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Single tefillin with covers and pouch owned by a British soldier and Kindertransport refugee

Object | Accession Number: 2016.203.15 a-c

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    Single tefillin with covers and pouch owned by a British soldier and Kindertransport refugee


    Brief Narrative
    Single tefillin with covers and a navy blue velvet storage pouch owned by Norbert Müller (later Norman Miller) a 15 year old German Jewish refugee who came to London, England in September 1939. Tefillin are small boxes containing prayers attached to leather straps and worn on the arm and the head by Orthodox Jewish males during morning prayers. On November 9, 1938, during Kristallnacht in Nuremberg, Germany, the apartment Norbert shared with his parents, Sebald and Laura, younger sister, Suse, and grandmother, Clara Jüngster, was ransacked by local men with axes. In late August 1939, Norbert, managed to leave Germany for London, with a Kindertransport [Children's Transport] two days prior to the start of World War II. Norbert was able to exchange letters with his family until communications ceased in May 1941. In 1944, Norbert enlisted in the British army and changed his name. In early 1945, his unit was deployed to Belgium. When Germany surrendered on May 7, his unit was serving occupational duty in Hamburg. After the war, Norman learned that his family had been deported in November 1941, to Riga, Latvia and interned in Jungfernhof concentration camp where they fell ill with typhus and were killed in a mass execution on March 26, 1942. Norman eventually immigrated to the United States and became a citizen in 1955. He married a fellow German, Jewish emigrant, Ingeborg Sommer and they had two sons.
    use:  after 1937 April
    use: Germany
    use: United States
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Norman A. Miller
    a. left and right sides, embossed : ש
    c. front, center, embroidered, gold thread : יו
    c. back, center, embroidered, gold thread : NM [Norbert Müller]
    c. top, zipper pull, engraved : ZIPP
    Subject: Norman A. Miller
    Manufacturer: ZIPP
    Norbert Müller (later Norman A. Miller) was born on June 2, 1924, in Tann in der Rhön, Germany, to Sebald and Laura Jüngster Müller. Sebald was born on April 17, 1892, in Marisfeld, Germany, to Nathan and Bertha Müller and had 2 siblings, Max and Elsa. He was a Jewish grade school teacher, musician, and town shochet, ritual animal slaughterer. Laura was born on October 17, 1898, in Tann, to Leopold and Clara Jacobs Jüngster and had a brother and 2 sisters, Bertha and Dina. Her family ran a shoemaker’s shop and had been in the town since the 1700s. On July 7, 1922, Sebald married Laura. On October 11, 1925, Norbert’s younger sister, Susanne (Suse) was born. Norbert’s family was Orthodox, and very active in the town’s close-knit Jewish community. In 1930, Norbert’s family moved when Sebald accepted a position to teach at a Jewish primary school associated with the large synagogue in Nuremberg. Norbert attended the synagogue school where his father taught.

    In 1933, the Nazi regime came to power and enacted policies that persecuted the Jewish population. These stripped many Jewish professionals of their right to work. Sebald’s job was not directly impacted because he worked for the Jewish congregation, which had to teach more children as Jewish students were forced out of public schools. Norbert attended a Jewish high school in Fürth. In 1936, Norbert’s grandfather Leopold Jüngster died and his grandmother Clara moved in with one of her daughters, Norman’s aunts. As the restrictions increased, the Müllers began making plans to immigrate. Everyone in the family got passports and the family registered for American immigration quota numbers. Norbert’s parents registered him and Suse for the Kindertransport [Children’s Transport] a rescue mission to save Jewish children managed by Bloomsbury House, a group of British Jewish aid societies. Everyone began learning English and possibly useful skills for immigration: Sebald learned new instruments, Laura began making fancy candies, and Norbert focused on welding, along with his friend Lou Hochster. His grandmother Clara came to live with the family after her daughters’ families immigrated: Bertha’s to the United States and Dina’s to England. On November 9, 1938, during the Kristallnacht pogrom, German men charged into the Müller’s apartment and began hacking at the furniture and instruments with an axe, leaving only a few salvageable items. On April 30, 1939, Jews lost their rights as legal tenants and the Müllers were forced to move to a designated Jewish building where they shared an apartment with an elderly couple, Samuel and Esther Munk.

    In August 1939, Bloomsbury House approved Norbert’s travel permit, but provided no travel details. At the end of the month, Lou Hochster and his family invited Norbert to join them when they immigrated to England. Norbert agreed, and Sebald accompanied him and the family on the train to Würzburg, where they were scheduled to catch an express train to Holland, though Norbert did not have the correct papers to go there. They missed the connection and ended up in Cologne, where Sebald saw a Kindertransport group was assembling. He asked if Norbert could join them and they said yes, as long as he had the correct papers. There was a British consulate in Cologne, but when they arrived it was closed. Sebald snuck into the office and added the correct stamp and a note referencing the transport permit letter to Norbert’s passport. Norbert was able to join the Kindertransport leaving for England on August 29, 1939. He reached London, England a few days later and was sent to a rabbi related to the Munks.

    On September 3, Great Britain and France declared war against Germany in response to the September 1st invasion of Poland. Rabbi Munk sent Norbert to a home for refugee boys in Croydon, and then he lived with another rabbi in East London. Norbert’s welding skills allowed him to work in several machine shops. He was able to write to his family regularly, though he had to send his letters through his mother’s uncle Moritz Jacobs in Belgium because of the war. After Germany invaded Belgium in May 1940, he sent a few letters through his Aunt Bertha in the US. When he turned 16, the British declared that Norbert was a “friendly alien of enemy origin.” His parents were still trying to leave Germany, but Grandma Clara had a high quota number and his father was very worried about having to leave her behind. The last letter Norbert received from his family was dated May 1941. Norbert survived many air raids and had to put out several bomb-related fires at a machine shop. In 1944, twenty year old Norbert enlisted in the army and changed his name to Norman Albert Miller, at the army’s suggestion, to sound less German. In January 1945, Norman, an infantryman with the 6th Battalion, 158th Brigade, 53rd Division of the Royal Welch (Welsh) Fusiliers attached to the XXX Corps, was deployed to Belgium. Due to his fluency in German, he was soon sent to the Company headquarters to perform intelligence work.

    When Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945, his battalion was in Hamburg, Germany, on occupational duty. While performing routine traffic control on the Elbe River Bridge that day, Norman recognized Arthur Seyss-Inquart, who had been Reich Commissar in the Netherlands during the German occupation, and secured his arrest. He was later tried and found guilty in the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, and executed. Shortly after this incident, Norman asked to be transferred to the Intelligence Corps in order to report suspicious behavior, and was stationed in Bad Pyrmont. In 1946, Norman received a letter from Albert Stimmelstiel, a young Jewish man from Nuremberg, detailing the fate of Norman’s family. On November 27, 1941, his parents, Sebald and Laura, his sister, Suse, and grandmother, Clara, had been rounded up by the Gestapo and deported to Riga, Latvia, where they were interned in the nearby Jungfernhof concentration camp. After contracting typhus, they were killed in a mass execution along with other elderly and ill people on March 26, 1942. In July 1947, Sergeant Norman Miller became a British citizen. Following demobilization, he returned to London. In April 1948, he immigrated to Toronto, Canada, with a friend. In September 1949, Norman moved to the US to live with his Aunt Bertha’s family in New York City. In 1951, he married Ingeborg Sommer (b.1930), a Jewish émigré from Baden, Germany, that had immigrated to the US with her parents in 1937. The couple had two sons. Norman worked in the tool and die field making injection molds to make plastic goods. In 1955, Norman became an American citizen.

    Physical Details

    Jewish Art and Symbolism
    Object Type
    Tefillin (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    a. Head tefillin with a square, black painted, leather box or batim constructed of four leather strips centered on a square, 5 layered platform sewn together with gidden, gut from kosher animals. The left and right sides of the box have an embossed Hebrew letter, Shin; the right one has vertical 4 strokes . The platform has a triangular, notched side with an opening through which a black leather strap is threaded. The strap has an unfinished underside and is partially wrapped around the platform for storage. The box is to contain four separate parchment scrolls inscribed with a Torah verse. The paint is chipping in several places. The tefillin was created as part of a set, but is no longer accompanied by a hand tefillin. Over the batim is a removable, small, hollow, 0.875 x 1 x 1 inch cube-shaped, black painted cardboard cover for a tefillin. The interior is lined with textured, dark red cloth that has been glued in place. The cover is misshapen, one edge is broken, and the cardboard is peeling in several places.

    b. A broken, removable, small, hollow, cube-shaped, black painted cardboard cover for a missing hand tefillin. The interior is lined with textured, dark red cloth that has been glued in place. Several sides are separated resulting in a semi-flattened cube. The cardboard is peeling throughout.

    c. Rectangular, navy blue velvet cloth folded at the bottom and stitched up the sides to form a pouch. Handstitched to the top opening with black thread is a silver colored metal zipper with a round pull on a woven chain. Hebrew characters are satin stitched in gold colored thread at the center of one side. Centered on the other side is stylized script; satin stitched, intertwined initials in gold colored thread. The interior is lined with several pieces of satiny gray cloth sewn together.
    a: Height: 1.750 inches (4.445 cm) | Width: 4.125 inches (10.477 cm) | Depth: 3.500 inches (8.89 cm)
    b: Height: 1.000 inches (2.54 cm) | Width: 1.375 inches (3.493 cm) | Depth: 1.250 inches (3.175 cm)
    c: Height: 8.750 inches (22.225 cm) | Width: 6.250 inches (15.875 cm)
    a : leather, paint, gut, parchment, ink, cardboard, cloth, adhesive
    b : cardboard, cloth, paint, adhesive
    c : velvet, cloth, metal, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The tefillin and pouch were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2016 by Norman A. Miller.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-25 08:48:45
    This page:

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