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Opera glasses and case owned by a Jewish Austrian refugee

Object | Accession Number: 2018.258.2 a-c

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    Opera glasses and case owned by a Jewish Austrian refugee

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Opera glasses with mother-of-pearl panels brought to the United States by Herta Schwarzbart Stoer when she emigrated from Vienna, Austria, in February 1939. Herta lived in Vienna with her parents, Arthur and Pauline Schwarzbart, and four siblings: Hilda, Fritz, Ella, and Hansi. In August 1914, Arthur was selected to fight in World War I, and three months later, he died of tetanus. As a result, Pauline had to close the lingerie business they ran together before the war. Her daughter, Hilda began making and selling children’s clothing. Pauline’s younger children, Fritz, Ella, Herta, and Hansi, were sent to an orphanage. Herta was transferred to a boarding school for Jewish orphan girls, where she later returned as a teacher. In 1932, Hansi married and moved to Palestine. In early 1936, Herta began dating Leopold (Leo) Stoer. In June 1937, Pauline passed away. On March 13, 1938, Austria was annexed into Germany. Later that month, Herta and Leo married, but continued to live separately in Vienna. Leo immigrated to the US in September 1938, followed by Herta in February 1939. In September, the couple moved to California, where they began running a chicken farm to raise money to help their families immigrate. As World War II progressed, Herta and Leo lost contact with most family members. Herta later learned that her family members had been deported to concentration camps and killed in 1942 or 1943. Only her sister-in-law, Sidi, and nephew, Paul Schwarzbart, survived in hiding. Leo’s entire family had been deported to concentration camps and killed in 1942.
    Date
    acquired:  approximately 1900-before 1939 February
    emigration:  1939 February
    Geography
    en route: United States
    acquired: Vienna (Austria)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Joyce Stoer Cordi
    Markings
    a. bridge near the focus knob, underside, left, engraved, maker’s mark : inverted feline head / DEPOSI
    c. interior, lid, center, metal plate, embossed : HUGO WOLF / DIPLOM. OPTIKER / WIEN I. [HUGO WOLF / DIPLOM. OPTICAL / VIENNA 1]
    Contributor
    Subject: Herta Stoer
    Manufacturer: Deposi
    Distributor: Hugo Wolf
    Biography
    Herta Schwarzbart (later Stoer, 1908-2007) was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, to Arthur (1875-1914) and Pauline Flesch (1873-1937) Schwarzbart. Arthur was born in Terezín, Austria-Hungary, to Alexander and Rosala Schwarzbart. Arthur had five siblings. Arthur’s mother died in the late 1890s, and his father later married Josephine, who had two sons. Pauline was born in Vienna, to Abraham and Johanna Ernst Flesch. Pauline had an older sister, Hermine or Minna (later Tischler, 1869-1943), and a younger brother, Samuel or Sammy. Pauline’s mother died in 1912, and her father later remarried. He had a son before dying in 1917. In 1895, 20-year-old Arthur was corresponding with Pauline while serving in the Austro-Hungarian army in Moravia. In 1900, Arthur and Pauline married in Vienna. Herta’s aunt Minna married, had two children, and ran a candy store. Herta’s Uncle Sammy was wounded during World War I, and died of complications in the 1930s. After Herta’s oldest sister, Hilda (1901-1942), was born, Arthur, worked briefly in Germany, while Pauline worked from home, sewing for a girdle factory. Herta had three other siblings: Friedrich (Fritz, 1902-1945), Gisela (Ella, 1904-1942), and Hansi (1913-?). Pauline taught Arthur how to sew and he began designing fancy petticoats. He would take orders from wholesalers, and then both he and Pauline would fill the orders at home. Their company grew to employ 125 additional seamstresses. Herta’s family lived very comfortably, with a hired maid and vacations at a resort in the Alps.

    World War I began in August 1914, and as a member of the peacetime army, Arthur was called up immediately. In November, Arthur was shot while fighting on the Russian front. He developed a tetanus infection and died. The war prevented Pauline from buying material for the business, and she was forced to close. With inadequate resources at home, 6-year-old Herta, Ella, Hansi, and Fritz were placed in an orphanage in early 1915. The children attended school at the orphanage and Pauline was able to visit them there. Meanwhile, Pauline and Hilda moved into an apartment above a small storefront where they sold candy. As food shortages increased, there was no candy left to sell, so Hilda began to sell children’s clothing in their shop instead. Herta and her siblings attended school at the orphanage. Eventually, Herta began attending a school for Jewish orphan girls. The entire year revolved around Jewish holidays and Herta wrote and directed plays for the other students. After finishing school, 16-year-old Herta attended a secretarial school, where she learned English. After two more years, Herta left the orphanage to work as a governess.

    When she was 19, Herta’s school reached out and asked her to return as a teacher. While there, she completed a part-time course of study at a teacher’s college, and became proficient in French. Her brother Fritz married Sara Ryfka Schneider (Sidi, 1908-1969) in 1931, and had a son, Paul, in 1933. Herta’s sister Hansi became a Zionist, met and married Gyuri Loeffler in 1932, and moved to Palestine. In late 1935 or early 1936, Herta’s friend Richard Krochmalnik introduced her to Leopold Stoer (Leo, 1907-2005), an insurance mathematician preparing for his PhD in psychology. Not long after the two began dating, she lost her job at the orphanage because the new director did not like her, and began teaching at another school. She moved in with her mother and sister, Hilda, who still ran a children’s clothing store below their apartment. On June 1, 1937, Herta’s mother, Pauline, passed away.

    On March 13, 1938, Austria was annexed into Germany, in what became known as the "Anschluss." The Germans quickly introduced anti-Jewish legislation and confiscated Jewish-owned businesses. Aunt Minna’s candy store was looted, and Hilda was forced to give up her shop, although she still sold clothing from their apartment. The annexation prompted Leo to apply for an immigration visa to the United States. On March 27, Herta married Leopold. Herta’s family members also applied for visas, but their quota numbers were very high. Herta had married Leo after his application was submitted, so she was not included on his visa. Fritz bribed guards to allow him into Belgium, where his wife and son later joined him. Fritz kept in contact with Leopold’s family, who had been smuggled into Belgium as well. In September, Leo’s quota number came up, and he immigrated to the US. He was able to obtain an affidavit for Herta, but she still needed a passport for the visa. To acquire a passport, she had to report to the Rothschild Palace, the processing office for Jewish immigration. She waited in line at the front of the Palace all night, with hope of securing entry the following morning and before being chased away by soldiers. One day, a friend made it near the front and helped Herta get inside to collect her passport. In February 1939, she said goodbye to her sisters, and travelled to Cherbourg, France, before sailing to the US. In April 1939, Herta and Leo moved to San Francisco, California. Initially, Herta worked at a Jewish orphanage, and Leo worked as a consultant at a children’s psychological clinic. In late September 1939, they moved to Petaluma, where she and Leo secured a loan and began running a chicken farm. This seemed the fastest way to make money and prove to the American Consul in Antwerp, Belgium, that they could provide for their family members if they were allowed to immigrate.

    Germany invaded Belgium in May 1940, preventing Fritz, his family, and Leopold’s relatives from leaving. Following the invasion, German and Austrian refugees were treated as enemy aliens. On August 1, Herta’s brother Fritz was deported to Saint-Cyprien internment camp in France. Later, he was transferred to Drancy transit camp. Fritz’s wife, Sidi, and son, Paul, hid in the home of a Belgian school teacher’s family, and she pretended to be their maid. In July 1941, all American consulates in German-occupied territory closed, cutting off applicants like Hilda and Ella, who had secured affidavits of support, from the diplomats that could issue visas. In August, Herta and Leo’s first child was born, and they were able to share the news with their families. On May 27, 1942, Hilda and Ella were deported to Maly Trostinec concentration camp in Belorussia (now Belarus), where they were killed on June 1. On August 20, Aunt Minna was deported on transport 37, train Da 504 to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia, where she was later killed. On August 26, 1942, Fritz was deported on transport 24, train 901-19 to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center in German-occupied Poland. Fritz was later transported to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, and then sent to Gross-Rosen concentration camp on February 10, 1945. Fritz died of sepsis later that month during a forced march to another camp.

    Herta and Leo’s second child was born in July 1943. The war ended in May 1945, and the majority of Herta and Leo’s relatives still living in Europe had perished. Fritz’s wife, Sidi, and son, Paul, had survived in hiding, and joined Herta and Leo in California in 1948. In the late 1950s, Leo and Herta sold the chicken business and returned to their pre-war career paths. Herta attended college and studied French and German, which she later taught. Leo returned to school, and interned at a mental hospital before becoming a doctor there.

    Physical Details

    Language
    German
    Object Type
    Opera glasses (lcsh)
    Genre/Form
    Optical devices.
    Physical Description
    a. Binocular opera glasses with two flared barrels, each cased in 10 faceted mother of pearl panels, held within a brass-colored metal frame. The objective ends of each barrel have a large glass lens ringed by a metal rim, and the interior painted black around the lenses. The eyepiece ends are open, exposing the hollow interior where metal draw tubes with eyepieces (b) would be inserted. The barrels are connected by two horizontal, curved bridges and a central, vertical, metal tube with a large, knurled metal focus knob in the center that twists to adjust the glasses. At the end of the center tube, closest to the eyepiece, is an exposed, threaded post to attach the draw tube section. An inverted manufacturer’s mark is engraved on the inner left face of the back bridge. The metal is discolored throughout, the glass is dirty, and the paint is chipping.

    b. Two brass-colored metal draw tubes from opera glasses (a) connected by a flat, horizontal, curved bridge near the eyepiece end of each tube. A small ocular lens is set into each circular eyepiece and ringed by a metal eye cup with a flared inner rim painted black and a thick, raised, center band around the exterior. The opposite ends of the tubes are open with the interior painted black, and would be inserted into the open end of the barrels on the glasses. They would be fastened in place utilizing a small, square hole at the center of the bridge. The metal is discolored throughout, the glass is dirty, and the paint is chipping on the interior. There are losses along the outer surface near the open tube ends.

    c. Kidney shaped, dark brown leather case with a flat, reinforced base and lid decorated with pressed line borders, and soft sides that widen at the top for opera glasses (a & b). The sides are sewn together along vertical seams at the short ends. The lid has a narrow, stiff lip that rests atop the rigid, reinforced upper portion of the body, both of which have inner rims decorated with a gold-painted, zig-zagging line. The lid has a narrow, leather loop handle on top that is attached to the base at the back with two brass-colored metal hinges, and to the front by a flat inner tab that is released by pushing inward on a black painted, metal knob attached to the lip of the lid. The interior body is lined with worn, black, velvet-like cloth over brown paper and the interior lid is lined with black paper. A small, embossed, gold-colored metal manufacturer’s plate is glued to the center of the inner lid. The leather and cloth are worn throughout, the lining is peeling, and the painted border is flaking.
    Dimensions
    a: Height: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm) | Width: 4.000 inches (10.16 cm) | Depth: 1.625 inches (4.128 cm)
    b: Height: 1.125 inches (2.858 cm) | Width: 3.500 inches (8.89 cm) | Depth: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm)
    c: Height: 2.875 inches (7.303 cm) | Width: 4.375 inches (11.113 cm) | Depth: 2.000 inches (5.08 cm)
    Materials
    a : mother of pearl, metal, glass, paint
    b : metal, glass, paint
    c : leather, metal, cloth, paint, paper, adhesive

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The opera glasses and case were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2018 by Joyce Cordi, the daughter of Leopold and Herta Stoer.
    Record last modified:
    2023-05-30 10:26:55
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn612079

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