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Dark brown leather briefcase brought to the US by a Jewish Hungarian refugee

Object | Accession Number: 2013.117.2

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    Dark brown leather briefcase brought to the US by a Jewish Hungarian refugee

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Brown leather briefcase brought with Paul Zilczer when he left Budapest, Hungary, for the United States, in May 1939. Paul, a physicist, and his wife Margit lived in Budapest, when in 1938, the fascist Hungarian government passed laws restricting the rights of Jews. In 1939, Paul and Margit both traveled to England. On May 17, Paul sailed to New York City where he lived with his cousin Emil and his family. Margit returned to Budapest. In November 1940, Hungary entered World War II as a German ally. In March 1944, Germany invaded Hungary to ensure Hungary's continued involvement with the war effort and their cooperation in the deportation of all Hungarian Jews to concentration camps. Margit was deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany and killed in November 1944.
    Date
    emigration:  1939 May 17-1939 May 24
    Geography
    received: Budapest (Hungary)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Janet Zilczer and Judith Zilczer
    Contributor
    Subject: Paul Zilczer
    Biography
    Paul Zilczer was born on August 30, 1908, in Budapest, Hungary, to a Jewish couple. He graduated from college and worked as a physicist. Paul married Margit Gelyi, a young Jewish woman, and the couple settled in Budapest. Margit was born on June 19, 1907, in Gyor, Hungary, to Tibor and Vilma Winkler Gelyi.
    During the 1930’s, Hungary was an ally of Nazi Germany, and in 1938, Hungary’s fascist regime adopted anti-Jewish race laws based on Germany’s Nuremberg Laws. In 1939, the Hungarian government established a forced-labor service for able-bodied Jewish men of military age. Paul and Margit travelled to England in 1939. On May 17, Paul boarded the S.S. Manhattan in Southampton, England, and sailed to New York City, where he lived with his cousin Emil and his family. Margit travelled to several places in Europe, including London, England, and Paris, France, before returning to Budapest.
    In November 1940, Hungary entered World War II as part of the Axis alliance. In March 1944, Germany invaded Hungary to ensure Hungary's continued involvement with the war effort and their cooperation in the deportation of all Hungarian Jews to concentration camps. On January 18, 1945, the Soviet Army liberated Budapest. The war in Europe ended on May 7, 1945. In 1946, Paul learned that Margit, 37, had been deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp in northern Germany on October 23, 1944, and killed in November. Paul married his second wife, Rose (1917-2011), in approximately 1947. The couple settled in Waterbury, Connecticut, and had two daughters. Paul worked as a research physicist. Paul, age 65, died in November 1973, in Arlington, Virginia.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Containers
    Category
    Luggage
    Object Type
    Briefcases (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, dark brown, smooth leather briefcase with accordion side folds and a leather handle attached by metal rings to the large, top closure flap which has incised line edging. The bottom edge of the flap has 2 brown painted snap caps and a metal plate that folds over the edge with 3 short rods on the back. The rods correspond to 3 holes above a small keyhole and lock plate on the front panel of the briefcase between 2 metal snap studs. A second lock plate, with the 3 holes below the keyhole, is centered on the bottom back panel between 2 metal snap studs. The sides and base of the briefcase are stitched together with brown thread, and the corners are reinforced with metal rivets. The interior is unfinished leather. All hardware is silver-colored metal. The briefcase is worn, torn, and stained from use.
    Dimensions
    Overall: Height: 10.500 inches (26.67 cm) | Width: 16.000 inches (40.64 cm) | Depth: 2.500 inches (6.35 cm)
    Materials
    overall : leather, metal, thread, paint

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The briefcase was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013 by Janet Zilczer and Judith Zilczer, the daughters of Paul Zilczer.
    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 20:13:55
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn61191

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