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Tefillin storage pouch buried for safekeeping and recovered postwar

Object | Accession Number: 2004.333.2

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    Tefillin storage pouch buried for safekeeping and recovered postwar

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Tefillin storage bag buried for safekeeping by Marcus and Josef Zamojre while living in hiding in Taglio-di-Po, Italy. The pouch and tefillin, which had belonged to Marcus, were recovered by Josef after the war. Tefillin are small boxes containing prayers worn by Orthodox Jewish males during morning prayers. In December 1940, Josef and Marcus fled from Frankfurt in Nazi Germany, to Graz on the Austrian-Yugoslavian border. After several failed attempts to cross the border, they arrived in Zagreb in March 1941. In April, Germany invaded Yugoslavia and, in July, Josef and Marcus escaped to Italian occupied Ljubljana. In September 1943, Germany occupied northern Italy and Josef and Marcus went into hiding. In March 1944, they were discovered and deported by the Germans to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. In October, Josef was sent to Auschwitz-Monowitz. In January 1945, Josef escaped a forced death march and hid in a barn owned by Polish farmers. After the war, he learned that Marcus died in Auschwitz in October 1944. Josef emigrated to the United States in 1947 and married Gisela Eckstein in 1952. Gisela, also from Germany, was a survivor of the Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Maerzdorf slave labor camp.
    Date
    recovered:  approximately 1945 May
    Geography
    recovery: buried for safekeeping; Taglio di Po (Italy)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Gisela E. Zamora
    Contributor
    Subject: Joseph Zamora
    Subject: Marcus Zamojre
    Subject: Gisela E. Zamora
    Biography
    Josef Joel Zamojre was born on June 28, 1921, in Greiz, Germany, to Marcus and Elinor Wiesenthal Zamojre. Marcus was born on August 16, 1893, in Zalozce, Poland (Zaliztsi, Ukraine), to Shalom and Esther Frish Zamojre. Elinor was born on May 15, 1889, in Lvov, Poland (Lviv, Ukraine), to Yosef Wiesenthal and Rachel Gefner. The family settled in Frankfurt am Main. They were observant and kept a kosher household. Marcus owned a pipe and tobacco store. The family was wealthy and vacationed annually with family in Greiz.

    The Nazi government that came to power in 1933 enacted severe anti-Jewish policies. Antisemitism increased and while on vacation in Greiz, Josef was tormented by anti-Jewish taunts. He nearly drowned the boy who made them, but his aunt intervened. In 1935, the Catholic principal of Josef’s school, Dr. Zeiger, told Marcus to transfer Josef to a Jewish school. He then attended the Jewish Philanthropin Reformrealgymnasium, a preparatory school for Cambridge University in England. In 1937, two British teachers were hired to teach all courses in English to facilitate eventual emigration; one often referred to the school as the “Jew school.” During Kristallnacht on November 10, 1938, the family hid in the attic. They could see synagogues burning and firemen protecting only Aryan homes. German SA members invaded the house and threw the family’s belongings out the windows. They found the family in the attic. One beat Marcus with a table leg and then swung it at Elinor, but only grazed her chin. Marcus was hospitalized and Elinor and Josef went into hiding in a friend’s home. They read a false report in a newspaper that a fight had broken out between Marcus and his neighbor and both had been taken to the hospital. After a few days, Marcus was released and the family returned home. On November 22, German SS officers took Josef to a fairground. He saw men down rolling on the ground while being kicked, and then loaded onto buses. One officer asked seventeen year old Josef his age and dismissed him because they were only taking men eighteen and above. A man told him he would be killed if he left through the entrance and arranged a taxi for him. Josef returned to school and discovered that the principal had been deported to Dachau and there were only a few students. In July 1939, he took his final exams, but the school was closed the school before he learned the results. The family stopped walking freely on the streets and no longer went to Greiz. They received reduced rations because they were Jewish.

    In 1940, Josef and Marcus signed up for illegal transport to Palestine via Yugoslavia. The waiting list was long, so Josef worked as an intern at a Zionist Hachshara, an agricultural school, near Berlin. One night, there was bombing by the British Royal Air Force and the interns were told to get identity tags so the authorities could report the dead. He returned to Frankfurt and received a passport and official permission to leave Germany with Marcus. Elinor did not feel able to make the journey and decided to stay and join them later. In December, Josef and Marcus traveled to a German police station in Graz on the Austrian-Yugoslavian border. They then took a train to Zagreb with thirty others. They bought Serbian newspapers to avoid suspicion, but held them upside down and were sent back. They made a second attempt and were arrested in Zagreb and sent back. Their third attempt was successful, and after riding in a covered truck at night, they reached the city in March 1941. The next transport to Palestine was full and HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) provided housing. In April, Germany invaded Yugoslavia. In July, Josef and Marcus fled to Italian-occupied Ljubljana, with fifty others from Youth Aliyah, a Zionist child rescue organization. Marcus stayed with the adults and Josef lived nearby with the young people. They received support from DELASEM (Delegation for the Assistance of Jewish Emigrants). The increasing partisan activity in the area made the Italians suspicious of the refugees. In November, Marcus was ordered to report to Rovigo and Josef decided to join him. They left in December and reported in Ficarolo, and were registered as civilian internees. The Italian authorities provided them with lodging, ration coupons, and free movie tickets. They exchanged letters infrequently with Elinor. The last time they heard from her was fall 1942, when she wrote that she was not well and was being deported to the Łódź ghetto in German-occupied Poland. The last they heard from any family was a short note from Marcus’s brother, Oscar, stating that he was well in Binyaminah, Palestine.

    In early 1943, the Italian police ordered Marcus and Josef to Taglio-Di-Po. The young refugees from Ljubljana had formed a Kibbutz Haschara and Josef received permission to visit them in May. By September 1943, Allied forces had liberated southern Italy. Germany now occupied northern Italy and Josef and Marcus went into hiding with two fishermen on a deserted island in the Po Valley. In March 1944, they were discovered by the Germans and sent to Fossoli di Carpi transit camp. In April, they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Josef was tattooed with the number A-5522. They shared a bunk and were selected to work in the Kanada Kommando, sorting the baggage of new arrivals. They were allowed to take food they found. Markus did his best to keep kosher and observe Jewish practices. In the summer, they were transferred to digging work in the “Fishpond,” where Josef was reunited with some of the agricultural interns. He found some newspapers and read about D-Day and the attempt to assassinate Hitler on July 20. In October, young, able-bodied men were transferred out of Birkenau after members of the Sonderkommando blew up crematoria #2. Josef was deported to Auschwitz-Monowitz. He tried to get Marcus transferred, but was told that he was too old. Josef worked constructing railroad tracks. A wooden track fell on his foot and it became infected. A Jewish doctor operated on his foot and he was given a week to recover in the hospital.

    On January 18, 1945, prisoners were forced on a death march because of the advancing Soviet Army. After two days, they reached Gliwice, Poland and Josef saw the kapos shooting prisoners. He escaped to the forest and heard men talking in Russian, but saw that they were wearing German uniforms. He hid in a barn owned by Polish farmers and, after three days, the owner told him he was free. Josef traveled to Krakow, Slovakia, Budapest and Yugoslavia. In July, he arrived in Rome to find Marcus. Before they were separated, they had agreed to meet there. He learned that Marcus had died in Birkenau in October 1944. Josef contacted his paternal aunt and maternal uncle who had emigrated to the US before the war. They sponsored his emigration and he arrived in February 1947. He Americanized his name to Joseph Zamora. He studied chemistry at Columbia University in New York. He met another German Jewish survivor, Gisela Eckstein, and the couple married on August 18, 1952. Gisela had been interned in Theresienstadt, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Maerzdorf during the Holocaust. Joseph never learned what happened to Elinor; it was presumed that she died in the Łódź ghetto. Joseph passed away on July 8, 2001, age 80. Gisela died, age 84, in 2012.
    Marcus Zamojre was born on August 16, 1893, in Zalozce, Poland (Zaliztsi, Ukraine), to Shalom and Esther Frish Zamojre. He was religious and kept kosher. Marcus married Ellinor (Elsa) Wiesenthal on June 29, 1920. Ellinor was born on May 15, 1889, in Lvov, Poland (Lviv, Ukraine), to Yosef Wiesenthal and Rachel Gefner. Marcus and Ellinor settled in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Marcus owned a pipe and tobacco store. They were wealthy and would vacation every year with extended family in Greiz. They had one son, Josef, born on June 28, 1921, in Greiz, Germany.

    After Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933, anti-Jewish policies were established. In 1935, the Catholic principal of Josef’s school, Dr. Zeiger, told Marcus he should transfer Josef to a Jewish school. One day when Marcus was waiting to cross the street with Josef, a member of the Gestapo stepped on Marcus’ foot and left. A policeman told him insincerely that he could complain to the police. During the Kristallnacht pogrom on November 10, 1938, Josef and Marcus hid in the attic and Ellinor stayed downstairs. They saw synagogues burn through the window and firemen on the roofs direct the fire away from Aryan homes. German SA members threw the family’s dishes, crystal and furniture out the windows and found them in the attic. One beat Marcus in the ribs with a table leg and tried to hit Ellinor but the table leg only grazed her chin. Marcus was hospitalized and Ellinor and Josef went into hiding in Ellinor’s friend’s home in a western suburb. They read a false report in a newspaper that a fight broke out between Marcus and his neighbor and both had been taken to the hospital. After a few days, Marcus was released and the family returned to their home. The family stopped walking freely on the streets and visiting Greiz. They received reduced rations because they were Jewish.

    In 1940, Josef and Marcus signed up for illegal transport to Palestine via Yugoslavia. In December, Marcus and Josef received passports and official permission to leave Germany. Ellinor decided to stay in Frankfurt with the intention of joining them later. Josef and Marcus traveled to a German occupied police station in Graz on the Austrian-Yugoslavian border. They took a train to Zagreb with thirty others and bought Serbian newspapers to avoid suspicion, but they held them upside down and were sent back to Graz. They were arrested in Zagreb on the second attempt but reached the city on the third attempt in March 1941, traveling in a covered truck at night. The next transport to Palestine was full and HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) provided them with housing.

    In April, Germany invaded Yugoslavia. In July Josef and Marcus fled to Italian occupied Ljubljana, with fifty others from Youth Aliyah, a Zionist child rescue organization. Marcus stayed with the adults in Ljubljana and Josef lived in a nearby manor with the young people. They received support from DELASEM (Delegation for the Assistance of Jewish Emigrants). In November, Marcus was ordered to report to Rovigo and Josef decided to join him. They left in December and reported in Ficarolo, where they were registered as civil internees. The Italian authorities provided them with lodging, ration coupons and free movie tickets. They exchanged infrequent letters with Ellinor and her last letter arrived in fall 1942. She wrote that she was not well and was being deported to the Łódź ghetto in German occupied Poland. The last they heard from their family was a short note from Marcus’ brother, Oscar, stating he was well in Binyaminah, Palestine.

    In early 1943, the Italian police ordered Marcus and Josef to Taglio-Di-Po. In September 1943, Germany occupied northern Italy and Josef and Marcus went into hiding with two fishermen on a deserted island in the Po Valley. In March 1944, Germans discovered them and they were deported to Fossoli di Carpi transit camp. In April, they were transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Marcus was tattooed on his left arm with the number A-5521. Josef and Marcus shared a bunk and were selected to work in the Kanada Kommando, sorting and disposing of the baggage of new arrivals. They were allowed to take any food they found. Marcus kept kosher and observed Jewish holidays to the best of his abilities while imprisoned. They were later transferred to work in the “Fishpond,” digging in a swamp. In October, young, able-bodied men were transferred out of Birkenau after members of the Sonderkommando blew up crematoria #2. Josef was deported to Auschwitz-Monowitz concentration camp. He tried to get Marcus transferred but was told he was too old. Marcus died in October, 1944, in Birkenau, age 51. Josef escaped a death march in January 1945. He emigrated to the United States in 1947 and Americanized his name to Joseph Zamora. He never learned what happened to Ellinor; she presumably died in the Łódź ghetto. Joseph passed away on July 8, 2001, age 80.
    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

    Language
    Hebrew
    Classification
    Jewish Art and Symbolism
    Object Type
    Tefillin bags (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, faded dark green velvet pouch with a gathered top opening with 2 horizontal bands and 2 green cord drawstrings. The velvet folds over the top edge to meet the green cloth that lines the interior. The front has gold thread chain stitch embroidery and 2 Hebrew letters with the body of the letters filled with satin stitch and surrounded by a scrollwork design. The back has a large X with curved stitching that extends to each corner. There are holes and front vertical tears caused by age and use.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 7.875 inches (20.003 cm) | Width: 5.875 inches (14.923 cm)
    Materials
    overall : cloth, thread, cord
    Inscription
    front center exterior, embroidered, gold thread : [Hebrew] Yod Resh [May it be the will] (1 letter inverted)

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The tefillin bag was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Gisela Zamora, the wife of Joseph 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:
    2022-11-02 15:10:21
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn515328

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