Westerbork transit camp voucher, 10 cent note, acquired by a former inmate
1944 February 15
Westerbork (Concentration camp);
- Object Type
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ruth Levie
Westerbork scrip issued in 1944 and acquired by Ruth Franken, who was imprisoned at the transit camp when she was 5 years old from 1942 to 1943. While at the camp, inmates were compelled to work, and a special currency was issued to incentivize work output, but the money had no real monetary value outside the camp. Westerbork was established by the Dutch government in October 1939 for Jewish refugees who had crossed the border illegally following the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938. After Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940, the German authorities began using Westerbork as a transit camp, holding internees until they were deported to forced labor camps or killing centers in other countries. In 1942, Ruth, her parents, Irma and Max, and grandmother, Roberta, were arrested in Amsterdam and sent to Westerbork. In 1943, they were deported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, and in 1944, to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. Roberta died either in Westerbork or Bergen-Belsen. Max was deported to Auschwitz on September 28, 1944. Theresienstadt was liberated by the Russian Army on May 9, 1945. Ruth and Irma were sent to a convent where Irma was told by a woman that Max was killed escaping Auschwitz. When they returned to the family apartment in Amsterdam, they found Max sitting on the couch. In March 1947, the family emigrated to the United States where Irma had a sister.
- Physical Description
- Westerbork scrip printed on rectangular, white paper with a pink basketweave background overlaid with indigo text and graphic designs. The face has a square in each corner and two center rectangles, all outlined in indigo. The denomination is printed in the upper left and lower right squares. The upper rectangle has three lines of text and the lower rectangle has a faint drawing of the camp featuring the tall laundry chimneys and barracks. A wave-patterned border is present along the top of the upper left square, bottom of the lower right square, and beneath the text in the upper rectangle. The back has the same pink basket weave background with an outlined square in both upper corners. There is a narrow rectangle with a spiral line pattern in both lower corners. At the center is an underprint of the denomination. Across the top center is a narrow, silhouetted image of the camp skyline inserted through the center of a large, circular, toothed, spur gear, with a serial letter and number stamped below. German text, an issue date, and a signature are printed along the bottom. The scrip is like new.
- overall: Height: 2.000 inches (5.08 cm) | Width: 4.125 inches (10.477 cm)
- overall : paper, ink
- front, upper left and lower right, printed, indigo ink : 10 / CENT
front, upper center, printed, indigo ink : LAGER / WESTERBORK / GUTSCHEIN [Camp / Westerbork / Coupon]
back, center, printed, white: 10
back, lower left, printed, indigo ink : LAGER WESTERBORK. / 15 FEBRUAR 1944 [Camp Westerbork / 15 February 1944]
back, center, printed, indigo ink : DIESER GUTSCHEIN / IST NUR INNERHALB / DES LAGERS GÜLTIG [This coupon is only valid within the camp]
back, lower right, printed, indigo ink : DER LAGERKOMMANDANT: / AK Gemmeker / SS OBERSTURMFÜHRER [Camp commander / AK Gemmeker / SS First Lieutenant]
- back, center, stamped, black ink : Serie CC No 5681
back, center, bottom edge, stamped, black ink : K 1227
Subject: Paul Levie
Designer: Werner Löwenhardt
Ruth Franken was born on July 15, 1937, in Haarlem, Netherlands, to Max, born on July 8, 1897, in Emmerich, Germany, and Irma Saloman, born on January 12, 1907, in Linden bei Bochum, Germany. Max served in the German Army during World War I (1914-1918), was wounded and received an Iron Cross and other military honors. He worked as an upholsterer. Irma was one of three children born to an Orthodox Jewish couple, Max and Roberta Salomon, who owned a store. Following her father’s death, Irma and her mother went to work in a store owned by Roberta’s uncle. After the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship in 1933, the store was confiscated by the government. Max and Irma married in June 1936 and the next month fled to Doetincham, Netherlands, to escape the Nazi persecution of Jews. They opened an upholstery shop. In 1937, they moved to Haarlem and had Ruth. Irma’s mother came to live with the family and took care of Ruth. The family was not religious although they attended synagogue. It was difficult for Max to make a living and, in 1939, the family moved to Hilversum.
Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. In 1941, the family moved to Amsterdam. Irma witnessed regular deportations of Jews, but they were not deported or moved into the ghetto, possibly because Max was a decorated German veteran. They lived in an attic apartment above a pajama factory owned by the Lowenstein family who lived on the second floor. Ruth became best friends with their daughter and attended pre-school. Max worked from home upholstering furniture and Irma sewed curtains and took in laundry and ironing. German soldiers built trenches outside their building. Ruth was always frightened; she felt the fear of the adults around her and saw people being taken away.
In the winter of 1942, when Ruth was five, the family, including Roberta, was selected for deportation. They packed rucksacks with personal belongings and Max and Irma hid gold coins in their clothing. They reported to a theater and were bused to Westerbork transit camp. Upon arrival, the family was separated. The barracks were divided into two parts. Men were on one side and women and children on the other, but Ruth saw her father every day. Ruth slept on a straw mattress with mice living underneath. Ruth’s maternal aunt and uncle, Herta and Erwin Lintz, who lived in Detroit, Michigan, sent the family food and clothes.
In 1943, the family was deported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. They were put into separate barracks, but Ruth saw her father daily. Max worked as an upholsterer and Irma disassembled shoes. Max and Irma told Ruth to be good, stay out of the way, and be invisible. Food was scarce and Ruth would go through the food lines twice, unnoticed, and bring the food to her father. She also snuck into the kitchen, stole potato peels, and warmed them in the barracks on a pot bellied stove.
In the winter of 1944, the family was sent by train to Theresienstadt concentration camp in German occupied Czechoslovakia. They were put in an unheated cattle car without water, food, or a toilet. Irma brought a portable toilet that belonged to Ruth; everyone used it and emptied it out between the cracks. When they arrived at the camp, the soldiers commanded everyone to hand over their valuables and Max and Irma relinquished their gold coins. Ruth and Irma, along with fifty to sixty women, had to be deloused and take showers while guarded by male Nazi soldiers. Ruth was separated from her parents and put into a children’s home. Irma worked in a glimmer factory, separating the mineral mica into flakes with a knife, and cleaned house for a Nazi officer. The officer told her to not volunteer to be sent anywhere else. She visited Ruth daily after work. During one prisoner count, Ruth had to stand outside in the cold of winter for six hours. German shepherd dogs, restrained on leashes, barked at the prisoners. On September 28, 1944, Max was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. A prisoner, with the initials RMG, drew a pencil portrait of Ruth in January 1945. Russians forces liberated the camp on May 9, 1945. The soldiers threw oranges and candy bars to the former inmates. Heated cattle cars with facilities transported them to a convent near Pilsen. An unknown woman told Irma that Max had been killed trying to escape Auschwitz.
The family had promised to meet at their Amsterdam apartment after the war. When Irma and Ruth returned, they found Max sitting on the couch. The apartment was just as they had left it; food in the refrigerator and moldy butter on the kitchen table. They learned that Roberta had died in Westerbork or Bergen Belsen and that Irma’s brother Gottfried also had perished. Herta and her husband sent food and personal items and procured US visas for the family. Once Max and Irma regained their health, they started working, sold their belongings, and bought passage to the United States. They left Gothenberg, Sweden, on the MS Gripsholm and arrived in New York City on March 10, 1946. Max died of cancer on August 26, 1947, at age 49. Irma started an interior decorating service with her sister in Detroit. She remarried Morritz Katzman. In 1959, Ruth married Paul Levie who had lived as a hidden child in France during the war. The couple had 2 sons. Irma died on December 9, 2005, in New York City,
Paul Solomon Levie was born in Saarweilingen, Germany, on August 24, 1928, to Orthodox Jewish parents, Wladimar and Anna. He had a brother John. His father was also born in Saarweilingen where he worked in the animal trade. His mother, Anna Kahn, was born in Ilversheim. Paul and his parents were deported from Germany in 1941 to Gurs concentration camp in France. After six months, Paul was sent by the Quakers to the children's home in Aspet, France, where he remained for two years. He was given false papers in the name Paul Rudefleuve. He was later sent to Beaulieu (Moissac), France, and lived in different hiding places, including work camps in Toulouse. He was taken in by a man named Beppman who gave him a place to live in the children's home he supervised. When there was word that the Germans were plannig to round up Jews for deportation, Paul and the others were sent to a farm in the country to pick grapes. Paul remained in that area until the end of the war.
Werner Löwenhardt (1919-2006) was born in Dortmund, Germany to Adolf (1883-1944) and Julia (nee ten Brink, 1890-1944) Löwenhardt. He had one older brother, Heinz (1913-1989). Adolf’s large extended family also lived in Dortmund, while Julia’s family lived in the Netherlands. Adolf and his eight brothers served for Germany in World War I, and after being wounded, he was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class for his distinguished service as a medic. Adolf was a butcher in Dortmund, and while he was serving in the war, Julia ran the shop and took care of Heinz. Following World War I, Dortmund was occupied by French forces until 1927. Both Heinz and Werner attended the public elementary school across the street from their home. After primary school, both brothers attended the Hindenburg Gymnasium, a local secondary school that included the study of French, Latin, Greek, and English.
On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg. Under Hitler, authorities quickly began suppressing the rights and personal freedoms of Jews, and boycotting their businesses. In March, the boycott of Jewish businesses reached Dortmund. By August, Adolf and Julia were forced to sell their butcher shop to a non-Jew. Adolf was able to continue working as a meat distributor in the city’s slaughterhouse. Despite the increasing antisemitism in Dortmund, Werner’s family was never personally attacked.
Like his father, Heinz was apprenticing to become a butcher, which he fully qualified for in April 1935. Antisemitism and restrictions continued to grow, and that September, the Nazis announced the Nuremberg laws, which excluded Jews from citizenship and prohibited them from marrying or having relations with non-Jews. Heinz moved to Enschede, Netherlands, where he worked in the Jewish butcher shop run by an aunt and uncle. Shortly afterwards, Werner wrote to the same aunt, asking if he could work for her as a draftsman. On November 2, 1935, Werner joined his brother, aunt, and uncle in Enschede, a town located close to the German border. He soon moved out on his own, and found work with the lithography and printing company, C. Kappers while working on his own independent projects. In 1936, Werner began taking an evening course at the local craft school and took lessons from a painter, Gerard van Haeften.
Adolf and Julia left Germany in the summer of 1936, settling in Goor, Netherlands. They joined their sons in Enschede in 1938. Enschede had a well-organized Jewish community of 1400 when Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. Under German occupation, the Netherlands became subject to the Nuremburg laws; restrictions continued to tighten, and antisemitism grew. In March 1941, Werner was required to register as a Jew with the city administration. That same year, the German authorities began forcing Jewish men into labor camps, and in April 1942, Dutch Jews were required to start wearing a yellow Star of David. Heinz and his fiancée went into hiding in Almelo, a town about 30 kilometers from Enschede, where they remained for the duration of the war. In August 1942, Adolf and Werner were imprisoned in ‘t Schut labor camp, where they had to do heavy earth work. On October 3, the laborers of ‘t Schut were transferred to Westerbork transit camp. Although Julia had the opportunity to go into hiding, she chose to reunite with Adolf and Werner, and they were later joined by much of their extended family. In Westerbork, Werner met siblings Lilo and Paul Hirsch, his future wife and brother-in-law.
At the time, Westerbork was under the authority of a German commandant, but effectively run and supplied by the Jewish Community. Consequently, the living conditions were better than many other camps. They had schools, medical care, and some cultural outlets such as a theater and an orchestra. Inmates could occasionally purchase small supplies from the camp canteen, but extra food was not available. The names for the weekly deportation lists were selected at random, but those with official positions in the camp’s administration, such as Werner, were somewhat protected. Using his art skills, Werner got a job as one of four men in the commandant’s statistics office, where he drew statistical charts and figures. In 1944, Werner created a logo for Westerbork’s industrial department, which the German administration used for a new camp currency. He was given a bicycle and a pass to leave the camp to complete drawings of the local area and of the field service. Werner met and learned from other artists and photographers interned in Westerbork.
While Werner’s position in the commandant’s office kept him off the deportation lists, the safety did not extend to the rest of his family. On April 21, 1943, Adolf and Julia were deported on transport XXIV.1 to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. A few months later, a group of young people, including Werner, was given the option to join their parents. Werner chose to stay in Westerbork. Adolf and Julia were imprisoned in Theresienstadt until October 9, 1944, when they were both deported on transport Ep to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center in Poland. They were both killed upon arrival.
In early April 1945, the Germans abandoned Westerbork ahead of the arrival of Allied forces. Werner was among 876 inmates liberated by the Canadian army on April 12, 1945. The Dutch Military Authority took charge of the camp, and the prisoners were forced to remain there for a few more months. Germany surrendered to the Allies on May 7, 1945. Werner was finally released from Westerbork on June 30, and returned immediately to his home in Enschede. After the war, he settled in Amsterdam, started his own advertising studio, and founded an advertising archive. Werner married Lilo Hirsch (1923-2012) in 1947 and they had a daughter, Anita, who would later become chairwoman of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee.
- Topical Term
Child concentration camp inmates--Biography.
Holocaust survivors--United States--Biography.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Netherlands--Amsterdam--Personal narratives.
Jewish children in the Holocaust--Netherlands--Biography.
Concentration camps--Economic aspects.
- Geographic Name
- Corporate Name
Westerbork (Concentration camp)
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- The Westerbork voucher was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Ruth Levie.
- Funding Note
- The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
- Conditions on Access
- No restrictions on access
- Conditions on Use
- No restrictions on use
Record last modified: 2020-06-30 09:25:24
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