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Castle-shaped Havdalah spice box (besamim) owned by a Lithuanian Jewish refugee in the Shanghai Ghetto

Object | Accession Number: 2017.513.5

Silver alloy, castle-shaped spice box from Poland, carried by Sara Kupinski’s (later Cohen) family as they traveled through the Soviet Union and Japan to China, where her family fled using Japanese and Dutch transit visas supplied by diplomats in Soviet-occupied Kovno, (Kaunas), Lithuania. Later, the box was given to Sara by her mother, Slawa, as a wedding gift in Canada, where the family had settled in 1949. Sara lived outside of Lida, Poland (now Belarus) with her parents, Eliasz and Slawa, brother, Hirsz, and uncle, Samuel. Following Germany and the Soviet Union’s invasion of Poland in September 1939, Eli and Samuel fled to Vilna (now Vilnius, Lithuania) because they were considered wealthy landowners. Slawa, Hirsz, and Sara later joined them. Having obtained their transit visas in August 1940, Sara’s family left later that year, traveling on the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Vladivostock. In early 1941, they took a boat to Kobe, Japan. That fall, they were forced to go to Japanese-controlled Shanghai. Samuel and Eli found work at a Jewish import and export company, and Sara and Hirsz attended the Jewish school. In early 1943, Japanese authorities ordered that all stateless refugees must live within a designated area, which came to be known as the Shanghai or Hongkew ghetto. In the summer of 1945, following the German surrender in May, US forces bombed Shanghai heavily. On August 14, Japan surrendered to the US. The Kupinski family learned that Slawa’s brothers had survived in France, but that her parents were killed in the Vilna ghetto in 1942 or 1943. Eli’s parents likely died in Siberia.

manufacture:  approximately 1850-approximately 1935
emigration:  1939-1949
manufacture: Poland
en route: Europe
en route: Asia
en route: Canada
Jewish Art and Symbolism
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Lynda Cohen
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 21:51:24
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