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Ernest Bergman philatelic and document collection

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 2014.194.1

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    Consists of envelopes, postcards, correspondence, and philatelic material from the collection of Ernest Bergman. The papers demonstrates the breadth of stamps and postal marks used in wartime and post-war Switzerland, including in refugee camps. Includes copies of Bergman's curatorial text for the collection and loose postcards and envelopes from the French internment camps of Masseube, Nexon, and Gurs, as well as some commemorative anniversary stamps.
    inclusive:  1938-2012
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ernest Bergman
    Collection Creator
    Ernest Bergman
    Dr. Ernest Bergman (1922-2020) was born Ernst Leopold Bergmann in Munich, Germany, to Wilhelm (Willy, 1890-1925) and Julia Steiner (1896-1972) Bergmann. Wilhelm ran a distributorship for his father’s hair dyeing and hairpiece manufacturing business in Laupheim. Ernst’s younger brother, Willy Josef (1925-2012), was born in 1925, the same year their father died following an accident in Munich. Ernst moved with his mother and brother to Laupheim, Germany, where both Wilhelm and Julie’s families owned prominent businesses. They lived with Julia’s parents, Simon (1864-1937) and Melanie (1872-1956) Steiner. Simon owned a local tannery, had a sizable farm, and led the town’s congregation. The boys attended primary school in addition to receiving a Jewish education from their grandfather.

    In January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. Anti-Jewish decrees were soon passed that restricted every aspect of Jewish life. Although Ernst was forced to leave the Laupheim Sports Club, he and Willy were permitted to remain in the local Latin school, due to their father’s distinguished military service in World War I. In September 1935, the Nuremberg Laws excluded Jews from citizenship and mandated the separation of Jews and non-Jews. The increasing pressures led Ernst to immigrate in 1936 to St. Gallen, Switzerland, where he lived with Julia’s brother, Helmut Steiner, and his wife, Edith. Helmut managed the family-owned hops import-export business. Willy joined him in 1937. Julia, widowed grandmother Melanie, and great-grandmother Lina Herz (?-1941), also immigrated to Switzerland in 1939.

    The family remained in Switzerland for the duration of World War II. In 1941, Ernst graduated from high school in St. Gallen, and attended an agricultural extension school. From 1941 to 1946, Ernst worked as a farmhand, and in 1942, Willy began training as a chef. In 1944, Ernst was nearly sent to a labor camp, but his employer managed to get the order dropped so he could continue working in agriculture. As a stateless alien, Julia could not obtain a job, but volunteered with refugee aid groups. On February 7, 1945, Julia was among the volunteers who received 1,200 Jewish prisoners released from Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia.

    In September 1946, Ernst left Switzerland with his mother and brother for the United States. They arrived on October 7 and settled in New York City. Willy began working as a chef at the Waldorf Astoria, and Julia began working as a chambermaid at another hotel. Julia’s mother joined them the following year. Ernst worked at an apple orchard in Poughkeepsie until January 1948, when he returned to New York City to greet his fiancée Alice H. Adler (1918-2008), who he had met in St. Gallen. They married in February and moved to Oregon, where Ernst worked on a Steiner family hops farm. Ernst became a naturalized citizen in 1952, and Americanized his name to Ernest Bergman. He continued his education, eventually earning a Ph.D. in Plant Nutrition and had a distinguished academic career.

    Physical Details

    English German
    2 folders

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Donor retains copyright on his curatorial text. Other material in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Personal Name
    Bergman, Ernest.
    Corporate Name
    Gurs (Concentration camp)

    Administrative Notes

    The papers were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2014 by Ernest Bergman.
    Record last modified:
    2023-02-24 13:42:05
    This page:

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