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Small dark brown leather briefcase used by a German Jewish refugee

Object | Accession Number: 2004.485.34

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    Small dark brown leather briefcase used by a German Jewish refugee

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    Brief Narrative
    Small dark brown leather briefcase brought by Karl Weiler from Nazi Germany to the United States in December 1937. Karl lost his position as an assistant judge in March 1933 when the new Nazi government purged the civil service of Jews and passed a law to that effect April 7 with the first Aryan only qualification clause. Karl rejoined the family agricultural firm in Brakel. Anti-Jewish pressures increased and, in May 1936, the firm’s board of directors was forced to sell the business at a loss to a Nazi approved buyer. In December 1937, Karl left for the US. After the war ended in May 1945, he learned that his parents, Fritz and Ella, had been deported to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in 1942, then in 1944 to Auschwitz killing center where they were murdered. His sister, Mathilde Fodor, had been deported from Budapest, Hungary, in November 1944 to Lichtenworth concentration camp where she died of starvation. Her husband, Joszi, and son, Karoly, survived.
    emigration:  1937 December
    received: Brakel (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Judy Gartner and Susan Oberfeld
    Subject: Carl Weiler
    Karl Weiler was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on July 31, 1904, to Friedrich (Fritz) and Ella Ederheimer Weiler. Fritz was born on April 11, 1875, in Brakel, to Mathilde Kalmann (1828-1904) and Moses Weiler. Moses was born in 1832 in Brakel to Levi and Jettchen Lilienthal Weiler. Fritz had two sisters, Clementine, born 1869, and Louise, born 1867, who married Max Fulda, and one older brother, Hermann, born 1875. Moses’ father Levi had established an agricultural brokerage and wholesale business, L. Weiler, in Brakel around 1825. Moses now ran the firm and the family was wealthy and respected in the community. The Weiler’s were an assimilated but observant Jewish family. The town had a small synagogue for the twenty Jewish families.

    Fritz married Ella Ederheimer on May 11, 1902. Ella was born on December 14, 1879, in Frankfurt am Main, to Pauline and Samuel Ederheimer. Ella’s father was a prosperous banker in Frankfurt, where Ella and Fritz settled. Karl’s sister Mathilde (Till) was born on December 29, 1908. Fritz was a partner in a leather goods manufacturing business, but in spring 1914, he agreed to his father’s request to join the family firm. Moses wished to retire and Fritz moved his family to Brakel to run the business with his brother Hermann. Moses and both of Ella’s parents died in 1915. Fritz, age 40, was drafted in 1916 to fight in World War I (1914-1918). He served on the Russian front and was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery. Karl attended a Latin school in Brakel and then a boarding school in nearby Hoexter. After graduating high school in 1922, Karl apprenticed at an agricultural brokerage in Hamburg and Breslau (Wroclaw, Poland) and then studied law at the Universities of Breslau and Freiburg.

    In 1932, Karl moved to Berlin to study for the assessor exam which would permit him to practice law. On January 30, 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Karl passed the exam on February 25 and was appointed an assistant judge. On February 27, he exited a concert and heard that the Reichstag was burning. A few weeks later, the Parliament passed the Enabling Act, giving Hitler dictatorial powers. Hitler issued a decree prohibiting non-Aryans from public offices and Karl was dismissed from his judgeship. In March, he returned to Brakel and joined the family firm as a legal advisor. On April 1, there was a boycott of Jewish stores and SA members stood in front of the family’s business harassing and photographing customers who tried to enter. The increasingly anti-Jewish policies led several members of the firm’s board of directors to suggest selling the business outright or somehow aryanizing it by hiring non-Jews to act as the public face of the firm. To Fritz and Karl, the Nazi triumph in Germany was as if “an alien force had occupied the country.” They thought that Hitler and the Nazis would not stay in power long and they could wait them out. In 1934, Karl became a board member and frequently interacted with Nazi officials from the Department of Agriculture and the German Labor Front. Meetings would begin and end with the Heil Hitler salute, which Karl did not reciprocate. On April 1, 1935, Karl and another attorney, Mr. L., represented the Grain Dealers of Westfalia in a meeting with the Reich Commerce Secretary and obtained assurance that their Jewish members would not be restricted in their dealings.

    By late summer 1935, non-Jewish friends no longer greeted Karl. In September, the Nuremberg Race Laws were passed, stripping Jews of citizenship and their legal and political rights. Fritz’s brother Hermann died in early 1936. In May 1936, the firm’s board was forced to sell the business at a loss to a Nazi selected buyer. Fritz and Ella moved to Berlin and Karl stayed behind to transfer the business and sell their belongings. Karl’s sister Till had moved to Budapest, Hungary, in 1934. She married Joszi Fodor and had a son on July 14, 1936. Karl moved to Berlin and set about obtaining a visa to emigrate to the US. A maternal uncle in New York, Richard Ederheimer, sent him an affidavit of support, but the US consulate twice declared them insufficient. A cousin, Emil Stern, sent an affidavit that the Consulate approved and he received a visa. In December 1937, Karl sailed from Holland on the MS Statendam for New York. He Americanized his name to Carl.

    After the Kristallnacht pogrom on November 9-10 1938, Ella and Fritz attempted to emigrate but their applications were denied. Carl obtained Cuban visas and boat tickets for them, but the boat never sailed. World War II ended in May 1945. Carl learned that his parents had been deported to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in 1942 and later to Auschwitz death camp, where they were killed in 1944. Till was deported from Budapest to Lichtenworth concentration camp in November 1944, where she died of typhus and starvation. Her son, Karoly, survived in a safe house protected by the Swedish embassy and her husband, Joszi, returned to Budapest after serving with the Hungarian Army in Russia. His paternal aunt Louise died in Theresienstadt. Carl married Mina Kaufmann, who had left Germany for the US in 1938. They had two daughters. Carl passed away April 27, 1988, age 83. Mina passed away December 22, 1999, age 85.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Briefcases (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Compact, rectangular, dark brown, textured leather briefcase with accordion side folds, worn from use. The top opening flap has a silver colored metal plate with 3 rods on the lower edge to insert into 3 holes on a silver colored key lock on the body. The plate and key lock are flanked by a brown snap. The interior is unfinished leather and there is a brown leather patch to reinforce it where the lock is attached.
    overall: Height: 7.500 inches (19.05 cm) | Width: 10.500 inches (26.67 cm) | Depth: 2.375 inches (6.033 cm)
    overall : leather, metal

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The briefcase was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Judy Gartner and Susan Oberfeld, the daughters of Carl and Mina Kaufmann Weiler.
    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:
    2022-07-28 18:28:43
    This page:

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