- Brief Narrative
- Leather satchel used by Chana Pergerycht Wandersman to hold correspondence she received from family and friends during the time she was held at Parschnitz labor camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia, from December 1941 to May 1945. She also used the bag similarly while living at Feldafing displaced persons (DP) camp in Germany. Before the Holocaust, Chana lived with her parents, Abram Mordka and Sheindl, and her five siblings in Będzin, Poland. The German army entered their town on September 4, 1939, three days after the German invasion of Poland. In December 1941, 15-year-old Chana was deported to Parschnitz labor camp, which was run by Organisation Schmelt, an extensive program of forced labor throughout East Upper Silesia. There, she was forced to work in a spinning mill run by a German firm. She exchanged letters and postcards with her family through July 1, 1943. In the postcards, they discussed having to move from Będzin into the Sosnowiec ghetto. The final liquidation of the ghetto began on August 1, and roughly 10,000 Jews were transported to Auschwitz concentration camp. Chana never heard from her family again, and it is likely that they were all murdered in the camp. Parschnitz was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on May 9, 1945. Following liberation, Chana ended up at Feldafing DP camp in the American zone of occupation in Germany. There she met David Wandersman, a fellow survivor, and they married in the summer of 1946. Together they immigrated to the United States on September 26, 1949.
after 1941 December-1949 September
Parschnitz (Concentration camp);
Poříčí (Královéhradecký kraj, Czech Republic)
use: Feldafing (Displaced persons camp); Feldafing (Germany)
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Suzanne Wandersman
Chana Pergerycht Wandersman (1926-1988) was born in Będzin, Poland, in Upper Silesia to Sheindl (née Lask, 1896-?) and Abram Mordka Pergerycht (1891-?). She grew up with five siblings, Szlama Herzl (1916-?), Laja Lea (1923-?), Mosze (1927-?), Leib (1930-?), and Zelig (1934-?). During the 1920s and 30s, while Chana was growing up, Będzin was home to a large Jewish community. In 1931, the Jewish population numbered 21,625, roughly half of the town’s total population. There were several hundred Jewish owned factories and workshops, a Jewish press, and primary and secondary schools where lessons were taught in Yiddish and Hebrew.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and on September 4, the German army entered Będzin. The soldiers burned the Great Synagogue of Będzin, as well as roughly 50 Jewish houses surrounding the synagogue. Many Jewish residents were killed by the fires, or by firing squads as they tried to escape. The physical attacks were followed by repressive economic legislation requiring the Jewish population to relinquish their businesses and personal property. Beginning in 1940, Jewish families like the Pergerychts were systematically removed from houses in the center of the city, and forced to find apartments in a four block area. In November, the first deportations from Będzin, known by the Germans as Bensburg, began when all Jews who were not working in local workshops or for the Jewish council were required to appear before a medical commission for selection to labor camps. All of the Jews in Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz region, or East Upper Silesia, which included Będzin, were placed at the disposal of the Organisation Schmelt run by SS-Oberfuehrer Albrecht Schmelt. Organisation Schmelt was an extensive program of forced labor that began establishing camps for Jews in 1940.
In December 1941, 15-year-old Chana was deported to Parschnitz labor camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. Parschnitz was one of the first forced labor camps set up for Jewish women by the Organisation Schmelt in the summer of 1940. A second camp was opened in 1941. Both camps were located in the spinning mills of three German textile companies: Aloys Haase, Gebrüder Walzel C.G., and Johann Etrich K.G. Chana was forced to work as a laborer in these spinning mills. Later, Chana, and other women in the camp, were forced to work for the Berlin-based General Electric Company (AEG). The SS wardresses at Parschnitz and the civilian personnel in the factories were known for treating the Jewish women brutally, and during Chana’s imprisonment, terrible beatings and torture of the prisoners were not uncommon occurrences.
While at the camp, Chana exchanged letters and postcards with her parents and siblings back in Będzin. In the letters, her family made an effort to remain optimistic and share the positive aspects of their lives. In 1943 though, they wrote about missing their old house and having moved an hour away from Będzin to share a summer place with another family transported from Oświęcim, Poland. Her family also wrote “the whole city lives there within several streets,” and added that they were fortunate to have a house because many families did not. Presumably they were talking about the Sosnowiec ghetto established in the Środula suburb of that neighboring city. The process of isolating Jews into the ghetto had begun in October 1942, and the ghetto was sealed on May 1, 1943. Chana’s family continued to send her letters throughout the summer of 1943, saying they were doing well. However, in the last letter that Chana received, dated July 1, 1943, one of her sisters wrote that a big tragedy was coming. The final liquidation of the ghetto began on August 1, and roughly 10,000 Jews were transported to Auschwitz concentration camp. Chana never heard from her family again, and it is likely that they were all murdered in the camp.
In March 1944, the administration of Parschnitz was taken over by the Gross-Rosen concentration camp, and it became one of the largest subcamps for women in the Gross-Rosen complex. Despite that shift, Chana’s forced labor remained the same until the spring of 1945, when the prisoners were put to work on preparing fortifications to defend against the allied troops that were closing in on the region. The fortifications made little difference, and the Red Army liberated Parschnitz on May 9. After leaving the labor camp, Chana ended up at Feldafing displaced persons (DP) camp in the American zone of occupation in Germany. At Feldafing, she met fellow survivor David (Dawid) Wandersman (1924-2008). David was from Sosnowiec, and had been transported to Bunzlau labor camp on March 15, 1942, and assigned the prisoner number 52210. Bunzlau was also under the auspices of Organisation Schmelt, and had become a subcamp of Gross-Rosen. On February 7, 1944, David was deported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, and assigned the prisoner number 120510. He had two brothers, Ojzer and Mordke, who both survived the camps, but Mordke died soon after liberation. Chana and David married in the DP camp in the summer of 1946. While at the camp Chana worked as a dressmaker and David as a mechanic. They immigrated to the United States aboard the USS General C.C. Ballou on September 26, 1949. The couple settled in Rochester, New York, and had one daughter.
- Object Type
- Physical Description
- Brown leather satchel with a fold-over top flap that is secured with a short, vertical strap sewn to the bottom center. The strap is wider at the top, and is attached to the flap with a narrow, horizontal band just below the wide piece. The strap extends below the flap. The leather on the front is ruched with a wide, vertical band running down the center. Near the top of the vertical band, there is a thin, horizontal loop for the strap on the flap to slide through when the bag is closed. The back of the satchel has an attenuated, flat, horizontal strap, sewn near the top. The interior of the bag is lined with tan cloth, and has six rectangular pockets. The largest interior pocket, centered on the back, is secured by a bronze-colored zipper with a green backing. The remaining five pockets are open top. A small metal pin with the overlapping initials HW is attached sideways on the lower left, in-between two pleats from the ruching. The satchel is sewn together at the seams with brown thread. The bag is worn overall, with scratches, particularly on the back. The leather on the front pleats has worn off and the tan underlayer is showing. The interior lining appears to be repaired with a hand sewn seam on the left.
- overall: Height: 8.250 inches (20.955 cm) | Width: 13.375 inches (33.973 cm) | Depth: 2.125 inches (5.398 cm)
- overall : leather, cloth, metal, thread
- front, bottom left, metal pin : HW
Rights & Restrictions
- Conditions on Access
- No restrictions on access
- Conditions on Use
- No restrictions on use
Keywords & Subjects
- Topical Term
- Concentration camp inmates--Correspondence. Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Poland. Jewish teenagers--Poland--Będzin. Labor camps--Czechoslovakia. Refugee camps--Germany. Textile workers--Biography. Women prisoners--Czechoslovakia--Personal narratives. World War, 1939-1945--Deportations from Poland.
- Geographic Name
- Będzin (Poland) Feldafing (Germany) Oświęcim (Poland) Poříčí (Královéhradecký kraj, Czech Republic) Sosnowiec (Województwo Śląskie, Poland)
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- The leather satchel was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2016 by Suzanne Wandersman, the daughter of Chana Pergerycht Wandersman.
- Record last modified:
- 2022-07-28 20:13:54
- This page:
Also in Chana Pergerycht Wandersman collection
The collection consists of a leather satchel, correspondence, and photographs relating to the experiences of Chana Pergerycht Wandersman in Parschnitz labor camp in Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust, and in Feldafing displaced persons (DP) camp in Germany after the Holocaust.
Date: after 1941 December-1949 September
Contains correspondence from Abram and Sheindl Pergerycht and their children in the Środula ghetto to their daughter and sister, Chana Pergerycht, in the Parschnitz (Porici) forced labor camp, a sub-camp of Gross Rosen. Includes photographs of family and friends of Chana Hanka Pergerycht, sent to her from Bedzin to the Parschnitz camp and after the war, from the Rychbach and Feldafing DP camps, between 1945 to 1948.