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Yellow cloth strip sewn to a slave laborer's uniform to identify her as a Jew

Object | Accession Number: 2004.385.3

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    Yellow cloth strip sewn to a slave laborer's uniform to identify her as a Jew

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    Brief Narrative
    Yellow strip of cloth from the uniform worn by 16 year old Gisela Zamora when she was a slave laborer at Maerzdorf concentration camp from October 1944 to May 1945. The strip was sewn to the back of her uniform to identify her as a Jew. It may have had a red triangle painted on it. Gisela, her parents, Berthold and Bertha, and her brother Norbert, age 12, were deported from Battenberg, Germany, to Ghetto Theresienstadt in September 1942. The family was transported in August 1944 to Auschwitz concentration camp where Gisela was separated from them and sent to Birkenau. In October, she was shipped to Maerzdorf where she worked as slave labor in a linen factory. The camp was liberated by Soviet troops on May 8, 1945. Gisela was hospitalized for many months after the war. She had no surviving relatives in Europe, but a maternal uncle was discovered in the US. She emigrated to New York in March 1947.
    use:  1944 October-1945 May
    use: Maerzdorf (Concentration camp); Marciszow (Poland)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Gisela E. Zamora
    Subject: Gisela E. Zamora
    Gisela Bina Eckstein was born on February 5, 1928, in Battenberg, Germany, to Berthold and Bertha Marx Eckstein. Berthold was born on January 28, 1893, in Friedberg to Moses and Hanna Blumenthal Eckstein. Berthold was one of twelve children. He was an officer in the German Army during World War I (1914-1918), was wounded in the right shoulder, and awarded the Iron Cross. Bertha was born on March 29, 1895, in Battenberg to Moses and Beena Neuburger Marx. Bertha had three brothers and two sisters and her family had lived in the area for three generations. Moses owned a shoe business. Berthold and Bertha married in 1926 and settled in Battenberg. Berthold worked as an agronomist for the Hesse-Nassau provincial government. Gisela had one brother, Norbert, born in 1929. Bertha observed Jewish laws and kept kosher, but Berthold did not because of his job.
    The Nazi government came to power in 1933. Battenberg had a Nazi Party mayor and the family increasingly experienced anti-Semitism. Gisela and Norbert had to sit in the back row at school with the Roma children. Romani boys exposed themselves to Gisela and a non-Jewish student told the teacher, who did nothing. Her non-Jewish friends were forbidden to talk to her and she was afraid to sleep because a neighbor threw stones through the windows. Berthold lost his job because he was Jewish. He took over Moses’ business, but it was difficult to maintain as Jewish businesses were boycotted. They survived on money from Bertha’s sister and brother. The family attempted to emigrate to the United States, but their applications were rejected because of Berthold’s war disability
    In 1937, the family moved to Friedberg which was a larger, more liberal town. Gisela and Norbert attended the Jewish District School in the nearby town, Bad Nauheim. During the Kristallnacht pogrom on November 9-10, 1938, Berthold was arrested and deported to Buchenwald concentration camp. Gisela and Norbert hid in the attic. The family’s porcelain, crystal and furniture were thrown out of the windows by vandals. Berthold was released after four weeks. His older brother, Jakob, was killed in Buchenwald. In 1939, their school was closed. Gisela was placed in a children’s home in Frankfurt am Main and attended the Philanthropin School, a preparatory school for Cambridge University in England. Norbert was sent to live with their paternal aunt in Dusseldorf. Gisela later lived with the Linz family, whose housekeeper, Ms. Loewenstein, was from Battenberg. Gisela often traveled via train to visit her family. She had to wear a Star of David badge and sit in a separate car for Jews. In 1941, German authorities confiscated the Linz’s home and closed all Jewish schools. Gisela and Norbert moved back with their parents and Gisela worked washing floors in an old age home.
    In September 1942, the family was taken to a transit center in Darmstadt where they were selected for Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. They were sent there and not further east because of Berthold’s military service. Berthold’s brother and his family were also in the transit camp. Berthold tried to get them sent to Theresienstadt, but they were deported to the east. After arrival in Terezin, the family was placed in the Hannover barracks with the Jewish intelligentsia and other professionals. The illustrator, Jo Spier, lived in the barracks and Gisela became friends with his daughter, Celine. She also became friends with the pianist, Sylvia Lowenstein, who gave Gisela tickets to her concerts. Berthold became a minor official of the Judenrat [Jewish council] and transferred Gisela to children’s barrack L414. Her supervisor, Ita Heumann, was a prominent Zionist and Judaic scholar. The children played games, celebrated the Jewish holidays. and studied Palestinian history. Everyone had to work in the camp. One summer, Gisela worked in a garden outside of the ghetto and sometimes smuggled vegetables back to her parents. During the winter, she worked in the nursery washing diapers in cold water. She contracted a cyst and pustules from the bedbugs. Norbert contracted typhus and was quarantined. In June 1944, the camp was prepared for an inspection by the International Red Cross and Gisela received new clothing.
    In August, Berthold was transferred to another camp with a group of younger men. In September, the families of the deported men were told that they could join them. They were not told the destination and, in September, they were transported to Auschwitz death camp. During processing, Gisela was separated from Bertha and Norbert and sent to Birkenau. She shared a bunk with her friend from Friedburg, Ruth Wertheim. Gisela became increasingly ill. She suffered from severe diarrhea, shortness of breath, and a persistent cough.
    In October 1944, Gisela was deported to Maerzdorf labor camp, a subcamp of Gross-Rosen, in German-occupied Poland. She was not initially selected, but her friend pulled her in line. Before she left, a friend, Ruth Hershkowitz, gave her a loaf of bread. She was transferred with her friends Ruth Wertheim and Hannelore Praeger. She worked on the fourth floor of the Kramsda Mehner and Frahne linen factory making parachutes from flax. The machines caused her hands to bleed and develop sores. At night, she shoveled coal from wagons. They slept in a Quonset hut on top of the factory. The heat from the machinery provided warmth and hot water. Gisela contracted tuberculosis, pleurisy, and mastitis and was placed in the sick bay in March 1945. A German medic, Dr. Hoffman, made incisions to drain the cyst that relieved some of the pain. French prisoners of war interned in a nearby camp said that the Soviet Army was close and that the Germans might blow the camp up. At the beginning of May, the German guards left and the prisoners were locked in the camp. On May 8, 1945, the prisoners saw a Soviet soldier on a bicycle and, shortly afterward, the Soviet Army liberated the camp.
    Gisela recovered for five weeks in a hospital in Hirschberg an der Bergstrasse, Germany. She was released in June and a Soviet officer gave her a document that allowed her to travel to Friedburg. She went to the home of a family friend, Edgar Maurer, who was not Jewish, but was antifascist and married to a Jewish woman. His wife, Trudi was killed in Bergen-Belsen and Edgar had recently returned from Dachau. He invited Gisela to live with him, his son, Rudi, and housekeeper, Meta Euler. Edgar took her to a hospital in Bad Nauheim where she was treated for several months. Gisela learned that her parents and brother had been killed in Auschwitz upon arrival. She next was admitted to the hospital in Feldafing displaced persons camp and then to a DP hospital in Bad Kohlgrub. An American soldier helped her place an advertisement in a German-Jewish newspaper seeking relatives. Her maternal uncle, Louis Marx, contacted her and provided papers for her to emigrate to the United States. She sailed on the SS Marine Flasher and Louis met her in New York on March 17, 1947. She later met another survivor, Joseph Zamora and they wed on August 18, 1952. Joseph was born in Greiz, Germany, and fled illegally to Yugoslavia in 1940 with his father. In 1941, they escaped to the Italian zone, but in 1944 they were captured and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Joseph was transferred to Buna subcamp and escaped from a death march in March 1945. His father died in the camp. Joseph passed away on July 8, 2001, age 80.

    Physical Details

    Identifying Artifacts
    Physical Description
    Small, rectangular strip of yellow cloth previously sewn to the back of a prisoner's clothing. All 4 frayed edges have been folded over as hems and fragments of blue sewing thread are visible in the machine stitched hem. It is heavily soiled from use and has a remnant of red paint on the front, possibly remnants of a red triangle.
    overall: Height: 1.250 inches (3.175 cm) | Width: 7.250 inches (18.415 cm)
    overall : cotton

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The yellow cloth strip was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Gisela Zamora.
    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:
    2022-08-23 10:30:06
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