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Pocket watch with chain traded for food by a concentration camp inmate and recovered postwar

Object | Accession Number: 2006.450.1

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    Pocket watch with chain traded for food by a concentration camp inmate and recovered postwar

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Gold pocket watch with chain and engraved floral design traded by Ana Waldner for more food in the munitions factory where she was a forced laborer from 1942-1945. It had belonged to her husband, Chaim, and Ana hid it in the lining of her coat before he was deported from Krakow, Poland. After the war, Hannah tracked down the factory manager to ask for the return of the watch. She believes that he returned it due to fear of being found out and tried as a collaborator by the Russians. Ana and her family were imprisoned in the Krakow ghetto following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, then deported to concentration camps in 1942. She and her husband were deported to Buchenwald, then Ana was sent to a labor camp. Her two sons, Beneck, 11, and Karpeck, 14, were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau where they were killed because they were ttoo young to work. Ana was reunited after the war in Poland with her daughter, Dora, 19, who had been a forced laborer. Her husband was discovered in a hospital in East Germany where he died shortly after their reunion in late 1945.
    Date
    use:  1942-1945
    Geography
    use: Buchenwald (Concentration camp); Weimar (Thuringia, Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Dora W. Roth
    Contributor
    Subject: Ana Waldner
    Subject: Dora Waldner Roth
    Biography
    Ana (Hannah) Waldner, born 1900, was married to Chaim Waldner, who was born in 1895 in Chelmek to Tvi and Dubi Waldner. They were one of only ten Jewish families in Chelmek, where Chaim was the town butcher. The couple had three children, Dorotha (Dora), born on September 25, 1926, and two younger sons, Karpeck, born ca. 1929, and Beneck, born ca. 1931. The family kept kosher and observed Shabbat and all holidays, but they were not particularly religious. Dora was sent to a Jewish school in Chrzanow, a nearby town, and attended Hebrew lessons two times a month in Chelmek.

    After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, the family fled to Krakow (Jaworzno). After a short while, they returned to Chelmek to find that their home, and the businesses and homes of the other Jewish residents, had been burned. The family was transported to different villages by the Germans about every 6 months. In 1942, they were living in the Krakow ghetto, where every couple of weeks, all of the residents were rounded up in the town square and separated into two lines. One line would be deported and the other line would remain until next time. Chaim was the first to be selected for deportation to a concentration camp. Ana sometimes would try to push her children into the line for those who were not selected, but this caused strife with the other residents who feared they would be punished for the act. Dora was deported next, then Ana.

    Ana had managed to hide Chaim’s gold pocket watch in the lining of her coat before he was deported. She was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, and then to be forced labor at a munitions factory. While there, she approached the manager and bartered the watch for an extra piece of bread every day. He agreed and fulfilled the bargain, secretly slipping her food each day. In 1945, when the war ended, she was able to get the watch back from him; she believes that he feared it could be used against him by the Russians to prove that he was a collaborator.

    She was reunited with Dora in Chrzanow, Poland. Dora had been a forced laborer in several concentration camps, including one in Hansdorf, Czechoslovakia, and Ober Altstadt, a sub-camp of Gross Rosen, where she was liberated by Russian forces on May 8, 1945. They learned from a family friend that Karpeck and Beneck, had been deported from Krakow to Auschwitz concentration camp where they were considered too young to work and were killed. In late 1945, they were notified by the International Red Cross that Chaim had survived and was in a hospital with tuberculosis in East Germany. Ana left Dora with her only surviving sister, Mele, and traveled for ten days through bombed roads and rail lines to see him. They did not recognize each other at first. Ana stayed for a month and then returned to Dora. When she returned a second time, she learned that Chaim had passed away while she was en route. Ana had ten siblings, four survived: Mele, Salo, Harman, and Adolph.

    Ana, Dora, and Mele moved to Ostrava, Czechoslovakia. In 1947, while Dora was working for her cousin at a resort in Marianski Lazne, she met and married Fredrick Roth. The couple emigrated to Israel and had a daughter. Ana remarried a man named Singer and emigrated to Israel in 1949. It was while they were living in Israel, that Ana and Dora talked about their experiences and Ana gave Dora the watch. Ana, age ninety years, died in 1990.
    Dorotha (Dora) Waldner was born in Chelmek, Poland, on September 25, 1926, the oldest child of Chaim, born in 1895, and Ana (Hannah) Waldner, born in 1900. Dora had two younger brothers, Karpeck and Beneck. They were one of only ten Jewish families in Chelmek, where her father was the town butcher. The family kept kosher and observed Shabbbat and all holidays, but they were not exceptionally religious. Dora was sent to a Jewish school in Chrzanow, a nearby town, and attended Hebrew lessons two times a month in Chelmek.

    After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, the family fled to Krakow (Jaworzno). After a short while, they returned to Chelmek to find that their home, and the businesses and homes of the other Jewish residents, had been burned. The family was then transported to different villages by the Germans about every 6 months. In 1942, the family was living in Krakow, where every couple of weeks, all of the residents were rounded up in the town square and separated into two lines. One line would be deported and the other line would remain until next time. Chaim was the first to be selected for deportation to a concentration camp. Dora was deported next.
    Dora was sent to perform forced labor in Hannsdorf, Czechoslovakia, where, with 150 other young girls, she worked in a textile factory making thread. Eighteen months later, she was sent to Ober Altstadt, a sub-camp of Gross Rosen, where roughly 1000 women, ranging in age from 14-21, worked in a textile factory. Dora was recognized there by her cousin Malvina Waldner. Her cousin fell in love with a non-Jewish French political prisoner who shared his care packages with Malvina, who shared them with Dora. The two cousins remained together until the camp was liberated on May 8, 1945, by Russian forces.

    Dora returned to Chrzanow to look for her family. She lived in a hall with other survivors. About two weeks later, her mother, Ana, returned from forced labor in a munitions factory. They received word from a family friend that Karpeck, eleven years old, and Beneck, fourteen years old, had been deported to Auschwitz concentration camp where they were considered too young to work and were killed. In late 1945, they were notified by the International Red Cross that Chaim had survived and was in a hospital in East Germany with tuberculosis. Ana left Dora with her sister, Mele, Ana’s only surviving sister. After a 10 day journey through bombed roads and rail lines, Ana and Chaim were reunited. Ana stayed for a month and then returned to her daughter and sister. When she returned a second time, she learned that Chaim had passed away. Ana, Dora, and Mele moved to Ostrava, Czechoslovakia. In 1947, while Dora was working for her cousin at a resort in Marianski Lazne, she met Fred Roth. The couple married and moved to Israel after Fred was recruited by the Haganah to train men to operate tanks, which he had done with the British during the war. They had a daughter in 1952 and moved to the United States in 1956. Ana remarried and emigrated to Israel in 1949. While they were living in Israel, Ana and Dora talked about their experiences and Ana gave Dora a watch that had belonged to her father that Ana had managed to recover after her imprisonment. Ana died in 1990.

    Physical Details

    Category
    Timepieces
    Object Type
    Pocket watches (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Circular, gold colored metal pocket watch with a delicate engraved geometric pattern and a reeded border on a 15.5 inch gold link chain. There is a plain, metal, circular medallion inset on the lower front, surrounded by an embossed open wreath with leaves and flowers. The case has a bottom hinge and a push crown at the top. A D-ring at the crown connects the watch to the chain. There is a spring loaded clip at the end of the chain.
    Dimensions
    overall: | Diameter: 1.875 inches (4.763 cm)
    Materials
    overall : metal

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The pocket watch was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2006 by Dora Waldner Roth, the daughter of Hannah (Ana) Waldner.
    Record last modified:
    2023-06-14 07:08:06
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn518587

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