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Handmade nightgown with floral embroidery worn by an Austrian Jewish girl

Object | Accession Number: 2013.119.2

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    Brief Narrative
    Nightgown with floral embroidery brought with 3 year old Edith Tennenbaum, her parents Dora and Emil, and her 1 year old brother George when they left Vienna, Austria, in 1939, for the United States. The nightgown was made by hand in Yugoslavia. When Germany annexed Austria in March 1938, Edith and her parents had a comfortable life in Vienna. But soon, Emil's lumber business was confiscated. During the birth of her brother George that August, her mother was not allowed to go to the regular hospital because they were Jewish. During Kristallnacht on November 10, 1938, Emil was arrested and sent to Dachau. The family apartment was sealed, leaving Dora with no diapers, food, or drink for the children. Dora purchased an illegal visa to get Emil released, and then obtained a false Dutch passport so he could escape to Antwerp, Belgium, where he went into hiding. Both sides of the family began leaving for the US where they had relatives. In November 1939, Dora, Edith, and George left for New York, sponsored by Dora’s maternal great aunt. Dora, who had no money and spoke no English, was convinced by her relatives to place the children in a shelter while she found work. Edith was separated from George at the shelter and escaped one night in only her nightgown. She was found and brought back, but the home refused to keep her and made Dora take her back. Emil arrived in January 1940 and the family was reunited.
    use:  1939
    creation: Yugoslavia
    use: Vienna (Austria)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Edith Ostern
    Subject: Edith Ostern
    Edith Tennenbaum was born on November 12, 1936, in Vienna, Austria, to Emil and Dora Austein Tennenbaum. Emil was born on April 28, 1903, in Zaleszczyki, Poland (Zalishchyky, Ukraine), to Leib and Malka Tennenbaum. Leib was born on August 29, 1869 and Malka on October 8, 1869. They were a very religious family. Emil had six siblings, only Marcus (Mark), born February 27, 1901, and Mina, born June 7, 1906, lived past childhood. Dora was born on May 15, 1913, in Bobrka, Poland, to Elias and Sara Leiter Austein. Elias was born on January 1, 1879, and Sara circa 1886, both in Bobrka. Dora had two brothers: Max, born on April 26, 1909; and Moses (Morris), born on February 12, 1911. Both families immigrated to Austria in 1914 because of the outbreak of World War I (1914-1918.) Both families were affluent, with successful businesses and well educated children. Emil and Dora married in 1934. Emil owned a lumber business with his father and brother and opened a second store by himself. They attended synagogue occasionally. On March 12, 1938, Germany annexed Austria. Emil’s stores were confiscated by the government soon afterwards. There was a shortage of food and they had to use ration cards. Edith’s brother, George, was born August 2, 1938. Dora was not allowed to go to the regular hospital for the delivery because she was Jewish. Both the Tennenbaum and Austein families began planning to leave Austria for the US. They had relatives in America and were registered in the Polish quota. On November 9 and 10, 1938, the Kristallnacht pogrom occurred and Emil was arrested. The family’s apartment was sealed by the Gestapo, leaving Dora without diapers, food or drink for her young children. She travelled across town to stay her sister-in-law, Mina, her husband Leo Beller, and their son Paul. On November 16, Emil was deported to Dachau concentration camp, where he was assigned prisoner number 29183. On December 18, Dora received a postcard from Emil, telling her that he was all right, but needed a visa as soon as possible to be released. Dora knew it would take too long for his American visa to arrive, so she purchased an illegal visa and ship ticket to Paraguay and gave it to the SS. On December 20, Emil was released and he returned to Vienna. He had been tortured in both the jail in Vienna and in Dachau. He had to check in with the Gestapo every day and was desperate to leave Austria. Dora arranged for Emil to get a false passport which identified him as a Dutch national and Protestant. He used it to go into hiding in Antwerp, Belgium, where Dora’s parents and brother, Morris, were also in hiding, waiting for visas. Her other brother, Max, was already in New York. Emil’s brother, Marcus (Mark), his wife Ernestine, and their son Robert emigrated to the US in March 1939. Mina and Leo made arrangements for their son, Paul, to leave for the US in May 1939 where he stayed with a family in Pennsylvania. Dora’s maternal great aunt had been in the US for several years and sponsored Dora, Edith, and George’s immigration. In October 1939, Dora and the children fled Vienna for Italy, staying in Venice and then Genoa. Emil’s parents, Leib and Malka, arrived in Genoa later that month. They departed on the SS Rex on November 1. Dora became very ill and was put in the ship’s sick bay, and Edith feared that she would die. They arrived in New York on November 9. Dora did not have money or job prospects and did not speak English. Her relatives convinced her to place Edith and George in a children’s shelter so they could receive proper care while she found work. Edith and George were separated in the shelter and Edith became hysterical. She escaped one night wearing only pajamas, but was brought back. The shelter returned her to Dora, insisting that she take her back because she was so unhappy. Emil left Rotterdam on January 29, 1940, on the SS Zaandam, arriving in New York on January 29. He got a night job as a controller with a candy company at the World Fair. They retrieved George from the shelter and moved into an apartment. Emil Americanized their last name to Tanner.
    In February 1940, Emil’s sister Mina arrived in New York. Her husband Leo was denied a visa after failing a health exam. He attempted to emigrate to Palestine, but was caught by the British on November 25, 1940 and detained on Mauritius. In April 1940, Dora’s brother, Morris, arrived and moved in with Emil and Dora. On January 25, 1941, Dora’s parents, Sara and Elias, boarded the SS Exeter in Lisbon, Portugal, reaching New York on February 3. They had received US immigration visas to immigrate in 1940, but then Germany invaded Belgium in May 1940. They fled to France, where Sara was detained in Gurs internment camp and Elias was held in St. Cyprien. In July 1946, Emil’s brother-in-law, Leo, arrived in the US from Palestine, where he had been permitted to settle in August 1945. The extended Austein and Tennenbaum family members who remained in Poland perished. Edith married at the age of 17, received a degree from the University of Alabama, and attended graduate school at Rutgers University. She had three children. Elias, age 85, died in February 1964. Leib, age 97, died in December 1966, in New York. George got his undergraduate degree at Cornell and his PhD at Harvard. Marcus (Mark) and Ernestine moved to Santa Barbara, California, followed by Dora, Emil, Mina and Leo. Edith divorced and moved to Santa Barbara. On July 17, 1975, she married Stanley Ostern, M.D, who survived the Holocaust in hiding in Stryj, Poland. Emil, age 77, died in March 1981. Dora, age 94, died on June 9, 2007.

    Physical Details

    Clothing and Dress
    Object Type
    Nightgowns (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Child's handmade, lightweight, offwhite cloth nightgown with elbow length butterfly sleeves. It has a v-neck opening and a banded collar with a gray thread tie, with a red thread tassel on the left tie. The collar and front opening, shoulders, sleeve edges, and waist have bands embroidered with a varying design of red and yellow flowers on a gray vine.
    overall: Height: 30.875 inches (78.423 cm) | Width: 16.000 inches (40.64 cm)
    overall : cloth, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The nightgown was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013 by Edith (Tennenbaum) Ostern.
    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:
    2022-08-15 10:36:39
    This page:

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