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Hebrew prayer book, carried to Ecuador by a German Jewish refugee family

Object | Accession Number: 2016.538.5

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    Brief Narrative
    Siddur S'fat Emet book, owned by a member of Ilse Brilling’s family, and carried from Germany to Ecuador in the late 1930s. Following Adolf Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor of Germany in January 1933, anti-Jewish decrees and persecution made life in Germany increasingly difficult. In 1939, Ilse Brilling left Rastenburg, Germany and immigrated to Chambo, Ecuador with her parents, Hedwig and Isidor, and older sister, Hilde. Ilse’s father died that same year, and the family moved to Quito, where she met Horst Abraham. Horst immigrated to Ecuador from Leipzig, Germany, in 1937, after hearing a rumor that he might be arrested. His parents, Nanette and David, and one of his two brothers, Kurt, joined him there later. The couple married on March 3, 1944, and they had their first child in 1946. Ilse, Horst, and their other family members living in Ecuador immigrated to the United States in the mid-to-late 1940s and settled in the New York City area. Horst changed his name to Harry, and got a job working in a meatpacking factory owned by his distant relatives. Many members of their extended families were not able to escape from Europe and died during the Holocaust.
    Siddur S'fat Emet
    Alternate Title
    Prayer book of the Language (Word) of Truth
    Israelite prayer book
    Israelitisches Gebetbuch
    emigration:  1937-1939 May
    publication:  1923
    publication: Halberstadt (Germany)
    manufacture: Halberstadt (Germany)
    distribution: Berlin (Germany)
    use: Kętrzyn (Poland)
    en route: Ecuador.
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ruth Abraham
    title page, printed, black ink : [Hebrew characters] / [illegible stylized script] / Israelitisches Gebetbuch / [Hebrew characters] / Druck von H. Meyer’s Buchdruckerei, Halberstadt / Verlag: / Bund gesetzestreuer jüdischer Gemeinden Deutschlands, Halberstadt / 1923 [(Siddur S'fat Emet) Prayer book of the Language (Word) of Truth / [illegible] / Israelite Prayer Book / Halberstadt / 5683 / Printing from H. Meyer's Book Printing, Halberstadt / Publisher: / Confederation of law-abiding Jewish communities in Germany, Halberstadt / 1923
    Subject: Ilse Abraham
    Original owner: J. Brilling
    Publisher: Bund gesessestreuer jüdischer Gemeinden Deutschlands, Halberstadt
    Printer: H. Meyer’s Buchdruckerei
    Bookseller: H. Lewin, Hebräischer Buchhändler
    Ilse Brilling (1927-2016) was born to Hedwig (nee, Finkenstein, 1891-1959) and Isidor (1895-1939) Brilling in Rastenburg, Germany (now Kętrzyn, Poland). Hedwig was born in Molthainen, East Prussia (now Mołtajny, Poland), and had four brothers and three sisters. Isidor was also born in East Prussia, and had at least two brothers and six sisters. Following World War I, Isidor received an iron cross for his service in the German army. He began selling raw materials, such as furs and metals, which he grew into a successful business with employees. Ilse had one sister, Hildegard or Hilde (later Baum, 1923-2010), whom she was not close to as a child. The family lived a comfortable lifestyle in a two-bedroom apartment above stores that they rented out. They also had two maids and a car, which they used often to visit her paternal grandmother. As a child, Ilse was extremely shy and very close to her mother, but had a distant relationship with her father. Although Rastenburg was a small town, it had a large Jewish congregation. Hedwig prepared a big Shabbat dinner every week, and Ilse would often help her in the kitchen. Ilse’s parents regularly entertained friends in their home, and one year hosted a Christmas and Hanukkah party for their employees.

    On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. Anti-Jewish decrees were passed that restricted every aspect of Jewish life. Almost immediately, the 117 Jews in Rastenburg were barred from movie theaters, swimming pools, and businesses, including the stores Ilse’s parents rented out. Ilse lost her only friend, a girl from a gentile family who joined the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls), a Nazi girls’ group.

    On November 9, 1938, during the Kristallnacht pogrom, stores run by Jews were destroyed and their synagogues were burned down. Isidor was arrested by the SS and imprisoned in Mitgeten. A relative living in the United States sent him an affidavit, which Hedwig took along with the Iron Cross medal awarded for his service during World War I, and was able to get Isidor out of jail. Even after his release, Isidor did not leave without his family. The day after Kristallnacht, Hilde returned to Rastenburg from Konigsberg, where she had been apprenticed as a seamstress. Hedwig registered the girls for a kindertransport to England, but they were never assigned to one.

    Early in 1939, Isidor acquired visas for the family to immigrate to Uruguay. Shortly thereafter, their house, accounts, and assets were seized by the government, and they lost the crates of belongings they had shipped to South America. Shortly before leaving, however, they were notified that their visas were forgeries. After several weeks of visiting many consulates, Isidor obtained visas for Ecuador. They boarded the SS Caribia and sailed from Hamburg, Germany, in May 1939, and were given second-class cabins, even though they had paid for first-class.

    After landing in the industrial city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, the family moved to Riobamba, and then a nearby village called Chambo, where they rented a large house and land for farming. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland; two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany, beginning World War II. Emigrating from Europe became increasingly difficult, as few nations were accepting Jewish refugees, and there was little opportunity to help those left behind. At the end of December, Ilse’s father, Isidor, received an upsetting letter from his mother that he did not show his children. That day, he went on an errand to Riobamba, where he died of a heart attack. No longer able to make a living on the farm, Hedwig moved the family to rented rooms in Riobamba. They later moved to Ambato, where Hilde married a man named Albert Baum (?-1996). While in Ambato, Ilse attended school for a year, and became fluent in Spanish.

    The family then moved to Ecuador’s capital, Quito, and met Horst Abraham (1917-2003), who worked in a small German delicatessen. Horst had immigrated to Ecuador from Leipzig, Germany in 1937, when he heard a rumor that he might be arrested. His parents, Nanette (1881-1960) and David (1881-1958), and his brother Kurt (1910-2005) followed him to Ecuador a few years later. Another brother named Max (?-1998?) immigrated to South Africa. The immigrant community in Quito was very close-knit. They had a clubhouse called the Beneficiencia, which served as a major center of Jewish life, with a restaurant, card rooms, dances, and plays. Hedwig began doing their baking, often with Ilse’s help. The immigrants in Quito also had many businesses, movie theaters, a sports club, and a dance club. Like all of the other immigrant families, the Brillings shopped at the delicatessen regularly, and Horst eventually asked Ilse on a date. After a year of courtship, the couple got engaged. They married the following year on March 3, 1944. Ilse worked as an apprentice in a beauty parlor, and then began doing hair and manicures in private homes. Horst took over management of the delicatessen where he worked.

    Germany surrendered to the Allied forces on May 7, 1945, ending the war in Europe. That September, Japan surrendered, ending the war in the Pacific. In May 1946, Hilde and her husband immigrated to the United States. That August, Hedwig’s sister and niece, Claire Brummer (1892-1978) and Ingeborg Majewski (later Price, b. 1927), joined them in Quito, having survived the war in France. Hedwig and Claire immigrated to the United States in November 1947. Ingeborg married in 1947 and immigrated to the US in 1951 with her husband and child. In 1948, Ilse and her family also immigrated, joining the rest of their family in Brooklyn, New York. Horst changed his name to Harry, and got a job working in a meatpacking factory owned by his distant relatives. Ilse got a job as a manicurist, and they had another son, Stephen, in 1951.

    Physical Details

    Hebrew German
    Object Type
    Prayer books (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Book; 140 p; 18 cm.
    Prayer book with brown and tan marbled covers, and a brown cloth binding. The cover and spine are undecorated and unmarked. On the interior of the front cover are a white sticker with a former owners name and contact information, and a purple sticker from a bookshop
    overall: Height: 7.125 inches (18.097 cm) | Width: 4.375 inches (11.113 cm) | Depth: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm)
    overall : cardboard, paper, ink, cloth, adhesive
    inside front cover, printed, black ink on white sticker : J. Brilling / Rastenburg Ostpr. / Fischerstr. 4 / Telefon 524

    inside front cover, printed, purple ink on white sticker : H. LEWIN / TELEF. / D2.4356 / HEBR. BUCHHANDLUNG / BERLIN N‧54‧GRENADIERSTR‧28 [H. LEWIN / TELEPHONE / D2.4356 / Hebrew Bookshop / Berlin N N‧54‧GRENADIERSTR‧

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The prayer book was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2016 by Ruth Abraham, the daughter of Ilse and Horst Abraham.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:16:59
    This page:

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