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Hand-embroidered child's vest made by a Polish Jewish woman

Object | Accession Number: 2019.302.2

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    Hand-embroidered child's vest made by a Polish Jewish woman


    Brief Narrative
    Hand-embroidered child’s vest sent to Sara Lamhaut in Brussels, Belgium, by her grandmother, Rykla Goldwasser, in Łódź, Poland. Sara was born in Brussels in 1931, to Polish parents, Icek and Chana Lamhaut. After Belgium was invaded by Germany in May 1940, Chana and Icek began participating in resistance activities, including covertly printing Jewish newspapers in their apartment. On May 26, 1942, Chana and Icek were taken into custody by gestapo and SS officers. Icek was released, but Chana was imprisoned and tortured for six months in the Saint Gilles prison. She was then sent to the Mechelen (also known as Malines) transit camp, and deported on October 24, 1942, to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center in German-occupied Poland, where she was killed. Icek then joined l’Armée Belge des Partisans (the Belgian Army of Partisans). In September 1942, he placed Sara in the care of Andrée Geulen, a member of the Comité de Défense Juive (CDJ, Jewish Defense Committee). Sara was hidden as a Catholic in a series of convent schools near Brussels, under the assumed name of Jeannine van Meerhaegen. In July 1943, Icek was arrested by the German authorities and was deported from Mechelen to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he was killed. After Belgium was liberated by Allied forces in September 1944, she was taken in by a non-Jewish friend of her parents for seven years. At 16, Sara passed her citizenship exam and officially became a Belgian citizen. Rykla likely died in the Łódź Ghetto during the Holocaust.
    creation:  after 1931 May-before 1942 September
    creation: Łódź (Poland)
    use: Brussels (Belgium)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sara Lamhaut Boucart
    Subject: Sara Lamhaut Boucart
    Sara Liba Lamhaut (later Boucart, b. 1931) was born to Icek Leib (1901-1943?) and Chana Laja (nee Goldwasser, 1905-1942?) Lamhaut. Icek was born in Krasnik, Poland. While he was still a boy, Icek’s parents and younger sister were killed in pogroms and his younger brother, Chaim (later Herman Lambert), immigrated to the United States with an uncle. Icek wanted to follow them to the United States, and he was hired on a merchant marine ship sailing from Germany to New York City. However, he was unable to locate his brother and uncle. Icek landed in Antwerp, Belgium, and worked in the Charleroi mines to obtain a residence permit. After two years, Icek moved to Brussels in 1920. Chana was born in Lodz, Poland, to David and Rykla (nee Pidra, 1884-?). She had two younger sisters, Esther (later Lederman, 1907-?) and Maria (later Bulwa, 1909-?). David and Rykla worked as traveling textile merchants. Around 1913, David died, and Chana dropped out of school to help her mother. Chana moved to Brussels in 1922, and was hired as a governess for a Jewish family with a shoe business. Esther and Maria both escaped from Poland to Paris with their families, but were killed during the Holocaust. Chana’s mother, Rikla Goldwasser, continued to live in Lodz.

    Icek and Chana met and married in Brussels on December 6, 1930. Icek had a tailoring business while Chana largely took care of the household, and assisted with the business on occasion. Their daughter, Sara, was born the following year. To avoid the risk of deportation, the family moved often between the commune of Saint-Gilles, Brussels, and Anderlecht. The family spoke Yiddish, Polish, and German at home, and at five years old, Sara began learning French at a small Jewish nursery school.

    Belgium was invaded by Germany in May 1940, and the occupying administration quickly enacted anti-Jewish laws and policies that restricted civil rights and confiscated property. Chana and Icek took part in resistance activities. They bought a small printing machine, and began printing newspapers for Jews in their small apartment. In May 1942, Sara and the other Jewish children were prohibited from the public school, and transferred to a Jewish school. Although they were under the mandate to wear a Star of David badge, Sara refused to do so, at risk of severe punishment.

    On May 26, Chana and Icek were taken into custody by gestapo and SS officers. Icek was released a few hours later, but Chana was arrested and imprisoned for six months in the Saint Gilles prison. While there, she was tortured, but was able to send a couple letters to Icek and Sara. Chana was then sent to a transit camp which had been converted from the Dossin de St. Georges military barracks in the city of Mechelen (also known as Malines). In the summer of 1942, German authorities began collecting Jews in the Breendonk and Mechelen transit camps, before deporting them to Auschwitz. Chana was deported on October 24, 1942 aboard transport XIV, and arrived two days later at Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center, where she was killed.

    Icek decided to continue his work with the resistance and joined l’Armée Belge des Partisans (the Belgian Army of Partisans). In September 1942, he placed Sara in the care of Andrée Geulen, a member of the Comité de Défense Juive (CDJ, Jewish Defense Committee). The CDJ formed in the summer of 1942 and played a critical role in resistance activities and hiding children. After a few months in a private home, Sara and three other Jewish children were hidden in a convent near Mons. To protect the hidden children, they often went under assumed names, and only the heads of the convents knew their identities. While in hiding, Sara went by the name of Jeannine van Meerhaegen. In the winter, she was moved to a chateau in Arlon in Belgian Luxembourg. After about a month, Sara left in search of her father, who she stayed with until May 1943, when Sara was hidden in another convent. In July 1943, Icek returned to Brussels from an arms delivery, and was arrested by the German authorities. He was deported on July 31, 1943 from the transit camp at Mechelen aboard transport XXI to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he was killed. In September, an instructor at the convent became suspicious that Sara was living under a false name, and she had to leave. She was placed in the Soeurs de Sainte Marie convent in Wezembeek-Oppem. While there, she received her First Communion and a Certificate of Confirmation on May 8, 1944, which helped fortify her false, Christian identity. She remained there until Belgium was liberated in September 1944.

    After liberation, Sara spent seven months at the Convent of Saint-Pierre. She ran into the daughter of Francois Debaene, a non-Jew who had been a friend of her parents. Francois invited Sara into their home, against his wife’s objections. Sara stayed with them for seven years. At 16, she applied and completed the exam to become a Belgian citizen. Sara enrolled in secretarial school, and went on to have a 47-year long career. In 1955, she married Leo Boucart, a parachutist, and later had one daughter.

    Physical Details

    Clothing and Dress
    Object Type
    Vests (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Hand-embroidered, child’s sleeveless vest made from machine stitched, cream-colored felted wool. The scooped neck has a gold colored, knotted, cotton cord attached to each side. The bottom of the front opening ends in two points, which extend past the length of the back. The front and back pieces are joined with topstitched side-seams under the armholes. A band of dark blue felted wool with a scalloped edge borders the edges of the vest and armholes. The scallops are secured down with embroidery in yellow thread, alternating between French knots and sets of three straight stitches, resembling floral elements. Above each front hip, and in the center of the back, is an embroidered, crewelwork flower with dark blue, pointed petals that spiral around a yellow-and-cream center. Radiating from the flower are six leaves with pointed lobes, each split in half with two shades of green. On each side of the chest are two, crossed, green stems that extend downwards with comb-like stiches, and end in dark blue buds. All of the embroidery is visible on the interior of the vest, and is neatly finished. The exterior is faded with overall spot staining and there are insect damage holes in the felted wool, some of which have been repaired with cream-colored thread. Portions of the blue trim and embroidery are missing at the bottom of the armholes, and there are small, white paint stains on the front left side.
    overall: Height: 14.875 inches (37.783 cm) | Width: 10.750 inches (27.305 cm)
    overall : wool, cotton

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The vest was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2019 by Sara Lamhaut Boucart.
    Record last modified:
    2023-06-09 13:42:26
    This page:

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