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Zippered leather medical bag used by an Austrian Jewish physician

Object | Accession Number: 2017.541.4

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    Zippered leather medical bag used by an Austrian Jewish physician


    Brief Narrative
    New Process Co. leather medical bag owned by Berthold Salzmann or his sister Ernesta, two Viennese Jewish medical students who immigrated to America as refugees. In the 1930s they were studying to become physicians at the Medical School of the University of Vienna. On March 13, 1938 Germany annexed Austria and created new legislation that restricted Jewish life. Consequently, Ernesta was unable to graduate and Berthold graduated but was unable to practice medicine. In June of 1939, Ernesta immigrated to England where she worked as a hospital nurse before immigrating to the United States on November 22, 1942. Berthold was selected for a refugee program organized by the Central British Fund for German Jewry, and immigrated to England early in 1939. He was held at the Kitchener refugee camp in East Kent, and then moved to an internment camp on the Isle of Man after the fall of France in May 1940. On June 1, Berthold immigrated to the United States. Ernesta and Berthold’s sister Josefine, and their parents Jakob and Antonie were deported from Vienna to the Kielce ghetto in German occupied Poland. When the ghetto was liquidated in August 1942, they were likely deported with 21,000 other ghetto prisoners to Treblinka killing center and murdered. Berthold and Ernesta both became physicians in the U.S.
    after 1935
    use: United States
    manufacture: Warren (Pa.)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Martha Gay
    exterior bottom, center, stamped, white ink : THE HANDIBAG / GUARANTEED TOP GRAIN / COWHIDE LEATHER / NEW PROCESS CO. WARREN, PA.
    exterior, zipper, engraved : Talon
    exterior, zipper pull tab, engraved : TALON
    exterior, zipper pull tab extension, engraved : CREST / METAL PROD. N.Y.
    Subject: Berthold Salzmann
    Subject: Ernesta A. Spieler
    Manufacturer: Talon
    Manufacturer: Crest Metal Prod.
    Manufacturer: New Process Co.
    Berthold Salzmann (1911-1990) was born in Lwow, Austria-Hungary (now Lviv, Ukraine) to Jakob (Jankel) Salzmann and Antonie (Toni) Zeller Salzmann. He had two sisters, Josefine (Finny b. 1906) and Ernesta (b. 1908). The family moved several times before settling in Vienna where Jakob worked as a civil servant. Berthold and Ernesta pursued careers as physicians, both attending the Medical School of the University of Vienna throughout the 1930s.

    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 unable to attend university, were excluded from most professions, and were forced to wear a yellow badge to identify themselves as Jews. This legislation prevented Ernesta from receiving her degree. Berthold was able to graduate from University, but the law prevented him from practicing medicine. On November 9-10, 1938, during the Kristallnacht pogrom, Jews and their businesses, homes, and places of worship were freely and publically attacked by the public and Nazi paramilitary units. After this, the members of the Salzmann family began looking for opportunities to emigrate.

    In early 1939, Berthold was selected by the Central British Fund for German Jewry (CBF now World Jewish Relief) for transport out of Austria to England. In the wake of Kristallnacht, the CBF persuaded the British government to allow two rescue missions of Jews from Germany. The first was the Kindertransport, which brought Jewish refugee children to Great Britain. The second was the rescue of 4,000 adult men, many of whom had been arrested in November 1938 and incarcerated in concentration camps. The immigration was allowed as long as the CBF paid for the financial support of the refugees and guaranteed that neither group would remain permanently in Britain. Between February and September 1939, just under 4,000 men were able to escape Austria and Germany through this transport. Berthold, along with the other refugees, arrived at the Kitchener camp in East Kent, England. Also known as the Richborough Transit camp, it was an old World War I base that had been rented by the CBF and turned into a living facility. After the outbreak of the war in September 1939, many of the men in Kitchener joined the British army. After the defeat of France, Kitchener camp was closed and the refugees that were still there were moved to internment camps on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. Berthold remained on the Isle of Man until the spring of 1940. On May 22, he left England on the Samaria bound for New York. He arrived in New York City on June 1, 1940. In June 1939, Ernesta was able to leave Austria. She arrived in the Netherlands on June 21, and immigrated to England on June 26. While in England, she worked as a hospital nurse. On November 11, 1940, Ernesta left England for New York on the Western Prince, arriving on November 22.

    On February 19, 1941, Berthold’s parents and sister, Jakob, Antonie and Josefine, were issued transport numbers 354, 355 and 356 and deported on Transport Two from the Aspang Railway Station in Vienna, to Kielce, Poland. When they arrived they were initially housed with another Jewish family. On March 31, 1941, a ghetto was established in the city of Kielce and by the end of the year, 27,000 Jews were living there. Conditions in the ghetto were unsanitary and 6,000 Jews died from typhus. From August 20-24, 1942, the ghetto was liquidated and 21,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka killing center where they were murdered. Jakobl, Antonie and Josefine were likely among those murdered at Treblinka. After the war both Ernesta and Berthold remained in the United States and worked as physicians.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Doctor's bags (aat)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, faded black leather, very worn medical bag with a metal framed, arched top that has sunken in due to age. The top has a centered, silver colored zipper, flanked by two C shaped, center stitched leather handles. The handles are attached to the bag with squared metal rings that are looped into two triangular patches that are sewn on each side. The zipper slider has an elongated pull tab with engraved text and a hasp on the end. On the front, short end, riveted below the zipper, is a gray metal lock with a horizontal slit and a raised keyhole. The bag’s exterior has a stippled surface and the bottom has six rounded, metal feet. The interior of the bag is faded black with white discolorations and remnants of paper adhered to the leather. The interior right side has one large pocket and the left has several narrow pockets. The exterior leather is dried and cracking with orange discoloration on the edges. The vertical seams on the corners of the bag have split open revealing the cloth underneath and the stitching around the opening has come undone, exposing the metal frame.
    overall: Height: 8.750 inches (22.225 cm) | Width: 11.500 inches (29.21 cm) | Depth: 19.000 inches (48.26 cm)
    overall : leather, metal, cloth, thread, paper

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The medical bag was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2017 by Martha Gay, the daughter of Berthold Salzmann.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-24 14:57:26
    This page:

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