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Faux alligator suitcase issued to inmates released in Bergen-Belsen prisoner exchange

Object | Accession Number: 2005.89.1

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    Faux alligator suitcase issued to inmates released in Bergen-Belsen prisoner exchange

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    Brief Narrative
    Suitcase given to 20-year-old Toni Klar and her parents for their departure from Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to Palestine in July 1944 as part of an exchange of camp inmates for German prisoners-of-war in British custody. The suitcase was originally owned by Pauline Eisenhardt, who had perished in Theresienstadt. Toni and her parents were refugees from Germany who were deported from Amsterdam to Bergen-Belsen in January 1944. While in Amsterdam, they had obtained certificates for Palestine and received a Putkammer letter ensuring their safety. The inmates selected for the prisoner exchange were those who could prove they had permission to enter Palestine, a British protectorate. One morning, they were told to assemble in the camp, given one suitcase, and marched through the woods to the train that would take them to Turkey, the first stage of their journey to Palestine
    received:  1944 June 10
    issue: Bergen-Belsen (Concentration camp); Belsen (Bergen, Celle, Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Toni Klar
    Subject: Antonie Klar
    Previous owner: Pauline S. Eisenhardt
    Antonie (Toni) Tamar Kapp was born on August 10, 1925, in Worms, Germany. Her mother, Amalie Bachrach, the daughter of a rabbi, was born on July 19, 1900, in Nenterhausen, Germany. Her step-father, Joseph Freudenthal, was a rabbi, born on June 3, 1879, in Tann, Germany. Rabbi Freudenthal had a grown son from his first marriage, Hans, born on September 17, 1905, in Luckenwalde, Germany. Hans had a doctorate in mathematics and lived in Amsterdam, and in 1932, married Suzanne (Sues) Lutter, a non-Jewish Dutch woman. After Hitler came to power in 1933, 8 year old Toni was banished to the back of her classroom in Buntzlau, told that as a Jew, she was a troublemaker. Soon she was not allowed to attend the public school and had to wear a Jewish star on her clothes.
    On November 9, 1938, now in Worms, she heard a neighbor screaming: “Rabbi, your synagogue is burning.” Gestapo burst into the house, beat her father and took him away. He was imprisoned for 6 weeks in Dachau concentration camp. Upon his release, the family escaped to Holland, hoping to apply for visas to Palestine from there. Hans was able to get them Dutch entry permits and they settled in Amsterdam. Amalie’s brother, Joseph, who had emigrated to Palestine in 1933, sent them exchange certificates for Palestine via Geneva, Switzerland, which arrived on May 7th, 1940. Since Palestine was not an independent state, the certificates had stamps from the Red Cross to make them seem more official to the German authorities. The Freudenthal’s also purchased a Putkammer letter which supposedly offered a sperren [stay of deportation] in the form of a deferment stamp that exempted them from the frequent deportations. Putkammer, a naturalized Dutch citizen of German origin, was an official at the Robaver bank who acted as a go-between for Jews and the two German agencies that tracked and confiscated Jewish possessions. After a fee of $125,000.00 for each adult was deposited in a Swiss bank account, the family received a Putkammer letter. Relatives in Switzerland supplied the money for their letter. The value of the permit was questionable, and even if valid, they only offered temporary stays.

    On April 11th, 1943, Toni’s parents were arrested by the Germans during a general round-up of Jews and sent to the Schouwburg theater which was being used as a temporary holding jail. Toni was out at the time, but when she heard the announcements that Jewish parents whose children did not report to Schouwburg would be killed instantly, she went to be with her parents. On April 19th, 1943, the family was deported to Westerbork transit camp in northeast Netherlands. After 10 months, on January 10, 1944, they were sent in cattle cars to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, and placed in the Sternenlager (Star Camp).

    The camp smelled of burning flesh; they were sorted; those on the left had to strip and were sent to showers. The rest were assigned to work twelve hour days. Toni worked in a hospital and her parents in a silk factory. Food was coffee n the morning, watery soup at lunch, and a piece of bread at night. There were constant roll calls when they had to spend hours standing in the square. People often fell, and if you looked, the SS would shoot you. Prisoners were beaten viciously and often. Those who could no longer walk were hung up on meat hooks in the middle of the camp; children who cried when their parents died were hung on the electric fence around the camp. In the morning, a truck would come and a doctor would tell them which ones to take down, they’re eyes talking of the horror to come. Toni saw a woman kill herself and her child by running onto the electric fence. Toni was terrified of being separated from her parents and relied on the strength of her mother whom she never saw cry. On July 1, 1944, Toni and her parents, with several hundred other inmates, were summoned to the roll call square. They were told that, as holders of Palestine exchange certificates, they were to be traded for German prisoners-of-war in British custody. Most of the Germans were members of the Templars, a 19th century organization that strongly supported Hitler. They had been stranded and arrested in Palestine when the war began and had written to Himmler, requesting to be brought back to Germany. The Freudenthal’s were part of a group of 222 prisoners released via this exchange arranged by the Swiss Red Cross, at a ratio of 1 German for 4 Jews. They were given one suitcase and marched barefoot for two hours through the woods to the train station at Celle, Germany. They were packed onto boxcars for twelve days with no food or water and people died around them. They travelled via Vienna to Istanbul where the exchange took place. The boxcars stopped and sat for many hours, until finally being opened by a group of astonished Turkish farmers. The refugees continued on to Haifa, where they were placed in the Atlit refugee camp, until they were found to be free of infectious disease. Their relatives were notified of their arrival and they were allowed to settle in Palestine.

    Toni worked for a couple years on a ship bringing illegal immigrants to Palestine. A few years after the end of the war in 1945, Rabbi Freudenthal and his wife, Amalie, returned to Frankfurt, Germany, where he organized a synagogue. He died in Frankfurt, age 88 years, in September 1967; Amalie died there, age 94 years, on July 19, 1994. Hans survived in the Netherlands with the help of his wife. He died on October 13, 1990, in Utrecht, where an institute of mathematics at the University of Utrecht bears his name. Toni married Manfred C. Klar in Haifa, on May 5, 1950. Having lived through two wars in Israel, they decided to immigrate to the United States in 1959. She has said that she became a cosmetologist because she needed to choose something opposite from the death and sickness she saw during the years in the camps. Toni passed away at the age of 85 on November 9, 2010.
    Pauline Eisenhardt was born in 1859. In June-July 1942, she was deported from Berlin, Germany, to Theresienstadt concentration camp. She died in November, age 83.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Suitcases (aat)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, brown faux alligator skin suitcase made of fiberboard covered in brown paint. The front has 2 brown hasp locks and a black plastic handle in the center of the base. The lid is lined with rivets and attached to the base by 2 butterfly hinges. On the top of the lid is text in white paint. There are 8 metal corner reinforcements. The interior is covered with gray and white horizontally striped paper.
    overall: Height: 12.125 inches (30.798 cm) | Width: 18.000 inches (45.72 cm) | Depth: 4.880 inches (12.395 cm)
    overall : fiberboard, paper, paint, metal, plastic, natural fiber, adhesive
    lod, top exterior, handwritten, white paint : 0544/Transp. No. 0544/ Pauline Sara Eisenhardt. /Berlin N 58 / Schonhauser-Allee 22

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The suitcase was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2005 by Toni Klar.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:28:46
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