- Brief Narrative
- Blanket fragment acquired by 18-year-old Olga Horak at the recently liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany in 1945. The donor, Olga, described receiving the blanket while she was lying, frozen, half-naked, and near death on the grounds of the camp. She recalled that a former Kapo covered her with the blanket and left. Olga never saw that Kapo again. The fragment is woven from a blend of animal and human hair. Prisoners at most camps had their hair shaved during their initial processing. As resources became scarce, Germany used hair to make textile products, such as blankets and socks for the Army and Navy, gaskets, and other items for the automotive industry. Bergen-Belsen was liberated April 15, 1945, by British and Canadian troops. At liberation, Olga weighed only 64 pounds and was ill with typhus. Olga's mother Piroška collapsed and died in the camp that same day. The family was discovered in hiding and deported from Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia) to Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland. After being selected for forced labor, Olga was sent to Gross-Rosen concentration camp. In January 1945, she arrived in Bergen-Belsen on a death march. After recuperating for several months in various hospitals, Olga returned to Bratislava in fall 1945. She married John Horak in 1947, and they fled the impending Communist Russian takeover. In 1949, they settled in Australia.
approximately 1945 April 15
Bergen-Belsen (Concentration camp);
Belsen (Bergen, Celle, Germany)
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Olga Horak
Olga Rosenberger (later Horak) was born on August 11, 1926, in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (Slovakia), to Hugo and Piroška Rosenberger. In the fall of 1939, the western powers and Nazi Germany made an agreement, the Munich Pact, to permit Germany to annex the Czech Sudetenland border region. In March 1939, in violation of that pact, Germany took control of the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia. Other German allies absorbed other regions, and Czechoslovakia ceased to exist. Bratislava became the capital of the new independent Republic of Slovakia, ruled by a Fascist dictatorship led by Jozef Tiso, and closely allied to Germany. Anti-Jewish legislation was enacted and many Jews lost their jobs and had their property confiscated.
In March 1942, Slovakia began to deliver its Jews into German custody for disposal in concentration and death camps. Olga and her parents went into hiding in Budapest, Hungary, but it was very difficult as few people were willing to help them. Warned by a friend of impending door to door searches, the family decided to return to Bratislava. They were hidden by a friend of Olga’s mother, but were denounced and taken to the town of Marianka, Slovakia, and then to Sered labor camp for four or five days. Finally, they were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. Olga was selected for labor and marched 150 miles to Gross-Rosen concentration camp in Germany. Around January 1945, Olga endured a death march during which she saw the German Army in retreat. Eventually, Olga and her mother arrived at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Conditions there became increasingly horrid, as the extremely overcrowded camp experienced a typhus epidemic. Olga worked peeling turnips at the camp until liberation by British troops on April 15, 1945. Olga weighed only 64 pounds and was ill with typhus. Her mother collapsed that day while standing in line to register as a displaced person. She was taken away on a stretcher and Olga never saw her again. Olga spent several months recuperating in hospitals. In October 1945, she returned to Bratislava. On February 9, 1947, she married John Horak. They fled the country due to the impending Communist Russian takeover, first going to Zagreb, Yugoslavia (Croatia) and then to Zurich, Switzerland. In 1949, they emigrated to Australia.