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Suitcase used by a Jewish family for their flight from Germany

Object | Accession Number: 2000.546.1

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    Suitcase used by a Jewish family for their flight from Germany

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    Brief Narrative
    Suitcase carried by Ruth Arnoldi when her family fled Nazi Germany in October 1941 for Santo Domingo. They had to have the suitcase made to the order per government regulations. A German official supervised the packing of the suitcase, which was then sealed.
    use:  1941 October
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ruth Arnoldi Kohn
    Subject: Ruth Kohn
    Ruth (Arnoldi) Kohn was born into an observant Orthodox family in Preussisch Friedland, Germany (now Poland) on August 23, 1927. Her father, Moses, was a butcher and a veteran of the First World War. Her mother, Margaritha, stayed home to care for Ruth and her older brother Lothar. Ruth had another older brother named Ernst, who was institutionalized for epilepsy at a young age and later was killed in the Nazi’s euthanasia program.

    The Arnoldis lived in Preussisch Friedland for generations, but with rising antisemitism, the family relocated to Berlin in 1932. Ruth started school and continued to experience antisemitism, such as when a fellow classmate and daughter of an SS officer called her “Saujude” or “Jewish pig.” This discrimination only intensified after the Nazis came to power in 1933 when anti-Jewish legislation was passed. Ruth and Lothar were no longer allowed to play outside as it was unsafe for Jewish children. In 1936, Jewish students were no longer allowed to attend public schools and Ruth was enrolled in a Jewish girls’ school, where she learned to knit and cook along with academics.

    During Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938, the family’s butcher store was vandalized. Afraid that the violence would continue, the Arnoldis family split up and hid for three days with family members to avoid additional violence by the Nazis. After Kristallnacht, Margaritha’s cousins moved into their apartment, as Jews were only allowed one room for each family based on new legislation. The Arnoldis gave up their bedroom to their relatives and made a home in the dining room.

    Following the German invasion of Poland, Margaritha and Lothar were forced to perform compulsory labor in a battery factory. Ruth had to work in the local cemetery when school was out.

    Towards the end of 1940, Ruth’s family received a letter from Ruth’s uncle, Bruno Kirstein, who had fled Germany to escape Nazi persecution. With help from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Lisbon, Bruno had secured passage to the Dominican Republic under the condition that he would perform agricultural work once settled. In the letter, Bruno offered to help the Arnoldis acquire visas to join him. After months of securing the proper paperwork from various German agencies, the Arnoldis received their visas. A German government official stood close by as the family packed their bags to ensure they did not include any items of value. He allowed them to take a set of silver candlesticks gifted to her parents on their wedding day, by claiming on official paperwork that they were in fact made of tin.

    After weeks of travel, Ruth and her family arrived in the Dominican Republic on December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan. They settled in Sosua, where Ruth studied to become a nurse and met her future husband, a survivor from Austria, Herbert Kohn. After ten years, they moved to the United States so Herbert could pursue a career in child psychiatry. Ruth enrolled in school and became a social worker. Ruth and Herbert have three sons. Ruth serves as a volunteer at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Suitcases (aat)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, dark brown suitcase with wooden ribs and metal edges on the lid. There are loose paper labels on the sides.
    overall: Height: 29.500 inches (74.93 cm) | Width: 19.000 inches (48.26 cm) | Depth: 11.250 inches (28.575 cm)
    overall : wood, metal, leather, paper
    front : M.A. / 1943

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Administrative Notes

    The suitcase was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2000 by Ruth Kohn.
    Record last modified:
    2023-03-02 11:25:16
    This page:

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