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Silver dinner fork smuggled into France by a German Jewish refugee

Object | Accession Number: 2005.4.2

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    Silver dinner fork smuggled into France by a German Jewish refugee


    Brief Narrative
    Silver fork smuggled by Ludwig Wertheim out of Nazi Germany and into France in the 1930s. When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, 24 year old Ludwig was in France on business for the family wine import firm. They were observant Jews and it was decided that Ludwig should remain in France. He made a few trips home to Wurzburg during which he retrieved many family valuables. He last saw his parents in April 1936. His German passport was revoked, but he was issued refugee papers by the French government. After the German invasion of France in May 1940, Ludwig joined the French Foreign Legion and served until his demobilization on November 10, 1945. This fork and spoon (2005.4.3) are the only family possessions that he was able to recover.
    emigration:  1933
    use: Bordeaux (France : Generalite)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ludwig Wertheim
    maker's mark, underside of handle : 800 [maker's mark]
    maker's mark, underside of handle : POSEN
    Subject: Ludwig Wertheim
    Ludwig Wertheim was born on February 7, 1909, in Wurzburg, Germany, to Moritz (Moses) and Emma Nuernburger Wertheim. His father was born January 19, 1877, in Wehrda (Huenfeld), Germany, and the couple was married on February 24, 1908, in Lorenz-Nuremberg. His grandparents were Rudolf and Babette Fernberger Wertheim and Josef and Fanny Bernet Nuernberger. Moritz Wertheim was a wealthy wine merchant. They were observant Jews, but considered themselves Germans. Ludwig attended private schools. After graduation from trade school, he became a merchant in his father's business. The family had close business partners and friends in Bordeaux, France, and Ludwig visited them often.

    After Hitler's rise to power in 1933, it was decided that Ludwig would stay in France. Over several trips, he managed to smuggle many of the family’s valuables into France where he placed them in the Credit du Nord Bank. In April 1935, Ludwig was arrested by the Gestapo. He was briefly imprisoned and released on the condition that he leave the country. Ludwig lived comfortably in France, receiving presents on his 30th birthday in 1939 from his parents, who remained in Germany. His German passport was revoked, but he was issued French refugee papers with the help of a family friend, George Mendel, who was Secretary of the French Colonies. After Germany invaded, then occupied, France in May 1940, Ludwig joined the French Foreign Legion to avoid arrest. He served in the First Infantry Battalion in Sidi Bel-Abbes and was part of the 14th Infantry Unit for Foreigners, Group 881, from March 15, 1941, to June 4, 1944. He became part of the 12th Brigade AS de Correze from June 4 to October 4, 1944, and was demobilized on November 5, 1945. Ludwig returned to Bordeaux to claim his possessions at the Credit du Nord, but the contents, valued at 416,000 francs, had been looted by German troops.

    Ludwig was recognized as a stateless refugee in 1945 and began working as a wine merchant in southern Germany and Austria. He travelled in the three occupation zones of Western Germany, with the permission of the Allied Forces. The last time Ludwig saw his parents was April 1936. Their fate is unknown, although their death was officially established as May 8, 1945, the date the war ended. In 1951, Ludwig was re-established as a German citizen and also granted French citizenship, due to his military service. In 1957, he moved to Munich, Germany, and developed a successful wine business. He married Ruth Chotzen the same year. Ruth was born on October 16, 1908, in Cottbus to Hugo and Elise Proskauer Chotzen, a wealthy merchant family. Ruth left Germany for British ruled Palestine in 1933. She was a secretary for the Jewish Agency, and helped organize refugee immigrations, chiefly illegal due to British restrictions, from Europe to Palestine in 1947-1948. Ruth died in Frankfurt-am-Main, age 93, in 2001.

    Physical Details

    Household Utensils
    Object Type
    Forks (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Silver fork with a flat, elongated oval handle and stem with an embossed fiddle and thread border. The narrow stem arches upward and expands slightly at the neck into a smaller oval tab that is attached to the base of the fork head. The fork has 4, equally sized, long, pointed tines. The bottom is smooth, with a stamped maker's mark.
    overall: Height: 8.375 inches (21.273 cm) | Width: 1.000 inches (2.54 cm)
    overall : silver

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The fork was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2005 by Ludwig Wertheim.
    Record last modified:
    2022-09-12 11:07:06
    This page:

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