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Tremolo style Opera harmonica owned by an Austrian Jewish refugee

Object | Accession Number: 2015.312.4

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    Tremolo style Opera harmonica owned by an Austrian Jewish refugee

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    Brief Narrative
    Opera brand harmonica acquired by Alfred Berg as a child in Vienna, Austria before his emigration in 1939. The harmonica was made by the Max Spranger Company based in Brunndöbra, Germany. Alfred was a teenage boy living in Vienna with his parents and younger sister Charlotte when Germany annexed Austria in the Anschluss on March 13, 1938. German authorities quickly created new legislation that restricted Jewish life. Alfred was targeted by bullies because of his Jewish heritage and on November 9-10 during the Kristallnacht pogrom, his father was arrested and later released by local police. In May 1939, Charlotte was one of fifty Jewish children from Vienna selected by Americans Gilbert and Eleanor Krauss to be rescued from the Nazis and taken to the United States. Days before the mission was to leave Vienna, one of the children became ill and was unable to travel. Alfred was selected to take his place. Alfred and Charlotte arrived in New York on May 23, and later in the year their parents were able to immigrate to the United States. On June 11, 1943, Alfred was drafted. He joined the Navy Seabees (Construction Battalion) as a private and was sent to Okinawa, Japan, but arrived after the war ended. After his service ended, Albert returned to New York where he met and married Marianne Salomon, a fellow Holocaust survivor.
    manufacture:  approximately 1930
    manufacture: Brunndöbra (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Marianne Berg
    Manufacturer: Max Spranger Company
    Subject: Alfred Berg
    Alfred Berg (1924-2013) was born in Vienna, Austria, to Julius and Frieda Berg. Frieda was born in Poland, and immigrated to Vienna as a young girl with her family. Alfred’s father was born in Narajow, Germany (now Porajów, Poland) and was an orphan with no immediate family. He fought for Germany during World War I and afterward he moved to Vienna where he met his future wife. Alfred had a sister, Charlotte, who was six years younger than him. Their father worked as a tailor, Alfred and Charlotte went on picnics and swam in the Danube, the family had a nice, comfortable life.

    On March 13, 1938, Austria was annexed into Germany in what became known as the Anschluss. German authorities quickly created new legislation that restricted Jewish life. Jews were arrested, required to report their assets, and segregated in public places. After the Anschluss, Alfred was attacked by other boys for being a Jew. During Kristallnacht, Alfred’s father was arrested and taken to the police precinct where his head was shaved, he was only released because he was the commanding officer’s tailor. After Kristallnacht the Bergs began looking for ways to escape Austria. In preparation for immigration to Palestine, Alfred began to learn how to farm.

    In early 1939, a Jewish couple from Philadelphia, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, with support from the president of the Independent Order of Brith Sholom, Lewis Levine began developing a plan to rescue Jewish children inside Nazi Germany. They were able to obtain 50 U.S. visas and then travelled to Germany in April to select the children for rescue. Upon their arrival the Krauses were told by the Consular Chargé d'Affaires that there were over 200 eligible children in Vienna, and they immediately left for the Austrian capital. In May, Alfred’s sister Charlotte was selected for rescue. Just days before they were to leave Vienna, one of the children, Heinrich Steinberger became ill. Because he was too sick to travel, the Krauses chose Alfred to take his place. Charlotte and Alfred boarded a train to Berlin with the rest of the children on May 21. They arrived in Berlin later that day and were scheduled for physical examinations and final processing the following day. From Berlin they went to Hamburg, Germany, and boarded the SS President Harding and left for New York on May 23. They arrived on June 3 and were taken to the Brith Sholom retreat in Pennsylvania. While there they took courses in civics and US history, as well as English-language training.

    After the retreat, Charlotte lived with distant relatives in Brooklyn, NY and Alfred stayed with a foster family in Jersey City, NJ. Charlotte was distraught; she missed her mother and was not eating. Alfred visited his younger sister every weekend until their parents emigrated in December, 1939. Reunited, the family settled in Brooklyn where Alfred’s father worked for 3G, making suits. On June 11, 1943, Alfred was drafted. He joined the Navy Seabees (Construction Battalion) as a private and was sent to Okinawa, Japan. However, before he arrived in Okinawa, the war ended. While in the navy Alfred was picked on by the other sailors because of his Jewish heritage.

    After his service ended, Albert returned to New York where he met Marianne Salomon, a fellow Holocaust survivor. Marianne emigrated from Germany to Iowa with her parents in 1938. They lived in Iowa for five years and then moved to New York. In 1953 Alfred and Marianne married. Alfred became a stock broker and Marianne worked as a legal secretary. The couple had two children and three grandchildren and lived in New Jersey.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Harmonica (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Sixteen double holed, tremolo style harmonica. The rectangular, wooden center comb is painted orange and has thirty two square shaped holes in a grid of two rows on the front. The front and back of the comb are converse and the ends are flat. Metal reed plates are mounted on the top and bottom of the comb. Shiny, polished, raised tin cover plates with relief text are nailed to the plates and combs on the top and bottom through scalloped side brackets. The tins have scalloped back edges and flat front edges bent down to form a seal with the plate below. The surface of the tin has several scratches and some small dirt spots, one side of the cover plate is dented, and the orange paint is worn off at the blowholes.
    overall: Height: 1.000 inches (2.54 cm) | Width: 6.325 inches (16.066 cm) | Depth: 1.250 inches (3.175 cm)
    overall : metal, wood, tin
    Top and bottom, embossed : OPERA / MADE IN GERMANY

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Austria. United States.

    Administrative Notes

    The harmonica was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2015 by Marianne Salomon Berg, the wife of Albert Berg.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 20:13:53
    This page:

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