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Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp scrip, 5 kronen note, acquired by an inmate

Object | Accession Number: 2014.281.15

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    Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp scrip, 5 kronen note, acquired by an inmate

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    Brief Narrative
    Scrip, valued at 5 [funf] kronen likely acquired by Marie Goerlich who was imprisoned in Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German occupied Czechoslovakia from March 18, 1943, to May 9, 1945. Inmates were not allowed to have currency and the SS ordered the Jewish Council to design scrip for use only in the camp. Produced in 7 denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, it was issued to create a false appearance of normalcy in the camp. There was nothing to obtain with the scrip. Marie later gave the scrip to her great niece, Ellen Ruth Fass, who was sent from Berlin to England on a Kindertransport in July 1939. Marie was Jewish but married a Christian man and celebrated Christian holidays. After the Nuremberg Laws were passed in Germany in 1935, Marie was defined as Jewish because she had four Jewish grandparents. On March 18, 1943, Marie was deported to Theresienstadt, where she was liberated on May 9, 1945, by Soviet forces. She returned home to Germany.
    issue:  1943 January 01
    issue: Theresienstadt (Concentration camp); Terezin (Ustecky kraj, Czech Republic)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ellen Zilka
    face, center, red-brown ink : QUITTUNG ÜBER / ZWEI KRONEN / 2 [Receipt / of / TWO CROWNS]
    face, lower right corner, light red ink : 2
    reverse, upper left corner, plate letter and number, light red ink : A010
    reverse, center, light red ink : Quittung / über / ZWEI KRONE
    reverse, lower left and upper right corner, light red ink : 2
    Subject: Marie Goerlich
    Subject: Ellen R. Zilka
    Printer: National Bank of Prague
    Designer: Peter Kien
    Issuer: Der Alteste der Juden in Theresienstadt
    Marie Altmann was born on June 28, 1869, in Schrimm, Germany (now Srem, Poland), to a Jewish couple. She had a sister, Dorothea. Marie married Maximillian Goerlich, who was not Jewish. He had daughters from a previous marriage. The couple lived in Caputh, a small town near Schwielowsee lake. They observed Christian holidays. Marie was close with her niece, Nanette Simon Fass, and her children Ellen Ruth and Gerhard. In January 1933, Hitler came to power in Germany. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were passed. The laws defined a person as Jewish if they had three or four Jewish grandparents, regardless of their religious practices, and mandated the total separation of Jews and non-Jews. Marie had four Jewish grandparents, so she was Jewish despite being a practicing Christian. On March 18, 1943, Marie was deported from Berlin to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in Czechoslovakia. On May 9, 1945, Marie was liberated by Soviet forces in Theresienstadt. The war had ended when Germany surrendered on May 7. Marie returned home to Germany, where she later died.
    Ellen Ruth Thea Fass was born on October 6, 1928, in Berlin, Germany, to a Jewish couple, Georg Karl and Nanette Simon Fass. Ellen Ruth had a brother, Gerhard Julius, who was born on September 15, 1933. Ellen Ruth’s father Georg was born on April 1, 1891, in Schoenlanke (now Trzcianka, Poland), to Julius and Dina Bernstein Fass. Julius was born on January 6, 1854, and Dina was born on June 30, 1852. Julius owned a matzah factory. Georg had four siblings: Max, Regina, Egon, and Friedrich. Egon immigrated to South America before Ellen Ruth was born. Ellen Ruth’s mother Nanette was born on June 14, 1906, in Osnabrueck, to Eduard and Dorothea Altmann Simon. Eduard was born on January 27, 1873, in Thalfang, to Isac and Nanette Simon. Dorothea was born on August 31, 1877, in Schrimm (Srem, Poland). The couple owned two shoe stores in Cologne. Nanette had two sisters: Rosalie, called Rosie, born June 4, 1907, and Juliana Else, called Elsie, born September 5, 1909. Ellen Ruth’s father Georg was a traveling shoe salesman. The family was observant, regularly attended synagogue, and kept kosher. Ellen Ruth attended public school and Hebrew school. She spoke German and Hebrew and learned English in school. Ellen Ruth was close with her mother’s family. They spent Passover with her maternal grandparents in Cologne. Her maternal aunt Elsie and her husband Fritz Silberschmidt (1908-1991) also lived in Cologne. In the summers, they visited her maternal aunt Rosie, Rosie’s husband Walter Heineman (1902-1986), and their daughter Vera (1931-2001) in Erfurt. Once a year, they visited Georg’s sister Regina in Schoenlanke for Simchat Torah.

    In January 1933, Hitler came to power in Germany. Although anti-Semitic persecution was increasing, Ellen Ruth was shielded from the changes because she was a child. In fall 1938, the family was forced to move from their suburban home in Steglitz into the city. They lived in a crowded apartment with two or three other families, only two blocks away from the Neue Synagogue. Ellen Ruth had to change schools. On the morning of November 10, during Kristallnacht, Ellen Ruth and her family saw the Neue Synagogue burning from their window. Ellen Ruth’s father Georg was arrested and sent to Sachenhausen concentration camp. He was released on December 17. Ellen Ruth’s maternal uncle Walter had also been arrested during Kristallnacht. He was released because they already had their visas to immigrate to the United States. In December, Rosie, Walter, and Vera visited Ellen Ruth’s family in Berlin, then went to the Netherlands. They immigrated to New York in December, arriving in January 1939. Ellen Ruth’s parents tried to get visas to immigrate to the US or South America, but were unsuccessful. Nanette’s cousin Lotte Friedman (1906-2001) lived in London and arranged for Ellen Ruth and Gerhard to be signed up for a Kindertransport, or children’s transport. In preparation for their trip, Nanette bought them new clothes and sewed name tags into their bedding and towels. In June 1939, Gerhard, age five, left for England. He was taken in by a childless Jewish couple, Charles and Esther Freeman, in Derby. The Freemans wrote to Ellen Ruth’s parents to give them updates on Gerhard.

    On July 25, Ellen Ruth, age 10, took a train to the Netherlands, then went to England. She was sent to London, then to Stroud. She was taken to a nearby village, Edge, where she lived with Kate Richmond, a retired nurse who ran a convalescent home in her house. Ten to twelve elderly women lived with them. The home had no plumbing or electricity. She dropped her second name, Ruth, because it sounded too German. She learned English very quickly and attempted to drop her German accent. Ellen attended the local school. Kate arranged for another German Jewish refugee, Maria Wolf, to live with them during the school year so Ellen had a friend. Ellen kept in touch with her parents and grandparents. When war broke out after Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Ellen received an ID card as an enemy alien. Ellen had to write to her family via the Red Cross. In March 1940, Ellen’s paternal aunt Regina died of natural causes. In 1940, Ellen stopped receiving letters from her parents. Kate ensured that Ellen was able to observe Judaism. She did not eat bacon or sausage with the rest of the household. In school, she was excused from religious services and class. Kate arranged for Ellen to study Judaism with a synagogue in London via correspondence. There were four or five Jewish refugees in the Stroud area. Services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were arranged for them every year. Ellen visited her brother Gerhard in Derby for Passover. The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945.

    Ellen’s parents did not contact her again. She remained in Edge with Kate until she was contacted by her maternal aunt Rosie, who wanted to bring her to the US. Rosie also wanted to bring Gerhard, but his foster parents told her that they had adopted him. He changed his name to Gerald Freeman and remained in England with his adoptive family. On May 3, 1946, Ellen sailed from Liverpool on the SS Drottningholm, arriving in New York on May 13. She lived in Boston with her aunt and uncle, Rosie and Walter, who treated her like a daughter. Ellen graduated from high school, then attended Radcliffe College for three years. She graduated from Simmons College with a library degree. She worked at the Brooklyn Public Library. In 1952, Ellen married Samuel Zilka, who was born on June 6, 1926, in Iraq. The couple settled in New York and had three children. Ellen eventually learned what happened to her parents. On November 17, 1941, Georg and Nanette were deported to Kovno, Lithuania (now Kaunas). On November 25, they were killed at the Ninth Fort in Kovno, which was used as an execution site for Jews. Ellen’s maternal grandparents Eduard and Dorothea were deported to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in Czechoslovakia on June 15, 1942. On September 19, they were deported to Treblinka killing center in Poland. Ellen’s aunt Rosie, age 73, died on February 6, 1981, in Dade, Florida. Ellen’s aunt Elsie, age 90, died on April 4, 2000, in Orange, Florida. Ellen’s brother Gerald, age 74, died in March 2007.
    Franz Peter Kien was born January 1, 1919, in Varnsdorf, Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic), to Leonard and Olga Frankl Kien. His father Leonard was born in 1886, in Varnsdorf, and was a member of the German-speaking Jewish population in the, the Sudetenalnd, which bordered Germany. Leonard was a textile manufacturer with his own factory. Peter’s mother Olga was born in 1898, in Bzenec, Austro-Hungary (Czech Republic), to Jewish parents. After 1929, the Kien family moved to Brno. Peter enrolled at the German Gymnasium, where he excelled at drawing, painting, and writing. In 1936, he graduated and moved to Prague to study at the Academy of Fine Arts. He also attended the Officina Pragensis, a private graphic design school run by a well-known Jewish artist, Hugo Steiner-Prag.

    On September 29, 1938, Germany annexed the Sudetenland. On March 15, 1939, Germany invaded Prague and annexed the Bohemia and Moravia provinces of Czechoslovakia, ruled by a Reich Protector. Jews were banned from participation in government, businesses, and organization, including schools. Peter had to leave the Academy, but continued to study at the Officina Pragensis. He also taught at Vinohrady Synagogue. In September 1940, Peter married Ilse Stranska, who was born on May 9, 1915, in Pilsen, to Jewish parents.

    In late September 1941, Reinhard Heydrich, the SS head of RSHA, Reich Main Security Office, became Reich Protector. Soon there were regular deportations of Jews to concentration camps. At the end of November, Theresienstadt concentration and transit camp near Prague got its first shipment of Jewish prisoners. On December 14, Peter was transported to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp. He was assigned to the technical department where he worked as a draftsman and designer alongside other artists, including Bedrich Fritta, Leo Haas, and Jiri Lauscher. On July 16, 1942, Peter’s wife Ilse arrived in the camp. On January 30, 1943, Peter’s parents Leonard and Olga were transported from Bzenec to Terezin. Peter was assigned major projects by the Jewish Council that administered the camp for the Germans, such as the scrip receipts used in place of money in the camp. He secretly documented the inmate’s daily life, creating portraits and other drawings, and wrote plays, poems, and an operatic libretto. On October 16, 1944, Peter’s wife Ilse and his parents Leonard and Olga were selected for deportation. Peter volunteered to go with them. Before leaving, Peter and his family were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland. Peter survived the selection process, soon fell ill, likely with typhus, and died at age 25 in late October 1944. His wife and parents were killed at Auschwitz. Some of the work that Peter left with other prisoners or hid at Theresienstadt survived and has been exhibited worldwide.

    Physical Details

    Exchange Media
    Object Type
    Scrip (aat)
    Physical Description
    Theresienstadt scrip printed on rectangular offwhite paper in red-brown and light red ink. The face has a vignette of Moses, with a long beard and wrinkled brow, holding 2 stone tablets with the 10 Commandments in Hebrew. To the right is the denomination 2 and German text. The background rectangle has an intricate latticework pattern. The right side has a wide margin with the denomination 2 below a Star of David. The reverse has a rectangle with a background of interlocked diamonds overprinted with the denomination 2 in the upper right corner, and German text, an engraved signature, and a large scrollwork line in the center. The left side has a wide margin with the denomination 2 below a Star of David within a striped circle. The plate letter and number are in the upper left corner. It is creased, but shows little wear.
    overall: Height: 2.125 inches (5.398 cm) | Width: 4.250 inches (10.795 cm)
    overall : paper, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The scrip was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2014 by Ellen Zilka.
    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 17:55:05
    This page:

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