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Stuffed rabbit made for a young Hungarian Jewish camp inmate

Object | Accession Number: 2013.104.3

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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Large, handmade, stuffed bunny made for 4-year-old Éva Erszébet Kiss. This bunny was crafted by a woman inmate when Éva and her mother were imprisoned in Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in spring 1945. When Éva was born to Istvan and Lilian in Pecs in 1941, Hungary was controlled by a fascist regime with anti-Jewish legislation like that of their ally, Nazi Germany. Her father was conscripted into the Hungarian labor service in 1940, leaving her mother to run their wooden blind manufacturing business in Szeged. In March 1944, Germany occupied Hungary. That April, Lilian and Éva were forced into the Szeged ghetto. Many family members, including Lilian’s grandparents, were deported to Auschwitz concentration camp and killed. On July 2, Éva and Lilian were deported to Strasshof labor camp near Vienna, Austria, part of a "Blood for Goods" exchange between Eichmann and the Relief and Rescue Committee of Budapest. In spring 1945, they were sent to Theresienstadt, where Lilian worked in a factory. In April 1945, they escaped the camp during a typhus epidemic. After returning to Hungary, much of the way by foot, they discovered that Istvan had been killed on the Soviet front in 1944. Lilian's maternal uncle, Imre, was the only other surviving family member.
    Lilian remarried in November 1947. She and her husband, George Herman, immigrated to the US in January 1949, but were not able to get Éva a visa until several months later. Éva was placed in a Swiss boarding school until she joined them in New York in April 1949. After her arrival in the US, Éva's name was Americanized to Eva Elizabeth Herman, which incorporated her stepfather's surname.
    Date
    creation:  approximately 1945 March
    Geography
    creation: Theresienstadt (Concentration camp); Terezin (Ustecky kraj, Czech Republic)
    received: Theresienstadt (Concentration camp); Terezin (Ustecky kraj, Czech Republic)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Eva VonAncken
    Contributor
    Subject: Eva E. VonAncken
    Biography
    Éva Erszébet Kiss was born on January 12, 1941, in Pecs, Hungary, to Istvan and Lilian Brichta Kiss. Istvan was born in 1914 in Szeged to Leopold and Jeanetta Mauthner Kiss. Lilian was born on July 2, 1920, in Pecs to Alois, born in 1889, and Elisabeth Benko Brichta. Elisabeth was born in 1896 in Pecs to Josef and Maria Foldmar Benko and had three siblings: Ilona, born 1892, Margaret, born 1900, and Imre, born 1902. Elisabeth died in 1928 in Budapest. Alois traveled frequently for business so Lilian was raised by her maternal grandparents, Josef and Maria Benko in Pecs, their native town, where Josef was born in 1867 and Maria in 1871. Josef was a vintner and a prominent member of the Jewish community. In 1938, Lilian married Istvan Kiss. They moved to his hometown of Szeged shortly after their marriage where Istvan owned a factory that produced wooden window blinds. In 1938, Istvan’s father died in Szeged.

    Hungary was controlled by a fascist regime, allied to Nazi Germany. From 1939, Jewish men were forced into the Hungarian labor service. In 1940, it was put under army command, and that year, Istvan was conscripted into a forced labor battalion. Lilian’s uncle Imre was also conscripted into the labor service. Her father Alois passed away that year. After Istvan was taken, Lilian returned to Pecs where she had Éva in January 1941. Mother and baby then moved back to Szeged, where Lilian ran Istvan’s business.

    In March 1944, Germany invaded Hungary, partly to end Hungary’s attempts to surrender to the Allies. In April, Éva and Lilian were forced into the Szeged ghetto. Lilian’s grandparents, Josef and Maria, and her aunt, Margaret, were deported from Szeged. On July 2, Éva and Lilian were deported to Strasshof labor/concentration camp near Vienna, Austria. In March or April 1945, they were transferred to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German occupied Czechoslovakia, where Lilian worked in a factory. There was had very little food and water in the ghetto and disease was widespread. Lilian and Éva slept in a room with earth floors, thin gray blankets, and many other women. One day, Éva was examined by a doctor and behaved so hysterically, kicking and screaming, that they left her alone. Lilian usually punished Éva for bad behavior, but this time, was pleased with her.

    In April 1945, there was a typhus epidemic in the camp. Many guards left and they were able to walk out with a group of women. Lilian and Éva were accompanied by a man who passed as Lilian's husband. They walked for many days in the cold. At one point, they encountered a convoy of Soviet soldiers. One of them showed Éva an armful of watches and told her she could have one. Lilian then told Éva not to move until she returned, and went off with the soldiers. Lilian and Éva stayed the night under a Soviet truck, which left while they slept. They walked and hitched rides until Lilian found a train station, which was overcrowded with displaced persons. Éva was separated from her mother and almost trampled, but a stranger put her in an overhead luggage rack until Lilian found her. They returned to Budapest, then Pecs, looking for missing relatives. Most of their extended family members had not survived the war. In approximately 1944, Istvan was killed by a Hungarian Nazi for his coat on the Soviet front. On July 7, 1944, Lilian’s maternal grandparents, Josef and Maria, were killed in Auschwitz. Lilian’s aunt, Margaret, and Istvan’s mother, Jeanetta, were also killed in Auschwitz. Lilian’s uncle Imre returned, having survived his service in the Hungarian labor battalion. The Hungarian Nazi leading his unit was his former barber from Pecs and looked out for him. Lilian’s aunt, Ilona, also survived.

    Lilian and Éva returned to Szeged. In November 1947, Lilian married George Herman, who was originally from Budapest, but employed in Szeged. George (October 1909-December 1985) had been held in a Soviet prison camp in Siberia during the war. George’s brother was an American citizen, and helped George and Lilian get US visas in November 1948. They were not allowed to bring Éva because she was not related to George by blood. On January 24, 1949, Lilian and George sailed to the US on the Queen Mary. Éva was placed at a boarding school in Switzerland until they could arrange for her emigration. On April 8, 1949, eight year old Éva flew from Zurich to New York. George picked her up at the airport and took her to the Statue of Liberty, to make her first day in the US memorable. The family quickly assimilated to life in the US. George and Lilian did not talk about their wartime experiences. Éva was not allowed to speak Hungarian and her name was changed to Eva Elisabeth Herman. George and Lilian had a son in the US. Eva later married and became Eva VonAncken and had children. Lilian, age 84, died on August 6, 2004.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Toys
    Category
    Stuffed animals
    Physical Description
    Hand sewn, light brown, cloth rabbit, stuffed with soft batting. The flat oval head has 2 long, stiff, cloth ears with rounded tips and dark brown cloth undersides. There are two light brown, cloth covered button eyes with black thread pupils sewn on the sides of the face. It has a large square nose, a small curved mouth, and 2 sets of 3 whiskers stitched in black thread. Two stuffed, movable front legs are sewn to the sides of the body and a long, stuffed tail is sewn to the lower back. The cloth is stained and has several holes.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 10.875 inches (27.623 cm) | Width: 6.375 inches (16.192 cm) | Depth: 4.125 inches (10.477 cm)
    Materials
    overall : cloth, batting, thread, plastic

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The stuffed rabbit was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013 by Eva VonAncken.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2024-02-20 12:36:48
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn60758

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