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Blue AJDC patch worn by a former concentration camp inmate and refugee aid worker

Object | Accession Number: 2005.579.12

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    Blue AJDC patch worn by a former concentration camp inmate and refugee aid worker
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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) patch worn by aid worker Hans Finke when he worked for relief organization after the end of World War II. He was at Bergen-Belsen when it was liberated by the British Army on April 15, 1945. An electrician by trade, he began working for the British and then various aid groups after it became a displaced persons camp. Hans, his parents and his sister Ursula lived in Berlin during the rise of the Nazi dictatorship in 1933 with its aggressive anti-Jewish policies. In February 1943, Hans, 23, was a forced laborer for Siemens when he was hospitalized with appendicitis. On February 29, his parents were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz. On March 8, the Gestapo raided the hospital and arrested staff and patients. Hans was transported to Buna-Monowitz concentration camp, and later sent to Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Flossenberg, and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. Hans was in Bergen-Belsen when it was liberated.in April 1945. His parents were murdered in Auschwitz, but his sister Ursula survived in hiding. Bergen-Belsen became a displaced persons camp and Hans began working for the British and then various aid groups. He met Alice Redlich, who had left Berlin for England in 1938 to continue her nurses's training. She volunteered with the Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad and, in September 1946, left for the Bergen-Belsen DP camp in Germany. Her family was murdered in Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943. Alice and Hans married on June 20, 1948, in the DP camp. The couple, with Alice pregnant with their first child, immigrated to the United States on August 29, 1949.
    Date
    use:  1947 July-1949 August
    emigration:  1949 August 26
    Geography
    use: DP-Camp Bergen-Belsen; Belsen (Bergen, Celle, Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Alice Fink
    Contributor
    Subject: Alice Fink
    Subject: John Fink
    Biography
    Alice Redlich was born August 12, 1920, in Berlin, Germany, to Georg and Ella Messer Redlich. Georg, born on August 8, 1884, was a salesman and World War I veteran from Schlabendorf, Germany. Ella was born on April 9, 1893, in Berlin. Alice's brother Heinz Alfred was born on June 9, 1923. The family considered themselves Germans who were Jewish. They celebrated high holidays, irregularly attended synagogue, and did not keep a kosher house. The children went to public schools. Alice attended Hebrew school three times per week and also belonged to a German Jewish youth group that was more social than religious. In 1932, Georg became formally affiliated with the Jewish Community, reporting official Jewish deaths to the religious and civil authorities. In 1932, Georg became formally affiliated with the Jewish Community, reporting official Jewish deaths to the religious and civil authorities.

    Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor on January 30, 1933, led to increasingly severe restrictions on Jews. The 1935 Nuremberg Laws defined Jews by race and mandated the total separation of Aryans and non-Aryans. Due to the high number of Jewish students in her school, Alice did not immediately feel the increasing anti-Semitism. However, in response to the encroaching restrictions, her father removed her from school in 1935. She celebrated her Bat Mitzvah in 1936. Her only experience of persecution was that by 1937, she was not allowed to attend German cultural events. In 1937, Alice enrolled in a vocational school and trained as an infant nurse in a children’s home. She completed her training in 1938, and with the assistance of a cousin living in England, was accepted into the nursing program at Miller General Hospital, a private hospital in Southeast London. In the months prior to her departure, she learned English and worked for a family taking care of their infant son.

    On November 11, 1938, Alice left Germany from Bremerhaven on a refugee ship and arrived in London on November 14. Unbeknownst to her, Georg was briefly arrested during the Kristallnacht pogrom on November 9 and 10. At the outbreak of war on September 1, 1939, Britain considered all Germans over the age of 16 enemy aliens. Alice was called before a special tribunal which recognized her as a refugee and she was allowed to continue her studies. Communication with her family was difficult. A letter with a 25 word maximum, sent through the Red Cross, could take up to three months to reach home. The family had a relative in Sweden; Alice wrote her and she relayed the letters to Germany. The air raids over London began in 1940, and Alice was evacuated to the countryside. She helped care for the German children evacuated during Operation Pied Piper, in which the British government evacuated over 500,000 children from vulnerable target areas to the country. In the summer of 1942, Alice first learned of the atrocities being committed against Jews in Europe. She knew of a small community of Orthodox Jews in London and went to them for assistance in bringing her family to England, but no one could help.

    On November 19, 1942, Alice became a registered state nurse and worked various staff jobs. She volunteered with the Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad and, in September 1946, as part of the Team 110 Jewish Relief Unit, she left for Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp in Germany. Alice cared for the children and young women, teaching skills such as basic hygiene and health. She put an ad in the Jewish Community newsletter to try and find out what happened to her family. With the help of a cousin who saw the ad and her family’s former landlord, Alice learned that her father, mother, and brother were deported to Auschwitz and murdered.

    At the DP camp, Alice met Hans Finke, born in Berlin on August 12, 1920. He was a former inmate at Bergen-Belsen, now working as an electrician for the British Army. In 1947, the couple got engaged. Alice returned to England to become a British national. She returned to Bergen-Belsen and the couple married on June 20, 1948. Hans’s sister, his only surviving family member, was a seamstress. She made the bride’s dress and attended the wedding. Alice became pregnant and the couple did not want to have their child born on German soil. They immigrated by plane to the United States, arriving in Chicago on September 1, 1949; their daughter was born soon after. It was not until this time that she found out the exact details of her family’s deaths from the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany. Georg was deported to Auschwitz on October 26, 1942. In 1941, her maternal grandmother, Emma, was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp. Her mother Ella was forced into labor at the Siemens electrical and engineering company, arrested at the factory, and deported to Auschwitz on March 8, 1943. Heinz, 20, was studying at the Neuendorf hachshara, a Zionist agricultural school which prepared students to emigrate to Palestine. On April 7, the Germans told the group of 60 youths and 30 older residents to prepare for deportation. The next day they were taken to Berlin and on April 19, 1943, deported to Auschwitz where all were murdered.

    Hans changed his name to John and they changed their surname to Fink. The couple had three more children. John became known in the local Jewish community as a tireless crusader for Holocaust related concerns. Both he and Alice were dedicated to educating future generations and talked and wrote about their own experiences. John, 81, passed away in 2000.
    Hans Finke was born on August 12, 1920, in Berlin, Germany. His father, Julius Finke (1882-1943), was a merchant from Petrzkowitz, Poland (Pietrzkowice, Poland); his mother died when he was an infant. His father married Ella in 1922. Hans’s half-sister, Ursula, was born on June 30, 1923. They were not a strictly observant Jewish family though they attended a liberal synagogue and participated in the Jewish community. Julius owned a dry goods store outside of Berlin, but in 1923 he lost the store due to poor economic conditions. The family moved to Berlin where Julius and Ella worked various jobs and rented out rooms. Hans attended public school and went to Hebrew school once a week.

    On January 30, 1933, Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany. By summer, increasingly anti-Semitic policies severely restricted the civil rights and actions of German Jews. Hans left the German public school and attended a Jewish school. In 1934, he left school and began a four year apprenticeship as an electrician with a Jewish contractor. After the Nuremberg Laws were instituted in 1935, establishing legal persecution of Jews along racial lines, Hans' Jewish boss fled Germany. Hans found a job with a small company, and in 1938, took his journeyman’s exam, but as a Jew, he did not receive his results or his certification. The same year, his family was forcibly removed from their home and relocated to a flat in one of the poorest sections of Berlin. The overcrowded building was under constant Nazi guard. His parents were forced into factory work and his sister worked as a seamstress. Hans began working for the Alfred Skaruppe Co., a private contracting firm owned by non-Nazis, and he worked for the Air Ministry from 1938-1941. Food was scarce and Jews were unable to purchase many goods. On weekends, Hans would remove his Star of David armband, an action punishable by death, and walk to the country. A sympathetic farmer provided him with 100 pound sacks of potatoes, which he would carry home.

    By 1941, Jews could no longer work for privately owned businesses. Hans lost his job and was assigned to work for Siemens, an electrical company. At the end of February 1943, he was admitted to a Jewish hospital with appendicitis. While there, he heard that his parents were arrested during a mass round up on February 29 and transported to Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland. The family’s apartment was sealed and Ursula went into hiding with a Jewish Palestinian couple. On March 8, the Gestapo stormed the hospital, and arrested staff and patients, including Hans. Hans was part of the 36 East transport that left Berlin on March 12, 1943. They were marched to the railroad station and loaded into cattle cars, arriving the next day in Buna-Monowitz concentration camp, the largest subcamp of Auschwitz. Hans was beaten, stripped, shaved, and washed in kerosene. The following morning they were given uniforms and tattooed with identification numbers. The camp had little food and no sanitation and Hans, still recovering from surgery, was forced to carry cement and iron bars. After six weeks, tradesmen were ordered to report and Hans was sent to construct a factory for I.G. Farben Co. On September 13, the United States bombed the construction site as Hans and his fellow workers hid in the basement. The next day they discovered that the plant had been destroyed. The Germans ordered them to begin rebuilding.

    In early 1945, Russian forces were approaching the camp and, on January 17, the prisoners were told to take extra blankets and rations and were forced to march to Gleiwitz, Germany (now Gliwice, Poland). Many prisoners were killed and SS guards deserted their posts. The transport group stayed in Gleiwitz for a few days before being marched to the train station and loaded into open freight cars without food or water. When the train would stop, prisoners would jump to the ground and start eating snow to appease their thirst and hunger. During stops at civilian platforms, the sick and dying were tossed out of the cars and shot by the guards. In Czechoslovakia, civilians threw food into the train cars for the prisoners. The transport traveled through many areas looking for a place to unload, but all of the camps were overcrowded. They reached Berlin on January 28, and the inmates were unloaded at Sachsenhausen concentration camp. On February 2, they were transported to Flossenberg concentration camp, and on March 10, they arrived at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Hans was put to work as an electrician. His position allowed him access to the guards’ quarters and he took this opportunity to steal provisions. He even ate the food left out for their dogs. By April, typhus was rampant, there was no food, and order in the camp was breaking down. By April 13, the Germans were gone. The British Army of the Rhine (2nd) liberated Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945. Hans weighed eighty pounds at liberation.

    Hans helped the British restore power to Bergen-Belsen, now a displaced persons camp, and in October he returned to Berlin to find his sister. Ursula lived in hiding throughout the war, but was recognized by a Jew working for the Gestapo while standing on a train platform. To avoid arrest, she jumped in front of a train, shattering her leg. She was arrested and kept shackled to a bed in the Jewish hospital for eight months, until liberation. Hans also was given his journeyman’s electrician exam results and certificate.

    He returned to Bergen-Belsen and worked for the British Army until 1947, and then for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, in the Warburg-Children’s Home. He met Alice Redlich, a German Jewish nurse, who had come from England to work for the Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad. They married in Bergen-Belsen on June 20, 1948. With Alice pregnant with their first child, the couple immigrated to the United States on August 26, 1949. They settled in Chicago where John had relatives. Soon after, the first of their four children was born. Hans changed his name to John. They changed their surname to Fink and became citizens in 1955. John became known in the local Jewish community as a tireless crusader for Holocaust related concerns. He died on December 20, 2000, at the age of 81.

    Physical Details

    Language
    English
    Classification
    Identifying Artifacts
    Category
    Badges
    Object Type
    Badges (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Worn, rectangular, arched blue cloth bar patch sewn to blue and white cloth backing with a 4 letter acronym embroidered in white thread across the center and the border embroidered in blue thread.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 1.250 inches (3.175 cm) | Width: 4.000 inches (10.16 cm)
    Materials
    overall : cloth, thread
    Inscription
    front, embroidered, white thread : AJDC [American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee]

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The AJDC badge was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2005 by Alice Fink, the wife of John Fink.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-24 13:46:48
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn523762

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