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Partially embroidered tablecloth made by a Belgian Jewish woman recovered postwar

Object | Accession Number: 2005.606.1

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    Partially embroidered tablecloth made by a Belgian Jewish woman recovered postwar


    Brief Narrative
    White tablecloth partially embroidered by Salomea Fejnman Poler circa 1940-41, in Anderlecht, Belgium, and recovered by David Poler, her father-in-law, after the war. The persecution of Jewish persons in Belgium by German authorities after the May 1940 invasion, made it extremely difficult for Salomea, 33, to care for her five children, ages ten to two: Jeannine, Lilian, Rosette, Fanny, and Abraham. Salomea sought safe hiding place for them, and Abraham was placed with Catholic priests and the girls in a convent. In September 1942, Salomea was sent to Mechelen (Malines) transit camp and then deported to Auschwitz concentration camp, where she was killed. The five children, and their paternal grandparents, who living in hiding in a hospital, survived the war. Salomea’s eight siblings in Poland perished. After the war ended in May 1945, the children lived in Jewish orphanages until joining their father in Venezuela.
    creation:  1940-1941
    creation: Anderlecht (Belgium)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Jeannine Poler, Lilian Poler Breziner, Rosette Poler de Szajnert, and Fanny Poler de Neuberger
    Artisan: Salomea Poler
    Subject: Salomea Poler
    Salomea Fejnman was born on January 17, 1908, in Warsaw, Poland. Her mother was Frimet Fejnman. Salomea had eight sisters. She married Zelik Poler, who was born on October 19, 1908, in Warsaw. Zelik had one brother and two sisters. Salomea and Zelik lived in Belgium, first in Forest, then in Anderlecht in Brussels. Zelik’s family also lived in Belgium, while Salomea’s family remained in Warsaw. Zelik was a leather manufacturer. Salomea helped with Zelik’s business and worked as a seamstress. The couple had five children: Fanny, born November 5, 1930, Rosette, born February 8, 1932, Abraham, born November 4, 1933, Jeannine, born June 6, 1936, and Lilia, born July 7, 1938. Zelik’s parents were religious and the family celebrated Jewish holidays. In 1938 or 1939, Zelik left Poland for Venezuela with his brother and brother-in-law. He did not contact Salomea again and did not send her money. Salomea worked as a seamstress to support her children, but struggled financially.

    Germany invaded Belgium on May 10, 1940. The Convent of les Soeurs du Saint Saveur, a block away from Salomea’s home, provided aid to impoverished people in the area. When Lilia became ill, the nuns visited and brought her medicine and a doll. They offered to hide Lilia in the convent. Salomea agreed, but only if they would hide all of her children. When the Germans began rounding up Jews, Salomea brought her children to the convent. Abraham was sent to live with the priests and Fanny, Rosette, Jeannine, and Lilia stayed in the convent. The children used the false name Polet. Abraham was called Albert, and Lilia was called Lilian. Salomea was able to visit her children occasionally, but it became too dangerous and the nuns decided to stop letting her in. Salomea climbed up a ladder and scaled the roof, trying to get inside, but she was caught. She was arrested and sent to Mechelen (Malines) transit camp. On September 26, 1942, Salomea was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on Transport XI. She was killed in the gas chambers upon arrival on September 28.

    Salomea’s daughters remained in the convent. They took classes in spelling and counting. The girls were baptized and learned Catholic prayers. Lilia was very close to the Mother Superior, who spoiled her. Abraham came to the convent daily to pick up food that the nuns made for the priests. On his way there, he heard someone say that something was going to happen. Jeannine and Lilia saw Gestapo officers and a man called Gros Jacques in the convent, talking to the Mother Superior. They were there to take all fifteen hidden Jewish children, and were told to come back the next day. The resistance heard about the incident and came in the middle of the night, pretending to be Germans. They tied up the nuns, cut the phone lines, and vandalized the convent, making it look like a German raid. They took the children to another hiding place for the night. The next day, the sisters were separated and taken to new hiding places. Fanny went to stay with their paternal grandparents, who were hiding in a hospital. Rosette, Jeannine, and Lilia were moved between several different convents and homes in Belgium, including Machelen and Uccle. The sisters were mistreated in several of the hiding places. Allied forces liberated Belgium in September 1944. The Poler children were reunited and lived in Jewish orphanages in Antwerp and Brussels. They resumed contact with their paternal grandparents. Salomea’s eight sisters, and presumably their families, all perished in the Holocaust. In 1946, Zelik returned to Belgium for his children. He took Fanny and Abraham back to Venezuela with him. Rosette, Jeanine and Lilia remained in Belgium until 1949, when they immigrated to Venezuela. Abraham changed his name to Alberto and Lilia to Lilian. Fanny and Alberto settled in Venezuela, Jeannine in Curacao, and Lilian and Rosette in the United States. Salomea’s husband Zelik, age 73, died on April 20, 1982, in Dade, Florida. Her son Alberto died in 1992.

    Physical Details

    Furnishings and Furniture
    Household linens
    Object Type
    Tablecloths (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Square, lightweight, white cotton table covering, partially embroidered over a blue inked pattern in satin stitch, stem stitch, and French knots in light purple, gold, white, and brown satin floss. Embroidered in white in the center is a stylized S. Each opposing corner has the same scene. Two corners depict a man and a woman holding hands and leaning in for a kiss. The man wears a purple stitched Pierrot harlequin costume with a ruffled collar and polka dots; the woman, a gold stitched ballerina costume. The other two corners have 2 figures in similar costumes, but different poses. The man plays a guitar and is stitched in gold; the woman is sniffing a flower bouquet and is not embroidered. A leafy vine winds around the border of the cloth, with an embroidered trefoil flower in each corner. Sewn around the border is a 2 inch strip of drawn thread whitework embroidery with a floral pattern and a scalloped edge.
    overall: Height: 32.750 inches (83.185 cm)
    overall : cotton, thread, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The tablecloth was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2005 by Jeannine Poler, Lilian Poler Breziner, Rosette Poler de Szajnert, and Fanny Poler de Neuberger, the children of Salomea Poler.
    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 21:57:23
    This page:

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