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Eisenberg and Birnbaum families papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 2016.188.1

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    Eisenberg and Birnbaum families papers

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    Correspondence, documents, and photographs relating to the immigration of Helena (Nelly) Eisenberg, and her parents, Ilya and Sonia Eisenberg, from Danzig to the United States between 1936-1939; as well as the immigration of her future husband, Joseph Birnbaum, from Kosice, Czechoslovakia, to Baltimore, in 1939. The collection also includes photographs and correspondence relating to the histories of the Eisenberg and Birnbaum families in Europe prior to emigration, and documentation of the Eisenberg family’s restitution claims with Germany and Poland.

    The correspondence series largely consist of correspondence from Sonia and Ilya Eisenberg to their daughter, Nelly, between the time of Nelly’s immigration to the U.S. in 1936, and the Eisenbergs joining her there in 1939. It also contains correspondence from Sonia’s friend from the United States, whom she met at a boarding school in Wiesbaden in 1910, Julia Strauss, and her husband, Myer. Julia wrote initially to maintain the friendship, to inquire about conditions in Danzig after the outbreak of World War I, and seeking to visit Sonia and her family during trips to Europe in the 1920s. But with the advent of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s, Julia also began seeking ways to help the family emigrate from Danzig, which although having the League of Nations mandated status of a “free city,” was nonentheless threatened by the actions of Nazi Germany, before its own takeover by Germany in 1939. Other Eisenberg family correspondence includes from various family members and friends after emigration, including Sonia’s mother, Sabina (Szyfra) Daion, who wrote to the family in Baltimore from Bialystok, during the period of the Soviet occupation of that part of Poland from 1939 to 1941. The Birnbaum family correspondence includes extensive postwar correspondence relating to Joseph Birnbaum’s efforts to assist family members in what was then Czechoslovakia emigrate following the communist takeover in 1948.

    The biographical materials include birth certificates, marriage certificates, school diplomas, copies of passports and other identification documents. Also included are financial documents of Ilya Eisenberg, a notebook of Nelly’s with quotations and newspaper clippings, and a copy of W. Somerset Maugham’s Sadie Thompson: (Rain) and Other Stories of the South Sea Islands with an inscription by her friend Dora Shapiro. The immigration papers include affidavits for visas and correspondence with various family members, friends, aid organizations, and offices pertaining to the immigration of Joseph Birnbaum’s sister, Ruzena (Rozsi), her two children, Erika and Juraj (George) Frankl, and her second husband, Aladar (Ali) Low-Beer, who were able to leave Topolcany, Czechoslovakia and settle in Montreal, Canada, in 1949. The photographs are primarily depictions of pre-war family life in Europe.
    inclusive:  1904-1970
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Judith Grinspan
    Collection Creator
    Eisenberg family
    Birnbaum family
    Ilya Eisenberg (1884-1964) was born to Feige and Solomon (or Shlomo) Eisenberg in the Russian empire. He had three siblings, Yefim (Chaim, b. 1886), Leah (b. 1888), and Rachel. He ran a grain business, and married Sonia Daion in Danzig around 1915. They moved to Kharkiv, Ukraine during World War I along with Sonia’s parents. Sonia Eisenberg (née Daion, 1892-1960) was the daughter of Rafael and Sabina (Szyfra) Daion, and was born in Białystok, Poland. She had one sister, Betka (b. ca. 1898). Helena Eisenberg (Nelly, later Nelly Birnbaum, 1917-2000) was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine. In 1921, they family moved back to Zoppot (Sopot), Danzig, and Ilya operated a grain business. Nelly finished school in 1935, and due to increasing support for the Nazis in Danzig, it was decided that she would immigrate to the United States to study medicine, and that her parents would soon follow. With the help of Sonia’s friends Julia and Myer Strauss acting as sponsors, Nelly emigrated from Danzig in 1936, and settled in Baltimore, Md., where she studied nursing at Sinai Hospital. Her parents joined her in 1939, again with the help of the Strausses. Ilya eventually got a job working for an insurance company. Sonia was increasingly in poor health, and was unable to work in Baltimore. In 1941, Nelly met Joseph Birnbaum through a mutual friend, and they married in 1942. Sonia’s mother, Sabina wrote to the family in Baltimore from Bialystok during the period of the Soviet occupation of that part of Poland from 1939 to 1941. There is no correspondence after June 1941, and the family believes that she was eventually deported to Treblinka and murdered there. Her sister Betka, her husband, and their two daughters lived in Leningrad, Russia prior to the war. During the war they were in Siberia, and after they moved back to Leningrad.
    Joseph Birnbaum (born Joszef Birnbaum, 1910-1995) in Kassa, Austro-Hungarian Empire (present day Kosice, Slovakia) to Adolf (1876-1929) and Taube (née Otilla Mandl, 1881-1944?) Birnbaum. He had two siblings, a brother, Samuel (1903-1944?) and a sister Ruzenka (Rozsi, 1905-1992), and the family remained in Kosice after World War I, when the territory became part of the newly-formed country of Czechoslovakia, and remained there in the following decades. In 1939, Joseph left for the United States, arriving in Baltimore, Maryland on a tourist visa. When war broke out, he was able to change his visa with the assistance of U.S. Senator Millard Tydings. He remained in Baltimore and founded Standard Textile Company, Inc., a wholesale linen company, in 1942. The same year he married Nelly Eisenberg, whom he had met in Baltimore. They had two children, Daniel (born 1945) and Judith (born 1952).

    Of the remainder of his family, Joseph’s mother, Taube, was deported to Auschwitz where she was murdered, his brother Samuel had escaped to Budapest and lived in hiding for a period, before he was discovered and deported to a camp, where he was also killed. His sister Rozsi, who married Andor Frankl and had two children, Erika (1928-1995) and Juraj (Later George, b. 1933), had settled in Zilina, but the family was also deported to Auschwitz. Rozsi and her two children survived the war, but Andor died in a camp in the closing days of the war. Following the war, Rozsi married Alador (Ali) Low-Beer in 1946, settling in Topolcany, Czechoslovakia, where they lived until they were able to immigrate to Canada in 1949, through the efforts of Andor’s brother, Julius Frankel, who lived there, and of Joseph Birnbaum.

    Physical Details

    7 boxes
    1 oversize box
    2 oversize folders
    System of Arrangement
    The collection is arranged alphabetically as 5 series. Series 1, 2, 3, and 5 are arranged as subseries by family.

    Series 1: Correspondence, 1910-1958; Series 2: Biographical material, 1904-1966; Series 3: Immigration, 1935-1951; Series 4: Restitution claims of Eisenberg family, 1944-1970; Series 5: Photographs, circa 1910-circa 1940s.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    The donor, source institution, or a third party has asserted copyright over some or all of the material(s) in this collection. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The Eisenberg and Birnbaum families papers were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum by Judith Grinspan in 2016.
    Record last modified:
    2023-10-12 09:50:44
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