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Brown leather belt worn by a Jewish Polish inmate at Buchenwald concentration camp

Object | Accession Number: 2012.465.2

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    Brief Narrative
    Brown leather belt worn by 21 year old Zelig Appel when he was a prisoner in Buchenwald concentration camp from January 1945 to April 1945. He was issued uniform pants that were too large for him, so he traded two pieces of bread for a Soviet prisoner’s belt. As he lost weight, he had to add holes with the sharpened end of a spoon. In early 1940, a few months after the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, Zelig’s town, Stary Sacz, was ghettoized and Zelig was sent to Tegoborze forced labor camp. In June, he was sent to an SS training camp, Rabka. In August 1942, Zelig returned to the ghetto to say goodbye to his parents and siblings, who were to be transported to a concentration camp when the ghetto was liquidated. At the end of 1942, Zelig was transported to Krakow ghetto. He told the guards that he was a carpenter and was transferred to Płaszów concentration camp. In November 1943, he was transferred to Ostrowiec forced labor camp. In July 1944, Zelig was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and tattooed with prisoner number B-3964. In January 1945, he was sent on a forced march to Gleiwitz, and then put on a train to Buchenwald, where he was assigned prisoner number 123367. On April 11, the camp was liberated, and Zelig was transferred to Buchenwald displaced persons camp. In August, he managed to join his younger cousin Murray on a children’s transport to Switzerland. In August 1946, Zelig left for Italy where he contracted typhus. While recuperating in Cinecitta DP camp, his American cousin, Louis Korn, contacted him and sponsored his immigration to the US, where he arrived in August 1949.
    use:  1945 January-1945 April
    use: Buchenwald (Concentration camp); Weimar (Thuringia, Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Nathan M. Appel
    Subject: Stanley Appel
    Zelig Zygmunt (later Stanley) Appel was born on November 12, 1924, in Stary Sacz, Poland, to Nathan and Miriam Kornhauser Appel. Nathan was born in 1889, in Ochotnica, Poland, to Avraham and Ester Appel. Miriam was born in 1898, in Wierchomla, Poland, to Eliezer and Khana Kornhauser. Nathan was a fruit merchant in Stary Sacz. Zelig was the youngest of seven children: Aron born 1916; Zacharia born 1919; Henrik Chaim born 1912; Roza born 1914; Berta born 1918; and Cesia born 1921. Aron was born with a club foot. His parents took him to Austria for an unsuccessful corrective surgery. The surgery was very expensive and used all their money. They lived in a small apartment next to a church and they developed a friendly relationship with the priest. Zelig attended a Polish elementary school in the mornings and spent his afternoons learning the basics of Judaism at cheder. Zacharia was active in a Zionist club and Stanley attended some meetings in 1938.

    Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and occupied Stary Sacz on September 14. Zelig shined the shoes of German soldiers to get extra food for his family. In spring 1940, the Germans established a ghetto in Stary Sacz. The Appel family was relocated to a one bedroom apartment. Henrik and Zacharia escaped at this time. Many restrictions were placed on the Jews, including curfews, wearing Star of David armbands, and no longer being able to attend synagogue. Some German soldiers took Nathan and several other Jewish men hostage and tried to ransom them. The townspeople had nothing to give, and the men were released. Zelig was transported to the forced labor camp in Tegoborze to work at an electrical plant.

    In June 1940, Zelig was sent to a concentration camp attached to Rabka, an SS training camp. A sadistic SS officer Wilhelm Rosenbaum oversaw the Jewish prisoners, whom he whipped and shot indiscriminately. Zelig got hurt, and Rosenbaum placed him with a group of 350 new prisoners that were to be executed. Rosenbaum changed his mind and didn’t shoot Zelig. Instead, he told Zelig to bury all the others. In August 1942, Zelig was allowed to return home to say goodbye to his family before the ghetto was liquidated and they were transported to a concentration camp. Zelig returned to Rabka. At the end of 1942, he was transported to Krakow ghetto, where he said that he was a carpenter. As a result, he was transferred to Płaszów concentration camp to build barracks. In November 1943, Zelig was transferred to Ostrowiec forced labor camp where he worked in the Hermann Goering works. His German supervisor provided better conditions than in the other camps. In July 1944, the supervisor warned Zelig that his camp was to be transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, and offered him the chance to escape. Zelig did not know anyone in the area, and had nowhere to go, so he turned down the offer and was transported the next day. At Auschwitz, Zelig went through Dr. Mengele’s selection line before being tattooed with the number B-3964. The tattoo was made by someone that recognized him from home, and purposely made the number very small. Zelig built housings for underground cables in the IG Farben plant. In January 1945, prisoners were evacuated as the Soviet Army closed in, and Zelig was sent on a forced march in freezing temperatures, through deep snow, to Gleiwitz, where he was deported to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany.

    When Zelig arrived in late January, the Buchenwald camp doctor recorded that he had severe frostbite on all of his fingers. He was marked as prisoner number 123367, and then sent to be disinfected. He was issued a new uniform, and the pants were too big because he had lost so much weight. His frostbitten hands made it impossible for him to hold up the pants. Zelig noticed a Soviet prisoner wearing a leather belt, and exchanged two pieces of bread, two days’ worth of rations, for it. The belt was too big for Zelig, so he added extra holes. Zelig was also issued one large shoe and one small shoe, so he traded shoes with another man to get the correct size. Zelig was approached by a prisoner and asked if he recognized him. It was his cousin, Murray Goldfinger.

    On April 11, 1945, Buchenwald was liberated by US soldiers. Zelig was surprised to hear a man over the louspeakers, Rabbi Hershel Schechter, address the camp inmates as “brother Jews”. Rabbi Schechter partnered with the Red Cross to organize a transport of people, born after 1927, from Buchenwald displaced persons camp to Switzerland. Murray was younger than Zelig and qualified for the transport. Zelig had to say his birthday was in 1928 instead of 1924 in order to be included. Zelig and Murray were placed in an orphanage in Rheinfelden. In August 1946, Zelig traveled to Italy with the hope of immigrating to Palestine. He contracted typhus and recovered at Cinecitta displaced persons camp. His American cousin Louis Korn contacted him and offered to sponsor his immigration to the US. In August 1949, Zelig sailed from Bremerhaven, Germany, to New York City on the USS Ballou. Later that year, he encountered the man with whom he had traded shoes in Buchenwald. Zelig changed his name to Stanley. On November 12, 1950, Stanley married Janet Roth. They had two sons. Some years later, Stanley learned the fate of his family. On August 16, one day before the liquidation of Stary Sacz ghetto, Aron was shot for being crippled. His parents and sisters were transported to Belzec killing center, where everyone but Roza was murdered. Their former neighbor, the priest, told Stanley that Roza had been murdered by members of the Polish Armia Krajowa a few days after liberation. In the 1960s, Stanley learned that his brothers, Henrik and Zacharia, had survived and immigrated to Israel, where he visited them.

    Physical Details

    Dress Accessories
    Belts (Clothing)
    Physical Description
    Dark brown, leather belt with a rectangular, silver-colored ring buckle at one end and eight holes at the opposite, rounded end. The five original holes are smooth-edged, the same size, and evenly spaced. Three additional, irregularly sized and shaped, handmade holes have been added beside these. One of the handmade holes is closer to the buckle end than the others. The belt is heavily scratched and worn from use.
    overall: Height: 39.375 inches (100.013 cm) | Width: 1.375 inches (3.493 cm) | Depth: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm)
    overall : leather, metal, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The belt was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2012 by Nathan M. Appel, the son of Stanley Appel.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-06-20 11:01:21
    This page:

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