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Charbon hand stamp made to forge papers for the resistance

Object | Accession Number: 1988.77.5

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    Charbon hand stamp made to forge papers for the resistance

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Counterfeit unmounted hand stamp with Charbon 1942-1943 made by Gilbert Leidervarger in southern France between 1942 and 1944 to authenticate forged documents made by the French resistance. The stamp likely was used to forge coal ration cards. Recreating official rubber stamps was difficult because of the special materials and carving skills required. Erasing rubber was not really suitable; some forgers used linoleum or sliced and combined sections from purloined or discontinued stamps. After Germany invaded France on May 10, 1940, Gilbert, wife Suzanne Donoff, and Suzanne’s six siblings, Lina, Rosette, David, Robert, two other sisters, and Robert’s wife Nelly, became involved with Eclaireurs israélites de France (Jewish Scouts of France) and its clandestine branch, La Sixieme. They worked in southern France, governed by the Vichy regime, but occupied by German troops in November 1942. Gilbert made copies of official stamps to authenticate the false papers made by Robert. Lina, Rosette, and David were in Lyon, hiding children and providing false papers and ration cards. France was liberated late summer 1944. David, Robert, and Nelly were killed for their resistance activity.
    Date
    use:  1942-1943
    Geography
    creation: Vichy (France)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Elaine Frank, in memory of her mother, Lina Donoff Frank, and her aunts and uncles, David, Robert, and Nelly Donoff and Gilbert Leidervarger
    Markings
    stamp die, embossed : Charbon 1942-1943 [Coal 1942-1943]
    Contributor
    Artisan: Gilbert Leidervarger
    Subject: Gilbert Leidervarger
    Biography
    Gilbert Leidervarger was born in 1915 in France. He married Suzanne Donoff. Suzanne was born in Paris, France, to a Jewish couple, Israel and Eva Kouklia Donoff. She had six siblings: Robert (1912-1944), Lina (1916-1978), David (1920-1944), Rosette (1921-1951), and two other sisters. Robert was married to Nelly Weyl (1911-1944). On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded France. In June, an armistice was signed and the north and west regions were placed under the control of a German military administration. The southern region was placed under the control of the Vichy Regime, which collaborated with the Germans, but was not occupied initially. Gilbert, his wife, and his wife’s six siblings may have lived in Paris at the time of the invasion. However, during the occupation, they lived in Vichy France near Moissac and Lyon.

    The entire family was involved in the Eclaireurs israélites de France (EIF, Jewish Scouts of France). The EIF, established in 1923 by Robert Gamzon, initially sought to attract youth toward Judaism and away from radical political movements. In the late 1930’s, the EIF cosponsored a program with Chomerim, a Zionist scouting group, and established an agricultural training school which prepared youth to immigrate to Palestine. After the outbreak of war in September 1939 when Germany invaded Poland, it established several children’s homes in southern France. After the German invasion of France in 1940, the EIF moved to Vichy France, while continuing to operate an illegal branch in Paris. In 1941, the EIF was forced to join the Union Generale Des Israelites De France (UGIF, Union of French Jews), established by the Vichy regime to consolidate all Jewish organizations. In 1941, Gilbert’s brother-in-law David voluntarily entered Gurs internment camp to help the inmates. He smuggled children out of the camp and hid them with families in the countryside. German forces began mass deportations of Jews in spring/summer 1942. In response, the EIF formed La Sixieme (The Sixth), an underground rescue network. The primary goal of La Sixieme was to rescue children at risk for deportation. They found safe hiding places for them in schools, religious institutions, and families, provided them with false documents, either obtained from sympathetic officials or counterfeited by La Sixieme members. They also delivered supplies to the children and maintained an emotional bond with them so they did not feel abandoned. In June 1942, David left Gurs to join the armed resistance. In August, David, Lina, and Rosette helped hide and relocate children from EIF homes during German raids. On November 10, 1942, German troops occupied Vichy France. In 1943, David and Lina moved to Lyon.

    Gilbert and his wife Suzanne lived in Moissac, the initial headquarters for La Sixieme. Many group members had official positons with Jewish or Catholic aid agencies. Gilbert’s false identity was Andre Flourens and his codename was Renne. La Sixieme obtained some town hall stamps needed to authenticate documents from a few town halls where there were resistance members. But they needed to expand the selection. Gilbert became an expert hand stamp forger, creating stamps used to authenticate false papers, including birth and work certificates, travel papers, and identification documents. Gilbert initially carved stamp dies out of blocks of rubber eraser, then used softer blocks of linoleum. Among the types of stamps that Gilbert counterfeited were town hall stamps and police stamps. La Sixieme selected town halls that had been destroyed by bombing in 1940. They would send a letter to the town hall asking for a copy of a birth certificate. The town hall would reply with the information that the records had been destroyed. The replies would be on paper stamped with the town hall stamp. Gilbert then copied the design onto the counterfeit stamp. Gilbert also doctored cards that they could not yet duplicate, such as ration cards. He would bleach out words such as Juif, and enter the new information.

    In September 1943, La Sixieme moved its headquarters to the larger town of Lyon, and Gilbert and Suzanne moved there also. Gilbert worked morning to night as a forger for La Sixieme, as well as for M.J.S., the Zionist Youth Movement. Gilbert received orders from La Sixieme members in Paris until the operatives there were able to manufacture their own stamps. Suzanne picked up the orders, but otherwise they had very few contacts with the outside world. Gilbert produced thousands of documents. EIS and MJS supplied hundreds of thousands to refugees, those fleeing deportation, as well as resistance members and fighters. After finding homes for 400 children in October 1943, Rosette also went to Lyon. Lina and Rosette worked for David in social services. David’s official position was secretary to Abbe Glasberg of the church of St. Alban, a resistance member. They placed families in hiding and provided them with false papers and ration cards. The group manufactured over 600 sets of false papers. Robert fabricated false papers, including identity documents such as birth and baptismal certificates. In January 1944, Robert and his pregnant wife Nelly were arrested and sent to Drancy transit camp in Paris. On June 27, 1944, David was caught and shot in the street by the Gestapo in Lyon. Rosette left Lyon and went to Grenoble, which was liberated in August. Lina, Gilbert, and Suzanne stayed in Lyon, where they were liberated by American forces on September 3.

    The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. The family learned that Robert and Nelly were deported from Drancy to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on February 3, 1944, where they were killed. Lina married an American soldier and immigrated to the United States. Rosette died of tuberculosis in 1951 in France. Gilbert and Suzanne returned to Paris, where Gilbert died sometime before 1988.

    Physical Details

    Language
    French
    Category
    Marking devices
    Object Type
    Hand stamps (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Unevenly cut, nearly flat, rectangular, black, possibly linoleum, stamp die carved with reverse French text, stained purple from ink. Remnants of gray cardboard are adhered to the back.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 0.125 inches (0.318 cm) | Width: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm) | Depth: 0.250 inches (0.635 cm)
    Materials
    overall : linoleum, cardboard, adhesive, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The stamp was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1988 by Elaine Frank, the niece of Gilbert Leidervarger.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:11:49
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn521752

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