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Prayer book

Object | Accession Number: 2006.285.2

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    Brief Narrative
    Prayer book which belonged to Isak Perlmutter, a survivor of the Łódź ghetto in Poland.
    Prayer book
    publication: Poland
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sylvia Rozines
    Subject: Isak Perelmuter
    Isak Mendel Perelmuter was born on April 14, 1903, in Łódź, Poland. He was orphaned at the age of 10. Isak married Chaja Wolfman and they had two daughters. Dora (Dora), born on January 2, 1927, and Cywia (Sylvia), born on January 20, 1935, in Łódź, Poland. Isak was a salesman of wholesale flour and sugar. Soon after the war began on September 1, 1939, the family attempted to relocate to Warsaw as it was supposed to be a safer place for Jews to live. They traveled there overnight by horse and buggy, but unable to find a place to live, they returned to Łódź.

    In February 1940, the Germans established a sealed ghetto in Łódź, now Litzmannstadt. The Perelmuter’s moved to a small apartment with one room and a kitchen where Isak and Chaja shared a large bed with Cywia and Dora had her own bed. They had a small garden in the backyard where Isak grew potatoes, with the help of the two girls. Isak delivered flour by horse and buggy to the ghetto bakeries; Chaja and Dora worked at the women’s underwear factory in the ghetto, but Cywia was too young to work.

    In 1942/43, the Germans decided to take the children away from their parents in the ghetto. They said that the children would be going to camps in Germany where they would have food. Most of the parents did not want to give their children away, so the Germans started to take the children away by force, at night. Dora was not at risk, because she was older and worked in the factory, but Cywia was young enough that she could be taken away. Isak hid with Cywia whenever the Germans came. One night, Isak grabbed Sylvia and pulled her over a wall to the cemetery where he dug a hole in which they hid. They stayed there for a day and a night, because he was too afraid to get out and look for the white sheet in their window that signaled that the Germans were gone. The policy was later changed and families were allowed one child. The Perelmuter’s received special papers that allowed Cywia to stay.

    The Germans began to destroy the ghetto in the early summer of 1944. They selected able bodied men and women to stay to gather and sort the leftover belongings for shipment to Germany. The family was almost selected to stay, but when the officer saw Sylvia, he changed his mind. He told the family that they were to be deported the next day. Isak decided that they should not leave and they hid and managed to get into the work detail. There were about 800 workers, housed in 2 factories: 1 for women, 1 for men. One of the buildings had a basement where Cywia hid with 8 to 12 other children while their parents worked cleaning out the ghetto. The Germans discovered the children there one day, but let them stay with their parents. Isak thought that they did this because they feared what the Jews would do to them if they killed the children; the Jews far outnumbered the German officers.

    One day in the winter, the men were called to dig large holes in the ground at the cemetery. They suspected that this probably meant they were to be killed. The head of the group had some vodka and got a German officer drunk that night. The officer confirmed that a large squad of additional soldiers was arriving to shoot them in the morning. He left the door to their factory dormitories open that night, giving them a chance to hide. Isak was afraid of being tracked by their footprints in the snow, so they waited until the morning. Some men went to the German headquarters and confirmed that many more soldiers had arrived. Isak and his family first hid in a nearby factory where he used to get flour across from the German headquarters. They soon moved because they could not start a fire for heat or food because of fear of discovery. One day, they saw a Polish woman walking in the street and this is how they knew they were free. The ghetto was liberated by the Soviet Army on January 19, 1945.

    After the Germans left, the Poles entered the ghetto to take the possessions and belongings that had been left behind. The Perelmuter’s ghetto apartment was left with only a few photographs. The family moved to a place in another part of the city. Isak re-established his flour and sugar business, with credit from people who remembered him from before the war. The business prospered and Cywia and Dora returned to school. However, virulent antisemitism was still everywhere and they did not feel safe. Poles would sometimes arrive at apartments in the middle of the night and take all the occupants’ money and there were murders of returning Jews by the Poles. One night in 1945, taking only a few belongings to avoid detection by their neighbors, the family took a night train to Szczecin, Poland. From there, they went by truck to Germany, crossing the border illegally at night. They arrived in Berlin, Germany, and were registered and vaccinated at the Schlachtensee displaced person’s camp. From there, they went to Foehrenwald, then to Bad Reichenhall displaced person’s camps.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Prayer books (lcsh)
    overall : paper, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The prayer book was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2006 by Sylvia Rozines, the daughter of Isak Perelmuter.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:11:22
    This page:

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