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Pencil portrait of a former Jewish Polish hidden child done in DP camp

Object | Accession Number: 2013.470.6

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    Pencil portrait of a former Jewish Polish hidden child done in DP camp


    Brief Narrative
    Llifelike pencil portrait of 4 year old Basha Schaechter done in 1946 when she lived in Stuttgart displaced persons camp with her parents, Filip and Janina. Basha was born in September 1941 in Bukaczowce, Poland, where her parents were living under false papers as Christians, Frank and Janina Rogalski. Just before Basha's birth, the village, which was in Soviet territory, was occupied by German troops. The family fled to a village near Krakow. Around summer 1942, their landlord said he knew they were Jewish, and that he would not report them, but they must leave. They decided it was safer to separate, since Jean and Basha, both blue-eyed blondes, did not look Jewish. Janina took Basha and went to Germany as a Polish forced laborer. She found work at an inn in Durnholz, Germany, and placed Basha with a Christian woman, Berta Antleman. Janina visited occasionally, but not as her mother, and Basha did not remember her. In spring 1945, as rumors spread that the war was ending, Janina said she would be leaving with Basha, but Berta said the child would remain with her. In April 1945, Janina asked to take Basha for a walk, and then ran away with her. They went to Stuttgart displaced persons camp in Germany. They were soon reunited with Filip, who had worked as a Polish forced laborer in Pulsnitz, Germany. The family sailed to New York in May 1946 on the SS Marine Flasher.
    Artwork Title
    Portrait of Basha, 1946
    creation:  after 1946 January-before 1946 May
    received: Stuttgart (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Barbara Cohen
    Subject: Barbara Cohen
    Basha Schachter (Shaechter) was born on September 10, 1941, in Bukaczowce, Galicia, Poland (Bukachivtsi, Ukraine), to a Jewish couple, Filip and Janina Hirsch Schachter. The village was in the eastern region which was placed under Soviet control following the September 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Filip was born on June 23, 1914, in Krakow, to Joseph (b. 1885) and Pesia Blumer Schachter (b. 1889). Filip had six sisters: Mania, Bronia, Helinka, Felitzia, Janina, and Jeanette Lusia. His father Joseph owned a grocery store. Filip received his law degree in 1936 and worked as a lawyer. Janina was born on September 11, 1916, in Stanislawow (now Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine), to Leon (b. 1880) and Scheindel (Charlotte) Weiser Hirsch (b. 1880). Janina had three siblings: Rachel (b. 1910), Karol (b. 1913), and Malwina. Her father Leon was an upholsterer. Janina was a bookkeeper.

    After the German invasion, Filip fled east from Krakow, almost to Pinsk where he registered with Soviet authorities as a displaced person. He then settled in Stanislawow and was a bookkeeper in a meat export/import firm. In 1940, he met Janina who also worked there and they married three weeks later. Because of Filip’s displaced person status, they had to leave Stanislawow and went to a small village, Bukaczowce. Filip obtained false papers for them as Polish Christians, Frank and Janina Rogalski, and they lived quietly, even going to church weekly. In June 1941, Germany launched an attack on the Soviet Union. German SS troops arrived in nearby Lviv at the end of July 1941 to finish the work of exterminating Jews begun by German killing squads who advanced through the region with the Army, shooting to death thousands of Jews. After Basha was born, Filip sent her and Janina to stay with a family in another village. Janina gave the family her fur coat and diamond ring, but after one night, they made her leave. Janina took Basha to Krakow to hide with non-Jewish friends. After Filip joined them circa January 1942, they went to a small nearby village. Filip’s parents and sisters were interned in the Krakow ghetto. Janina became pregnant again, but the couple decided it was too dangerous to have another child and she terminated the pregnancy. In summer 1942, their landlord told them that he knew they were Jewish, and, while he would not report them, they had to leave. The couple decided it was safest to split up. Janina and Basha had blond hair and blue eyes and could pass for non-Jews. Janina and Filip spoke Polish and Yiddish to each other, but both were also fluent in German.

    Janina and Basha went to Krakow to stay with a woman who had been a maid for Filip’s family for nine years. Janina was told to leave after a day. They stole her suitcase and shoes, but she took the woman’s daughter’s identity papers, as the forgeries Filip had made in Ukraine were not very good fakes. Aware that the Germans were conscripting non-Jewish Polish persons for forced labor in the Reich, she and Basha went to a church where laborers gathered. They were put on a truck for Germany and Janina worked as a farm hand. She constantly needed to stop working to care for 1 year old Basha and was fired six times. She decided to return to Poland, but was approached by a woman, Frau Birne, who owned an inn in Dürnholz (Drnholec, Czech Republic), in the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia annexed to Germany in 1938. The woman said she had been told about her by the last farmer for whom Janina had worked. She said that she knew a wealthy, childless German woman, Berta Antelman, who would take the baby. Janina worked in Frau Birne’s inn, but could visit the baby only occasionally and had to pretend she was not her mother. Berta took loving care of Basha. She had plenty to eat and attended church daily. Janina visited a few times as the produce lady. Basha did not remember her and called Berta, mutti, German for mother. As rumors of the end of the war spread in the spring of 1945, Janina told Berta that she planned to leave. Berta said the child must remain with her. In the second week of April 1945, Janina brought produce and asked to take Basha, not yet four, for a walk. During the walk, she picked up Basha and ran away with the crying child. Janina and Basha got a ride to Stuttgart displaced persons camp. About a week after they arrived, Filip found them through the Red Cross. With the help of a farm family whose children he had tutored, Filip got Polish identity papers and had worked as a Polish forced laborer in Pulsnitz, Germany.

    The family returned to Krakow to search for their family. Janina learned that her entire family had perished. Her father starved to death in the Stanislawow ghetto and her mother was shot by the Germans in a mass killing. Filip learned that five sisters had survived concentration camps, but one sister, Jeanette, died of typhus in Krakow ghetto in 1941. His parents were shot in a German aktion in 1942. Postwar Poland was controlled by the Soviets. After hearing of pogroms against returning Jews in Poland, the family returned by night to Germany. They lived in Foehrenwald displaced persons camp, then moved to Stuttgart DP camp, both in the American zone of occupation. Filip, who quickly learned English and now also knew Russian and Ukrainian, was made chief of the Jewish police in the UNRRA camp. Basha’s name was changed to Barbara. On May 11, 1946, the family sailed from Bremerhaven on the SS Marine Flasher, arriving in New York on May 20. It was the first ship to arrive in the US after the Truman Directive, December 22, 1945, giving immigration priority to displaced persons. They lived in Brooklyn and Americanized their names to Philip and Jean Schechter. Philip and Jean had a son, Joseph (1949-1975). The family later moved to Detroit at the invitation of a non-Jewish Ukrainian Janina knew before the war. Barbara received a master’s degree and was a physical therapist. She married and had two children. Phillip, age 74, died on May 17, 1989, in Pompano Beach, Florida. Jean died in 1998.

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    Realistic, finely rendered pencil portrait on paper by an unknown artist depicting a closeup of the face and head of a young girl. Her head is tilted left and she looks anxiously to the left, eyes wide, with a sorrowful and apprehensive expression. She has short, loosely curled hair. The facial features: eyes, eyebrows, nose, closed mouth, and rounded chin are detailed. The left side of her face is softly shaded, with darker hatchmark shading under her chin and right side neck. Her peter pan collar is drawn in outline. The drawing is adhered to a square fiberboard Norwood album cover separated at the spine, with treated patterned paper. It is initialed and dated, with some stains.
    overall: Height: 11.500 inches (29.21 cm) | Width: 11.875 inches (30.163 cm)
    pictorial area: Height: 9.875 inches (25.083 cm) | Width: 8.250 inches (20.955 cm)
    overall : paper, graphite, fiberboard, adhesive
    front, in image on right shoulder, pencil : [looped symbol] 46

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The drawing was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013 by Barbara Schechter Cohen.
    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:
    2022-09-27 15:04:48
    This page:

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