a cellar, and questioned. The police sent them on a cattle car to Dornesti. Upon arrival, Leia was separated from Mechel and sent to a bathing house with Ukrainian women. Under Romanian guard, Leia and the women were forced to walk north from town to town to the Galician border. Peasants sometimes threw fruit and bread to them. One time, they stopped and Leia sat down to sleep. A soldier beat her with a stick and told her to run because she needed to be at the front. Her shoes were torn and her feet were bleeding. They stopped at police stations along the way, where they were questioned and beaten. The Ukrainian women were sometimes given bread, but Leia did not receive any because she was Jewish. She often had only water. The soldiers frequently harassed the women. By July, Leia was visibly pregnant. They reached Zastavna, then took a barge to Zaleszczyki, Poland, where the Romanian soldiers transferred them to German soldiers. Leia was sent to a Jewish refugee camp. She was forced to clean for the post office commandant. Food was scarce, and she met girls from Cernauti who gave her boiled water and bread. A town woman noticed that Leia was pregnant and took her to a Jewish doctor. She gave Leia a bed in her home late in her pregnancy. Leia’s daughter, Haya, was born in November. The baby was ill, and Leia did not have any breast milk to feed her. In December, Haya died. Leia continued to cook and clean for the German soldiers.
    In July 1942, Leia was sent to Swidowa labor camp in Tarnopol to harvest crops. She met two women whose husbands had connections to help them escape. One night, they walked to Zaleszczyki and hid in a barn. They waited for a man, Mechel Sztaif, to give them the signal, him wearing three hats, to proceed to a barge for Romania. They were arrested by Romanian police shortly after their arrival. The head officer gave them permission to proceed to Cernauti. On the way, they were stopped at a German police station, where the head officer beat Leia and the women on their hands and faces with a rubber stick. In Cernauti, Leia and nine others were jailed and questioned on suspicion of being communists. Leia was beaten twice. The police were unable to build a case against them, so they were sent to Atachi then the Kamenets-Podol’skii ghetto in Poland.
    In August, with funds provided by the Jewish community, they were sent to Vapniarka concentration camp in Transnistria, a region in western Ukraine. The camp was reserved for Jewish political prisoners suspected of belonging to the Communist party. The prisoners lived in two-story brick buildings and slept on the floor. They ate clay-like bread and yellow soup made from a pea used to feed livestock. Some prisoners who also were doctors determined that the soup caused paralysis. The prisoners demanded medical assistance, and in spring 1943, the Red Cross sent medicine, blankets, and clothing. They also were allowed to receive packages. Once a week, they were able to bathe and wash clothes. Leia cared for the ill in the infirmary and washed their clothes. She also worked scrubbing floors in the train station. She and the other prisoners smuggled items from the train station to the camp and used them to bribe the soldiers to let them bring in bread. In spring 1944, when the Soviet Army began advancing toward Transnistria, Colonel Sabin Motora, the camp commandant, transferred the prisoners from Vapniarka to Grosulovo camp. Leia lived in a former school. She worked cleaning and packing geese and ducks for export to the German Army. Motora then sent the prisoners to Tiraspol then Targu-Jiu in Romania, a camp for political prisoners, in April 1944. In late summer, Leia was selected to go to Turnu Severin to build and repair ships. As a suspected communist, she registered weekly with the police. Most of Romania was liberated by the Soviet Army that spring and, after the overthrow of Antonescu, an armistice was signed with the Soviets on August 23, 1944.
    After liberation, Leia worked as a translator for the Soviet Army then went to Craiova to work for the Communist party. In January 1946, she met Lazar (Bonzo) Derera, born on April 12, 1920. He was a bookkeeper in Craiova, who had survived multiple forced labor battalions and concentration camps in Romania and Ukraine. They married on October 8, 1947, and moved to Bucharest. Leia worked for the Department of Agriculture and Lazar worked for the President of Romania and later in foreign trade. In 1949, their son, Dan, was born. Leia learned from her maternal aunt, Mania, living in Curacao that her sisters, Nehoma and Genia, had married and survived the war in Siberia. Leia found out from a neighbor that her father, mother, and brother were sent to Bar, a German camp, in Transnistria and, in 1943, Asher was shot and killed in front of their parents, Haim and Seiba, and then they were killed. The neighbor had survived the shooting. Her first husband, Mechel, was sent to a prison camp, then conscripted into the Soviet Army and killed in 1944. Leia’s maternal grandparents, Fruma and Shmeil, and her aunt, Rachel, were sent to Transnistria, where Shmeil was killed for taking water. Fruma and Rachel died in Transnistria. The family decided to leave Romania because of the deeply entrenched antisemitism. In 1979, after trying for seven years, they received passports and affidavits of support for the United States from Leia’s sisters who had emigrated there earlier. They arrived in New York on April 29, 1979. They settled in Baltimore, Maryland. Lazar died, age 73, in December 1993.

    Physical Details

    Decorative Arts
    Physical Description
    Picture frame in the shape of a sailboat model with a silver colored metal hull built on an incline that widens from the slightly pointed stern then tapers to the pointed bow. Near the bow is a brown metal mast with a triangular copper sail soldered to a thin rod. The frame is formed by a rectangular opening on the mast that faces a rectangular indent on a silver colored metal sphere near the stern. The sailboat is screwed to a rectangular, silver colored metal base support. On the front of the hull is an engraved word. On the top lower left corner of the base are engraved numbers and a Roman numeral. The hull, sphere, and base are polished and smooth. The underside is unfinished.
    overall: Height: 4.500 inches (11.43 cm) | Width: 5.750 inches (14.605 cm) | Depth: 1.875 inches (4.763 cm)
    overall : metal, copper
    boat, front, along hull, engraved : TRANSNISTRIA
    base, top, lower left corner, engraved : 8 III 944

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The picture frame was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Leah Derera.
    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 16:25:03
    This page:

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