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Tan armband with a Star of David worn in the Trembowla ghetto

Object | Accession Number: 2004.437.3

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    Tan armband with a Star of David worn in the Trembowla ghetto

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Armband worn by Sarah Kerpholz in the Trembowla ghetto in Poland. Sarah, age 33, and her family were forced by the occupying German authorities into the Jewish ghetto in Trembowla, Poland (Terebovlia, Ukraine), in 1942. Her husband, Natan, escaped to Lvov, but ended up in the ghetto there. Their 10-year-old daughter, Zosia (Sophia), was sent to him, with the intent to find her a safe hiding place. But Natan, age 38, died of typhus in January 1943, and Zosia had to escape and get back to Trembowla on her own. In 1943, Sarah and Zosia escaped from the ghetto as it was being liquidated. They eventually reached Humniska, Poland, where former neighbors of Sarah's parents, Anna and Voitek Gutonski, hid them in a barn with an underground hiding place for over 8 months, until the Soviet army liberated the area in March 1944.
    Date
    use:  1942-1943
    Geography
    use: Terebovlia (Ukraine)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sophia Kalski
    Contributor
    Subject: Sarah Kerpholz
    Subject: Sophia Kalski
    Biography
    Sarah Stern was born to a Jewish family in 1910. Her parents were Meir (b. 1882) and Rosa (nee Koppel, b. 1885). Sarah had two younger sisters, Esther (b. 1912) and Bronia (b. 1927). In 1932, the family lived in Trembowla, Poland. That year, Sarah married Natan Kerpholz (b. 1905). They had one daughter, Zosia, born January 1, 1933. Natan was a radio electrician.

    In 1939, the Soviet Union occupied the region of Poland that included Trembowla. Then, in June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and captured Trembowla. In early 1942, the Germans established a Jewish ghetto, where Sarah and her family were forced to live.

    Natan escaped from the Trembowla ghetto to Lvov, but ended up in the ghetto there. He arranged for their daughter to be hidden with a non-Jewish family in Lvov. Zosia was taken to Lvov, but the rescuers became afraid for their safety if they were caught harboring a Jew, so Zosia ended up with her father in the ghetto. In January 1943, Natan died of typhus. Zosia was taken back to Trembowla by a non-Jewish acquaintance of her father, and reunited with Sarah in the ghetto inTrembowla.

    In mid-1943, as the Germans were liquidating the Trembowla ghetto, Sarah and Zosia escaped. They hid in a field of grain. Villagers brought them food and water. Sarah and Zosia finally made their way to the nearby village of Umniska, where they were hidden in a barn for eight months by Anna and Voitek Gutonski, former neighbors of Sarah’s parents. Voitek dug a hole in the barn where Sarah and Zosia could hide when necessary. On one occasion, German soldiers came into the barn looking for hidden Jews, but did not find the mother and daughter.

    On March 22, 1944, the Soviet army liberated the area. Sarah and Zosia returned to Trembowla and found Sarah’s sister Esther. Their parents and their other sister, Bronia, had perished in the Holocaust. In later years, Sarah lived in Israel with her daughter and her daughter’s husband, Kaddish Kalski. She died in 1993. Yad Vashem later honored the daughter of Anna and Voitek Gutonski, Paulina Koblenko, as Righteous Among the Nations.
    Sofia (Zosia) Korpoltz was born on January 7, 1933, in Trembowla, Poland (Terebovlia, Ukraine), to Nachum Natan, born in 1905 and Sidonia Sara Stern Korpoltz, born in 1910, also in Trembowla. Natan was a radio technician. The family was not particularly observant of Jewish traditions, though Sara had been raised in a Jewish observant home.

    After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Trembowla came under Soviet occupation for a year and a half. Then, in June 1941 Germany launched an attack on the Soviet Union, and the town was occupied by the Germans. In the second half of 1942, Germans forced the Jews into a ghetto. Natan Korpoltz managed to escape to Lvov, Poland (Lviv, Ukraine), while Sofia stayed in her grandfather's house in Trembowla, together with her mother. Natan found a family willing to hide Sofia, since she was blond and people would easily assume that she wasn't Jewish. However, the family soon decided that it was too dangerous and Sofia was sent back to her father to the ghetto. Natan worked as a forced laborer and they moved frequently around the ghetto, sleeping on stairs and in hallways.

    The Lvov ghetto was sealed in the fall of 1942. The long days when her father was at work were difficult for Sophia, as it was rarely safe enough for children to go out and play. When they did, as Sophie recalled later, they always played the same game, building bridges. And as she remembers them, the games “lacked the joy of childhood. Already then, the children didn’t know how to laugh.” Food was scarce. In early December, Sofia and her father sold all of their possessions to purchase one bowl of soup and a potato at the restaurant in the ghetto. There were frequent Aktionen, when the Germans would round up Jews for deportation to death camps. During an Aktion on January 5 and 6, 1943, Sophia hid, without her father, in a basement with strangers. They hid behind a dividing wall made of thick green bottles. Sophia could see the flashlights of the German soldiers as they searched for Jews, but they left without noticing the hidden room. The people in a nearby house refused to let the Germans inside, so the soldiers sealed the house and set it on fire. Sophia remembers watching them gather corpses for two days following this Aktion.

    At the end of January 1943 Sofia's father died of typhus at the Lvov ghetto hospital. Seeing her waiting there, a friend of her father’s told her to leave and to try to get back to Trembowla. At the end of March Sofia escaped through a hole in the fence of the ghetto. Friends arranged to have a non-Jewish woman help Sofia reach Trembowla.

    She was smuggled into the Trembowla ghetto where living conditions worsened substantially. About three months after her return, the Germans began the liquidation of the ghetto. During one of the round-ups Sofia and her mother escaped to nearby wheat field. The mother of one of Sofia’s non-Jewish classmates brought them food and water for several weeks until they were warned that it was too dangerous to stay in that area. They walked through the forest to Umniska village (Humnyska), where Sofie’s maternal grandparents, Meir Stern, b. 1882, and Rena Koppel Stern , b. 1885, had lived before the war. By 1943, they and their daughter, Bronia, had been deported and murdered in the Belzec death camp. The first few former neighbors they contacted were fearful and agreed to help them only for a few days. Anna and Wojtek Gutonski, a Catholic couple with 4 children, agreed to hide them for as long it seemed possible. Sofia and her mother hid on their farm for 8 months, often lying on their backs in a hole dug in the ground beneath the barn. The village was liberated by the Soviet Army in March 1944. Sofia and her mother eventually emigrated to Israel. Sarah died, age 83 years, in 1993. Sofia Kalski painted images depicting her wartime experiences. She died in 2012.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Identifying Artifacts
    Category
    Armbands
    Object Type
    Armbands (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, light brown, cotton oilcloth armband with clipped corners. The front center has an interlocking 6-pointed star stamped in faded blue ink, with an irregular spot of red wax on the star. To the left and right of the star are 2 vertical stitches. The back is blank.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 3.125 inches (7.938 cm) | Width: 3.750 inches (9.525 cm)
    Materials
    overall : cloth, dye, wax

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The armband was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Sophia Kalski, the daughter of Sarah Kerpholz.
    Record last modified:
    2023-09-15 10:20:42
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn515388

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