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Leather tallit pouch made by an inmate in a Dutch detention center

Object | Accession Number: 2012.485.11

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    Leather tallit pouch made by an inmate in a Dutch detention center


    Brief Narrative
    Leather tallit bag made by Fritz Silberschmidt in Zeeburgerdijk quarantine center in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in fall 1939. Fritz looked after an elderly orthodox rabbi who was ill and dying. The rabbi entrusted Fritz with his tallit, the prayer shawl that was his only possession and had been in his family for generations. Fritz saved and used the tallit for High Holidays for the rest of his life, and was buried in it upon his death in 1991. Fritz made shoes in the camp and secretly sewed this pouch from leather scraps he saved from work. It was pig leather, but Fritz felt since it was the only thing available, God would understand. He used the pouch to protect the tallit for over fifty years. Fritz, with his wife Juliane, mother Selma, and brother Rudolph fled Nazi Germany in 1939. Once Germany invaded Poland that September, even legal emigrants were detained as enemy aliens. Fritz was soon released and he and Juliane left for America in January 1940. Fritz's brother Rudolph was murdered in Auschwitz in September 1942. His mother survived in hiding and joined him in the US.
    creation:  after 1939 September
    creation: Zeeburgerdijk detention center; Amsterdam (Netherlands)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Peter Silversmith
    Subject: Fred Silversmith
    Fritz Silberschmidt was born on October 4, 1908, in Bocholt, Germany, to a Jewish couple, Jacob and Selma Berg Silberschmidt. Jacob was a veteran of World War I (1914-1918). Selma was born on November 17, 1884, in Essen. Fritz had a brother, Rudolph, who was born on May 23, 1912. Fritz’s father Jacob died in 1927. In January 1933, Hitler came to power and soon established a Nazi dictatorship that was hostile to Jews. On November 8, Fritz moved to Cologne. Later that year, he married Juliane Else Simon. Juliane was born on September 5, 1909, in Cologne, to Eduard and Dorothea Altman Simon. Eduard was born in Thalfang on January 27, 1873. Dorothea was born in Schrimm (Srem, Poland) on August 31, 1877. In June 1936, Fritz’s mother and brother also moved to Cologne.

    In 1939, Fritz, Juliane, Rudolph, and Selma decided to depart for the Netherlands, leaving behind their extended families. Nazi officials confiscated their personal and household belongings, except for three silver spoons which they were given permission to take with them. In Holland, Fritz was detained in Zeeburgerdijk quarantine center in Amsterdam. This was one of several internment camps for legal refugees that the Dutch established to handle the large influx of people fleeing Nazi rule. Fritz was assigned to make shoes in the camp. In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and even legal refugees were subject to internment as enemy aliens. On a visit to the camp, Rudolph told Fritz that he was going to volunteer for a factory job, hoping to protect their mother in case Germany invaded Netherlands. Fritz was eventually released from the internment center. On January 24, 1940, he and Juliane sailed from Rotterdam on the SS Veendam, arriving in New York on February 5. They settled in Boston and Americanized their names to Fred and Juliana Elsa Silversmith. They had a son in 1945. Germany occupied Netherlands in May 1940. In 1942, Juliana received a letter from the Red Cross that said her parents had been deported from Germany to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German occupied Czechoslovakia. The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945.

    They subsequently learned that Fred’s brother Rudolph was murdered in Auschwitz concentration camp on September 30, 1942. He had been sent to Westerbork transit camp on July 15, 1942, and then deported. Juliana’s parents had been arrested on June 16, 1942, in Cologne by the Gestapo and sent to Theresienstadt. On September 19, 1942, they were deported on transport Bo to Treblinka or Maly Trostenets killing center, and murdered. Fred’s mother Selma survived in hiding in the Netherlands. She joined Fred and Juliana in Boston, sailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, on the SS Gripsholm, and arriving in New York on December 2, 1946. Selma, 79, passed away on February 13, 1964. Fred, 82, died on March 17, 1991. Juliana, 90, died on April 4, 2000.

    Physical Details

    Jewish Art and Symbolism
    Object Type
    Tallith bags (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Heavily used, hand crafted, rectangular, supple brown pigskin pouch with a short foldover flap and machine sewn seams.
    overall: Height: 8.625 inches (21.908 cm) | Width: 13.500 inches (34.29 cm)
    overall : pigskin, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The tallit bag was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2015 by Peter Silversmith, the son of Fritz Silberschmidt.
    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:
    2022-07-28 18:31:09
    This page:

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