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Child's flowered blue dress received by girl in DP camp

Object | Accession Number: 2007.520.4

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    Child's flowered blue dress received by girl in DP camp


    Brief Narrative
    Blue flowered dress received by Zelda Kamieniecki as a child in Neu Ulm displaced persons camp in Germany in 1947. Zelda was an infant in August 1941 when German troops occupied her birthplace, Rovno, Poland (Rivne (Rivnensʹka oblastʹ, Ukraine). Zelda and her mother Chana Bebczuk Wachs were relocated to a labor camp. Chana worked digging ditches in the nearby forest. In 1943, the Gestapo came to the camp with orders to transport 5000 people, including Zelda and Chana, to a different camp. Everyone was loaded into wagons and taken toward the woods where the ditches had been dug. Chana convinced an officer to let her get a drink of water from an abandoned farmhouse. She broke a window, escaped through it with Zelda, and ran through gunfire to the nearby forest. Chana and Zelda hid in the woods with a group of Soviet partisans and other escaped Jews. After Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945, Chana took Zelda to Munich, Germany, in order to find work. While there, Chana met and married Mendel Kamieniecki. In 1946, the family relocated to the displaced persons camp in Neu-Ulm. Zelda’s sisters, Mindla and Malka, were born in the dp camp. They were reunited with Chana's father, Pesach Bebczuk, but most of their other family members were killed during the war. The family emigrated to the United States in 1949.
    received:  approximately 1947
    received: Neu Ulm (Displaced persons camp); Neu-Ulm (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Paul and Sally Edelsberg
    Subject: Sally C. Edelsberg
    Subject: Paul Edelsberg
    Zelda (Sally) Wachs (later Kamieniecki) was born in Rovno, Poland (Rivne (Rivnensʹka oblastʹ, Ukraine) to Chana Bebczuk and her first husband, possibly named Josef Wachs. Her official date of birth is August 6, 1941, but it is likely that she was born earlier, around 1939. Her mother falsified her birthdate at various times during her early childhood because as they moved from place to place, it was sometimes safer to be an older child and sometimes a younger child. Chana was born on June 5, 1918, in Stepan, Poland, to a devout Jewish couple, Mila and Pesach Bebczuk; a butcher. Chana had a sister Churna and two brothers Aaron and David. Zelda’s father was born in 1905, but was killed by the Soviets, who occupied eastern Poland in September 1939, shortly after Nazi Germany invaded the country.

    In June 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union. The Germans occupied the town on June 28 and during the summer, 3000 Jews were murdered. On November 7-8, 1941, approximately 21,000 Jews were executed by shooting squads in the nearby woods. The remaining Jews, about 5000, including Zelda, Chana, and other family members, were forced into a ghetto/labor camp. Chana and Zelda tried to stay with their female relatives in the overcrowded camp. Chana had to work in the fields or dig ditches in the woods, and Zelda was left with her sick grandmother. Food was scarce, only those who worked got small rations and although her mother and others shared their rations, Zelda was very weak and malnourished.
    In late summer 1942, German troops came to the camp with orders to transport everyone to a different camp. They were loaded into wagons and taken toward the woods. Chana convinced an officer to let her get a drink of water from an abandoned farmhouse, and took Zelda with her. Chana broke a window, escaped through it with Zelda, and ran through gunfire to the nearby forest. They hid near enough to the ditches to hear the Germans shoot the other prisoners, including Zelda’s grandmother, aunt, and cousins.
    Chana and Zelda hid in the woods for days. Chana stole food to survive. They were found by two partisans. Chana convinced the men that Zelda could be quiet, and they allowed them to hide with their group of Jewish escapees and Soviet partisans. Chana and Zelda lived in a cold cave with a couple other women, and had to be careful not to leave tracks or attract attention. Sometimes Chana risked getting food from a local farm family. Chana and Zelda were almost caught by German soldiers twice, once at the farm, and once in the woods. The region was liberated by Soviet forces in February 1944, but Chana and Zelda stayed in hiding in the woods.

    The war ended May 7, 1945, when Germany surrendered. To support herself and Zelda, Chana worked wherever she could, and eventually reached Munich, Germany. She got a job selling theater tickets and later, black market goods for a Soviet general who let her keep any additional profits. The first things she bought were a new dress, a sweater, and shoes for Zelda. That fall, Chana met Mendel Kamienicki. Mendel was born to Jewish farmers in Rovno where he had owned a grocery store before the war. He had escaped from a German concentration camp near Warsaw and then fought for the Soviet Army. They left Munich and returned to Poland. The couple had a daughter Mindla in Bytom on June 18, 1946. They then relocated to Neu-Ulm displaced persons camp in Germany. A second daughter Malka was born in the DP camp on June 31, 1948. During this time, they were reunited with Chana’s father Pesach. Chana learned that both of her brothers had been murdered in the same camp where her father was held prisoner.

    Zelda’s parents decided to emigrate to the United States because Chana’s grandparents lived there and sponsored their visa applications. With assistance from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the family traveled to Naples, Italy, where they boarded the USAT General A.W. Greely. They arrived in New York on December 11th, 1949, and settled in Madison, Wisconsin. Zelda and her family members became US citizens and changed their surname to Comins. Zelda adopted the nickname Sally. Pesach Bebczuk emigrated to the United States in February 1951. Chana and Mendel had a son in March 1959. Sally received several degrees and became a professor of physical therapy at Northwestern University. In 1979, she married Paul Edelsberg, a Holocaust survivor, with a young daughter. Paul was originally from Poland. He had escaped the Wlodawa ghetto and fought with the partisans and then the Soviet Army.
    Pinkus (Paul) Edelsberg was born on February 2, 1925, in Wlodawa, Poland (Lubelskie, Województwo, Poland), the second child of Josef and Blima Vilma Edelsberg, a devout Jewish, middle class couple. His older sister Etel was born in 1921, and his younger sister Tema was born in 1927. Joseph ran a hardware store, with his family’s help. The children attended both public and Hebrew school.

    Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. After three weeks, the Soviet Union invaded from the east and per the German-Soviet Pact, occupied eastern Poland, while Germany occupied the western region. Citizens in Polish towns along the boundary formed by the Bug River, like Wlodawa, had to decide which side of the river to live on, and thus to which country they would owe allegiance. The Edelsberg family stayed in their home on the western bank of the river, which was converted to a ghetto by the Germans in 1941. The family store stayed open until Joseph was conscripted as forced labor for German construction projects. Pinkus worked as an assistant to a local harness maker while his father and Tema were in labor battalions.

    Josef was picked up on the street by German soldiers in early 1942 and transported to the neighboring town of Sobibor to work on another construction project. Mass round-ups of Jewish townspeople began in June 1942, and Tema was among deported. Pinkus fled into the woods and hid with Jewish partisans. They joined a band of Soviet partisans and inflicted as much damage as possible to German infrastructure in the area. The Soviet Army arrived in the region in October 1943. Germany had invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 and now was on offensive and forcing the German army to retreat. The Soviets pressed Pinkus and the other partisans into military service. Pinkus spent six months training in the Soviet Union and was shipped back to Poland in April 1944 to fight against Germany. Pinkus was injured in battle in January 1945. He spent three months recovering, rejoined his unit, and fought until Germany surrendered in early May 1945.

    After the surrender, Pinkus traveled with the Major of his unit, serving as a German translator. During one trip, he returned to Wlodawa and discovered that his cousin, Hanke Lichtenberg, was still alive. She told him that his family had murdered by the Germans in 1942. His father and sister Tema had been gassed in Sobibor killing center. His mother and sister Etel were gunned down by the SS while harvesting crops. After learning this, Pinkus left the Soviet Army and moved to Waldenburg, Poland, with Hanke for three months. He then traveled through Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Germany. He settled in Bad Reichenhall displaced persons camp, where he served as a camp police officer through 1947.

    In 1948, Pinkus moved to the town of Bad Reichenhall and where he sold goods three years. In October 1951, Pinkus boarded the USNS General J. H. McRae in Bremerhaven, Germany, and arrived in New York on October 14, 1951. In 1952, he settled in Chicago, Illinois, and began using the name Paul. He opened his own pet supply business in 1961. He married Carole Gerberding in 1969 and had a daughter in January 1971. Carole died of cancer in 1974. Paul remarried in February 1979, to Sally Comins, a fellow survivor. During the war, Sally, born about 1939, and her mother, had lived with partisans in the woods after escaping a labor camp near their home town of Rovne, Poland.

    Physical Details

    Clothing and Dress
    Object Type
    Child's dress (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Lightweight child’s dress made from light blue cloth with a printed pattern of bees and white and yellow flowers with brown shaded leaves upon black spotted ground. The dress is hand sewn with light blue thread and has an empire style bodice panel, a loose, flared skirt, and gathered sleeves. The curved, frayed neckline, is open in a V-shape at the back, with two cloth ties, of the same cloth as the dress, sewn to the ends of the neckline. The hem is slightly uneven, sewn with white thread, and repaired with pink thread. The left sleeve has repairs.
    overall: Height: 17.375 inches (44.133 cm) | Width: 10.250 inches (26.035 cm)
    overall : cloth, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The dress was donated to the United Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2007 by Paul and Sally Edelsberg.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-09 15:41:58
    This page:

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