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White knitted lace doily with a center flower saved by a German Jewish prewar emigre

Object | Accession Number: 2013.430.3

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    Brief Narrative
    White knitted lace doily saved by 34 year old Irene Schweizer, when she fled Nazi Germany on a Kindertransport with her 6 year old son Hans in July 1939, joining her husband in England. The lace was acquired by Irene’s father, Leonhard Regensburger (1858-1914), who was a silk and textiles merchant in France for many years before becoming a partner in a drapery manufacturing company in Plauen, Germany. When Hitler rose to power in Germany in January 1933, Irene lived in Mannheim, with her husband, Friedrich Schweizer. Irene’s stepfather, Nathan Karlsruher, died in October 1933 and Irene’s mother and half-sister, Jella and Ruth Karlsruher, 11, moved in with them. In 1936, Friedrich was fired from his job as a bank manager because he was Jewish. During Kristallnacht on November 10, 1938, Friedrich was arrested and sent to Dachau. Nazi party supporters invaded their home and destroyed their belongings. In January 1939, Friedrich was released. Irene made arrangements for him to go to England in June. In July, Irene picked up Hans, from his school for the deaf in Berlin and left for England. They emigrated to the United States in March 1940 and settled in Chicago. Irene arranged for her mother and sister to get to America in September 1940.
    creation:  approximately 1903-1912
    emigration:  1939 July
    use: Mannheim (Germany)
    creation: Plauen (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Audrey Eisenmann and Geoffrey Eisenmann
    Subject: Irene Schweizer
    Irene Regensburger was born on July 18, 1905, in Plauen, Germany, to Leonhard and Jella Furth Regensburger. Leonhard was born on July 12, 1858, and Jella on January 25, 1879, both in Eppingen. Leonhard had been a silk and textile merchant in France for twenty years and had acquired French citizenship. He had returned to Saxony because he wanted a German wife. He became a partner in a drapery manufacturing factory in Plauen. Jella and Leonhard married on September 30, 1903, and moved to Plauen. When Leonhard retired in 1912, the family moved back to Eppingen. On April 11, 1914, Leonhard died of cancer. On December 5, 1919, Jella married Nathan Karlsruher who had been her first love. However, Nathan, the oldest brother of twelve, had not been able to marry until he had helped all his sisters wed. The family moved to Mannheim. Irene changed her last name to Regensburger-Karlsruher. Jella had another child, Ruth, on July 30, 1922. The family lived very well, with dressmakers and servants. Irene excelled at school and graduated in 1922 at age 17. She then got a job at a bank. On May 27, 1927, she married Friedrich Schweizer. Friedrich, born on August 20, 1891, was a veteran of World War i (1914-1918.) He was employed as a manager at Deutsche Bank and, since he earned more than minimum wage, Irene was legally required to leave her job. Friedrich had two sisters, Celia and Rose, who emigrated from Germany.

    In January 1933, Hitler came to power in Germany and anti-Jewish laws were enacted almost immediately. On September 19, 1933, the couple had a son, Hans, who was born profoundly deaf. Irene’s stepfather, Nathan, died on October 21, 1933. Her mother Jella and step-sister Ruth moved in with Irene and her family. When Hans was older, he was sent to a school for deaf children in Berlin. In 1936, Friedrich was fired from his job because he was Jewish. On November 10, 1938, during Kristallnacht, two Nazis entered the apartment and took Friedrich. A few hours later, more Nazis came in with crowbars, smashed their furniture and dishes, and destroyed pictures on the wall. They did not harm the apartment building which was Swiss owned, and the next day, SS guards were posted outside. On November 12, 1938, Irene's maternal aunt Sophie killed herself by jumping off a roof, fearful of the violent antisemitism she witnessed during Kristallnacht. After a few days, the family heard that Friedrich had been taken to Dachau concentration camp. In January 1939, he was released. Jella had quickly put sandwiches in his pockets when he was arrested and they had helped him survive because he was not given food for many days. Some of Friedrich’s distant relatives in St. Louis, Missouri, sent the family affidavits to help them get out of Germnay. In June 1939, Friedrich left for England. Irene went to Berlin to get Hans from school. On July 18, 1939, they left Berlin on a Kindertransport. Irene was allowed to accompany Hans because he was deaf. She paid her own fare and was the only mother on the train. She never forgot the sight of the other parents sobbing as they said goodbye to their children. She and Hans were reunited with Friedrich in England and remained there for nine months.

    In March 1940, the family sailed to the US and settled in Chicago. Friedrich and Hans Americanized their names to Frederick and Henry. Irene worked to get Jella and Ruth out of Germany, calling relatives and friends to get them 2000 dollars and affidavits. She was successful and they left Germany in August 1940. They arrived in Chicago in September 1940 and moved in with Irene. Frederick arranged for Henry to attend to the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis. Irene took evening bookkeeping classes and then got a job in the accounting office of the University of Chicago Hospital and Clinics. She was active in the Jewish community in Hyde Park. Frederick was a bookkeeper. Jella, age 81, died on January 11, 1961. Frederick, age 71, died on December 23, 1962. Irene, age 101, died on June 22, 2007.

    Physical Details

    Decorative Arts
    Object Type
    Doilies (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Circular, white knitted lace doily in the shape of a flower with a tight chain stitched flower, a small flower, and leaves in the center of a loosely crochet stitched web with pinwheel points around the edge.
    overall: Height: 6.250 inches (15.875 cm) | Width: 6.750 inches (17.145 cm) | Diameter: 6.500 inches (16.51 cm)
    overall : lace

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The doily was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013 by Audrey Eisenmann and Geoffrey Eisenmann, the niece and nephew of Irene Schweizer.
    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:
    2022-08-12 07:09:01
    This page:

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