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Pin issued to a camp survivor with Buchenwald memorial Bell Tower and flags

Object | Accession Number: 2005.567.5

Commemorative pin issued to Elja Heifecs, a former inmate of Buchenwald concentration camp, by the GDR (German Democratic Republic / East Germany) in 1969 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945. The pin is decorated with the memorial Bell Tower built on the site in 1958 by East Germany and the flags of the eighteen countries whose citizens were imprisoned and killed there during the Holocaust. In July 1941, Germany declared war on the Soviet Union and invaded Latvia which had been annexed by the Soviets in 1940. A vicious pogrom was unleashed upon the Jews of Riga by German killing squads and roving gangs of Latvian fascists. In October, Elja and his family were forced into the ghetto. His 22 year old brother 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. After Elja recovered from typhus and severe malnutrition, 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.

commemoration:  1945 April 11
received:  1969
issue: Buchenwald (Concentration camp); Weimar (Thuringia, Germany)
Pins (Jewelry)
Object Type
Lapel pins (aat)
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Samuel Heifetz
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 18:29:58
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