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Handmade prisoner badge worn by a Latvian Jewish concentration camp inmate

Object | Accession Number: 2005.567.3

Prisoner patch used by Elja Heifecs when he was imprisoned in Buchenwald concentration camp, Rehmsdorf section, in 1944. In July 1941, Germany invaded Latvia. A vicious pogrom was unleashed upon the Jews of Riga by German killing squads and roving gangs of Latvian fascists; thousands were murdered. In October, Elja, a musician and band leader, with his parents and brother, was forced into the ghetto. One day, his 22 year old brother, Liebel, was told to report to work at a factory and never returned. Over three days in December, the Germans, with Latvian support, rounded up and killed at least 26,000 Jews in the forests outside the town; Elja’s parents were murdered on December 8. In December 1943, as the Germans were preparing to destroy the ghetto, Elja was deported to Kaiserwald concentration camp, then to Muhlgraben, Stutthof, and in August 1944, to Buchenwald. He did hard labor in the rock mines, until one day a kapo found out that he could play the guitar and made him his servant. In April 1945, as Allied forces moved towards the camp, the prisoners were sent on a death march to Theresienstadt. The camp was liberated in May by the Soviet Army. Elja weighed 84 pounds and was sick with typhus and pneumonia. After he recovered, he returned to Riga, the only survivor of his extended family. He resumed his career as a musician, though he could no longer play the cello due to the severe damage to his hands from the hard labor.

use:  1944 August-1945 April
issue: Buchenwald (Concentration camp); Weimar (Thuringia, Germany)
Identifying Artifacts
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Samuel Heifetz
Record last modified: 2021-02-10 09:08:42
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