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Handmade Israeli flag made by a Polish Jewish girl in a DP camp to celebrate statehood

Object | Accession Number: 2006.479.2

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    Brief Narrative
    Israeli flag made by 15-year-old Judith Wagner on November 29, 1947, immediately after hearing the announcement that the United Nations had voted to partition Palestine into 2 separate states. She was living at the displaced persons (DP) camp in Wels, Austria, when the news was broadcast over the camp loudspeakers. Judith ran home and made the flag in about 2 hours for use at the ensuing celebratory party. Judith grew up in Rudnik, Poland with her younger sister Charlotta, and their parents, Chana and Pinchos. In October 1939, a month after Poland was invaded by Germany and the Soviet Union, the Germans deported the Wagners, with all other Jews in Rudnik, to Soviet-occupied territory. Judith and her family refused to take Soviet citizenship, so they were exiled to Siberia. They lived there for 14 to 16 months before being allowed to move to Kazakhstan, where they stayed for the remainder of the war. In early 1946, the Wagners were repatriated as Polish citizens and taken to Bielawa in Lower Silesia. They lived there for approximately six months before leaving Poland with the help of the Bricha, an underground immigration movement that helped Jews from Eastern Europe move to Palestine and later Israel. The family made it to Austria, where they stayed in a displaced persons camp in Vienna for six months, and then moved to the Wels DP camp. Judith worked as a teacher’s aide at the Wels camp and attended nursing school. Eventually, Judith’s paternal uncle, Avraham, was able to provide the family with affidavits. The family arrived in New York City on June 2, 1951, aboard the USNS General Stewart.
    creation:  1947 November 29
    distribution: Wels (Displaced persons camp); Wels (Austria)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Judith & Eddie Weinstein
    Subject: Judith Weinstein
    Subject: Eddie Weinstein
    Judith Weinstein (born Yehudit Wagner, b. 1932) was born in Rudnik, Poland (now Rudnik nad Sanem) to Chana (née Rheingold, 1903-1993) and Pinchos Wagner (1893-1979). Chana was born in Wieliczka, Poland to Necha (née Koenigsberger) and Isak Rheingold. Pinchos was born in Rudnik to Malka (née Kirschenbaum) and Nuchim Wagner. He had two brothers, Michael and Avraham, and one sister, Kayla. Pinchos, along with his two brothers, owned a wicker factory, Wagner Brothers Baskets Manufacturers & Exporters, and exported their products overseas. Avraham immigrated to the United States and worked to distribute their products in America. Judith had one younger sister, Charlotta (1936-?).

    On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II. On September 17, the Soviet Union joined the invasion from the east, and the two countries divided Poland along the Bug River. In October, the Germans expelled all the Jews from Rudnik, including the extended Wagner family. They were sent over the San River to Ulanow in Soviet-occupied territory. The Wagners then went to Winicki near Lvov (now Lviv, Ukraine). They stayed in Winicki for a few months, but they refused to take Soviet citizenship, so in spring 1940, the Soviets exiled the family to Siberia. Judith and her family were forced to live in Siberia for 14 to 16 months before being allowed to go south to the Ural Mountains and then to Kazakhstan. Judith’s aunt, Kayla, with her husband, was the only one of her father’s siblings to remain in Poland, and they were murdered in the Holocaust.

    In early 1946, the Wagners were repatriated as Polish citizens and taken to Bielawa in Lower Silesia. They lived there for approximately six months before leaving Poland with the help of the Bricha, an underground immigration movement that helped Jews from Eastern Europe move to Palestine and later Israel. The Wagners travelled with the Bricha through Czechoslovakia to Austria. In Austria, they stayed in a displaced persons (DP) camp in Vienna for six months, and then moved to the Wels DP camp. Judith worked as a teacher’s aide at the Wels camp and attended nursing school. Eventually, Judith’s uncle Avraham was able to provide the family with affidavits, and they arrived in New York City on June 2, 1951, aboard the USNS General Stewart. In 1955, Judith married Barry Shillet (1921-1975), a fellow survivor. Barry was from Działoszyn, Poland, and had been imprisoned at Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland and Dachau concentration camp in Germany. Judith and Barry lived in New York and had two children together. After Barry passed away in 1975, Judith married Eddie Weinstein (1924-2010) in 1985. Eddie was a Holocaust survivor from Losice, Poland, who had escaped from Treblinka II killing center in German-occupied Poland as a teenager.
    Yehuda (Yidl) Jakob Wajnsztajn (Eddie Weinstein) was born September 26, 1924, in Losice, Poland, to Asher and Leah Brukman Weinstein. His brother Srulek (Israel) was born in 1926. His father was a tailor, but supported the family selling farm products. Yidl attended public school , then yeshiva. Losice was bombed during the September 1939 invasion of Poland by Germany. In August 1940, the Germans began conscripting Jews for forced labor. Yidl built railroad tracks in Niemojki and after February 1941, in Kalushin. Four days later, after a German guard beat him, he escaped and returned home where he was given different labor assignments. In December 1941, the Jews were forced into a small section of town. They were forbidden to leave to get wood, coal, or medicine; overcrowding was unbearable. Jews caught outside the ghetto were killed. That February, the Germans ordered the Judenrat to transport Jewish workers to a labor camp near Siedlce. Yidl was on the first transport. Conditions were horrible; barracks were unheated, everyone had sores and lice, and Yidl became seriously ill. On April 9, 1942, Yidl and Michael Rak escaped. Once in Losice, Jewish police came to arrest Yidl, but he was hiding so they arrested his mother. Afraid Yidl would be killed if he went back, his father offered to go in his place and left for Siedlce midApril. Yidl worked in fishponds on the nearby Wozniki estate and contracted typhus and pneumonia.

    On August 22, the Germans surrounded the ghetto and ordered everyone to gather in the square. Women and children were loaded into wagons and everyone else had to line up. Some were pulled out of wagons and shot. When the wagons left, the others were told to march and guards shot at them to make them go faster. Yidl saw his mother walking behind a wagon and he never saw her after that. They reached a rail station. People were begging for water; some were screaming and they were killed. On August 24, they were pushed into cattle cars. Yidl and Israel tried to stay near an air vent but it was impossible as more and more people were squeezed in. They crawled over people’s heads to get out. More cars had been added and they got in. When the doors opened in 3 hours, they were in Treblinka. A water pump could be seen and people fought to get out; they were shot. He and Israel were told to pull the dead bodies out of the cars. Yidl knew many of the dead, including cousin Esther Yocheved and her family and his uncle Matis and his family. They did this all night as the guards yelled: “Work, work, or I’ll shoot.” The next morning, the bodies were piled higher than the tallest man. Three large pits were dug to make room for more bodies.

    Yidle got in a line for water and was shot in the chest by an SS guard. He collapsed and Israel dragged him inside a clothing warehouse and dressed the wound. Israel went to find water, but never came back. After 3 days, Yidl was able to sneak out of hiding. He saw a group of boys from Losice and joined them sorting clothes. Each worker was identified by a red patch on their pants. Gedale Rosenzweig found some red cloth and a pin to fasten it to Yidl’s pants. The workers found plenty of food, but water was scarce. He saw a large pit where they burned rubbish that they called the hospital. A woman who collapsed was taken there and thrown in and he saw other sick and wounded prisoners taken there, shot, and thrown in, including many infants. On September 10, an empty train arrived. When the Germans assigned Jewish workers to load valuables and goods onto railcars, Yidl and a few friends decided to smuggle themselves out of camp. One friend filled belts with looted gold so that they could support themselves after escape. Yidl knew a boy assigned to load the train and he let Yidl, Gedale, and Michael Fishman hide in a car filled with clothing. As the train approached Sokolow Podlaski, they broke the windows, jumped out and continued on foot to Siedlce. They told the remaining Jews what they had seen, but no one believed them.

    When Jewish police found out the 3 youths had been in Treblinka, they tried to extort money from them in exchange for silence. The boys decided to leave for Losice where there was a small ghetto of Jews who had eluded deportation. His father Asher escaped labor camp and joined Yidl there. Conditions were fairly good, but everyone knew this was temporary and sought better hiding places before the Germans destroyed the ghetto. A friend Berl Goldberg found a hiding place under the pigsty of the peasant Zabiniak, and offered to share it with Yidl and Asher. Zabianak and his wife became too scared of German searches and retribution and eventually demanded that they leave. Yidl set out to find a new place on December 17. He went to see Szczebunski, the manager of the Wozniki fishponds where Yidl had worked and whom Asher had knew from business dealings before the war. Szczebunski would not let the Jews hide in his house, but agreed to let them a build a bunker beneath a partially drained fishpond. Yidl used money smuggled out of Treblinka to pay for their upkeep. After they told Szczebunski that there was room for one more person if he knew of someone in need of a refuge, Hirschl Wior joined them. For the next year and a half, the 4 men remained hidden beneath the pond in a 4 by 6 foot bunker. In March 1943, Yidl went to Szczebunski's to pick up dinner and saw guards leaving. Scared by this, Szczebunski wanted to limit his contact with the Jews and refused to provide any more food. He agreed to sell food and exchange money on commission, but then refused to do this. On April 19, 1944, Polish farmhands discovered their bunker and threatened to inform the police. Yidl paid them to keep quiet, but a few days later Szczebunski warned them the farmhands had been talking and urged the four Jews to move. They moved into the nearby forest and built a dugout.

    On July 29, 1944, the retreating German soldiers made a stand nearby against the advancing Russians. Asher, Berl, and Yidl decided to leave the bunker. They crossed the road to a nearby field, hiding overnight in the standing sheaves of grain. As they crawled out the next morning, they were spotted by German soldiers. Everyone began running in different directions. Asher and Yidl escaped into the fields, and the guards chased Berl who was shot and killed. Soon afterwards, a German soldier discovered Asher and Yidl, but he believed their story that they were working for the gendarmerie in Losice and let them go. Later that day, the area was liberated by the Russians. A few weeks later, a farmer plowing the fields found Berl’s body and Yidl and Asher buried him in a Jewish cemetery. Yidl joined the Polish Army and in January 1945 was fighting on the frontlines. The war ended on May 7. Yidl and Asher left Poland for Germany following a pogrom in the nearby Mordy. They stayed in Bad Windsheim displaced persons camp. On November 2, 1948, Yidl married Jean Zucker, born in Rudnik, Poland. They emigrated to America in July 1949, settled in the Bronx, and had two sons. Asher and his new wife arrived later. They kept in touch with Szczebunski and sent him parcels. Asher passed away in 1972 and was buried in a tallit he had used while hidden in the bunker. After Jean’s death in 1984, Eddie married Judith, a family friend from the same village as Jean. Eddie was tireless in his efforts to tell people firsthand about what happened during the Holocaust. He died on August 12, 2010, age 86 years, the last US survivor from Treblinka.

    Physical Details

    Identifying Artifacts
    Object Type
    Flags (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, cloth flag with a yellow cloth Star of David edged with yellow piping sewn onto the center of both sides. The flag is constructed of horizontal bands of cloth, sewn together in this sequence: white, blue, white, blue, white.
    overall: Height: 36.000 inches (91.44 cm) | Width: 86.000 inches (218.44 cm)
    overall : cloth, rayon, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The flag was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2006 by Eddie and Judith Weinstein.
    Record last modified:
    2022-08-15 14:39:14
    This page:

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