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Bath towel acquired by Polish Jewish woman after her escape during a forced march from Ravensbrück

Object | Accession Number: 1993.27.32

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    Brief Narrative
    Bath towel used by Franka Rosenblum, 25, that she stole from a Burgermeister's house in Sachsendorf, Germany, in April 1945 after her escape during a death march from Ravensbrueck concentration camp. She also took a blanket, 1993.27.33, a dress, and a blouse. Franka and her family lived in Zawiercie, Poland, which was invaded by Germany in September 1939. She was a forced laborer in a steel mill and involved with the resistance movement. On August 26, 1943, she was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where she was shaved, given rags to wear, and tattooed with the number 56362. She worked in a hospital, then a Krupp ammunition factory. In January 1945, she was forced on marches to Malkov, Ravensbrück, and Leipzig, where she escaped and hid. The area was soon liberated and she was relocated to a refugee camp in France. Her family in Poland was killed. In Paris, she encountered Julian Hirshfeld, whom she had known before and during the war. Julian, originally from Łódź, was transported from 1942-1945 to several concentration camps because his skills as a textile engineer were valuable to the Germans. He was interned at Birkenau, Auschwitz, Goleshau, and liberated in April 1945 at Buchenwald. His first wife Hela and 10 year old daughter Fryda were murdered in Auschwitz. Franka and Julian married on September 26, 1946. A few months later, Franka and their infant daughter emigrated to the United States. Julian followed in 1949.
    found:  1945 April
    use:  1945 May-1946
    found: Sachsendorf (Wurzen, Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Frances Hirshfeld, in memory of her husband Dr. Julian Hirshfeld, and their family members who perished during the Holocaust
    Subject: Frances Hirshfeld
    Franka (Frances) Mariam Rosenblum was born in Opatow Kieliecki, (Wojewowldztwo Swietokryzskie) Poland, on July 26, 1918, to Meyer and Gabriella (Malka) Wajman Rosenblum. Her father died before she was born. In 1924, she and her mother moved to Sosnowiec. Her mother had nine siblings and mother and daughter next went to live with the Sojka's, an uncle's family in Zawiercie. When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, the Sojka's fled east to Russian territory, but it was winter and conditions were very harsh. Franka smuggled herself back to the German occupied area and found that nothing remained: homes and property had been confiscated. She was unable to get back into the Russian sector, but her family returned to the Zawiercie ghetto. Franka worked as forced labor in the steel mill, and became involved in the resistance.

    On August 26, 1943, Franka was deported by the German authorities to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Upon arrival, she was stripped naked, had her head shaved, was given dirty, lice infested rags to wear, and tattooed with the number 56362. If she asked a question, she was slapped until her teeth shook. They slept six to a bunk in a stable with three layers of bunks. They worked all the time, some just carrying heavy rocks back and forth. They got ersatz coffee and a small piece of bread in the morning and evening, and dirty, watery soup during the day. If you washed your clothes, you had to sleep in them wet. Trains arrived all the time from across Europe, unloaded by men called zondercommandos, who were given the choice of helping to unload the trains or going to the ovens alive. She learned about the Warsaw Uprising from other camp inmates who had been sent to the camp from there. Franka worked first in a hospital zone crowded with people dying from starvation and disease, then in a Krupp ammunition factory. She was moved from Auschwitz to Birkenau where she lived near the place where medical experiments were conducted. One day, a Belgian girl was caught trying to escape. All the inmates were called to see her execution by hanging; someone slipped her a razor blade and she cut her wrists to escape the gallows. Beginning in January 1945, Franka was taken on a series of death marches to Malkov, Ravensbrück, and Leipzig; near Dresden, around April, she escaped and the area was soon liberated.

    She learned that her mother, all nine of her mother’s siblings, and her grandparents had perished. Franka was relocated to France where she met Julian Hirshfeld, a textile engineer and survivor of Auschwitz and many other concentration camps whose wfie and child had been murdered in a German camp. They had known each other before the war in the ghetto. They married in Brussels, Belgium, on September 26, 1946. In October, with the help of an uncle in Jacksonville, Florida, Franka emigrated to the United States with their infant daughter. Julian arrived in the US in 1949. They settled in Decatur, Alabama, and had another daughter and a son. Both she and her husband spoke about their experiences to many groups, because they believed that "Whatever is not enough." Julian, 72, died in 1981. Frances, 80, passed away in 1999.

    Physical Details

    Furnishings and Furniture
    Household linens
    Object Type
    Towels (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Long, narrow, discolored, offwhite cotton towel with yellow and brown bands at both short ends, intermixed with small dots and triangles in lighter, contrasting colors. One edge is selvage. The front and back patterns are similar, but have different color combinations. There are handwritten inscriptions on the back: F989 and 4 illegible letters.
    overall: Height: 40.500 inches (102.87 cm) | Width: 19.000 inches (48.26 cm)
    overall : cotton
    back, handwritten, ink : F989

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The towel was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1993 by Frances Rosenblum Hirshfeld.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:22:18
    This page:

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