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Gray wood and metal ladder used while in hiding by a Polish Jewish concentration camp inmate

Object | Accession Number: 2018.9.1

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    Brief Narrative
    Ladder used by Michael Goldmann (later Goldmann-Gilead), Chanan Ansbacher, and Eli Heilman to hide in Konrad and Regina Zimoń’s hayloft in January 1945, in Rybnik, Poland. The men had escaped from a forced march after Auschwitz concentration camp was evacuated. They hid for a week, during which time the Zimoń’s oldest daughter, Stefania, regularly brought them food. In summer 1939, fearing a German invasion, Michael’s family left Katowice, Poland, and went to stay with relatives in Bircza. In September 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland, and Bircza fell under Soviet control. In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Michael’s brother Jacob was conscripted into the Soviet Army and Michael was transported to Przemysl forced labor camp. On July 27, 1942, Michael’s family was transported to Belzec killing center. In August 1943, Michael carried out an act of resistance and was whipped 81 times by camp commandant Josef Schwammberger. Later that year Michael was transported to Szebnie forced labor camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Aushwitz III, Buna-Monowitz. In January 1945, Michael, Chanan, and Eli escaped and were hidden by the Zimoń family, who were named Righteous Among the Nations in 1995. After liberation, Michael joined the Soviet Army. In 1946, Michael illegally tried to immigrate to Palestine and was detained in an internment camp on Cyprus for 18 months. Upon his release in 1948, he settled near Tel Aviv, Israel, where he later served as a special police investigator in the Adolf Eichmann trial in the early 1960s. In 1992, he was a witness against former commandant Josef Schwammberger at his trial.
    use:  1945 January 20-1945 January 26
    use: Rybnik (Województwo Śląskie, Poland)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
    Subject: Michael Goldmann-Gilead
    Michael “Miki” Goldmann (later Goldmann-Gilead, born 1925) was born in Katowice, Poland, to Naftali (1892-1942) and Esther Erna Goldreich Goldmann (1895-1942). He had a sister, Golda (1928-1942), and a brother, Jacob (1919-2009), named for their maternal grandfather, an Austrian soldier killed in World War I. Michael’s father, Naftali, worked in the family business as a local dairy supplier. Michael’s family lived comfortably and spoke German at home. He learned Polish and Hebrew at the local Jewish public school. The Jewish population in Katowice was small, and there was a lot of anti-Semitism in the region.

    In the summer of 1939, Michael’s family feared that a German invasion was imminent and would be supported by many in Katowice. At the end of August, the family went to stay with his paternal grandfather in Bircza. In September, Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland, and Bircza fell under Soviet rule. Michael’s grandfather lost his business. In the summer of 1940, Michael’s family went to stay with maternal relatives in Niżankowice (now Nyzhankovychi, Ukraine). In June, 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and occupied eastern Poland. Michael, his parents, and his sister, returned to Bircza, and his brother Jacob was conscripted into the Soviet Army. In July, Michael was transported to Przemysl forced labor camp and assigned to the Jewish construction service. In mid-July 1942, the camp and surrounding area became a closed ghetto. Jews from neighboring towns, including Michael’s parents, sister, and grandfather, were brought to the ghetto. On July 26, Michael saw his family in town briefly. The following day, they were taken east by train. Michael had heard rumors they were transported to a killing center.

    The ghetto was run by Commandant Josef Schwammberger, an SS officer that would randomly shoot or whip prisoners. Michael worked in a metal shop and served as part of a transport commando, which collected possessions left by deported Jews. In August 1943, Michael’s commando was sent to the home of the deputy director of Przemysl’s train station. Among his possessions were technical railroad books. Michael hid them, fearing the Germans could use them to improve their transport trains. Two days later, the commandant questioned Michael about the books. Michael lied and the commandant whipped him repeatedly, causing him to lose consciousness several times. When the whipping stopped, the commandant ordered him to recover the books. Michael’s back was bloody and he could barely move, but he collected them. The commandant hit him once more, and Michael collapsed in an alley. After he recovered, observers told him he had been whipped 81 times. In late August, there was a selection and Michael was transported to Szebnie forced labor camp, where he worked as a night shift electrician. On November 3, Michael was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center. After passing through the selection process, Michael’s arm was tattooed with prisoner number 161135. Michael was transferred to Aushwitz III, Buna-Monowitz, where he was a metalworker in the IG Farben factory. In camp, Michael befriended a group of deported German Zionists, including Chanan Ansbacher and Eli Heilmann.

    In mid-January 1945, the camp was evacuated, and Michael, Chanan, and Eli were sent on a forced march. On the third day, Michael and Chanan hid in a snowy roadside ditch near the town of Wielopole (now Rybnik), until the prisoners passed. They went into a yard and drank from a fountain. Eli found them there, and they climbed a ladder to hide in a hayloft. Soon, several SS guards came looking for escaped prisoners that neighbors had spotted. A woman and child came out and told the guards that the prisoners ran into the woods. The next morning, the woman’s 16 year old daughter, Stefania, climbed the ladder carrying a jug of milk and bread for the men. Her mother, Regina, had seen them hide and had lied to the guards. Regina and Konrad Zimoń’s daughters, Stefania, Agnieszka, and Maria, helped care for the men, and Stefania brought them milk and bread daily. After a week, Soviet forces liberated the region. Michael, Chanan, and Eli went to Krakow, where Chanan and Eli joined other former prisoners. Michael returned to visit the Zimońs before joining the Soviet Army as an interpreter in a tank battalion.

    On May 7, 1945, when Germany surrendered, Michael was recovering from an injury in Prague. He returned to Katowice to find a German war widow living in his home and no trace of his family. He learned that they had been sent to Belzec killing center, and believed his brother had died in the Soviet army. Michael made his way to Pocking displaced persons camp in Germany. In late 1946, Michael travelled to Italy, with the help of the Bricha Movement, and boarded a ship smuggling immigrants into Palestine. The British, who ran Palestine under a mandate, seized the ship and sent the passengers to Famagusta internment camp on Cyprus. In the camp, Michael met Florada, a survivor from Bucharest, Romania, and they married on July 20, 1947.

    In 1948, Michael and Florada were released and settled near Tel Aviv, Israel. They had two children and Michael worked as a police investigator. In May 1960, Adolf Eichmann, a chief architect of the Holocaust, was captured in Argentina and brought to Israel to stand trial for crimes against the Jewish people. Michael served as one of 14 Chief Inspectors in Office 6, which handled the collection of evidence and testimony for the prosecution. Eichmann was found guilty and sentenced to death. On June 1, 1962, Michael was one of two police officers present to testify that Adolf Eichmann had been executed. He later scattered the cremated remains beyond Israeli territorial waters. In the mid-1960s, Michael reunited with his brother, Jacob, who had survived and was living in Israel. Michael and Florada divorced. In the early 1970s, Michael met and married Eva, and they had three children. In 1992, Michael served as a witness at the trial of former Przemysl camp commandant Josef Schwammberger. He was found guilty of seven counts of murder and 32 counts of accessory to murder, and sentenced to life in prison. Michael visited his rescuers, the Zimoń family, in Poland several times, and in 1995, Regina, Konrad, and Stefania were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

    Physical Details

    Tools and Equipment
    Object Type
    Ladders (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Gray painted, approximately 11 foot high, single barn ladder with 9 tubular, evenly spaced metal rungs fixed between 2 slightly warped wooden rails with flat inner edges and curved exteriors. The rungs are ¾ of an inch in diameter and 16 ¾ inches long with open ends and corrosion lining the interiors. Each rung fits snugly through its hole in each rail and extends beyond the curved outer edge of the rail. The ends of each rail are tapered and rounded, with the rails spaced slightly wider at the base and narrower at the top. The gray paint is faded, flaked, and worn on the rungs and rails. There are traces of red and white paint on the ends of the rails, an assortment of metal nails hammered into both sides, and traces of dirt on the ladder’s bottom.
    overall: Height: 131.250 inches (333.375 cm) | Width: 16.750 inches (42.545 cm) | Depth: 5.250 inches (13.335 cm)
    overall : wood, metal, paint

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The ladder was acquired by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2017.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-25 12:18:20
    This page:

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