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Allach porcelain figure given to a US Army doctor by recently liberated prisoners of Dachau

Object | Accession Number: 2007.194.1

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    Allach porcelain figure given to a US Army doctor by recently liberated prisoners of Dachau

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    Brief Narrative
    Porcelain figure of a Musketeer produced by slave labor, and given to United States Army surgeon Joseph Witter by former prisoners of Dachau concentration camp. The Porzellan Manufaktur Allach (PMA) was founded in 1935 in the Munich suburb of Allach. It produced decorative porcelain pieces with the goal of developing a new echelon of German artistic taste. The factory quickly became a pet-project of SS Reichsführer (Reich leader) Heinrich Himmler, who eventually took control of 45 percent of the output and often gifted figures to various SS officials and friends. One of the popular series included historical leaders and soldiers from periods of German military success. In 1937, the primary PMA factory moved to the SS Training and Education Camp, adjacent to Dachau. Beginning in 1940, Jewish prisoners from the camp were forced to work in the factory, which continued to run until late April 1945. On April 29, U.S. forces liberated over 32,000 people at Dachau. Once the camp was secured, Joseph and other medical personnel tried to aid as many sick and dying prisoners as they could. Before his unit moved out of the camp, a group of Jewish prisoners presented him with porcelain figures made in the factory, as a token of gratitude for his assistance.
    Artwork Title
    Alternate Title
    manufacture:  approximately 1943-1945
    received:  1945 April 29-945 April 30
    manufacture: Dachau (Concentration camp); Dachau (Germany)
    received: Dachau (Concentration camp); Dachau (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sean P. Tully
    base, underside, maker's mark, stamped : R. FÖRSTER / SS [lightning bolt insignia] / 171
    Subject: Joseph A. Witter
    Manufacturer: Porzellan-Manufaktur Allach-München
    Designer: Richard Förster
    Dr. Joseph Witter (1909-2001) was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Frank (1879-1954) and Lena (nee Armstrong, 1881-1968) Witter. He had a younger sister, Dorothy (1914-2007), and his father worked as Chief of Surgery at Highland Park Hospital in Detroit. Joseph attended the University of Michigan, graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1931, and his medical degree in 1934. While there, he met and married Maurine Knox (1910-1971). Following graduation, he began working as a surgeon under his father in Detroit. He registered for the draft in October 1940, and started active duty on June 21, 1942. As a captain, Joseph deployed for Europe on September 20, 1943 as part of the First Auxiliary Surgical Group.

    Auxiliary Surgical Groups consisted of approximately 25 general and specialty surgical teams, and were attached to Field Hospitals, General Hospitals, and Evacuation Hospitals as needed. As a result, Joseph worked with a number of teams, and was attached to multiple combat and communications units throughout the war. He was initially stationed in Ireland, working with General Surgical Team #8, where he was promoted to Major in March 1944. Shortly after the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, he was with the 50th Field Hospital, which was set up in Weymouth, England. He also served with the 49th Field Hospital in Torquay, England, and with the 22nd General Hospital in Blandford, England. At the end of August 1944, he went on assignment with the 326th Airborne Medical Company attached to the 101st Airborne, as part of General Surgical Team #15.

    On September 17, 1944, he took part in Operation Market Garden with the 101st Airborne. The medical company was pulled in transport gliders from England and released over Zon, Holland, where they set up a hospital at a nearby sanatorium. The unit subsequently established temporary hospitals in Veghel and Nijmegen before continuing into France.

    Following the liberation of Strasbourg by the 3rd Infantry Division on November 23, 1944, Joseph’s team supported them traveling south through Ribeauvillé and the Vosges mountains to Saint-Avold. There his team joined the 10th Field Hospital, supporting the 70th Infantry Division as the Allies fought to break through the Siegfried Line into Germany. On March 20, 1945, Joseph’s unit entered Saarbrücken, Germany, and moved through Eisenberg and Maßbach. Joseph was in Nüremberg on April 20, shortly after the 45th Infantry Division liberated the city, and witnessed a ceremony held by the 3rd Infantry Division, who covered the large swastika in the stadium with an American flag. They then traveled south towards Munich, and came upon a farmhouse near Dachau with 100 new bicycles in the attic, which they later gave to liberated prisoners. Joseph’s team met the 93rd Evacuation Hospital, which was set up near the camp.

    On April 29, 1945, the 42nd Infantry Division, the 45th Infantry Division, and the 20th Armored Division liberated 32,000 prisoners at Dachau. Additionally, they found over 2,300 corpses and 816 survivors on a train outside the camp. As he walked through the camp, Joseph witnessed prisoners behind an electric barbed wire fence, piles of emaciated corpses, German guards killed by American troops, and the crematorium with stacks of corpses awaiting cremation. Once the camp was secured, Joseph and other medical personnel aided as many sick and dying prisoners as they could. They also attempted to stop a typhus epidemic, which had spread throughout the camp. Despite the medical care, over 2,000 former prisoners of Dachau died by the end of May.

    The day after liberation, the U.S. Seventh Army took over administration of Dachau, and other teams of doctors and personnel arrived to aid the survivors. Joseph’s team followed the fighting forces to Munich and Rosenheim on the way to Salzburg, Austria. On May 7, Germany formally surrendered to the Allies. The following day, Joseph witnessed the surrender of German generals in the field. Following the end of the war, Joseph’s unit then returned to Germany, stopping at Stamberger See, Augsburg, Königsee, Bergheim, Aachen, Liege, Frankfurt, and Bonn. On June 18, 1945, they boarded the USS Le Jeune in La Havre, France, and sailed for Boston the following day. Joseph’s unit was deactivated on November 30, 1945, and he retired from the army the following month. He and his wife, Maurine, had three children. From 1960-61, he served as President of the Michigan Chapter of the American College of Surgeons. After Maurine died in 1971, he married Elinor Swain Metzger (1913-2004).

    Physical Details

    Decorative Arts
    Physical Description
    White porcelain figurine of a man in cavalier-style dress, standing on a square base. He is standing with his weight back on his right leg, while his left leg is projected forward, foot turned outward. His right arm hangs loosely at his side, while the left is bent, raised, and making a hand gesture. He has a pointed beard and pointed mustache, shoulder-length wavy hair, and a wide-brimmed cavalier hat with a large feather plume on the left side. He is wearing a short coat with a wide, flat, scalloped collar, buttons to the waist, and flares out to mid-thigh. There is decorative trim around the sleeve seams, along the split sleeves, and on the upturned cuffs. A crossbody strap extends down, diagonally from his right shoulder, and attaches to a sword frog holding a hilt at his left hip. The hilt has a long and pointed crossguard, a curved knuckle guard, finger rings, a grip with diagonal lines, and ends in a pointed pommel. The figure was finished without the sword blade and scabbard. Over the crossbody strap, the figure wears a sash that ties at his waist in a bow and hangs down the right thigh to his knee, where it ends in a fringe. He wears loose breeches tied at the knees and heeled boots with wide, flared cuffs and large quatrefoil spur leathers on the tops.
    overall: Height: 9.500 inches (24.13 cm) | Width: 3.750 inches (9.525 cm) | Depth: 2.500 inches (6.35 cm)
    overall : porcelain, glaze

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Dachau (Germany)

    Administrative Notes

    The porcelain figure was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2007 by Sean P. Tully, the grandson of Joseph A. Witter.
    Record last modified:
    2024-02-21 07:11:16
    This page:

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