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Dark blue paper covered suitcase used by a Jewish refugee

Object | Accession Number: 2004.286.2

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    Dark blue paper covered suitcase used by a Jewish refugee

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    Brief Narrative
    Dark blue suitcase used by Ernest Chambre, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. In 1933, Ernest, originally from Belgium, was a law student in Berlin when Hitler was appointed Chancellor. The persecution of Jews by the Nazi government caused him to flee to Belgium and then, in 1934/1935, to Palestine. Ernest left for Spain, presumably to get to the US, but was imprisoned in Miranda de Ebro internment camp. After his release, he returned to Palestine and married Ruth Elsoffer, a fellow refugee, in 1937. Ruth emigrated to the United States in 1946; Ernest arrived in October 1947.
    use:  1933-1947
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Elly Berkovits Gross
    lid, exterior, on square red sticker, preprinted, black ink : C
    exterior, lid, on green/white sticker, upper case preprinted, entries handwritten, mostly cursive, green and black ink : American Republics Line / MOORE-McCORMACK LINES, Inc. / PASSENGER Ernst Chambré / S.S. ______ (illegible] SAILING DATE ______________ / FROM ____________ PIER NO. ______ BOOKED TO ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬___________ / FULL ADDRESS R(?) / 295 S. Third [Bl]d Brooklyn TOURIST CABIN / BAGGAGE ROOM
    lid, exterior, on handmade label, handwritten, black ink : CAMPO de / concentración / MIRANDA de EBRO [FIELD / concentration]
    lid, exterior, on sticker, preprinted and handwritten, black ink : illegible text / Vapór NYASS (handwritten) / do passageiro Ernst Chambré (handwritten) [Steam / passenger]
    lid, exterior, sticker, preprinted and handwritten, mostly cursive, black ink : ROSENTOURS / American Service in Palestine / Class Cabin No. / Name Chambré S.S. Air Mari(?) / Date / From Haifa To New York / Haifa NEW-YORK / 1186 Broadway / Telephones: Murray Hill 7594 [names, places handwritten] / -7595
    exterior, base, right side, sticker, black ink : C
    exterior, base, right side, sticker on baggage tag, preprinted and handwritten, black ink : ROSEN TOURS / American Service in Palestine / Class Cabin No. / Name Chambré (handwritten) illegible text Mari(?) (handwritten) / Date / From Haifa (handwritten) To New York (handwritten) / Haifa NEW-YORK / 1186 Broadway / Telephones: Murray Hill 7594 - 7595
    exterior, base, left side, sticker, preprinted and handwritten, green and black ink : 659149G 659149G / UNITED STATES / CUSTOMS SERVICE / illegible (handwritten) / DATE / INSPECTOR
    Subject: Elly B. Gross
    Subject: Ernest Chambré
    Elly Berkovits was born on February 14, 1929, in Simleu-Silvaniei, Romania, to Eugene and Irina Farkas Berkovits. Eugene was born on December 12, 1905, in Sighet, to Mihaly and Elka Kisenick Berkovits. Irina was born November 21, 1906, in Marghita to Adalbert and Lina Friedman Farkas. She had two sisters, Matild, married to Armin Rosenfeld, Gizella, b. 1908, married to Adolf Fried, and a brother, Ludovic (Lajos), b. 1894, who married Rozalia Helperin and had two daughters, Violet, b. 1926, and Eva, b. 1927. Elly’s brother Adalbert was born March 16, 1939. Eugene owned a tailor shop. The family was Jewish Orthodox and kept a kosher house. Elly attended a Jewish school. In 1938, a Romanian military unit was assigned to Simleu-Silvaniei and two soldiers boarded with the family.
    In late 1939, the Folger family arrived from Poland following its invasion by Germany that September 1. The father told of the persecutions and deportations of Jews, but no one believed him. In July 1940, Eugene contracted typhus. The children were sent to their maternal grandmother in Marghita. On August 30, northern Transylvania was ceded to Hungary by the Second Vienna Award negotiated by Nazi Germany. In September, Elly watched Hungarian soldiers march past her grandmother’s house. Hungary joined the Axis in November 1940 and punitive racial laws, similar to Germany’s Nuremberg laws, were enacted. Upon her return home in December, Jewish children were prohibited from attending school with gentiles and Elly went to schools set up by the Jewish council.
    In June 1942, Eugene was drafted into a forced labor battalion and sent to the Russian front. Irina worked as a seamstress and Elly sometimes helped and learned to sew. They also sold geese. Irina rented rooms to two tenants, but as gentiles, they only paid half the rent. In early 1943, the family received their only letter from Eugene. In mid-March, Russian soldiers locked the trailer the laborers lived in and set it on fire; Eugene was killed. Some young men who escaped reported the event to others.
    German forces occupied Hungary on March 19, 1944. Jews had to wear yellow stars and were forbidden to travel. Beatings were common and deportation rumors circulated. Elly was shunned by her Christian friends. In April, Elly, her family, and the other Jews were forced from their homes. They had to march all day without food or water. That night, they arrived at the property of Cecilia Weinberger and slept in a shack, still without food or water. Irina and Elly turned over their jewelry to Hungarian government officials. The next morning, they marched three miles to the Cehei ghetto on the Klein brick factory grounds. They slept in a shed with no roof or intact walls. Elly worked in the kitchen peeling potatoes and was allowed food for her mother and brother.
    On May 26, the family was deported. They were strip searched, but Elly concealed a small, 2-inch pocket knife in her hand. Irina was allowed to take 8 boiled potatoes. They were herded onto a cattle car. It was standing room only and sealed, but Elly made air holes with her knife. There was one water and one waste bucket for the seven day ride. The next morning, the train stopped at Simleu-Silvaniei, but the train stayed sealed. People who died were rolled into the corners. A woman named Pery Adler gave birth to a baby boy. Three days later, the train stopped near a river and Elly was allowed to fill the bucket with muddy water.
    The train arrived at Auschwitz concentration camp on June 2. Men in striped rags jumped in. One whispered to Elly to say she was 18; another told her mother to give the baby to someone else, she was too young. The dead and sick, including Pery and the newborn, were thrown onto carts. Elly was sent to the right; Irina and Adalbert to the left. Elly was taken to a large room, told to strip, and her head was shaved. She showered and received a dress with a yellow cross on the back and clogs. Her prisoner number was A3725. Elly was taken to Birkenau, Lager C, Barrack 20. It was raining and the prisoners stood in water up to their knees. They were given food, but permitted only three swallows. The next morning, due to flooding, block elders selected prisoners from Barrack 20 for their barracks. Miri Laichman, Barrack 18 elder, selected Elly. Her cousins, Eva and Violet Farkas, were also in Barrack 18. Elly shared a bed with 14 others. During morning roll call, Elly passed out. Miri brought her inside and gave her a job cleaning the barracks chimney. This allowed her to avoid long roll calls and daily selections. The food had a bitter taste and Elly suspected it was poisoned. Walking was prohibited and water restricted. Prisoners were not allowed to walk to the latrine and there was one waste bucket in the block for 1000-1500 women. Elly had to walk to her job and she would bring water back. She often was sent to fetch dirty water and what passed for coffee and sometimes was able to take extra potato peels to share with her cousins.
    In August 1944, after spending twenty-hours standing naked for roll call, Elly was selected to work and taken to Lager B. She thought it was nice; music played and there were no guards. Elly could see smoke behind the blanket covered fence and smell burning rubber. Prisoners had to strip and stand naked without food until night. They were given uniform tops, and Elly also received bottoms. She was hit by an angry prisoner which broke her teeth. Everyone slept on the floor. The next day, they were disinfected, then transported by train to the Volkswagen factory in Fallersleben, Germany. Housing was clean, with cold and hot water, and they were given coffee, bread, a large plate of beets, and beet soup daily. Elly worked the night shift painting missile parts. She wore a mask, robe, and gloves for protection from the lead paint, but had bleeding gums, a chronic cough, and fever. A German supervisor brought her saltwater to rinse her mouth. She told the head of her block that she could not work and was assigned to clean the living quarters.
    Around April 10, 1945, the camp was evacuated. Prisoners were sent to Salzwedel forced labor camp, a subcamp of Neuengamme. Elly, Eva, and Violet were reunited. There was no work and little food. The camp was liberated on April 14 by the US 84th Infantry. The women were taken to an armory, fed, registered, and put on a displaced persons list. In June, Bandi Hartstein, Irina’s cousin, saw their names and the girls went to stay with him in a dp camp in Hillersleben, Germany. In July, after the arrival of Romanian officials, they boarded a train for Romania. On board, Russian soldiers attacked Elly and beat her, but let her go. On August 11, she arrived in Simleu-Silvaniei. She ran home to find her family, but found strangers there. They threatened her and she spent the night with a Christian neighbor. A city organization moved the strangers out and Elly moved back into her home. She found some furniture and her father’s sewing machine stored nearby.
    She learned from neighbors that her relatives had been murdered. She took the train to her grandmother’s house in Marghita where Violet and Eva were staying. Their parents had been killed in Auschwitz on May 24, 1944. Elly's maternal aunt, Mathild, and her husband were killed in Bergen Belsen. Her mother's other siser and family also perished in the camps. Aladar Grosz, a cousin of Eva and Violet, visited, and the three girls went to live with him in Varviz, where there was food because the family lived on a farm. Eva met Aladar’s brother, Erno, who had been in a forced labor camp for over three years, then survived a death march to Gunskirchen. Elly and Erno married on June 27, 1946, and had 2 children. They left Romania for the US in March 1966. They Americanized their name to Gross. On a 1997 visit to Auschwitz, Elly was shocked to see visual evidence of what had happened to her mother and brother. A display on Auschwitz had a lifesize photo of people being sent directly from the trains to the gas chambers; Irina and Adalbert were in the photo. In 1998, Elly was the lead plaintiff in the class action restitution trial against Volkswagen in which the slave laborers sued for and were awarded monetary reparations. For years, Elly has shared her memories with school children and the public because she wants people to remember "how hate and prejudice cause destruction."
    Ernest Chambre was born on November 4, 1909, in Belgium. In 1922, he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in Germany. In 1933, Ernest was a law student in Berlin when Hitler was appointed Chancellor. By that spring, anti-Jewish legislation was in effect. By summer, the Nazi dictatorship was well established and all Jews had lost their civil rights. Before taking the bar exam, Ernest fled Berlin for Belgium to escape the Nazi regime.
    In 1934-1935, Ernest arrived in Palestine. He contracted malaria and, while wandering the streets of Tel Aviv, met Ruth Edith Elsoffer. She took Ernest in and cared for him. Ruth was born on February 18, 1911, in Giesen, Germany. The couple had known each other in Germany and even dated. Ruth, a medical student, fled Germany for Paris and then, Palestine, where she worked as a maid. The couple married in 1937.
    Ernest left for Spain and was arrested. He was taken to the Miranda de Ebro internment camp for foreign prisoners. He was stateless and forced to return to Palestine. Ruth had a cousin in the United States and, in 1946, she emigrated to New York. Ernest arrived on October 29, 1947, on the SS Marine Jumper. He became a citizen on April 7, 1953. Ruth died on February 17, 2004, at the age of 92. Ernest died on June 20, 1996, at 86 years old.

    Physical Details

    English Spanish
    Object Type
    Suitcases (aat)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, fiberboard suitcase covered with dark blue treated paper, 2 leather straps with 4 edge clamps, rounded metal bumpers nailed to the corners, and corroded silver colored hardware. Two back flap hinges attach the lid and base. The edges are trimmed with double stitched, light brown cardboard. There are 2 hasp locks, one broken, on the front of the lid and 2 keyhole lock plates on the base; inserted in the left plate is part of the broken lock hasp. A blue, imitation leather handle is attached to the center by D-rings inserted into strap loops. The interior is lined with yellow, green, and offwhite plaid paper that is torn and stained. Wooden supports are nailed along the interior joints of the lid and base. There is a large rounded metal rivet in the bottom center exterior. A tattered piece of offwhite cloth is nailed to the left edge of the base. There is a large, handmade paper address label on the lid and labels and stickers on the top and side exteriors.
    overall: Height: 7.375 inches (18.733 cm) | Width: 25.625 inches (65.088 cm) | Depth: 17.000 inches (43.18 cm)
    overall : fiberboard, paper, metal, wood, leather, imitation leather, adhesive tape, cloth

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The suitcase was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Elly Berkovits Gross, the neighbor of Ernest and Ruth Chambre.
    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:
    2023-02-23 16:49:28
    This page:

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