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Silver purse with an engraved butterfly and a chain strap used by a hidden child

Object | Accession Number: 2007.42.1

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    Silver purse with an engraved butterfly and a chain strap used by a hidden child


    Brief Narrative
    Silver purse decorated with a butterfly given to Elzbieta Lusthaus by her maternal grandmother, Sophie Lieberman Schiff, before they were moved into the ghetto in Tarnow in German-occupied Poland in 1941. The purse had been owned by her grandmother for many years. Elzbieta kept it always with her while in hiding, with the silver mesh coin purse, 2007.42.2. On June 11, 1942, the Germans came to the house searching for Jews to deport to the concentration camps. Four year old Elizabeth hid, but her grandmother was taken by the Germans and shipped to Belzec extermination camp, where she was killed. Elzbieta and her mother, Helena, fled Tarnow and survived the war under false identities as Polish Catholics, sheltered by a Catholic family in Milanowek.
    received:  1941
    creation:  approximately 1920
    received: Tarnow ghetto; Tarnow (Wojewodztwo Malopolskie, Poland)
    use: in hiding; Milanowek (Poland)
    creation: Germany
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Elizabeth Lusthaus Strassburger
    interior top of rear metal plate, engraved : D.R.G.M. 346 / 02 / maker's mark / 800 [Deutsches Reichs Gebrauchs Muster (German Empire Registered Design)]
    Subject: Elizabeth Lusthaus Strassburger
    Subject: Sophie L. Schiff
    Elzbieta Lusthaus was born on May 15, 1938, in Krakow, Poland to Edmund and Helena (Amkraut) Lusthaus. Edmund was born in Brzozow on August 2, 1899, and attended medical school at Jan Kazimierz University in Lvov. Helena was born in Przemysl on June 8, 1911, but grew up in Sanok and worked as an assistant pharmacist. Edmund and Helena married on May 17, 1936, and settled in the resort town of Iwonicz.

    When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Edmund was drafted into the Polish army. At the time of the invasion, Edmund was visiting his parents in Stryj which soon came under Soviet control after that country invaded Poland. Edmund was deported to a prisoner of war labor camp in Novosibirsk, Siberia. In November, Helena and her baby daughter went to Tarnow to live with Helena's mother, Sophie Lieberman Schiff. Helena's father, Isak Amkraut, was divorced from Sophie and lived in the Netherlands, where he owned a diamond cutting business. In the initial stages of the war, Isak was able to support Helena by sending her food and diamonds.

    In 1941, they were relocated into the Tarnow ghetto. Helena was assigned as forced labor as a seamstress in a German Army uniform workshop outside the ghetto. In June 1942, police rounding up Jews for deportation came to the apartment. Sophie told Elzbieta to hide under the bed, but Sophie was arrested and deported to Belzec killing center. Helena had been safe from earlier deportation actions, but now, afraid for Elzbieta, she went into hiding. She was able to buy false identification papers for Elzbieta and herself and, a few days later, they fled Tarnow using the false identities of Maria and Barbara Stachura, Polish Catholics. Christian friends of her mother had found a family willing to hide them for money. They settled in Milanowek, where they lived with Kazimierz and Genowefa Bandyrowa and their two daughters, Wisia and Hanka. The two girls took care of Elzbieta, known as Basia. During police inspections, they would smear her face with dirt to hide her Semitic features. The family knew they were Jewish but Elzbieta did not. She attended school and church and Helena worked as a pharmacist. After the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto in the summer of 1943, German authorities intensified their efforts to find Jews in hiding. Helena worried that they would be discovered and sometimes kept Elzbieta from school or hid her in the basement and drugged her to keep her quiet. The city was liberated by the Soviet Army in January 1945.

    After the war, they learned that the house in which they had been hidden was a safehouse for the Polish underground. Elzbieta was told that she was Jewish; she went to the church and asked the priest if that meant she would go to hell; he told her yes and to get out. They returned to Krakow and Helena placed Elzbieta in a convent for a week while she looked for surviving relatives, but most had perished during the Holocaust. She assumed that Edmund was dead and decided to leave Poland. In May 1945, she bribed a Russian Jewish soldier to smuggle them in shipping crates across the border into Czechoslovakia. From there, she and Elzbieta went to Austria and stayed for nearly three months at the Rothschild Hospital in Vienna, Austria. They then moved to Funk Caserne displaced persons camp in Landsberg near Munich and were transferred to a sanatorium for malnourished children in Strueth near Ansbach. In May 1945, a medical inspection team arrived at the camp. Helena recognized one of the doctors as a friend of her husband’s. He told her that her husband was alive and stationed with the 2nd Polish Corps, British Army, in Italy. Edmund was able to send an ambulance to bring them to Ancona around September 1945. In December 1946, the family moved to England. Edmund was demobilized in 1948. The family lived in Bedlington until their immigration to the United States in May 1951. They were sponsored by Helena's maternal aunt, and her husband, Dr. Michael and Selma Lieberman Mahler.

    They joined members of Helena’s family in New Jersey. Edmund had to retrain to get a US medical license. Helena worked in a bakery to support the family. In 1955, they moved to Maryland where Edmund had obtained a medical position. Edmund, age 61, died on April 20, 1960. Helena, age 76, passed away on March 1, 1987. Elizabeth (Liz) became a psychiatric social worker. She married John Strassburger in 1961 and they had two children.
    Sophie Lieberman was married to Isak Amkraut. They had a daughter, Helena, on June 3, 1911, in Przemysl, which was then in Austria-Hungary and is now in Poland. By 1939, Sophie was divorced from Isak and lived in Tarnow, Poland, under the name Sophie Lieberman Schiff. Helena was living in Iwonicz, Poland, with her husband, Edmund, and their daughter, Elzbieta, who had been born in 1938. In September, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Edmund left to enter the Polish Army. Helena and Elzbieta came to Tarnow to stay with Sophie. Conditions for Jews in Tarnow under German occupation became increasingly harsh. On June 11, 1942, Sophie was among 3,500 Jews rounded up in Tarnow by the Germans. She was deported to Belzec extermination camp and killed. Helena and Elzbieta fled Tarnow and survived the war under false identities as Polish Catholics.

    Physical Details

    Dress Accessories
    Object Type
    Handbags (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Small rectangular purse made from 2 silver plates with curved tops. The plates are joined by a flat, metal, hinged top, 4.75 inches wide decorated with a geometric design and a kiss lock clasp. A 13.5 inch chain link strap is attached the top. The front plate has an engraved design of 2 wheat stalks with a butterfly inlaid with red and blue glass beads to form the head and body. The interior of the rear plate has numbers for copyright and patent registration, maker’s marks, and the silver hallmark number. The interior has cardboard backing for 2 leather accordion pockets with 2 snap flap pockets attached to the back, and one to the front. Within 1 pocket is the original rectangular leather backed mirror. The other pocket has a flapped snap pocket attached to the front.
    overall: Height: 4.000 inches (10.16 cm) | Width: 5.500 inches (13.97 cm) | Depth: 1.125 inches (2.858 cm)
    overall : silver, leather, metal, glass

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The handbag was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2007 by Elizabeth Lusthaus Strassburger.
    Record last modified:
    2024-01-24 14:52:14
    This page:

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