Handmade aluminum box incised with the name of a concentration camp inmate found by another inmate
1944 August-1945 January
Birkenau (Concentration camp);
- Object Type
Metal containers (lcsh)
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Miriam and Roman Ziegler
Small metal box found by Hozia Frydman in Birkenau concentration camp where she was imprisoned from 1944-1945. Scratched in the lid is the name Mendel Goldblit, possibly her uncle, who perished in the camp. When found, the box contained a human tooth with a silver crown. Hozia, 34, and her daughter Miriam, 4, were in Ostrowiec, Poland, when Germany invaded on September 1, 1939. Soon the Germans set up a Jewish ghetto where they were forced to live. Hozia's husband, Herschel, was interned in a nearby labor camp and, by early 1942, Hozia and her sister Bella were sent there. Miriam had been placed in hiding with a Polish woman, but in April 1942, she could no longer take care of her and Miriam was smuggled into the camp. On August 3, 1944, they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Hozia and Bella were transferred to various German labor camps. Miriam remained in Auschwitz until liberation on January 27, 1945. Reunited post-liberation, Hozia, Bella, and Miriam left Poland for Bindermichl displaced persons camp in Linz, Austria. Herschel had died during a death march from Auschwitz. Most of their other family members perished. Canada passed an act to admit refugee orphans and Miriam was sent to Canada in October 1948. Rose and Bella followed later that year.
- Physical Description
- Rectangular, shiny, possibly aluminum, box with a hinged lid with a pull tab on the front center. The lid edges are unevenly cut and appear to be done by hand. The sides are triangular and nailed to the base at the back corners. The base interior is dull and lightly scratched. On the exterior are shallow divots and scratches from the lid movement. Three lines of text are scratched onto the lid.
- overall : 0.500 x 3.000 x 2.000 in. (1.27 x 7.62 x 5.08 cm.)
- overall : metal
- lid exterior top, incised : MENDEL / GOLDBLIT / KZ
Subject: Roman Ziegler
Subject: Rose Friedman
Subject: Mendel Goldblit
Original owner: Mendel Goldblit
Miriam Frydman (Friedman) was born on May 21, 1935, in Radom, Poland, to Herschel Frydman and Hozia (Rose) Alkichen, born on September 18, 1912, in Ostrowiec, Poland. Herschel, a former soldier in the Polish Army, owned a stationary and general goods store above which the family lived. They kept kosher, and were active in the Jewish community. Holidays were spent with Miriam’s maternal grandparents, Herschel and Faiga Alkichen, in Ostrowiec, where they owned a fur store. Polish was spoken at home, but Miriam understood Yiddish.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Miriam and Hozia were driving to Ostrowiec when they heard gunfire and hid behind a mill, but they reached her grandparents’ house. Hozia’s cousin found a Polish farmer to hide Miriam. Hozia sewed money for the farmer in Miriam’s coat lining. The farmer’s daughter hated Miriam and made her live under the stairs in the unheated, rat infested barn. The farmer took Miriam begging and introduced her as his granddaughter. On these outings, Miriam saw Jews being rounded up, chased by dogs, and shot. While walking past a forest, she saw the bodies of four Jews hanging from the trees and recognized them as her cousins who had been in hiding. Afraid of being caught, the farmer sent Miriam home.
By January 1942, the Germans turned over the Alkichen fur store to Polish owners and deported Herschel and Faiga to Auschwitz. Miriam, Hozia, an uncle, and an aunt, Bella Naiberg and her baby, were forced into a shared home in the Ostrowiec ghetto. During the day, Hozia went to work. At night, everyone hid in the attic. During a round up, Hozia was holding Bella’s baby when a soldier shot and killed the baby. One day, Miriam heard shooting and hid in the attic. When her mother and uncle found her, she was the only one left alive.
Hozia found a Polish woman, a former customer in her father’s store, to hide Miriam. The woman treated Miriam well. Miriam did not look Jewish and, if she was seen, the woman said she was her niece. When people visited, she hid in a cupboard. The woman found out Herschel, Miriam’s father, was in a forced labor camp and working nearby. She gave Miriam a bread basket; Miriam found Herschel and pretended to sell him bread. He told her that her mother and Aunt Bella were in the same camp and that Hozia worked in an iron factory. During one visit, she did not want to go home and they stayed overnight in a barn where Jews were hiding. Miriam wanted to stay another night, but Herschel refused; that night, the barn was raided and everyone killed.
In April 1942, the Polish woman’s husband, a soldier, returned, and Miriam had to leave. She told her father and, after work, the prisoners smuggled her into the camp. There were six other hidden children. Miriam cleaned bricks and loaded them onto trains. When she got sick and could not work, she hid in the kitchen and made noodles and peeled potatoes. During inspections, the children hid in the outhouses or under the bed covers. On August 3, 1944, the camp inmates were deported to Auschwitz. They boarded a cattle car without bathroom facilities or food. People were screaming and crying and many died. Upon arrival, men and women were separated. Hozia and Miriam were taken to the showers; Miriam’s head was shaved and she was tattooed with prisoner number 16991. They were housed in barrack B2B and fed soup and bread. During a selection, all the women, Hozia included, were taken.
In September, Miriam was taken to the former Gypsy Camp in Birkenau concentration camp. Boys and girls were separated. Miriam saw her 16 year old cousin in the boys’ barracks. Every morning, the children were brought outside naked, counted, and examined. Anyone with marks on their body was selected for medical experiments. Her cousin was one of them. Miriam was selected, but did not know what they did to her. Some tried to escape and were beaten, shot, or electrocuted on the electric fence. At one roll call, Miriam saw her grandmother, Faiga. Whenever Miriam was in the yard, they talked. The female German guard liked Miriam and gave her extra bread that she gave to Faiga. One day, the Germans left. Miriam and other children went to Auschwitz and brought back food and clothing. After three days, the Germans returned. They told the children that if they wanted to live, they should to get in line. Miriam got in line; an aunt saw and pulled her out.
On January 27, 1945, the Soviet Army liberated the camp. Faiga returned to Ostroweic. Miriam was sent to a children’s home in Krakow. She had tuberculosis and an eye infection and was sent to a sanatorium in Rabka. Polish children threw grenades at the Jewish children, so they were sent back to Krakow. Miriam left a note at the Krakow train station with her whereabouts. After liberation from a German work camp, Hozia and Bella were in Czechoslovakia, planning on going to Palestine. A friend of Hozia’s saw the note and told her about it. Hozia and Bella went to Krakow, found Miriam, and returned to Ostroweic. Miriam was still sick, so Hozia sent her to a children’s home in Warsaw. They learned that her father, Herschel, was killed on a death march. In 1946, with no work or permanent home, the family left Poland. They were arrested at the Czech border and imprisoned, then placed in Bindermichl displaced persons camp in Linz, Austria. That year a memorial monument was erected. Miriam unveiled the monument and spoke to Parliament about her experience. Hozia sold papers and books at a kiosk. She could not look after Miriam and sent her to the Strobl children’s home near Salzburg. An American reporter interviewed Miriam and published her story in a New York paper. Relatives in the United States sent care packages, but the family could not go to the US as the quota had been reached. In 1947, the Canadian government permitted one thousand Jewish orphans to enter Canada. On January 29, 1948, Miriam left from Bremerhaven, Germany, on the General Sturgis. She arrived on February 10 and went to live with a great uncle and cousin in Toronto.
Roman Ziegler was born on November 26, 1927, in Dabrowa, Poland (Dabrowa Bialostocka) to Dwora Grossman and Simcha Ziegler, a roofing contractor. He was the youngest of 7: Gita, born 1913, Chai, born 1914, Masha, born 1915, Moshe, born 1916, Hirsch, born 1918, Jacob, born 1920, and Bala, born 1924. The family was observant but not Orthodox, kept kosher, and spoke Yiddish at home. Roman attended public and Hebrew school and belonged to a Zionist group. He experienced antisemitism such as being called “Dirty Jew” and “Christ killer”. The family lived in a Polish neighborhood and Roman, who spoke good Polish, had Polish Catholic friends.
In the summer of 1939, Moshe was discharged from his mandatory duty in the Polish Army. Rumors of impending war spurred a mobilization. Moshe was recalled and sent to the nearby German border to build fortifications. Moshe was taken prisoner, but escaped in October. By September 4, the Germans were in Dabrowa and soon implemented anti-Jewish laws. Food was scarce, so Roman went to another town with a Polish friend to buy potatoes. He removed his Jewish star armband before crossing a guarded bridge from which Nazi soldiers pushed Jews: if they could swim, they were shot; if not, they drowned. Roman was not identified as a Jew and crossed. In spring 1940, his brother, Jacob, was sent to a forced labor camp. In December 1941, Roman worked nights in a bottle factory owned by Mr. Bayer, a German. He had special identification permitting him to be out past curfew. He was assigned to unload newly made bottles from a machine to cool. A Polish man worked the machine and taught Roman how to use it. One night the Pole was ill; Roman ran the machine and his boss gave him a Schwerarbeitkard [hard work card] for extra rations. These cards, not issued to Jews, could only be exchanged in German stores. Roman wore his armband into the store. The owner swore at him and told him to leave. Roman put the cards on the counter, showed his ID card, and told him he worked for Mr. Bayer. The owner knew his boss, and gave Roman the rations, including extra sausage. On August 1, 1942, there was an Aktion. Simcha had a work contract with the Germans and Roman and Moshe had jobs, thus they were not selected for deportation. Chai, Masha, Gita, and his mother, who did not work, were selected. Simcha refused to leave the women and the entire family was transported to Auschwitz.
In late September, Roman got sick and could not work. He was sent to Sosnowiec Dulag transit camp, and then to Brande forced labor camp. Sick prisoners unable to work were sent to a death camp or killed immediately by having cold water poured over them until their lungs collapsed. Every Sunday, there was a dust roll call. Prisoners cleaned their work coats, and then were tapped with a whip. If dusty, they received 25 lashes. Roman was whipped and refused to make a sound. He worked digging up tree roots and he brought some back to the barracks to burn in the wood stove. During inspection, the commandant saw the fire, and ordered that Roman and all the night guards, who were inmates, receive 40 lashes. Roman did not cry out, crawled away, and was hit on the head by the commandant. The kapo told Roman to scream if he got whipped again or the commandant might kill him. Roman also worked on the Bury Brigade, burying the dead in Falkenberg Jewish cemetery; he buried two school friends, Kawa and Kozuch.
In May 1943, Roman was transferred to Graditz labor camp. He slept on a wooden shelf with 3 others. Prisoners had lice, fleas, bed bugs, and open sores. Roman worked splitting rocks and was the only one who could use a sledgehammer. His German supervisor, Ekstein, had Roman teach the others in exchange for extra food. That summer, Roman worked packing clothing for Organization Todt, an engineering group. He stole clothes and traded them for bread. Roman noticed a calculation error and was promoted to count inventory. In January 1944, Roman contracted typhus and spent 2 weeks in a coma. He awoke to ravenous hunger. He could not chew his bread ration because of loose teeth; he kept the bread in his mouth until it dissolved. The next morning, Roman was too weak to go to selection. The kapo gave him a job peeling potatoes. The cook liked Roman and fed him honey and meat and Roman gained strength.
In early 1944, Roman was sent to Faulbruck labor camp and worked converting Reichenbach Sportschulle into Langenbielau I concentration camp. In April, he returned to Organization Todt and again stole clothes for food. His supervisor found out because Roman was heavier than the other prisoners, but did not turn him in. A new warehouse was being built and Roman volunteered to work as an assistant electrician. The head electrician was caught stealing and beaten to death. Roman finished the job and his supervisor gave him a loaf of bread. In September, Roman was transported to Langenbielau I. He was prisoner number 72688 and a grounds worker. He got pneumonia, spent 3 days in the infirmary, and returned to work building barracks. Roman became group leader and received extra food. In December, he worked in an airplane factory. His German boss liked him and shared his lunch with him. Roman saw the newspapers and knew the Russians were near.
On May 5, 1945, while walking back from work under guard, a German woman yelled to let the prisoners go, the war had been lost. Back at camp, they learned that Berlin had fallen and Hitler was dead. The camp commandant, Karl Ulbricht, was ordered to kill all the prisoners; he refused and tore up the order. On May 8, the prisoners were told the camp was being liberated; Ulbricht left two guards, who volunteered, behind for protection. Before the Russians arrived, the guards changed into prison uniforms; they were good men and the prisoners did not give them up. The Russians told the prisoners to take clothes and food from unoccupied buildings. Roman ripped his prisoner number off and kept it as a souvenir before discarding his uniform.
Roman returned to Dabrowa. He found his brother, Jacob, a survivor of 5 camps, but was sick. Roman got into a fight with 3 Poles. A group gathered and chanted “Kill the Jew”. One man approached Roman with a brick and Roman said he would kill him; the Pole backed off and the crowd dispersed. Roman decided to leave Poland. He wrote a letter to a maternal uncle in Baltimore, Maryland, that he was going to western Germany. His uncle replied that he had heard from a US soldier that Roman’s sister, Bala, had been liberated.
In January 1946, Roman and Jacob tried to leave Poland with the help of Bricha, a group that organized the illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine. They posed as Greek citizens and were arrested in Czechoslovakia, returned to Poland, imprisoned, and released. On May 3, Roman and Jacob were to meet a group in Krakow but arrived late. Fascist Polish resistance members killed all but one of the group; Roman helped bury them. Roman and Jacob left for Bad Reichenhal displaced persons camp in Germany. He wrote to the Red Cross looking for Bala. In 1947, he learned that she died in Bohemia in June 1945 from typhus. Jacob died from kidney disease and was buried on May 26, 1948, in Munich. Gita and Chai died in Auschwitz in 1942, Masha in August 1942, and Moshe in Gross-Hozian in 1943-1945. Roman was the only member of his family who survived.
In 1947, the Canadian government permitted 1000 Jewish orphans under 18 to enter Canada. Twenty year old Roman changed his birthdate on his papers to qualify. He left for Canada on June 23, 1948, and settled in Toronto. On April 20, 1958, he married Miriam Frydman (Friedman), a Polish Jew who had been a hidden child and then survived Birkenau concentration camp. The couple has 3 children.
Hozia Alkichen was born on September 18, 1912, in Poland, to Herschl and Faiga Alkichen. She had a sister named Bella, four other sisters, and one brother. The wealthy family owned a successful fur store. Hozia married Herschel Frydman, a soldier in the Polish Army. The couple lived in Radom, Poland, where they had one child, Miriam, born on May 21, 1935. Herschel owned a general goods and fabric store where Hozia worked. The family spoke Polish at home, was active in the Jewish community, and spent holidays in Ostrowiec with Hozia’s parents.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Miriam and Hozia were driving to Ostrowiec when they heard gunfire. They hid behind a mill, but made it to Hozia’s parents’ house. Soon after, anti-Jewish laws were implemented. Jews had to register and wear white armbands with a blue Star of David; travel was restricted, a curfew set, and food severely rationed. Hozia, through a cousin, found a Polish farmer to hide Miriam. Hozia and Herschel sewed money for the farmer in Miriam’s coat lining. Afraid of being caught, the farmer sent Miriam home.
By January 1942, the Germans turned over the Alkichen fur store to Polish owners and Herschel and Faiga were deported to Auschwitz. Hozia, her brother, Bella and her baby, and Miriam were forced into a shared house in the Ostrowiec ghetto. During the day, Hozia went to work. At night, everyone hid in the attic. Hozia, during a round up, was holding Bella’s baby when a soldier shot and killed the baby. One day, Miriam heard shooting and hid in the attic in a pile of material and garbage. When her mother and uncle arrived home and found her, she was the only one left alive in the house.
Hozia searched for another place to hide Miriam. She found a Polish woman, a former customer in her father’s store, to take Miriam. Miriam did not look Jewish, and if seen, the woman said she was her niece. The woman found out that Herschel was in a nearby forced labor camp and Miriam was able to visit him at his worksite. While Miriam was in hiding, Hozia and Bella were deported to the same labor camp as Herschel. Hozia worked in an iron factory. In April 1942, the Polish woman could no longer hide Miriam. She sent Miriam to her father and he told her to meet him after work. She walked back to the labor camp with the other prisoners and they smuggled her inside. She hid in the camp and worked cleaning bricks and in the kitchen.
On August 3, 1944, the camp inmates were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Hozia and her family were packed into a cattle car without bathrooms or food. People were screaming and crying and many died. When they arrived, men and women were separated. Hozia and Miriam were taken to the showers and Hozia was tattooed with prisoner number 16992; Miriam, 16991. They were housed in barrack B2B. Rations were soup, made of water and weeds, and a piece of bread. During a selection, all the women, including Hozia, were sent to work camps in Germany; only the children remained.
On January 27, 1945, the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz. Miriam was sent to a children’s home in Krakow; she left a note in the Krakow train station for any surviving family members. Hozia and Bella, who were in Czechoslovakia post-liberation, did not know any family had survived, and planned on going to Palestine. A friend saw Miriam’s note and told Hozia. Hozia and Bella went to Krakow and were reunited with Miriam. Hozia found her mother, Faiga, who was liberated from Auschwitz, living in Ostrowiec with a cousin and they moved in with them. They learned that Herschel was killed on a death march. Miriam was still sick and Hozia put her in a children’s home in Warsaw. In 1946, with no work or permanent home, the family left Poland. They were arrested at the Czech border and imprisoned, then sent to Bindermichl displaced persons camp in Linz, Austria. Hozia sold papers and books at a kiosk. She could not look after Miriam and sent her to the Strobl children’s home near Salzburg. An American reporter interviewed Miriam and published her story in a New York paper. Relatives in the United States sent care packages, but the family could not go to the US as the quota had been reached. In 1947, the Canadian government permitted one thousand Jewish orphans to enter Canada. On January 29, 1948, Miriam left from Bremerhaven, Germany, on the General Sturgis. She arrived on February 10 and went to live with a great uncle and cousin in Toronto. Hozia and Bella arrived in 1949 and worked as hat makers. Faiga arrived in 1950. Faiga passed away in August 1972. Hozia remarried and died in Canada in March 1990, at age 78.
Mendel Goldblit was imprisoned by the Germans at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland. A handmade aluminum box etched with his name, containing a silver crowned tooth, was found there between August 1944 and January 1945, by another prisoner, Rose Alkichen, who was possibly his niece. It is presumed that he perished there circa 1944.
- Topical Term
Child concentration camp inmates--Poland--Oswiecim--Biography.
Concentration camp inmates--Poland--Oswiecim--Biography.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Poland--Personal narratives, Jewish.
Jewish children in the Holocaust--Biography.
Women concentration camp inmates--Poland--Oswiecim--Biography.
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- The box was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Miriam Ziegler, the daughter of Hozia Frydman (Rose Friedman).
- Funding Note
- The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
- Conditions on Access
- No restrictions on access
- Conditions on Use
- No restrictions on use
Record last modified: 2018-01-11 14:22:13
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn515239
Also in Miriam Ziegler collection
The collection consists of an aluminum box and photographs relating to the experiences of Rose and Miriam Ziegler and their family before the war in Ostrowiec, Poland, during the Holocaust in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, and after liberation, to Miriam's experiences in Bindermichl displaced persons camp and the Strobl children's home in Austria.
The collection consists of nine photographs depicting Miriam Ziegler's family before World War II in Ostrowiec, Poland, and Miriam Ziegler in the Bindermichl displaced persons camp and the Strobel children's home near Salzburg, Austria, after liberation.