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War Medal 1939-1945, ribbon and box awarded to a Jewish soldier, 2nd Polish Corps

Object | Accession Number: 2012.471.17 a-c

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    War Medal 1939-1945, ribbon and box awarded to a Jewish soldier, 2nd Polish Corps

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    British issued War Medal 1939-1945 with striped ribbon and box of issue awarded to Edward Herzbaum for his service in World War II. Edward was a soldier in the 5th Krestowa Infantry, 2nd Polish Corps, British Army from 1942-1945, and in combat with the British 8th Army in Italy from February 1944-May 7, 1945. The medal was received by his daughter in 1990 on his behalf. Many Polish soldiers refused their British medals as a protest against the government for excluding them from the Victory Parade of 1946 due to pressure from Stalin. Edward, 19, left Łódź, Poland, shortly after Nazi Germany occupied the country in September 1939 for Soviet controlled Lvov. In June 1940, he was exiled to a forced labor camp by Soviet security police. Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Edward was released in an amnesty of Polish prisoners. He joined Anders Army, a Polish voluntary military unit. In August 1942, the unit left Soviet territory and became the 2nd Polish Corps. In February 1944, they joined the 8th British Army in Italy. The Corps fought its way north and was honored for heroism in the Battle of Monte Cassino. They were in Italy on VE Day, May 8, 1945. Edward learned that his mother died in Łódź Ghetto in 1943. He studied architecture in Rome until the British decided to allow Polish Corps veterans to immigrate to England in October 1946. He then served in the Polish Resettlement Corps for two years, completed his degree, and set up his own architecture firm.
    Date
    commemoration:  1939-1945
    received:  1990
    Geography
    issue: Great Britain
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Krystyna Mew
    Markings
    front, around edge, embossed : GEORGIVS VI D:G:BR:OMN: REX ET INDIAE IMP: [George VI by the Grace of God King of all the British, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India)
    front, below bust, engraved : PM
    reverse, left side, engraved : ECRP
    reverse, above lion, embossed : 1939 / 1945
    Contributor
    Subject: Edward H. Hartry
    Designer: Edward Carter Preston
    Artist: Percy Metcalfe
    Manufacturer: Royal Mint
    Biography
    Edward Henryk Herzbaum (later Hartry) was born on October 6, 1920, in Vienna, Austria. He was the only son of a Jewish couple, Dr. Alexander and Fanny Hermelin Herzbaum. Alexander was a chemical engineer, born in Tarnow, Poland, in February 1886 to Mendel (1855-1930) and Chana Ettinger Herzbaum, who married in 1882. They also had a daughter Gisela (1884-1912.) Chana died in 1886. In 1888, Mendel married Beila Lea Ettinger (b. August 22, 1864). Mendel and Beila had two children: Jakob (1888-1966) and Herman. Edward's mother Fanny was born in Boryslaw, Poland, near Lvov on May 30, 1890, to Samuel (d. 1922) and Chaje Sara Backenroth Hermelin. Fanny had four siblings, Rifke (b. 1883), Cirl (b. 1888), Zacharje (1884-1925), and Abraham (1885-1886.) In 1928, Edward's family moved to Poland and settled in Zawiercie. Edward had asthma and wore glasses, as he was very shortsighted. In 1934, they moved to Łódź. Alexander, 51, died in July 1937 of cancer. Edward graduated from high school in May 1938, and deferred his military service to enroll at the Warsaw Polytechnic, Faculty of Architecture. He had completed two semesters when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Edward joined the Polish Auxiliary Forces as a volunteer and was arrested by the Germans with other paramilitary youth a few days later. Edward escaped and returned to Łódź. The Soviet Union invaded and occupied eastern Poland. German occupying authorities in Łódź enacted oppressive anti-Jewish measures. At the urging of his mother, Edward, then 19, left Łódź on December 6, 1939, and went east to Lvov, which was under Soviet control.

    In Lvov, Edward lived with his maternal aunt and had an assortment of jobs, including office worker at a construction site, skiing instructor, and lifeguard at a swimming pool in a Soviet sports center. In June 1940, Edward was arrested by the NKVD (Soviet Security Police), tortured, and exiled to a gulag near Rybinsk on the Volga River. The prisoners logged and hauled trees in freezing temperatures. They worked on the construction of a reservoir and hydro-electric plant. The camp was primitive, and the inmates suffered from starvation, exhaustion, and brutal treatment from the guards. Edward spent months in the infirmary, but his poor health did not exempt him from abuse. Around this time, Edward began to keep a journal.

    In June 1941, Germany invaded the USSR. The Soviets issued an amnesty of the Polish forced laborers and other Soviet prisoners. Some were needed to work in factories and agriculture to replace the Russians mobilized into the Red Army. Other prisoners were released to join the fight against the Germans. An agreement was signed between the Polish Government in Exile and the Soviet government to form a Polish Army in the East, commanded by General Wladyslaw Anders. After his release, Edward traveled south to Tatischewo (now Turkmenbasy) in Turkemenistan in September, and joined Anders Army as a soldier in the 5th Kresowa Infantry Division. It was a difficult existence, as the Soviets were unwilling to supply enough food or equipment to sustain the Polish soldiers. On August 17, 1942, they left Soviet territory, crossing the Caspian Sea to Pahlevi, Iran (now Bandar-e-Anzali.) At this point, they were placed under the control of the British government and became the Polish Second Corps, a unit of the British Army affiliated with the Polish Armed Forces in the West. The troops travelled through Bakhtaran (now Kirmanshah) then to Khanaqin, Iraq, as they received training from British forces.

    Edward’s health improved as he got out of the Soviet Union, and food and supplies were plentiful. However, the increasingly horrifying news from Poland affected him deeply, and he experienced bouts of depression. Painting and drawing materials were available and Edward began to document events with sketches and watercolors. In March 1943, the Corps was in Habbaniya, Iraq, and in September, went to Nuseirat, Palestine. In February 1944, the unit moved to Quassasin, Egypt. The Polish soldiers were fully trained now and, on February 18, Edward and his division boarded the M.S. Dilwara in Port Said for Taranto, Italy, where they joined the Italian Campaign under the command of the Eighth British Army. They fought their way north through Italy, experiencing high casualties, especially in the May 1944 final Battle of Monte Cassino, the fourth assault on those German defenses since January 1944. Edward visited the cemetery at Aquafondate and saw the names of many men he knew well. Edward, although Jewish by birth, was an atheist and, for him, the comradeship and closeness between soldier’s transcended class and religion. They relied on each other completely, as they experienced the trauma of war together. In June, the Corps fought in the Adriatic Campaign, including the Battle of Ancona, capturing the city on July 18, 1944.

    The war ended in early May 1945 with Germany's surrender. Many Polish soldiers did not want to return to their now communist-run country and had to wait in Italy while the British Army determined what to do. Edward learned that his mother had died in Łódź Ghetto. He was given leave to resume education and studied architecture at the University of Rome from March - September 1946. In October, Edward and other Polish veterans sailed from Naples on the SS Marine Raven, arriving in Glasgow in early November. Edward was assigned to an army camp near High Wycombe. In September 1947, he was given leave to study architecture at Polish University College in London. He was discharged as a private from the Polish forces and listed as a member of the Polish Resettlement Corps from November 1947-June 1949.

    In 1949, Edward changed his name from Herzbaum to Hartry, following the example of a cousin, Ted, who had escaped to the US where he joined the US Army. Edward completed his architecture studies in June 1950. He was an architect's assistant at the London County Council. In 1952, he became a British national. In his naturalization form, he states that his mother died in 1940-1941, exact date not known. He never knew the details of her passing. Records discovered later said Fanny, 53, died of peritonitis in Łódź Ghetto on December 12, 1943. Edward established an architectural firm with two partners. In 1956, Edward, called Edek, married Teresa Jaskolska, a Polish Catholic woman. She had a daughter from a previous marriage and the couple had a daughter in 1957. Edward, 47, died on February 22, 1967, of cancer. After Teresa’s death in 2002, his daughter Krystyna Mew discovered his wartime artwork and journals, which were translated and published in 2010 as Lost between Worlds: A World War II Journey of Survival.

    Physical Details

    Language
    Latin
    Classification
    Military Insignia
    Category
    Medals
    Physical Description
    a. Circular, shiny, cupro-nickel alloy medal with a raised rim and smooth edge, 1.375 in. diam. On the front is an embossed image of a male head in left profile, the crowned effigy of George VI, with Latin text circling the border. The reverse has an embossed image of a left facing, triumphant lion trampling a dragon bodied creature with heads of an eagle and a serpent, symbols of the Axis Powers, with dates 1939 and 1945 embossed above the lion. Artist's initial's are embossed on the front and the designer's on the reverse. At the top of the medal is a suspension ring with a straight, cylindrical top bar through which the ribbon (b) is inserted.
    b. Rectangular, striped grosgrain ribbon with a narrow central red stripe flanked by narrow white stripes, wider blue stripes, and red stripes at the edges, the colors of the British flag. The ribbon is inserted through the suspension ring of the medal (a). The ends of the folded ribbon are not sewn together.
    c. Rectangular, black plastic box with a hinged lid, a raised gold painted metal border, and a crown stamped in gold paint on the exterior lid. A small tab on the base is used to open the lid. The foam padded interior is lined with black velvet.
    Dimensions
    a: Height: 2.000 inches (5.08 cm) | Width: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm) | Depth: 0.125 inches (0.318 cm)
    b: Height: 6.000 inches (15.24 cm) | Width: 1.250 inches (3.175 cm)
    c: Height: 3.750 inches (9.525 cm) | Width: 2.375 inches (6.033 cm) | Depth: 0.875 inches (2.223 cm)
    Materials
    a : cotton
    b : plastic
    c : cloth, paint

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The medal and ribbon with fitted box were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2012 by Krystyna Mew, the daughter of Edward (Herzbaum) Hartry.
    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:
    2023-08-25 12:47:44
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn61180

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