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Armband worn by a Jewish American prisoner in Compiègne internment camp

Object | Accession Number: 2018.337.4

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    Armband worn by a Jewish American prisoner in Compiègne internment camp

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Armband worn by George Waldman while he was held in Compiègne internment camp in France, from December 1941 to July 1943. George, Betsy, and their teenage son John were American citizens who lived in Paris to manage their paper import-export business. On September 3, 1939, in response to the German invasion of Poland, France declared war on Germany. In May of 1940, Germany invaded and quickly defeated France, occupying the northern half of the country. Despite their Jewish heritage, the Waldmans were left alone by the Germans due to their American citizenship. In response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on Japan. Subsequently, Germany declared war on the U.S. on December 11, 1941. The next day George was arrested and detained at Compiègne as an enemy alien. On January 11, 1943, Betsy and John were arrested and detained in Vittel internment camp. In July, George was removed from Compiègne, taken to Vittel, and reunited with his family. Due to their American citizenship, the Waldmans received better treatment than other prisoners at the internment camps. They had hotel like accommodations, with heat and running water, were able to send and receive mail, and received weekly Red Cross packages. On September 12, 1944, the Vittel internment camp was liberated by Free French forces and the Waldmans returned to the United States in October 1945.
    Date
    use:  1940 September-1943 July
    Geography
    use: Compiegne (Concentration camp); Compiegne (France)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Deborah Pearson and Janet Waldman
    Markings
    front, hand written, pencil : Z I / Compiegne [Concentration camp Compiègne]
    Contributor
    Subject: George L. Waldman
    Biography
    George Louis Waldman (1890-1972, b. Jules Chazanoff) was born in Stepan, in the Russian Empire (now, Ukraine) to Boroch (1856-1941) and Bella Spelman Waldman (1860-1949). George had 3 younger brothers and a younger sister. In 1910 he immigrated to the United States via Montreal, Canada, on the Allen Train Line. George worked as a plumber before starting a paper import-export business. He married Betsy Stackowitz (1898-1970) on March 28, 1917 in Boston Massachusetts. Betsy was born in London, England, and immigrated to the United States in 1906. They had two sons, Milton Albert Waldman (1918-2002) and John Robert Waldman (1928-1973). As part of their paper business, the Waldmans established an office in Paris, and split their time living in France and the U.S. At the onset of World War II George, Betsy, and John were staying in France.

    On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and two days later, France and Britain declared war on Germany. In May 1940, Germany invaded France and occupied the northern half of the country. After the conquest, the Germans did not bother American citizens living in France, including the Waldman family, despite their Jewish heritage. Jewish citizens from the United States and western enemy states were exempted from the German anti-Semitic policies because of their potential prisoner exchange value during the war. On December 11, 1941, four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the United States. The next day, George was arrested and detained in Compiègne internment camp as an enemy alien. While in Compiègne George lived in military style barracks. On January 11, 1943, Betsy and John were arrested and detained at Vittel internment camp. In July, George was removed from Compiègne, taken to Vittel, and reunited with his family. In Vittel, the Waldman’s had hotel-like accommodations with running water and heat. They were able to send and receive mail, and received weekly Red Cross packages. The Germans published propaganda photos and press stories about Vittel to showcase it as representative of conditions in German camps.

    On September 12, 1944, the Vittel internment camp was liberated by Free French forces. The Waldmans returned to Paris, and found their business had been sold to a Frenchman, and their home had been used by the Germans. George was able to secure the return of the business and their home. The family returned to Boston on the SS James Price in October 1945. Upon returning home, George, Betsy, and John learned that Milton had joined the army and fought in the Pacific Theater against the Empire of Japan. Even though they were in contact with him during their internment, Milton did not want to worry them so he kept his service a secret until their return. One of George’s younger brothers, Isaac, was deported from Drancy transit camp in France to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center in German-occupied Poland on June 22, 1942. He died in Auschwitz on July 23, 1942.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Identifying Artifacts
    Category
    Armbands
    Object Type
    Armbands (lcsh)
    Genre/Form
    Armbands.
    Physical Description
    Off white, hand stitched, wide and heavy cloth armband. On the front are large letters overlaid with smaller diagonal text written in pencil. The armband is folded along the bottom edge and hemmed across the top edge. It is stitched up the back with a center double seam. A large vertical crease is in the center.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 4.125 inches (10.478 cm) | Width: 6.125 inches (15.558 cm)
    Materials
    overall : cloth, thread, pencil

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Paris (France)

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The armband was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2018 by Deborah Pearson, the daughter of John Waldman and the granddaughter of George and Betsy Waldman.
    Record last modified:
    2023-05-30 10:26:56
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn619222

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