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Jewelry box with a secret compartment used to hide documents belonging to German Jewish prisoners

Object | Accession Number: 2019.180.2 a-b

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    Jewelry box with a secret compartment used to hide documents belonging to German Jewish prisoners


    Brief Narrative
    Wooden jewelry box with Lore Anthes’ initials made by her grandfather, Georg Anthes, to hide a postcard from Regina Hess, dated April 7, 1944, and sent from Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. The box had a secret drawer that opened from the side so that anyone examining it would not see anything odd on the front. Lore lived with her parents, Georg and Elizabeth, brother, Guenther, and grandparents, Georg and Elise, in Sprendlingen, Germany. Her family members were evangelicals and staunch Social Democrats who were opposed to the anti-Jewish decrees being passed in Germany during the 1930s. These laws affected the Anthes family’s Jewish friends, including Regina Hess and the Bendheim family: Julius, Flora, Edith, and Kurt. During the Kristallnacht pogrom in early November 1938, Julius was arrested and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was killed. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. In 1941, all of the Jews in Sprendlingen were forced to move into two communal houses, one of which had been Regina’s. On September 17, 1942, Lore saw all of the Jews in town being forced into a truck and taken away. That same year, Lore’s father was required to join the German Army. He was a prisoner of war from 1945 to 1947. After the war, none of Lore’s Jewish neighbors returned. Flora, Edith, and Kurt Bendheim were all deported to the east in 1942, and likely murdered. On May 18, 1944, Regina Hess was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland, and likely murdered in July.
    creation:  after 1944 April-before 1945
    creation: Sprendlingen (Hesse, Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Lore Schwarz
    a: lid, center, inlaid, brown wood : LA
    Subject: Lore A. Schwarz
    Maker: Georg Anthes
    Lore Anthes (b. 1934, later Schwarz) was born in Sprendlingen, Germany, to an Evangelical couple, Georg (1902-?) and Elizabeth Schmidt (1904-?) Anthes. The Anthes family had been in Germany since the mid-1500s. Lore’s father, Georg, was born in Sprendlingen to Georg and Elise Anthes. The senior Georg originally made silver tableware, but lost his job in 1900. In 1906 or 1907, he began working for a firm that oversaw electricity, lighting, water, and other utilities. The younger Georg had one brother and one sister. He was a master craftsman, and inherited the family plumbing and installation business from Lore’s great grandfather. Lore’s mother, Elizabeth, was also from Sprendlingen, and had two sisters and one brother. Elizabeth’s mother died when she was 9-years-old, and her father remarried. During World War I, Elizabeth’s father was called-up to serve, and was killed in action four months later. Elizabeth and her siblings went to live with relatives in Sprendlingen. Lore had one older brother, Guenther (b. 1929.) Lore, her brother, and her parents all lived with her great grandfather and grandparents. The family business was located on the first floor of the house. Lore’s family was full of active Social Democrats, a prominent German political party.

    On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, and many of the Anthes’ neighbors became Nazi-sympathizers. Multiple national and local anti-Jewish decrees restricting daily Jewish life in Germany were soon passed. The restrictions extended to many of the Anthes’ friends, including Julius (1892-1938) and Flora (1897-1942?) Bendheim and their children Edith (1929-1942?) and Kurt (1924-1942?,) who lived just down the block and owned a laundry business. Lore often played with Edith and Kurt, and her mother was friends with Flora. Another Jewish family friend, Regina Hess (1880-1944?.) came to the Anthes’ home once a month to sell sundries. In 1935, the Nuremberg Race Laws were passed, further restricting the Jewish community in Sprendlingen. Many of their rights were stripped, professionals could no longer work, and store owners lost their businesses. Julius Bendheim wanted his family to immigrate to the United States, and applied for a visa in August 1938. He received a quota number, though the quota had already been filled months before. In early November 1938, during the Kristallnacht pogrom, 3-year-old Lore was playing with some other children when they saw the synagogue being burned by some of their neighbors, several of whom were arrested for their crimes after the war. During the pogrom, many of Lore’s Jewish neighbors were taken away by the authorities, including Julius Bendheim. The Bendheim family never received a visa, and Julius never returned. His wife was told that he died alone at Buchenwald concentration camp, but the Anthes later learned that Julius screamed every night, and was killed in front of the entire camp on November 26.

    On September 1, 1939, Lore’s father came into her room and told her that a war had just begun because Germany had invaded Poland. The family could still buy goods, but Lore’s mother thought there was never enough food. One night, she brought Flora Bendheim’s large trunk into Lore’s room and hid it, forbidding Lore and Guenther from talking about it. In 1941, all of the Jews in Sprendlingen were forced to move into one of two communal houses. One of the houses, with blue window shutters and large roof tiles, belonged to Regina Hess. The Bendheim’s former home and business became the meeting place for the mandatory Bund Deutscher Mädel [The League of German Girls.] Lore’s grandfather did not approve of what was happening to his Jewish neighbors, or the war, and often met with others who shared his views. Nazi-sympathizers frequently spied on them, but no one was ever arrested. Beginning in 1942, Lore’s father, Georg, was required to join the German Army. On September 17, Lore saw all of the Jews in town being collected into a truck and taken away. She quickly went home to tell her grandfather what the Nazis were doing. He had always helped people before, but this time he explained that there was nothing they could do. She knew it was not right, but they could do nothing.

    In May 1944, the family received a postcard from Regina Hess dated April 7, which had been sent from Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. The card mentioned that her husband, Daniel (1864-1942) had died in late November 1942, thanked Georg for the cakes he sent, and asked about his children. Lore’s grandfather knew that no one there had sent her cake, and noticed that her signature on the card was in different handwriting than the rest. He believed that this card was a trap, and felt that if anyone responded, they would be arrested. He did not respond, hid the card, and planned to ask Regina about it when she returned. However, on May 18, 1944, Regina was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland on transport “Eb.” She was likely sent to the family camp before being murdered in July.

    In 1945, Georg was imprisoned while fighting in the army. He was held in western France, the Netherlands, and England before being released in 1947. In May 1945, Germany surrendered, ending the war in Europe. Later that year, Lore’s grandfather Georg reestablished the town’s Social Democratic party, which had been forbidden during the war. He also acted as a spokesman for the city, often explaining to American forces which of the town’s residents had been affiliated with the Nazi Party. After the war, none of their Jewish neighbors returned to Sprendlingen, but when new Jewish families moved to the area, Lore’s grandfather helped them settle-in. The Bendheims never returned for their trunk because Flora, Edith, and Kurt were all deported to the east in 1942, where they were likely murdered. Lore’s mother eventually contacted a relative of the Bendheims in London, England, about the trunk, and they arranged for a family friend to recover it. Lore and her brother stayed in Sprendlingen. Her nephew runs the family business.
    Georg and Elise Anthes were Social Democrats living in Sprendlingen, Germany, near Frankfurt am Main, and they were friends of the Regina Hess and Julius Bendheim families.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Jewelry boxes (aat)
    Physical Description
    a. Rectangular, stained, brown wooden box covered with decorative veneer and a full-width drawer hidden on the bottom. The rectangular, hinged lid has a large, inset central panel covered with light brown veneer with dark patterning resembling Birdseye Maple, and an inlaid monogram with two entwined, brown letters in the middle. The panel is bordered by a wooden frame with beveled corners and a curved edge that hangs over the base. On the front of the base, there is an oval-shaped, brass-colored metal plate with a keyhole for a key (b). The base’s sides are covered by reddish-brown veneer with marbled, dark brown patterning and curve outward on the lower half. The base is flat, and there is a small, square leg with a round foot in each corner. The interior angle of each leg has been cut away to accommodate the addition of the hidden drawer. The left end of the drawer consists of a 0.750-inch-high length of wood with Birdseye Maple veneer. A matching length of veneered wood has been fixed between the legs on each side and an unvarnished piece of wood has been screwed to the bottom. The lid is fixed to the back edge of the base by two, silver-colored hinges. On the front edge there is a brass-colored post, which aligns with a hole on the top edge of the base, above the keyhole. The veneer is cracking along the sides and there are scratches throughout, as well as stray pencil marks on the underside.

    b. Short, lightweight, silver-colored key with an oval-shaped loop for the bow or head and a cylinder with a hollow core and open tip. Protruding from the underside of the tip is a small, C-shaped hook that is designed to catch on the lock mechanism within the lock plate on a jewelry box (a), and secure it once turned a couple of times.
    a: Height: 5.375 inches (13.653 cm) | Width: 10.375 inches (26.353 cm) | Depth: 6.250 inches (15.875 cm)
    b: Height: 1.250 inches (3.175 cm) | Width: 0.500 inches (1.27 cm) | Depth: 0.125 inches (0.318 cm)
    a : wood, metal, adhesive, pencil
    b : metal
    a: secret compartment, left end, top, pencil, handwritten : illegible script

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The jewelry box and key were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2019 by Lore Schwarz, the granddaughter of Georg and Elise Anthes.
    Record last modified:
    2022-08-09 14:38:18
    This page:

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