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Brown Fibrolin trunk used by a Polish Jewish prewar emigre

Object | Accession Number: 2013.473.3

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    Brief Narrative
    Brown trunk used by 28 year old Ryfka (Rita) Tewel when she left Bartkowka, Poland, for the United States in July 1938. Ryfka's US visa was sponsored by a maternal aunt and her husband in Pittsburgh, and Ryfka settled there. In 1941, Rita married Benjamin Newberg, who agreed to help bring her brother and four sisters to the United States. They sent money to Rita’s siblings, but never heard from them again. On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The war ended with Germany's surrender on May 7, 1945. During the German occupation, at least three million Jewish citizens of Poland were murdered. Rita believed her family members were killed in a concentration camp.
    use:  1938 July
    manufacture: Krakow (Poland)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Jamie Phillips and Lisa Phillips, in memory of their grandparents, Morris and Rita Newberg Weiger, and their mother, Harriet Newberg Phillips
    front, hasps, engraved : STK
    left side, impressed : ∙ FIBROLIN ∙ KRAJOWY ∙ / MARKA ∙ OCHRONNA / STK [lion on a suitcase] STK [Fibrolin National Brand Protection]
    Subject: Rita R. Weiger
    Ryfka Regina Tewel was born on November 3, 1909, in Bartkowka, Poland, to a Jewish couple. She had five older siblings: Saul, Sara, Hana, Rachel, and Mine. Ryfka’s family was wealthy. Her father owned a ferry that traveled across the San River from Bartkowka to Dynow, a bar, and a lumber business. Ryfka’s mother Hana died when she was eight. Ryfka began working in the family businesses when she was 9. Her family spoke Polish, Yiddish, and German. She learned Hebrew at school. Circa 1937, Ryfka’s father suffered a stroke and became an invalid. Ryfka cared for him until he died a year later.

    Ryfka wanted a different life and decided to emigrate to the United States or Palestine. Her maternal aunt and her husband Saul Birkkrantz lived in Pittsburgh and agreed to sponsor her visa for the US. On July 22, 1938, Ryfka sailed from Southampton, England, on the SS Britannic, arriving in New York on July 31. Ryfka settled in Pittsburgh and changed her name to Rita. She worked at a bakery. Her aunt and uncle wanted her to marry their son, but she refused. In 1941, Rita married Benjamin Newberg, a widower with three children. He owned a large wholesale clothing store and promised to bring Rita’s family to the US. They sent money to her siblings in Poland, but Rita never heard from them again. On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. World War II had begun and the borders were closed. The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. During the German occupation, at least three million Jewish citizens of Poland were murdered.

    Rita and Benjamin had two daughters. Rita worked with Benjamin in his clothing business. In 1946, Rita corresponded with relatives in displaced persons camps. She learned that most of her family perished in the Holocaust. She believed that her siblings were killed in a concentration camp. She was told that one of her nephews was saved by a non-Jewish woman, but was not able to find him. In September 1946, Rita’s husband Benjamin died. Rita later married Morris Weiger (1913-1994), a Holocaust survivor from Luck, Poland (now Lutsk, Ukraine). Rita, 90, passed away on May 2, 2000, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    Physical Details

    Polish English
    Physical Description
    Well-used, rectangular fiberboard trunk with a wooden frame covered with brown Fibrolin, a treated paper or cloth, with a pocked texture. The lid is attached with 3 hinges and has metal edging. There are leather bumpers riveted on each corner, metal clamps on the front top corners of the base, and 8 small metal edge clamps on the base and lid. The lid front has 2 hasps, 1 on the left, 1 on the right, that insert into 2 lock plates, also with a keyhole, on the base. Between the hasps is a lid drawbolt for a base plate, without a catch. A brown leather handle is looped through D rings which are inserted into leather tabs on the base. There are 4 rounded metal foot studs near the bottom corners. All the hardware is rusted silver colored metal. The interior is lined with light brown paper with a gray grid pattern and there is a metal lid stay in the back right corner. The exterior body has an impressed maker’s mark, a torn label and label remnants, and a label shaped stain.
    overall: Height: 8.250 inches (20.955 cm) | Width: 29.500 inches (74.93 cm) | Depth: 16.250 inches (41.275 cm)
    overall : wood, fiberboard, paper, metal, leather, ink, adhesive, thread
    top, sticker, preprinted in white and black and handwritten in black ink : CUNARD [?]STAR /
    M TEWEL [?] (handwritten) / NAME OF SHIP Bri[?]tain[?] (handwritten) / CLASS PASSENGER THIRD (handwritten) / DATE OF / SAILING / [?] (handwritten) / FROM (PO[?] / STATEROOM BAGGAGE / BAGGAGE INSURANCE – A SAFE POLICY / PRINTED IN E
    interior, base, front top edge, handwritten, black ink : 7 - 5 [?] R
    interior, base, front side, handwritten, ink : M?

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The trunk was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013 by Jamie and Lisa Phillips, the granddaughters of Rita Newberg Weiger.
    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 15:01:51
    This page:

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