Dark blue paper covered suitcase used by a Jewish refugee
- Object Type
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Elly Berkovits Gross
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.
Record last modified: 2021-02-10 09:13:38
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn523824
Also in Ernest and Ruth Chambre collection
The collection consists of a suitcase, a book, correspondence, documents, and photographs relating to the experiences of Ernest Chambre before the Holocaust in Germany, Belgium, and Palestine, during the Holocaust in Miranda del Ebro internment camp in Spain, and of both Ernest and his wife, Ruth, in Palestine and then the United States following their emigration in 1946-1947. Some of these materials may be combined into a single collection in the future.
The Chambré and Elsoffer families papers consist of correspondence, documents, and photographs that recount the history of the Chambré and Elsoffer families in and around Giessen, Germany, including their lives prior to the rise of the Nazis, and their experiences of persecution by the Nazis and resulting emigration from Germany. Much of the collection focuses on the experiences of the family of Ernest Chambré in exile in Belgium, their arrest and deportation following the German invasion of that country, and the experiences of Ernest Chambré as he sought to escape, and was imprisoned repeatedly in Belgium, France, and Spain, prior to his release in 1943 and immigration first to Palestine, and then the United States. Included is extensive document of Ernest Chambré’s efforts to obtain restitution following the war, and his contacts with a network of family members and friends as he sought to learn the fate of his immediate family, re-establish his life, and immigrate to the United States. Also documented are the experiences of sisters Ruth and Louise (Luise) Elsoffer, including their flight to France in the mid-1930s, their unsuccessful attempts to help their parents emigrate from Germany after 1938, Ruth’s immigration to Palestine in the late 1930s, and their subsequent immigration to the United States. A small collection of papers and photographs from Louise’s husband, Ernest Kamins (Ernst Kaminski), a physician originally from Bochum, Germany, who fled to the United States in the 1930s, is also included. The Chambré collection is grouped according to the following family members, and then within each one, in sub-series by document type: Ernest Chambré and family: • Documents that can help establish biographical data about Chambré and his family, such as birth and marriage certificates, educational records, genealogies and immigration documents, are included in the “Biographical” sub-series. • The sub-series titled “Flight and Emigration” groups together documents that relate the experiences of Ernest Chambré and his family in exile, including their years in exile in Belgium, the period when Ernest was living in France, both in the underground and as a prisoner, his imprisonment in Spain, and his life in Palestine prior to immigration to the United States. A significant part of this sub-series are the correspondence received by Chambré during his internment at the Miranda de Ebro concentration camp in Spain, and his correspondence with Belgian diplomatic authorities in Spain, Portugal, and Palestine following his release, when he was attempting to either join the Belgian army in exile or return to that country after its liberation. Also included are the few letters Chambré received from his parents after his imprisonment and prior to their deportation, as well as those he wrote for them but which were never received. • The “Correspondence” subseries dates primarily from the period after Ernest’s liberation in 1943, and relates to his contacts with various family members throughout Europe, the United States, and South America, with whom he sought to re-establish contact, as well as friends and other contacts in Belgium who had aided his family prior to their deportation. Files of note include correspondence with his uncle and aunt, Ernest and Minna Chambré, in San Jose, California, who sought to obtain his release from Miranda de Ebro, and provided affidavits for his immigration to the United States; Regine Hahn, his sister Henriette’s mother-in-law who survived the war in hiding in Belgium, and who moved to Portugal following the war; Otto Heymann, a friend in Brussels who was interned with Ernest at St. Cyprien; Mrs. A. Pourbaix, a widow in Carnières, Belgium who had been a friend of Ernest’s family, and provided shelter to Regine Hahn during the German occupation; and Julius Katten, a cousin living in London, with whom he shared the most detailed accounts of his imprisonment and escapes between 1940 and 1943. Also included is Ernest’s correspondence during the post-war years with contacts in his home town of Lich, especially as Ernest’s interest in the Jewish history of this town and his family’s genealogy increased. • Photographs: The photographs in this sub-series include pre-war photographs of the Chambré family, childhood photographs of Ernest, as well as post-immigration photographs with his wife, Ruth, and various unidentified friends or relatives in the United States. Also included is an album of family photographs, dating from the 1910s or 1920s. • Restitution: This sub-series focuses on several aspects of restitution that Ernst pursued. A folder on funds recovered from Spain documents the money that was confiscated from Ernest while imprisoned in Spain, and how he sought to recover those funds in the years following his release. After the war, and his immigration to the United States, Ernest pursued two different paths of restitution, which are documented in this series. He tried to obtain compensation from Belgian authorities and with the help of victim advocacy groups, for the family’s property at their home in Morlanwelz, which was seized by the German occupation forces after the Chambré family had been deported to the camps in 1942. Chambré also pursued compensation through the West German Bundesentschädigunggesetz (BEG) in the 1950s and early 1960s, for losses incurred by the forced bankruptcy of the family’s business in Lich, by the damages caused to the health of Max Chambré by his beating at the hands of Nazis in Lich in 1933, for damages to Chambré’s own health due to beatings he endured while interned at camps in France, for his father’s life insurance policy, and for family belongings, such as collections of porcelain and postage stamps. According to the documentation here, it appears that Chambré’s claims were mostly denied, or in some cases were approved at amounts much lower than he felt were just. One subset of the German claims is a file of correspondence with an attorney in Paris, Mathieu Muller, documenting the efforts of Chambré to recover a group of documents he had left in safekeeping with a family in Marseille, while he was fleeing the Nazis in 1942, and which were necessary to support his German claims, but which he was never able to obtain. Elsoffer family papers: These cover the emigration experiences of Ruth Elsoffer Chambré and her sister, Luise Elsoffer, later known as Louise Kamins Scheer, but also contain pre-war documents and photographs related to their parents and stepmother, and other relatives. • Biographical: As with the Chambré biographical documents, these also consist primarily of materials that establish biographical data about the lives of Ruth and Luise Elsoffer and their family, such as birth and marriage certificates, educational records, immigration documents, and in the post-war period, contacts with tracing services trying to determine the fate of their parents. • Flight and emigration: This sub-series consists primarily of immigration and travel documents, as well as some ephemeral documents dating from the period when the sisters lived in either France or Palestine, prior to arrival in the United States. • Correspondence: This sub-series consists primarily of correspondence with immediate family members, including letters between Ruth and Louise (Lulu), letters from Ruth to her aunt and uncle, Eugen and Margot Rothenberger, during the period when they lived in France and Ruth was living and working on a hachscharah in southern France; as well as correspondence with family members and friends seeking help in trying to get her parents out of Germany after 1938. The bulk of these materials relate to the efforts of Ruth, living in Palestine, and her sister, Louise, living in France, to help their parents escape Germany in the months after Kristallnacht. Included is extensive correspondence from Hugo and Johanna Elsoffer to Ruth, from 1938 up until the time when they were sent on a transport to the east in September 1942. Most of the correspondence reflects the desperation of the Elsoffers as they sought to leave Germany after Hugo’s imprisonment following Kristallnacht. There are related letters from Louise to Ruth, and between Ruth and others seeking help to get her parents out of Germany (see files on Max and Jenny Schoenthal, the cousin and aunt of Ruth, living in London; Hugo and Johanna Cohen, her aunt and uncle in Amsterdam; and Moritz Rokowsky, of Basel, to whom she was advised to turn for help). Correspondence from Louise to Ruth also reflects her own journey from France to the United States, by way of South America, in 1940-1941. • Photographs: This sub-series contains images of Ruth and Louise’s family in the pre-war years, albums assembled by Ruth during her adolescent and young adult years in Germany, images from the hachscharah in France as well as her time in Palestine, and post-war images of both Ruth and Louise in New York. • News clippings: Also included is a set of partial issues of German-language newspapers for Jewish readers, including the Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt (Berlin) and the Yedioth Hayom (Tel Aviv), which were presumably saved by Ruth. Ernest Kamins (Ernst Kaminski): This series is divided in a similar manner, with most of the materials either consisting of documents related to his education and training as a doctor in Germany, from 1919-1930, and an extensive collection of photographs—some identified but most not—of Kamins, his family, and his extensive circle of friends and classmates in Germany, up to the early 1930s.