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Oberhausen, Germany, emergency currency, 5 million marks, kept by a Polish Jewish refugee

Object | Accession Number: 2012.358.5

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    Brief Narrative
    City of Oberhausen emergency currency note [notgeld] for 5 million marks acquired by 8 year old Henikel (Harold) Minuskin before he and his family left Germany for the US in 1946. The currency was issued in 1923 due to the period of hyperinflation during the Weimar Republic. Henikel lived in Zhetel (Zdieciol) Poland (Dziatlava, Belarus), with his parents Shlamke and Shanke, and his younger brother Kalmanke. In June 1941, when he was three years old, Zhekel was occupied by Nazi Germany. The Jews of the town were violently persecuted and over 120 prominent community members, including Henikel's uncle Leib, were shot. On February 22, 1942, all Jews were forcibly relocated to a ghetto. That August, the Germans began preparations to liquidate the ghetto. His father escaped to the nearby forest and joined the Jewish partisan resistance. His mother took the two brothers to an underground hiding place. After three days, they escaped to the forest. His father found them hiding in a root cellar and brought them to live with the Lenin Partisan Brigade in the Lipichanski forest in Poland (Bialowieza Forest (Poland and Belarus) from 1942-1944. The area was liberated by the Soviet Army in September 1944. When the war ended in May 1945, the family went to Zeilsheim displaced persons camp in Germany. With the assistance of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the family emigrated to the United States, arriving in New York on September 6, 1946.
    issue:  1923 August 10
    received:  approximately 1946
    issue: Oberhausen-Rheinhausen (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Harold Minuskin
    front, lower left side, black ink : H 47315 ❉
    front, upper center, brown ink : Notgeld der Stadt Oberhausen ˖ Rhld. / Fünf Millionen Mark / Dieser Schein wird von allen stäti= / schen Kassen in Oberhausen ˖ Rhld. / in Zahlung genommen. Er verliert seine Gültigkeit einen Monat nach / Aufkündigung in den Ortszeitungen. [Emergency money of the city Oberhausen ˖ Rhld. / Five Millionen Mark / This banknote is accepted as payment in all city registers in Oberhausen ˖ Rhld. It loses its validation one month after cancelation in the town newspaper.]
    front, center left, inside circle, brown ink : 5 000 000
    face, center right, inside circle, brown ink : 5 000 000
    face, lower right, printed, brown ink : Oberhausen ˖ Rhld., / den 10. August 1923. / Der Oberbürgermeister : / J. B. [?]ingsrich [Oberhausen ˖ Rhld., / August 10, 1923. / The Mayor : / J. B. [?]ingsrich]
    face, lower border, center, brown ink : Fünf ◊ Millionen ◊ Mark [Five Million Mark]
    back, upper center, inside border, brown ink : Notgeld der Stadt Oberhausen ˖ Rhld. [Emergency money of the city Oberhausen ˖ Rhld.]
    back, left side, inside border, printed vertically, brown ink : 5 000 000
    back, right side, inside border, printed vertically, brown ink : 5 000 000
    back, right side, printed vertically, brown ink : 5 Millionen Mark [5 Million Mark]
    Issuer: Stadt Oberhausen
    Subject: Harold Minuskin
    Henikel (Henach) Minuskin was born on July 22, 1938, to Shlamke, born on March 12, 1905, and Shanke Orlinsky Minuskin, born on September 17, 1914. He had one brother, Kalmanke, born on August 17, 1940. All of the family members were born in Zhetel, Poland (Dziatlava, Belarus). They lived in a home built by his father and his four brothers. Shlamke owned a bus transportation business. Shanke was trained as a hairdresser and manicurist. On September 17, 1939, the Soviets invaded and occupied eastern Poland, and Zhetel came under Soviet control. Shortly after the invasion, Shlamke prepared a secret hiding place under the outhouse in the backyard. On June 30, 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and occupied Zhetel. The persecution of Jews became increasingly violent and on July 23, 1941, German mobile killing units murdered about 120 prominent members of the Jewish community, including Harold’s maternal uncle, Leib Orlinsky. On February 22, 1942, the Germans put up posters ordering all Jews to move into the ghetto which was established in the area where Harold’s family lived. They had to share their home with several others. On August 6, 1942, the Germans began the final liquidation of the ghetto. Shlamke was rounded up during the massacre and locked with hundreds of others in the synagogue. He was able to hide in the rafters in the midst of the confusion. After two days, he escaped into the Belorussian forest and joined the Jewish partisan resistance.

    During this time, Henik, Kalmanke, Sonia, and eight others hid in the underground hiding place. After three days, Shanke decided to flee with her sons to the nearby forest. Harold’s grandmother, Rivka Orlinsky, suffered from poor eyesight, so an aunt remained behind with her. Both were captured by the Germans and shot and killed the following day. Shanke and the boys received shelter and food from some peasants and farmers that Shanke knew, but many were afraid of the Germans and would not help. They slept in ditches and fields some nights. Shlamke found them hiding in a root cellar and led them to the partisan unit’s base in the Lipiczanski (Lipichanski) forest. He was a private in the Lenin Partisan Brigade. The boys and their mother stayed in camouflaged underground dugouts [zemlyankas] when the unit went on missions to sabotage German troops or eliminate collaborators. The group had to keep moving to avoid capture by the Germans.

    Living conditions were harsh; the family often had little food and many partisans perished from the cold and disease. The family subsisted on food acquired from local peasants or wild food from the forest. They had a supply of Russian Czarist era gold coins which they used to get supplies, but they often were not accepted and the partisans took things by force. Shanke would venture out at night to find milk or bread. She served as a seamstress for the partisans. She made the family clothing from silk parachutes left behind by Soviet officers and sewed coats for Harold and Carl from a German great coat. The boys had Russian aviator’s hats that were also scavenged n the woods. Harold’s father taught him to shoot a rifle and load machine gun magazines and he helped his mother saw logs to build shelters. The area was liberated on September 7, 1944, by the Soviet Army.

    The family briefly returned to their home in Zhetel after the war ended in May 1945. They decided not to stay because of the still strong anti-Semitism. In November 1945, they arrived at Zeilsheim displaced persons camp near Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Their names were listed by the Red Cross as survivors of the war. Harold’s maternal aunt, Helen Orlinsky Gulfetta, who lived in New York, saw their names and sponsored their emigration to the United States. On September 16, 1946, the family emigrated to the US on the Marine Marlin. They Americanized their names to Harold, Carl, Sonia, and Sam. Harold received a masters in electrical engineering from the University of California, and was a senior design engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He married Arlene and had two children. In 2009, he translated his mother’s memoir of their wartime experiences. Sam died on August 14, 1984, age 79. Sonia died on November 7, 2008, age 94.

    Physical Details

    Exchange Media
    Physical Description
    Offwhite paper currency printed in brown ink with German text in fraktur front. The face has a light brown, floral and latticework background. In the center is a rectangular frame with an ornate geometric border; the bottom border contains the text denomination Fünf Millionen Mark. There are wide margins on the left and right sides. Within the frame are several lines of text, including the denomination Fünf Millionen Mark in bold font; on the right and left is a medallion with the denomination 5000000; near the bottom is the serial letter and number H 47315, and a black asterisk. The denomination 5 Millionen Mark is printed vertically in the right margin. The reverse has a light brown, flower and latticework background and wide left and right margins. In the center is a rectangular frame with various sizes of boxes within the border containing geometric designs. The upper border has German text. In the center is a detailed image of a processing plant in black ink. In columns on the left and right is the denomination 5000000 printed vertically. The denomination 5 Millionen Mark is printed vertically in the right margin. The note is worn and stained.
    overall: Height: 3.375 inches (8.573 cm) | Width: 5.625 inches (14.288 cm)
    overall : paper, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The currency was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2012 by Harold Minuskin.
    Record last modified:
    2023-07-10 11:10:40
    This page:

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