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Autograph album used by an Austrian refugee

Object | Accession Number: 1994.53.6

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    Brief Narrative
    Autograph album owned by Irene Rosenthal. The leather cover is decorated with Stars of David. Irene fled Nazi ruled Austria for the United States in March 1940. German troops marched over the border into Austria in March 1938. The next day, Austria was annexed to Nazi Germany. Anti-Jewish legislation was enacted to strip Jews of their civil rights. The November 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom vandalized Jewish businesses and homes and destroyed most of the synagogues in Austria. Irene received a visa to leave Austria in March and sailed that month from Genoa, Italy, to New York.
    emigration:  1940 March
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Jill Shellow on behalf of the Estate of Irene Rosenthal Gibian
    Artist: Irene Gibian
    Subject: Irene Gibian
    Irene Dorothy Rosenthal was born on January 27, 1906, in Vienna, Austria, to Jewish parents, Dr. Laszlo (Ladislaus) and Gisela Leuchtag Rosenthal. She had an older brother, Erich, who was born on September 5, 1905. She was raised in Hamburg, Germany. Her father had a dental office in the lower part of their house. She revealed a talent for art at any early age and received art lessons from her father. The family was well off and enjoyed vacations at the seaside with their extended family. When World War I began in 1914, Irene’s father was conscripted into the Hungarian Army as a doctor and Irene, her brother, and Mother returned to her maternal grandmother’s home in Vienna. Her father was killed during the war. Irene attended the Humanitisches Gymnasium. The loss of her father and the worldwide economic depression meant Irene had to become the family breadwinner and obtain a job rather than attend university to pursue medical and art studies. She became a secretary for a business machine supply company and soon was promoted to a management position.

    On March 12, 1938, German troops marched over the border into Austria and, the next day, Austria was annexed to the German Reich. A popular vote was held in April and the Anschluss received overwhelming support. Anti-Jewish legislation was passed and Jews were stripped of their civil rights. Seeing her country overrun by German national fanaticism and the suppression of decency, Irene decide to pursue her dream of going to the United States. She had a Slovakian passport in the name Irene Rosenthalova issued in 1939. After two years, she finally obtained permission to leave Germany and a visa to enter the US. She sailed from Genoa, Italy, on the Conte de Savoia on March 20, 1940. She planned to send for her brother and mother after she got settled in her new country. She had a friend in New York City and first settled there. In December 1940, she was in Syracuse, staying at the home of Otto Gibian. Even before the US entered the war in December 1941, Irene had lost all contact with her family in Vienna. On March 20, 1941, Irene married Otto Gibian. Irene and Otto had known each other since 1937 in Vienna where Otto had owned the Rex Company, a distributor of US business equipment. Otto, born on November 19, 1890, left Vienna in September 1938 in order to give his motherless, three year daughter Susanna a normal life. Otto was employed in Syracuse by one the companies he had dealt with, Smith and Corona Typewriters. He also operated a commercial photography studio. In April 1941, Otto submitted an affidavit of support for Irene's mother to use to apply for a US visa. She lobbied other friends to submit one for Erich.

    The war in Europe ended in May 1945. Eventually, Irene learned that only a few distant relatives and her cousins from Hamburg had survived. Her mother and brother had been forced from their home. She believed that they were deported to Izbica in Poland and then killed. In 1946, she learned from the National Refugee Service that her brother Erich died on July 17, 1945, from injuries incurred in an air raid. Her mother, age 69, was recorded as missing.
    Irene and Otto separated in 1948. Irene established a successful career as a commercial artist. Her illustrations were published in books and magazines. She later became certified as a botanical and scientific illustrator for the US Department of Agriculture. Otto, age 67, died in 1957 (or 1963), in Vienna where he had gone for business in 1951. Irene, age 88, died in Washington DC in 1994.

    Physical Details

    German English
    Information Forms
    Physical Description
    Leather bound autograph album containing inscriptions, sketches, and autographs. The cover is decorated with metallic ornamentation and imprinted with 6 Stars of David.
    overall: Height: 7.625 inches (19.368 cm) | Width: 5.000 inches (12.7 cm) | Depth: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm)
    overall : leather, paper, metal, graphite, ink, gold leaf, adhesive

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The autograph album was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1994 by Jill Shellow on behalf of the Estate of Irene Rosenthal Gibian.
    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:
    2022-07-28 18:22:26
    This page:

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