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Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp scrip, 50 kronen note, acquired by Czech refugee

Object | Accession Number: 1993.50.12

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    Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp scrip, 50 kronen note, acquired by Czech refugee

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    Brief Narrative
    50 (funfzig) mark Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp note given to Raul Hilberg by Frank Petschek, who, with his wife, as well as the extended Petschek family, had to flee Czechoslovakia after its annexation by Nazi Germany in fall 1938. After the war, the confiscation of the Petschek family's vast business and land holdings by the Nazi regime were used for a major case in the War Criminals trials at Nuremberg. Hilberg and his parents fled Vienna, Austria, after its annexation by Germany in March 1938. It was Petschek's generosity that made possible the publication of Hilberg's landmark work, Destruction of the European Jews, in 1961, a foundational and authoritative study of the Holocaust. The scrip was issued in Theresienstadt in German occupied Czechoslovakia beginning in May 1943. Inmates were not allowed to have currency and the SS ordered the Jewish Council to design scrip for use only in the camp. It was issued to create a false appearance of normalcy and as an incentive for forced labor. There was little to obtain with the scrip. Notes were printed in 7 denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100. The camp was in operation from November 24, 1941, until early May 1945. Approximately 140,000 Jewish men, women, and children were transferred to Theresienstadt; nearly 90,000 were then deported, likely to their death further east. About 33,000 Jews died in Theresienstadt.
    issue:  1943 January 01
    issue: Theresienstadt (Concentration camp); Terezin (Ustecky kraj, Czech Republic)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Raul Hilberg
    front, lower center, blue ink : 50
    reverse, upper left, serial number, red ink : 009632
    reverse, right center below scrollwork, series number, red ink : F
    reverse, lower left and upper right, blue ink : 50
    Subject: Raul Hilberg
    Subject: Frank Petschek
    Issuer: Der Alteste der Juden in Theresienstadt
    Raul Hilberg was born on June 2, 1926, in Vienna, Austria, the only child of Jewish parents. His father Michael fought and was wounded in the First World War (1914-1918). In Vienna, he had a business selling household goods to people on installment plans. His parents attended synagogue occasionally. Raul was never religious, but he did attend a Zionist school. In March 1938, Nazi Germany annexed Austria and soon passed legislation to strip Jews of their rights as citizens. The family was ordered out of their apartment by gunpoint. His father was arrested during Kristallnacht, September 9-10 1938, but was soon released because he was a World War I veteran.

    The family left Austria and after stopovers in France and Cuba, reached Brooklyn, NY, on September 1, 1939. Michael worked in a factory and Hilberg attended Lincoln High School. He enrolled in Brooklyn College until enlisting in the Army in 1944. He was deployed to Germany in 1945 with the 45th infantry division. He served with an Oklahoma division that liberated Dachau, but was not with the unit at the time. He was with the first troops that entered Munich. He was later assigned to the Army documentation division, which needed staff fluent in German. The war ended in May 1945. Nearly all the members of Hilberg's family on both his mother's and father's side were murdered during the Holocaust. Postwar, Hilberg assisted in the search for German documents to aid the prosecution at the war crimes trials. His unit was housed in the Nazi Party’s former offices in Munich. Crates containing Hitler’s personal library were stored there and Hilberg was fascinated by the contents. After his discharge, he returned to Brooklyn College and changed his major from chemistry to history and political science, graduating in 1948. He then focused on political science and international law and completed a master’s in public law in 1950 at Columbia University. He taught at Hunter College and then obtained a federal job in the War Documentation Project in Alexandria, Va., cataloging documents released from German archives, copying by hand material necessary to his own research. He received his doctorate from Columbia in 1955. His dissertation was on the Holocaust, which was not then a topic of academic study. His adviser, Franz Neumann, warned him that the subject would be detrimental to his career.

    In 1956, he took a position at the University of Vermont. In 1961, his book, “The Destruction of the European Jews” was published. It was the first comprehensive study of the Holocaust and established the field of Holocaust studies. It was a methodical, evidentiary work detailing the systematic, bureaucratic process that led to the mass murder of Jews as a matter of routine. Rejected by five publishers, it was accepted by the small Quadrangle Company after a patron, Frank Petschek, a wealthy businesman who had fled German occupied Czechoslovakia in fall 1938, agreed to subsidize the print run and purchase 1300 copies for libraries. In 1974, Hilberg offered the first college-level course on the Holocaust. He expanded his original work to three volumes and published five more books on the topic, as well as a memoir. He retired from the University of Vermont in 1991, after thirty-five years.

    Hilberg was dedicated to expanding the public understanding of the Holocaust. He was a key figure in the development and establishment of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, serving as an original member of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust (1978–79) and on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council from 1980 through 1988. In 2006, he received the Knight Commander’s Order of Merit in Germany, the highest award given to non-German citizens. Hilberg married Christine Hemenway in the 1950s. They had two children, and eventually divorced. In 1980, he married Gwendolyn Montgomery. Hilberg, 81, died of lung cancer in Williston, Vt., on August 4, 2007.
    Frantisek (Frank) Conrad Petschek was born on December 23, 1894, in Ústí nad Labem (Aussig), Bohemia, Austro-Hungary, to Jewish parents Ignatz and Helene Bloch Petschek. His father Ignatz (1857-1934) was born in Kolin, the youngest son of Moses ben Israel (1822-1888). Ignatz had two brothers Isidor (1854-1919) and Julius (1856-1932) and a sister Ruzena. Frank had four siblings, Vilém (William) born in November 1896, Ernst, Elise, and Karl (Charles). The family was assimilated and used German at home and to conduct business. Frank also learned English and French, as well as Czech. After the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I (1914-1918) Usti became part of the newly formed Czechoslovakia. From the late 19th century, the extended Petschek family had flourished as rich, prominent business entrepreneurs and in the new country, dominated the banking and coal mining industries. Frank's’s father Ignatz (1857-1934) had settled in Usti in 1880 where he set up his own mining company and other businesses, as well as establishing a bank with the family in Prague. He controlled nearly fifty percent of the brown coal mining in Europe. Ignatz was also a philanthropist, donating millions to charity. Usti had a very small Jewish population. The majority of the population were ethnic Germans and the city was a center of German National Socialism. The Nazi regime came to power in Germany in 1933 and Hitler proclaimed his intention to reclaim ethnic German territories such as the Sudetenland where Usti was located. In 1934, Frantisek’s father Ignatz died and the four brothers took over the businesses. Karl was already running the operations in Germany where they had extensive holdings managed by a trust. Their cousin Otto, Isidor’s son, also died that year and his brother Hans (1896-1968) took over other portions of the family concern.

    In fall 1938, France, Great Britain, and Italy made the Munich Agreement with Germany, permitting Hitler to annex the Sudetenland. By this time, Frank was married to Janina Barczinsky, who was born in 1905 in Łódź, Poland. They left for Brazil in November 1938, and emigrated to the US in 1940. Hans also left in fall 1938 for New York, where with cousin Walter (d. 1979), Julius’s only son, joined the United Continental Corporation, a family investment corporation. Frank's mother (1863-1951), three brothers, William (1896-1980), Ernst (d. 1956), Karl, and other family members had already or would soon leave Czechoslovakia. In March 1939, Germany invaded and annexed Bohemia and Moravia, where Prague was located. The assets, business concerns, and property of all family members were secured by the German authorities in forced sales or confiscated by the Gestapo. In 1942, all their holding were declared forfeited to the German Reich. The confiscation of the family's holdings would be a major prosecution case in one of the trials of War Criminals during the Nuremberg Trials.

    Frank and Janina settled in New York City and had two daughters. Around 1960, Frank Petschek was told by his daugher, a graduate student at Harvard, about a scholar, Dr. Raul Hilberg, who had a manuscript for an intensively researched book about the Holocaust but was not able to find a publisher. Hilberg later noted in his preface that Petschek "interested himself in the project while it was still unfinished. He read it line by line and, with a singular gesture, made possible its first publication." Petschek agreed to subsidize the print run of 5500, with 1300 copies set aside for donation to libraries. Quadrangle Books, a small independent publisher, brought out the book in 1961. The work, The Destruction of the European Jews, was soon recognized as an authoritative masterpiece and is the foundation of the field of Holocaust studies. Frank, 68, died on June 25, 1963.

    Physical Details

    German Hebrew
    Exchange Media
    Object Type
    Scrip (aat)
    Physical Description
    Theresienstadt scrip printed on rectangular, offwhite paper in black, light blue, and green-blue ink. The face has a vignette of Moses, a bearded man with a wrinkled brow, holding 2 stone tablets with the 10 Commandments in Hebrew. To the right is the denomination 50 and German text. The background rectangle has an abstract repeating pattern. On the right side is a wide offwh, the border with 50 in the bottom corner below a Star of David. The reverse has a background rectangle with a blue zigzag pattern with an orange center streak, overprinted with German text, an engraved signature, and a large scrollwork line. The denomination 50 is in the upper right corner. On the left side is a wide offwhite border with 50 in the bottom corner below a Star of David in a lined circle. The serial number is in red in the upper left corner. The series letter in red ink is on the lower right. Scrip is not worn but it is discolored, with a brown stain line along the top edge and smaller brown stains and black smudged marks.
    overall: Height: 2.750 inches (6.985 cm) | Width: 5.500 inches (13.97 cm)
    overall : paper, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The scrip was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1993 by Raul Hilberg.
    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:
    2023-06-06 12:36:39
    This page:

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