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Silk escape map of France owned by a US soldier

Object | Accession Number: 2012.427.5

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    Silk escape map of France owned by a US soldier


    Brief Narrative
    British topographical silk escape map of France acquired by Captain Ralph M. Kopansky during his service as a US soldier in Europe from 1944 - 1945. Britain’s Military Intelligence Section, MI9, ran an escape and evasion program that issued this type of map to help soldiers find their way to safety if caught behind enemy lines. Silk maps were used because they were durable, made no noise, and were easy to conceal when carried by a soldier or smuggled into a prisoner of war camp in a board game or record. On September 22, 1941, Ralph, an Army reservist, enlisted for active duty. Following Japan’s December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II. In 1943, he received intelligence training and was assigned to the XIII Corps as an Assistant Intelligence Officer. In 1944, Ralph’s Corps was deployed to Europe. The Corps trained in England, and fought in France, before advancing into Germany, in January 1945. On April 4, the XIII Corps was with the 4th Armored and the 89th Infantry Divisions when they liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp. During an inspection tour of the camp, Ralph was photographed viewing the charred remains of the prisoners. The photograph, 74589, is part of the Museum’s collection. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered.
    Zones of France – Second Edition
    publication:  1944 March
    publication: London (England)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Dr. Terry Kopansky
    front, top margin, black dye : 1 : 2,000,000 ZONES OF FRANCE SECOND EDITION
    front, top left, above box, black dye : INDEX TO FRONTIERS
    front, within map, bottom center, black dye : Main Roads / Secondary Roads / Special Motor Ways / Main Railways / Other Railways / Frontiers / Figures indicate distances in Kilometres / between solid dots
    front, within map border, bottom center, black dye : Longitude East 4 of Greenwich
    front, bottom margin, black dye : I.S.9. (WEA) MAR 44 / English Miles / Kilometres / Metres / Feet / The Heights engraved on the Map are in English feet [Intelligence School 9]
    Subject: Ralph M. Kopansky
    Author: MI9, Great Britain
    Ralph Morris Kopansky was born on May 23, 1912, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was the second of three children born to Sam and Ida Goseman Kopansky. His parents and older sister, Esther (later Fisher), were born in Russia and immigrated to the United States. Sam worked as a clothing dyer. In 1924, Ralph’s younger sister Lillian died. Ralph graduated from high school and went on to receive degrees from the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota College of Law. While attending law school, Ralph worked as a part time general investigator for Carlton Investigative Agency and served in the US Army Reserve. In July 1940, Ralph married Alice Whitver (1914 – 1981). After receiving training, Ralph became an Immigration Patrol Inspector in Ogdensburg, New York. On September 22, 1941, Ralph enlisted for active duty in the Army.

    On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and a few days later America entered World War II. In 1943, Ralph was selected for training at Army intelligence school in Chicago, Illinois. As a Captain, he was assigned to the U.S. Army Headquarters XIII Corps, 9th Army, where he served as an Assistant Intelligence Officer. In 1944, Ralph’s Corps was deployed to England for additional training and his and Alice’s first son was born. The Corps fought in France, and by mid-January 1945, had crossed the Siegfried Line and advanced into Germany. On April 4, Ralph’s Corps was with the 4th Armored and the 89th Infantry Divisions, Third Army, when they liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp, a subcamp of Buchenwald and the first concentration camp liberated by US troops. The majority of the inhabitants were dead and many of the remains were badly charred. On orders from higher-up, the guards had “exhumed and burned 1,606 murdered victims in six days in an attempt to destroy the evidence” before evacuating the camp in advance of the arrival of US Army forces. Many other prisoners, too weak or sick to be evacuated, were shot by members of the SS before the US Army arrived. Ralph, part of an inspection tour of the camp, was photographed viewing "the charred remains of burned prisoners shortly after capture of the area.” On May 7, Germany surrendered. Ralph received a Bronze Star and numerous letters of commendation for meritorious service.

    In January 1946, he was released from active duty as a Major, the Military Intelligence Chief of the XIII Corps, and returned to the Army Reserve. In January 1947, the couple’s second son was born. Later that year, Ralph began a successful career with the US Atomic Energy Commission. First serving as the Chief of Police in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and in the late 1950’s, becoming a Branch Manager in Clarksville, Tennessee. Ralph was an active member of several police associations, the American Legion, Lions Club, the PTA, and served as a board member for several additional groups. In 1962, he retired from the Army Reserve as a Lieutenant Colonel. In 1973, he retired and settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ralph, 66, died on July 1, 1978, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    Physical Details

    Information Forms
    Object Type
    Military maps (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Single sided, rectangular, colored, silk topographical map of the Zones of France and bordering Western European nations with an inset of new German frontiers. The names of countries and large cities are in black uppercase and smaller cities and water routes in lowercase. The background is offwhite with a light brown border, water in blue, and mountains and lower elevations in red, orange, yellow, and green. The scale is 1: 2,000,000, with longitude and latitude in the map border. It maps France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, western Germany and Switzerland, northwestern Italy, and northern Spain. At the upper left, the inset frontiers index maps the political borders of those nations in gray, coastal defense areas in blue, and zones of German occupation and patrols in red as they appear on the main map. Legend includes elevation scale, road and railway features, and present frontiers.
    overall: Height: 24.750 inches (62.865 cm) | Width: 22.750 inches (57.785 cm)
    overall : silk, dye

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The escape map was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2017 by Dr. Terry Kopansky, the son of Ralph Kopansky.
    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:
    2022-07-28 20:14:01
    This page:

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