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Anvil-shaped paperweight given to a US soldier serving as a displaced persons camp administrator

Object | Accession Number: 1989.259.1

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    Anvil-shaped paperweight given to a US soldier serving as a displaced persons camp administrator


    Brief Narrative
    Cast iron, anvil-shaped paperweight made by students in Landsberg displaced persons (DP) camp’s vocational school, and presented with gratitude to Major Irving Heymont in October 1945. Heymont, a 27-year-old Jewish American soldier, deployed to Europe and landed in France in January 1945. He served as a regimental operations officer with the 5th Regiment, 71st Infantry Division, nicknamed the Red Circle. On May 4, 1945, the 71st liberated Gunskirchen, a subcamp of the Mauthausen concentration camp system. After Germany’s surrender, Heymont’s battalion assumed control of the Landsberg DP camp, and Heymont was placed in command. When Heymont first visited the camp, he was shocked to find a filthy, disorganized site surrounded by barbed wire and overcrowded with more than 5000 residents, who were prevented from leaving by US Army guards. Despite immense supply problems, Heymont and his officers managed to make progress and improved sanitation. Heymont converted Landsberg to an all-Jewish camp, had the barbed wire removed, and brought in German and Yiddish-speaking soldiers and administrators to help improve communication with the camp residents. He helped establish a democratic election for a new resident camp committee, facilitated the publication of a newspaper, and supported other community-building initiatives. Heymont commanded the camp from September to December 1945.
    received:  1945 October 12
    received: Landsberg am Lech (Displaced persons camp); Landsberg am Lech (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Colonel Irving Heymont
    front, on brass plate, engraved : To one of our deliverers / Major I. Heymont / school f. former polit. prisoners / Landsberg, October 1945
    Subject: Irving Heymont
    Irving Heymont (1918-2009) was born to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. His father had immigrated to America from Russia, and his mother came from Romania. Irving attended public school, in addition to receiving a Jewish education. He celebrated the holidays with his family, but disassociated himself from his religious background for much of his early life. In 1937, Heymont graduated from City College of New York and started working as a metallurgical chemist.

    In October 1938, Heymont enlisted in the Army Reserves. He was initially assigned to the 18th Infantry as a Second Lieutenant, and was based out of Ft. Wadsworth on Staten Island in New York. He attended Infantry school, and in November 1940, was stationed in Panama. In 1941, while in Panama, Heymont married Joan Tobias (1918-1994). Joan was also a Brooklyn native and worked for the electrical division of the Panama Canal. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, drawing the United States into World War II. Heymont returned to the United States with his unit.

    Heymont was promoted to Major in May1944, and deployed to Europe at the end of the year, landing in France in January 1945. He served as a regimental operations officer with the 5th Regiment, 71st Infantry Division, nicknamed the Red Circle. They crossed the Rhine River into Germany in March. In early May, Heymont and his regimental commander saw two men in striped uniforms wandering dazed and confused on the road. They knew the men must be prisoners, but had never heard anything about the German concentration camp system. Later, while pursuing German forces, Heymont and his men came across railroad cars filled with dead and starving people. On May 4, 1945, K Company overran Gunskirchen concentration camp, a subcamp of the Mauthausen concentration camp system in Austria. A few hours after its discovery, Heymont briefly visited the camp, where he encountered foul odors and saw severely emaciated prisoners. He handed out cigarettes, which the prisoners later tried to eat.

    Heymont was in Austria when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. Afterward, he was assigned to command the Second Battalion of the 5th Infantry Regiment. In September, the battalion was stationed in Augsberg, Germany, and Heymont traveled to Paris to testify for a military board proceeding. While he was in in Paris, the battalion was sent to Landsberg am lech, near Munich, where they took over the nearby Landsberg displaced persons (DP) camp from the deactivated 80th Division. The Army had received bad publicity about the conditions and treatment of refugees at the camp, and Heymont was placed in charge with the orders to turn it around.

    When Heymont arrived in Landsberg, General Rolfe took him to look at the camp, which was set up at a former German army base. Heymont was shocked to find the camp was filthy and overcrowded with over 5,000 people living in barracks with inadequate plumbing and sanitation. The camp was surrounded by high barbed wire fences, and US soldiers guarded the gate. This was to prevent residents from leaving, unless they had an official signed pass. Despite immense supply problems, Heymont and his officers managed to make progress. One of his first actions was to move out the non-Jewish residents and make it an all-Jewish camp, with the goal of creating a sense of community among the remaining residents. He abolished the pass system that restricted the DPs movement and camp guards focused on restricting entry to camp, rather than controlling residents.

    Prior to Heymont’s arrival, teams from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee (AJDC) were installed at the camp. To ease communication with the DPs, Heymont helped to bring in a new, Jewish team leader for the UNRRA team, which took over day-to-day running of the camp, and ensured that all team members could speak German or Yiddish. He also secured German and Yiddish-speaking soldiers to be detailed to the camp. Heymont worked with the pre-existing, self-designated resident committee, which had already set up police, schools, and a hospital. He helped them publish a newspaper and establish a democratic election for a new resident camp committee, in addition to supporting other initiatives. Heymont also discretely secured German Prisoners of War from Dachau to clean up the camp and perform other physical labor.

    Heymont was assigned to Landsberg DP camp through December 1945, and returned to the United States in March 1947. Landsberg, the second largest DP camp, closed in October 1950. Heymont was awarded the Silver Star for his service in World War II, in addition to two Bronze stars awarded for his service in the Korean War (1950-1953). After his overseas service, Heymont taught at the Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and he and Joan raised two children. In 1960, Heymont published a book, Combat Intelligence in Modern Warfare. In 1962, he and Joan settled in Washington DC, where they were members of Fort Belvoir Jewish Congregation. Colonel Heymont retired from the military in 1964. In 1982, he published a second book, Among the Survivors of the Holocaust, 1945: The Landsberg DP Camp Letters of Major Irving Heymont, which was edited by a man born in the Landsberg DP camp. Throughout his life, Heymont worked to educate people on the horrors of the Holocaust, including residents of Landsberg, Germany, on return trips to the site of the former camp.

    Physical Details

    Decorative Arts
    Object Type
    Paperweights (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Cast iron, anvil-shaped paperweight mounted on a cylindrical iron base. The anvil has a rectangular base with concave sides that taper into a narrow midsection, then widens at the top. The top of the anvil is flat, with a pointed, conical horn on the front, and a flat rear edge that angles downward on the back. The top of the iron base has a shallow circular channel, and the bottom is screwed onto a square of clear plastic, which has beveled edges. On the front of the base, a hand-inscribed brass plate is attached with two brass screws. The rectangular plate has beveled edges and notched corners. The plastic square is scratched and worn, and the brass plate is slightly tarnished.
    overall: Height: 3.625 inches (9.208 cm) | Width: 4.625 inches (11.748 cm) | Depth: 4.625 inches (11.748 cm)
    overall : iron, brass, plastic, adhesive

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Landsberg am Lech (Germany)
    Personal Name
    Heymont, Irving.

    Administrative Notes

    The paperweight was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1989 by Irving Heymont.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-25 17:20:33
    This page:

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