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Nightgown with floral embroidery made for a young Austrian Jewish refugee before emigration

Object | Accession Number: 2016.112.3

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    Nightgown with floral embroidery made for a young Austrian Jewish refugee before emigration
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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Handmade white nightgown with embroidered flowers sewn for Herta Griffel by her mother Beila, in Vienna, Austria before Herta’s emigration in 1940. Herta was a young girl living in Vienna, Austria, with her parents, Wolf and Beila Nagel Griffel when Germany annexed Austria in the Anschluss on March 13, 1938. German authorities quickly created new legislation that restricted Jewish life. On November 9-10, during the Kristallnacht pogrom, Wolf and Beila’s grocery store was taken from them and Wolf was forced into compulsory labor. Every morning a truck took him and the other men in the neighborhood to a labor camp, and then brought them home at night. The forced labor complicated Wolf’s existing health issues and one day after coming home, he died. After Kristallnacht, Beila arranged for Herta to immigrate to the United States through the German Jewish Children’s Aid Society. On November 23, 1940, Herta left Vienna with eight other children and a chaperone, and arrived in Jersey City, New Jersey, on December 23. Herta lived with the Baer family for six months and then was placed with the Friedlander family until adulthood. On September 14, 1942, Herta’s mother, Beila was deported from Vienna to Maly Trostinec concentration camp in Belorussia where she was murdered on September 18.
    Date
    emigration:  1940 November 23
    Geography
    creation: Vienna (Austria)
    en route: Lisbon (Portugal)
    use: Baltimore (Md.)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Herta Griffel Baitch, in memory of her parents, Wolf Griffel and Beila Bertha Nagel Griffel
    Markings
    front, left, embroidered, red and blue thread : HG
    Contributor
    Subject: Herta Baitch
    Biography
    Herta Griffel (b. 1933, later Herta Baitch) was born in Vienna, Austria, to Wolf (1888-1939) and Beila Nagel Griffel (1896-1942). Wolf was born in Krakow, Austria-Hungary, and Beila was from Majdan Średni, Kingdom of Poland, which was part of the Russian Empire. Both areas were integrated into Poland when the nation was created in the aftermath of WWI. Wolf and Beila moved to Vienna, were married in April 1930, and established a small grocery store. The family spoke German and Yiddish at home. Beila enjoyed sewing and embroidery, and Wolf loved to sing Yiddish songs with Herta from a songbook. Wolf had minor health issues, but Beila was able to manage the store and take care of her young daughter and husband when needed.

    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 excluded from most professions and were forced to wear a yellow badge to identify themselves as Jews. On November 9-10, during the Kristallnacht pogrom, Jews and their businesses, homes, and places of worship were freely and openly attacked by the public and Nazi paramilitary units. Wolf and Beila’s grocery store was confiscated and Wolf was forced into compulsory labor. Every morning a truck took him and the other men in the neighborhood to a labor camp and brought them home at night. Wolf and Beila discussed the possibility of Wolf escaping to Shanghai, but those plans never came to fruition. The forced labor complicated Wolf’s health issues and one day after coming home, he died. After the loss of Wolf and the store, Beila and Herta moved in with Beila’s sister-in-law, Leah Nagel.

    After Kristallnacht, the Chief Rabbi of Vienna, Rabbi Mermelstein, sought to get as many children out of Vienna as he could. He began working with the German Jewish Children’s Aid Society, an American organization that helped resettle Jewish children in the United States. Biela was able to get Herta on the list of thirty five children who were selected for possible resettlement and sent to a doctor for a preliminary exam. The children were selected based on two criteria: their fathers had died in camps and their mothers were ineligible for immigration because America’s Hungarian, Romanian, and Polish immigration quotas were already filled. Because Beila was originally from Poland, she fell under the Polish quota. Herta and eight other children passed the exam and were allowed to emigrate from Germany. On November 23, 1940, Herta and the rest of the children said goodbye to their parents, joined their chaperone, Margaret Feiler, and took a train from Vienna to Berlin. Herta was only seven and was the youngest of the children. The rest were between thirteen and seventeen and helped take care of and comfort her along the journey. The group was forced to stay in a shelter for the night because of an Allied night raid. The group then took another train to Lisbon, Portugal, where they stayed for twelve days before boarding the SS Excambion for the United States. Herta and the rest of the children arrived in Jersey City, New Jersey, on December 23. Upon arrival, they stayed in a temporary home. Later, Rose Beser, Herta’s new social worker came and brought her to the Baer family in Baltimore, Maryland. Upon arrival in her new foster home, Clara and Joseph (Joe) Baer greeted Herta in Yiddish, which comforted her.

    While living with the Baers, Herta exchanged letters with her mother, who hoped to reunite with her daughter in America. Beila’s letters stopped arriving in 1941. Beila was deported from Vienna, on September 14, 1942, on Transport 41, Train Da 227. Her prisoner transport number was 679. Beila was taken to Maly Trostinec concentration camp in Belorussia where she was murdered on September 18, 1942. Herta did not learn of her mother’s fate until 2004.

    In July 1941, Herta’s foster mother, Clara unexpectedly gave birth to another child and Ms. Beser felt it would be better if Herta lived with another family. She was removed from the Baer’s care and placed with Harry and Mary Friedlander and their adopted daughter, Beverly. Herta lived with the Friedlanders until 1952 when she married Arthur Baitch. In 1965 Herta’s maternal relative Adela Dula managed to get in touch with her, and she returned a package Beila had entrusted to her for Herta including a tablecloth, candlesticks, silverware, and jewelry. Herta and Arthur remain married with three children and seven grandchildren.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Clothing and Dress
    Object Type
    Nightgowns (lcsh)
    Genre/Form
    Nightgowns.
    Physical Description
    White, handmade, short sleeve, nightgown with red and blue embroidered flower and vines around the neckline, shoulders and sleeves. The neckline has a V-neck opening with scalloped edges lined with red thread. A line of alternating red and blue three petal flowers on intersecting red and blue vines are chain stitched around the neckline. The same pattern extends over the shoulders and encircles the ends of the sleeves which are scalloped and edged with embroidered red thread. Interlocking initials are satin stitched on the lower left of the neckline in red and blue. The body of the nightgown is made from one piece of cloth sewn together on each side with a French side seam. Two wide strips of fabric are sewn to the bottom. There are small yellow stains throughout.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 32.750 inches (83.185 cm) | Width: 30.000 inches (76.2 cm)
    Materials
    overall : cotton, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The nightgown was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2016 by Herta Griffel Baitch.
    Record last modified:
    2023-03-02 08:29:48
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn539500

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