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Badge with an R for Rustung (Armament) worn by a Polish Jewish worker in Beskiden labor camp

Object | Accession Number: 2004.706.6

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    Badge with an R for Rustung (Armament) worn by a Polish Jewish worker in Beskiden labor camp

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Badge with an R for Rustung (Armament Worker) worn by Zbyszek Kelhoffer, circa 1941-1943, as a forced laborer in the Beskiden Oil factory camp in German occupied Boryslaw, Poland (Boryslav, Ukraine). When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Zbyszek was mobilized into the Polish Army. After a brief campaign, he returned to Soviet occupied Boryslaw. In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and Zbyszek was drafted into the Soviet Army. He was captured by the Germans, escaped, and returned home. On July 1, German troops occupied Boryslaw. There was a succession of joint German SS and Ukrainian pogroms killing hundreds of Jews. Zbyszek's wife Sydzia and her mother went into hiding. After Belzec killing center opened in March 1942, 1000s of Boryslaw Jews were deported there. By October 1942, Zbyszek, his parents, and two sisters-in-law were confined in the ghetto. Zbyszek was allowed to leave for work and his worker status probably delayed deportation selection. The ghetto was raided often and many were shot during round-ups. By February 1943, Zbyszek had to move to the slave labor camp. SS and Ukrainian troops moved into the ghetto to eliminate the remaining Jews. His parents were shot. Sydzia and her mother joined her two sisters in hiding in June 1943. Zbyszek joined them in December. The Soviet Army liberated Boryslaw on August 8, 1944. Zbyszek and his family were among only 200 surviving Jews from a population of 12,000. After the war ended in May 1945, Boryslaw was Soviet territory, so they left for Poland.
    Date
    use:  approximately 1942-1943
    Geography
    use: Beskiden labor camp; Boryslav (Ukraine)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Barbara Kelhoffer Bieganiec
    Contributor
    Subject: Zbyszek Kelhoffer
    Biography
    Zbigniew (Zbyszek) Kelhoffer was born on June 13, 1913, in Boryslaw, Poland (Boryslav, Ukraine), to Norbert and Helena Teibels Kelhoffer. His brother, Mieczyslaw (Mitiek), was born in 1920. Norbert was a lawyer. Norbert’s father, Maurycy, had been a surgeon in the Austro-Hungarian Army. Zbyszek studied at the Lvov Polytechnic. In June 1939, the family briefly moved to Vienna, Austria, for Norbert’s job as an attorney for the Matapolska Oil Company. But Helena insisted they return to Boryslaw where Norbert opened a law office. When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Zbyszek was mobilized into the Strzelce Podhalanscy, a Polish Army infantry unit. After a brief campaign, he returned to Russian occupied Boryslaw and worked as a clerk at an oil company. On June 22, 1940, he married Sydonia (Sydzia) Pomeranz, whom he had known since high school. Sydzia was born on July 31, 1912, to Bernard and Helena Laudis Pomeranz, born November 25, 1889. Sydzia had two sisters, Julia, born 1908, and Roza, (1916-1973). Sydzia’s family was prosperous; her mother was a civil servant. Sydzia attended pharmacy school in Prague, then studied piano in Vienna. Zbyszek moved in with the Pomeranz family.

    In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and Zbyszek was drafted into the Soviet Army. He was captured by the Germans, but escaped and returned home. Upon his return, he constructed a hiding space between the family home and the neighbor’s house. On July 1, German troops occupied Boryslaw. The next day, several hundred Jews were murdered in a Ukrainian organized pogrom. This was followed by several joint German SS and Ukrainian attacks to eliminate the Jewish population. In March 1942, the Germans opened Belzec killing center and by summer roughly 5000 Jews had been deported there. In August, the Germans established Beskiden labor camp for workers of the Beskiden Oil Company. Zbyszek worked in the camp and was issued a lapel badge and an armband that allowed him to travel to work. Workers were thought to be protected against deportation. Sydzia went into hiding with her mother in another location, as did Zbyszek’s mother. His father Norbert lived with Zbyszek, along with the two sisters-in-law. The mass deportations continued and several thousand more Jews were deported that fall. By October 13, all Jews were confined to the ghetto and only those with work passes are permitted to leave. There were frequent round-ups during which many were shot. From November to December 1942, Zbyszek wrote daily love letters to Sydzia, mixed with tales of how difficult her sisters were to live with. A woman named Inka sold the family’s belongings for them. There were actions by Jewish policeman who would raid houses, steal what they found, and arrest the inhabitants. Zbyszek’s overseer Skorzyk, a Jewish Council member, did his best to keep his workers protected from deportation, but over 100 were deported. He listed Zbyszek as an electrician, as skilled workers were less likely to be selected. Zbyszek was put on a list to live in the City Council barracks, but then learned that Eduard Goldman, the liaison between the German police and the Jewish Council, had removed his name because he was not a qualified craftsman. Zbyszek’s mother had to leave her cellar hiding place and moved into their building. On December 2, Skorzyk announced that all workers must move into barracks at Beskiden camp in a week. On December 4, Norbert received a postcard from Mitiek telling them he was in a prisoner of war camp and needed food. Zbyszek writes to Sydzia that he is convinced that he will not be able to save his parents. Their apartment is raided again and his father robbed of everything, even his underwear. His father writes a goodbye note in Zbyszek’s letter to Sydzia, giving them his blessing and wishing them a happy, loving life. The only people still living in a hiding place in the basement are a couple, the Birnbaums, and Zbyszek’s mother; the rest have fled or been ordered to the camp barracks. The next day, December 9, Zbyszek, working at the labor camp as deputy to the building site supervisor, learns that the barracks have no water or food. He continued to return to the ghetto at night. The city is a target of bombing raids because of the oilworks.

    By February 1943, Jews were no longer allowed to leave the ghetto, even for work. Zbyszek moved to the slave labor camp. SS and Ukrainian police searched the ghetto door to door. Helena and Norbert, with about 600 Jews, were herded into a slaughterhouse and murdered. Sydzia’s sisters, Julia and Roza, had moved to the hiding space previously constructed by Zbyszek at their old home and live there with six other Jews. Sydzia joined her family in hiding in June. Two people allied with the Polish Home Army lived on the ground floor, Karolina Kubrynowa and Jozef, and brought them food. Her sisters did not want Zbyszek to go into hiding with them, as they feared it would increase the probability of discovery. By the end of summer, Boryslaw was emptied of Jews except for the slave laborers at the factory camp. In December, Zbyszek decided to join Sydzia in hiding. When he arrived, his mother-in-law complained about the burden of having another mouth to feed. The factory camp was emptied and destroyed in April-July 1944.

    On August 8, 1944, the Soviet Army liberated Boryslaw. Zbyszek, Sydzia, her mother, and sisters were among only 200 Jews from a population of 12,000 to survive. The war ended in Europe on May 8, 1945. Boryslaw became part of the Soviet Union and they moved to Poland. Mietek, Zbyszek’s brother, survived the war and emigrated to the US. Zbyszek and Sydzia settled in Gliwice and a daughter was born on March 17, 1947. Helena, Roza, and Julia emigrated to Israel in 1957. Zbyszek, Sydzia, with their daughter emigrated to Israel in 1968. Sydzia, 74, died in November 1986. Zbyszek, 75, died in 1988.

    Physical Details

    Language
    German
    Classification
    Identifying Artifacts
    Category
    Badges
    Object Type
    Badges (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, offwhite cloth badge with a bold letter R chain stitched with 3 rows of black thread. A faint, pink inked circular stamp with Nazi insignia is imprinted at the bottom. The frayed cloth edges are folded over and sewn. There is a red/brown painted metal grommet in each corner. The top two attach a torn piece of yellowed plastic to the cloth. The back has numbers stamped in purple ink. The badge has ink spots and is stained from use.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 3.375 inches (8.573 cm) | Width: 2.250 inches (5.715 cm) | Depth: 0.250 inches (0.635 cm)
    Materials
    overall : cloth, plastic, metal, ink
    Inscription
    front, embroidered, black thread : R [Rustung (Armament)]
    back, stamped, purple ink : 2[?]2

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The badge was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Barbara Kelhoffer Bieganiec, the daughter of of Sydonia and Zbigniew Kelhoffer.
    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:
    2022-09-06 13:51:35
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn516873

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