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Westerbork transit camp voucher, 25 cent note, acquired by a former inmate

Object | Accession Number: 2018.229.5

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    Westerbork transit camp voucher, 25 cent note, acquired by a former inmate


    Brief Narrative
    Voucher, valued at 25 cents, distributed in Westerbork transit camp, and acquired by Helmut Rosendahl, a German Jewish man held there in 1944. While at the camp, inmates were compelled to work, and a special currency was issued to incentivize output, but the money had no real monetary value outside the camp. After Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940, the German authorities began using Westerbork as a transit camp, holding internees until they were deported to forced labor camps or killing centers in other countries. The special currency was first distributed in 1944, and designed by Werner Löwenhardt, a Jewish artist who was imprisoned by the Germans in Westerbork from October 1942 until the camp was liberated in April 1945. The front design features a large chimney from the camp laundry and a street known as the Boulevard of Misery. The back design also features the chimney, in addition to a large, toothed spur gear. Both images support an illusion of an industrious camp as well as the hopelessness of inevitable deportation. Helmut was interned in Westerbork on September 2, 1942. His brother, father, and sisters were also held in Westerbork and several other camps. Helmut was deported to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp on September 4, 1944. He was deported again to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center and Gleiwitz I as a forced laborer. In January 1945, Helmut was sent on a death march to Blechhammer, where he was liberated by the Soviet army. After Germany surrendered to the Allies in May 1945, Helmut was able to return to Amsterdam, where he reunited with his father.
    issue:  1944 February 15-1945 April 12
    acquired:  1944 February 15-1944 September 04
    issue: Westerbork (Concentration camp); Westerbork (Netherlands)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Lea Rosendahl and Emmy Rosendahl Reid, daughters of Helmut Rosendahl.
    front, upper left and lower right, printed, red ink : 25 / CENT
    front, upper center, printed, red ink : LAGER / WESTERBORK / GUTSCHEIN [Camp Westerbork Coupon]
    back, center, printed, white : 25
    back, lower left, printed, red ink : LAGER WESTERBORK. / 15 FEBRUAR 1944 [Camp Westerbork / 15 February 1944]
    back, center, printed, red ink : DIESER GUTSCHEIN / IST NUR INNERHALB / DES LAGERS GÜLTIG [This coupon is only valid within the camp]
    back, lower right, printed, red ink : DER LAGERKOMMANDANT: / AK Gemmeker / SS OBERSTURMFÜHRER [Camp commander AK Gemmeker SS First Lieutenant]
    Subject: Helmut Rosendahl
    Designer: Werner Löwenhardt
    Helmut Rosendahl (1917-2007) was born to Max (1872-1950) and Emma (born Henrietta Kussel, 1873-1917) Rosendahl in Odenkirchen, Germany, where Max worked as a horse dealer. The couple had two older daughters, Hilde (later Illfelder, 1907-1943) and Meta (later Voss, 1909-1942), but Emma died shortly after giving birth to Helmut. Max was fighting in the German army at the time of Emma’s death, so her mother took care of the children. In 1919, Max married Julia Stern (1885-1939), who treated Helmut as her own son. The following year, they had another son, Erich (1920-1945). In 1923, the family moved to Gangelt, Germany, near the border of Germany and the Netherlands. There were few Jewish children in Gangelt, so Helmut received private Jewish lessons while attending the public elementary school.

    On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. Initially, the Jewish population thought Hitler would be out of power within weeks or months, however, anti-Jewish decrees were passed that restricted every aspect of Jewish life. In Gangelt, boycotts of Jewish businesses began, though some people continued to shop in those stores. In June, Helmut’s sister, Hilde, and her husband, decided to move to Amsterdam.

    In September 1935, Germany passed the Nuremberg Laws, which excluded Jews from citizenship and deprived them of most political rights. Due to these laws, Helmut was no longer allowed to attend the public school, so he focused on drawing and machinery training. Later, he learned the painting trade from a friend of his father. His sister, Meta, married that same year. By June 1938, the antisemitism in Gangelt became so intense that Helmut moved to Amsterdam to live with his sister, Hilde. Following the Kristallnacht pogrom that November, persecution of Jews intensified, with frequent arrests and deportations to concentration camps. This led Erich to cross the border into the Netherlands illegally. Max and Julia legally followed six weeks later, but they were not able to get work permits. Julia had been sick prior to immigrating, and died on July 6, 1939. A few weeks later, Erich was arrested over his lack of papers, and sent to a camp for illegal refugees near Amsterdam where he learned the machinist trade. He was allowed to return home once a week.

    Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. Under German occupation, restrictions tightened and antisemitism grew, so the family left Amsterdam for the coast, where they hoped to obtain passage out of the country. Unable to leave, they moved to Hilversum. There, Helmut periodically shipped packages to his brother, who had been sent to Westerbork transit camp. In January 1942, the Germans began consolidating the Netherlands’ Jews in Amsterdam, forcing the family out of Hilversum. They returned to Amsterdam where Helmut worked as a painter at a Jewish senior citizen home. On September 2, Helmut was arrested and sent to Westerbork, where he joined his brother, Erich. Later, they were joined by their father, Max. Erich worked as a machinist in the camp’s steam plant, and his supervisor was able to keep Helmut off a transport out of the camp. Helmut worked for the next two years moving coal to the steam plant.

    On January 18, 1944, Max was deported to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. He was joined by Helmut and Erich, who arrived on September 4, on transport XXIV/7. On September 29, Helmut and Erich were deported on transport El to Auschwitz-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland. The prisoners were selected for work, forced to undress and given uniform jackets, pants, and underwear made out of tallis. Their hair was cut, and Helmut was tattooed with the number B11717. He was packed into a barrack with hundreds of other men, six to eight men per bunk. When the Germans called for machinists, Erich volunteered and was transported out of the camp. On January 25, 1945, he arrived at Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. He was then sent to the subcamp, Ebensee, where he was forced to work excavating the site for an underground factory.

    Helmut was sent to Gleiwitz I, a subcamp of Auschwitz-Monowitz, where he was assigned to paint labels on railway boxcars. In Gleiwitz, the prisoners were subjected to 19-hour workdays, brutal treatment, heavy labor, and periodic selections for gassing at Auschwitz. In late January 1945, the Germans evacuated the camp, and Helmut was sent on a death march to Blechhammer, another subcamp of Monowitz. He missed the march to Gross-Rosen the following day, which spared his life, as everyone on that march was killed. Helmut weighed 75 pounds when he was liberated at Blechhammer by the Soviet army on January 26, 1945. After about a month, the Soviets sent the prisoners to Krakow and Katowice in Poland. Helmut then traveled to Cernauti, Romania under the care of the Soviets. He was in Romania when Germany surrendered to the Allies on May 7.

    After the war ended, Helmut travelled to Warsaw, Berlin, and several other cities, before he returned to Amsterdam. He found his father who survived in Theresienstadt for the duration of the war. His sister Meta, along with her husband and son, had been deported to Auschwitz, where they were killed on September 3, 1942. His other sister, Hilde, was also deported to Auschwitz, where she died on November 30, 1943. Erich died in Ebensee on February 22, 1945, and he was buried in a mass grave.

    Helmut met Berta (nee Basch, 1916-2007), in Amsterdam in 1946. Born in Apša, Czechoslovakia, Berta moved to the Netherlands in 1937 to work as a dressmaker, but anti-Jewish laws and restrictions prevented her from returning. Beginning in 1942, she hid in a series of homes in the Netherlands until the end of the war in1945. Helmut and Berta married on May 22, 1946. They immigrated to the United States in April 1949, and lived in Norristown, Pennsylvania, near the friends who had sent affidavits on their behalf. In November, the family relocated to Los Angeles, California. The couple had three children, two of whom survived to adulthood. Helmut continued working as a painter and later became a real estate agent.
    Werner Löwenhardt (1919-2006) was born in Dortmund, Germany to Adolf (1883-1944) and Julia (nee ten Brink, 1890-1944) Löwenhardt. He had one older brother, Heinz (1913-1989). Adolf’s large extended family also lived in Dortmund, while Julia’s family lived in the Netherlands. Adolf and his eight brothers served for Germany in World War I, and after being wounded, he was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class for his distinguished service as a medic. Adolf was a butcher in Dortmund, and while he was serving in the war, Julia ran the shop and took care of Heinz. Following World War I, Dortmund was occupied by French forces until 1927. Both Heinz and Werner attended the public elementary school across the street from their home. After primary school, both brothers attended the Hindenburg Gymnasium, a local secondary school that included the study of French, Latin, Greek, and English.

    On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg. Under Hitler, authorities quickly began suppressing the rights and personal freedoms of Jews, and boycotting their businesses. In March, the boycott of Jewish businesses reached Dortmund. By August, Adolf and Julia were forced to sell their butcher shop to a non-Jew. Adolf was able to continue working as a meat distributor in the city’s slaughterhouse. Despite the increasing antisemitism in Dortmund, Werner’s family was never personally attacked.

    Like his father, Heinz was apprenticing to become a butcher, which he fully qualified for in April 1935. Antisemitism and restrictions continued to grow, and that September, the Nazis announced the Nuremberg laws, which excluded Jews from citizenship and prohibited them from marrying or having relations with non-Jews. Heinz moved to Enschede, Netherlands, where he worked in the Jewish butcher shop run by an aunt and uncle. Shortly afterwards, Werner wrote to the same aunt, asking if he could work for her as a draftsman. On November 2, 1935, Werner joined his brother, aunt, and uncle in Enschede, a town located close to the German border. He soon moved out on his own, and found work with the lithography and printing company, C. Kappers while working on his own independent projects. In 1936, Werner began taking an evening course at the local craft school and took lessons from a painter, Gerard van Haeften.

    Adolf and Julia left Germany in the summer of 1936, settling in Goor, Netherlands. They joined their sons in Enschede in 1938. Enschede had a well-organized Jewish community of 1400 when Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. Under German occupation, the Netherlands became subject to the Nuremburg laws; restrictions continued to tighten, and antisemitism grew. In March 1941, Werner was required to register as a Jew with the city administration. That same year, the German authorities began forcing Jewish men into labor camps, and in April 1942, Dutch Jews were required to start wearing a yellow Star of David. Heinz and his fiancée went into hiding in Almelo, a town about 30 kilometers from Enschede, where they remained for the duration of the war. In August 1942, Adolf and Werner were imprisoned in ‘t Schut labor camp, where they had to do heavy earth work. On October 3, the laborers of ‘t Schut were transferred to Westerbork transit camp. Although Julia had the opportunity to go into hiding, she chose to reunite with Adolf and Werner, and they were later joined by much of their extended family. In Westerbork, Werner met siblings Lilo and Paul Hirsch, his future wife and brother-in-law.

    At the time, Westerbork was under the authority of a German commandant, but effectively run and supplied by the Jewish Community. Consequently, the living conditions were better than many other camps. They had schools, medical care, and some cultural outlets such as a theater and an orchestra. Inmates could occasionally purchase small supplies from the camp canteen, but extra food was not available. The names for the weekly deportation lists were selected at random, but those with official positions in the camp’s administration, such as Werner, were somewhat protected. Using his art skills, Werner got a job as one of four men in the commandant’s statistics office, where he drew statistical charts and figures. In 1944, Werner created a logo for Westerbork’s industrial department, which the German administration used for a new camp currency. He was given a bicycle and a pass to leave the camp to complete drawings of the local area and of the field service. Werner met and learned from other artists and photographers interned in Westerbork.

    While Werner’s position in the commandant’s office kept him off the deportation lists, the safety did not extend to the rest of his family. On April 21, 1943, Adolf and Julia were deported on transport XXIV.1 to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. A few months later, a group of young people, including Werner, was given the option to join their parents. Werner chose to stay in Westerbork. Adolf and Julia were imprisoned in Theresienstadt until October 9, 1944, when they were both deported on transport Ep to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center in Poland. They were both killed upon arrival.

    In early April 1945, the Germans abandoned Westerbork ahead of the arrival of Allied forces. Werner was among 876 inmates liberated by the Canadian army on April 12, 1945. The Dutch Military Authority took charge of the camp, and the prisoners were forced to remain there for a few more months. Germany surrendered to the Allies on May 7, 1945. Werner was finally released from Westerbork on June 30, and returned immediately to his home in Enschede. After the war, he settled in Amsterdam, started his own advertising studio, and founded an advertising archive. Werner married Lilo Hirsch (1923-2012) in 1947 and they had a daughter, Anita, who would later become chairwoman of the Dutch Auschwitz Committee.

    Physical Details

    Exchange Media
    Object Type
    Scrip (aat)
    Physical Description
    Westerbork scrip on rectangular white paper with a brown basket weave background overlaid with red text and graphic designs. The face has a square in each corner and 2 center rectangles outlined in red. The denomination is written in the upper left and lower right squares. The upper rectangle has three lines of text and the lower rectangle has a faint drawing of the camp featuring the tall laundry chimneys. A wave patterned border is present on the top upper left square, bottom lower right square, and under the text in the upper rectangle. The back has the brown weave background with 2 outlined squares in the upper corners and narrow rectangles with a spiral line pattern in the lower corners. In the center is an underprint of the denomination. Across the top center is a narrow silhouetted image of the camp landscape inserted through the center of a toothed gear wheel; serial letter and number are stamped below. German text, an issue date, and a signature are printed along the bottom.
    overall: Height: 3.250 inches (8.255 cm) | Width: 4.125 inches (10.477 cm)
    overall : paper, ink
    back, center, stamped, black ink : Serie CC No. 5732
    back, center, bottom edge, stamped, black ink : K 1227

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The scrip was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2018 by Lea Rosendahl and Emmy Rosendahl Reid, the daughters of Helmut Rosendahl.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:19:46
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