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Straight razor with an offwhite plastic handle used by a Polish Jewish refugee conscripted as a shoemaker by the Soviet Army

Object | Accession Number: 2004.523.5

Straight razor with a plastic handle used by Simon Gelbart, who was conscripted into the Soviet Army from 1943-1945 because of his shoemaking skills. In January 1940, after the Germans detained the family within a barbed wire enclosure for deportation from Kalisz, Poland, Simon realized he had forgotten his razor and whetstone. His 9 year son David snuck through the fence, into their boarded up house, and then back into the prison with the retrieved items. Simon was a master shoemaker and kept his shoemaking kit with him all through the war. After Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Simon kept moving his family, his wife, Sara, and sons David, 9, and Haim, 5, east to escape persecution. Soon after they reached Soviet territory, the family was arrested and sent to Siberian Labor Camp #70, where a daughter was born. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, they were released. Due to a bombing raid on their train, they were detained and that winter, the Soviets sent the family to Krotovka collective farm. Everything had been confiscated for the war effort and the farmers were Jew haters who would not help them. Haim died of starvation, but a devout Christian woman, Pashinka Bravina, took in David for 18 months. In 1943, Simon was forced to join the Red Army to repair shoes for the soldiers. He was stationed on the front lines and his family followed him until the war ended in May 1945. Simon was released from service in 1946 and the family returned to Łódź. Because of the vicious antisemitism there, Simon paid the underground to take them to west Germany where they were sent to Eschwege displaced persons camp. Denied permission to emigrate to Israel, the family went to the United States in 1951. Simon carried his shoemaking kit with him, but he never made shoes again.

use:  1928-1980
use: Soviet Union
use: Poland
use: United States
manufacture: Solingen (Germany)
Object Type
Razors (lcsh)
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of David Gelbart
Record last modified: 2022-08-30 12:27:14
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