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Pressed aluminum cap badge with Nazi insignia acquired by a German Jewish refugee and US soldier

Object | Accession Number: 2012.337.6

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    Brief Narrative
    SS cap badge with an eagle and oak wreath owned by Hans Hirschfeld, who left Germany at age twenty in 1939 for the US and later served in the US Army. From 1936 to 1945, this type of cap badge was worn by the SS-Ordnungspolizei, or order police, the regular uniformed police force in Germany, which included municipal and rural police, firemen, and the coast guard. When Hitler came to power in January 1933, Hans and his parents, Alfred and Maria, lived in Breslau, Germany, where Alfred was Director of the Chamber of Commerce. Maria was Protestant and Alfred was Jewish and Hans identified himself as Jewish. Under the Nazi government, Jews were persecuted and increasingly banned from areas of German society. In December 1937, Hans was fired from his job because he was Jewish. He lost another job six months later when the Jewish firm where he worked was Aryanized. He spent a year obtaining the permits needed to leave Germany and emigrated to Havana, Cuba, in March 1939, and then to Louisiana that October where he had a paternal aunt. He was drafted into the US Army in 1941 and served as a translator and interrogator of German prisoners of war in the US. Because Maria was not Jewish, she and Alfred were able to stay in Breslau, although they were placed in a local internment camp for several months. Alfred and Maria left Germany for America in 1947.
    issue:  1936-1945
    emigration:  1939 March
    issue: Germany
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Karen Hirschfeld Hendley
    Subject: Hans H. Hirschfeld
    Hans Horst Hirschfeld was born on July 26, 1919, in Breslau, Germany (Wroclaw, Poland), to Dr. Alfred and Maria Kraushaar Hirschfeld. Alfred, who was Jewish, was born on April 20, 1894, in Gross Leistenau, West Prussia (Lisnowo, Poland). He was the son of Naumann (1859-1895) and Johanna Hirsch Hirschfeld, who was born in Gross Leistenau, West Prussia, on September 11, 1859. Alfred moved to Breslau in 1915 and served in the German Army in World War I (1914-1918). He was later significantly disabled, due to war injuries. Alfred was a noted economist who got his PhD from the University of Breslau in 1923 and eventually became Director of the Chamber of Commerce of Breslau. Maria, who was Protestant, was born on August 3, 1893, in Stossweier, Colmar, France. The couple married on February 8, 1919. Hans was raised Jewish and participated in Jewish organizations.

    In January 1933, Hitler came to power and, by summer, Germany was ruled by a Nazi dictatorship. Anti-Jewish policies were enacted. On September 15, 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were passed, which defined anyone with three or four Jewish grandparents as a Jew. Hans had only two Jewish grandparents from his father’s side, and he was not initially persecuted due to this law. He had an active social life and in 1935 joined the Breslauer Touren-Ruder-Club of the Jewish Water Sports Committee. In April 1936, Hans began an apprentice at Albert Schaffer Company, but was fired in December 1937, because he was Jewish. He lost another job six months later when the Jewish firm, Felix Jacobowitz Co., where he worked was Aryanized.

    Hans began making preparations to leave Germany. The US had a very strict immigration quota system so Hans obtained a Cuban visa. He had a paternal great- aunt, Ernestine Schwartzburg, who had immigrated from Berlin to Shreveport, Louisiana, prior to World War I. With her daughters, Amanda and Jennie, and son Alter, she owned a Girls and Ladies Wear Company. Ernestine sponsored his immigration visas. Hans also was accepted into Centenary College in Shreveport. On March 29, 1939, Hans left for Havana, Cuba, on the MS Orinoco. After six months, he sailed on the SS Florida to Miami, where he arrived on October 13, 1939. Hans then joined his great-aunt in Louisiana and began attending college. His relationship with Ernestine became strained because he did not believe she was doing enough to support her sister, and his grandmother, Johanna. Johanna had been sent from Breslau to Kitno, and then to the Warsaw Ghetto in German occupied Poland and was ill and suffering from starvation. He moved out and boarded with a friend. Hans quit school to work at Ben Phelps Shoes and then Remington Rand. On September 22, 1941, he enlisted in the US Army. He was naturalized on November 12, 1942. He was a corporal in Company B of the 2nd Infantry Training Battalion at Camp Wheeler, Georgia. Camp Wheeler was a training camp for infantry replacements as well as a prisoner of war camp for German and Italian combatants. Hans became a technical sergeant and participated in interrogation of POWs and acted as a translator. Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. Hans was discharged to the Reserve Corps in December. At that time, he was in Camp Somerset, Maryland, which was a German prisoner of war camp from August 1944 to June 1946.

    Hans had been able to correspond regularly with his parents, Alfred and Maria, for a few years after immigrating but had heard nothing since 1941. He received a Red Cross telegram from his mother in 1945. Because Maria was not Jewish, she and Alfred were able to stay in Breslau for the duration of the war, although they had to move to a transit camp. Alfred and Maria immigrated to the United States in October 1947. Johanna had died in the Warsaw Ghetto on December 13, 1941. Hans began a career with American Airlines. On June 27, 1952, Hans married Jane Lake Winning (1921-1969), in Houston, Texas and they had a daughter. Alfred, age 59, died on June 7, 1953, in Dallas; Maria, age 74, died on January 25, 1968, in Dallas. Hans, age 50, died on September 16, 1969, in Houston.

    Physical Details

    Military Insignia
    Physical Description
    Gray colored, pressed aluminum cap badge in the shape of an oak leaved wreath with acorns with a spread winged Imperial eagle across the center. The left facing eagle has textured feathers and grasps in its talons an oak leaved wreath with a swastika on the solid center. The eagle's wings extend beyond the wreath border and overlay the wreath surface. The area above the eagle's head and below its wings are open cutouts. On the back are 2 circular marks where fastening pins would be attached.
    overall: Height: 1.875 inches (4.763 cm) | Width: 2.250 inches (5.715 cm) | Depth: 0.125 inches (0.318 cm)
    overall : aluminum

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The pin was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2012 by Karen Hirschfeld Hendley, the daughter of Hans Hirschfeld.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-31 10:44:52
    This page:

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