16 June 2009

Yad Vashem: Auschwitz items donated

Holocaust survivor Meyer Hack of Boston recently donated to Yad Vashem personal items he found as a slave laborer in Auschwitz.

The Yad Vashem press release only called them personal items, but an AP story revealed that Hack, 95, donated eight pieces of gold, silver and diamond-studded jewelry to Israel's Holocaust memorial as a tribute to the original owners, who perished. Working in the "clothing chamber" he found exquisite rings, wristwatches, bracelets and pendents. He safeguarded the jewelry, hiding the items in a hole he dug in the ground. He was forced on two "death marches" and many pieces were lost or stolen along the way, according to the story.
Forced to work as a slave laborer in Auschwitz, in the “clothing chamber" (“Bekleidungskammer”) that received the tattered clothing after its initial sorting in the “Kanada” storerooms, Meyer had to mark the clothes with a red X, and redistribute them as prisoner clothing. On occasion, he found belongings that the deportees had hidden in the linings of the clothing, prior to their arrival in the camp. Hack managed to keep some items with him through liberation, and for more than 60 years, kept his story quiet. Now, he will present the items for eternal safekeeping to Yad Vashem’s artifacts collection.
Born in 1914 in Ciechanow, Poland, Hack was deported in 1942 with his mother, brother and two sisters, to Auschwitz-Birkenau. His mother and sisters were murdered on arrival and his brother was murdered later. Hack was sent to forced labor hauling carts of personal effects and clothing between Birkenau and Auschwitz before their eventual transfer to Germany.

In 1944, he found and safeguarded the jewelry by hiding it in a hole that he dug behind his barrack. He retrieved them in January 1945, before he was forced on a “death march” to Dachau, and kept them during a second “death march” in May 1945 towards Munich. He escaped to the forests until liberation.

In Boston, he placed the items in a metal box in his attic and left it there for 60 years.

Sixty years later, he has donated them to Yad Vashem's Artifacts Collection as a memorial to their murdered original owners.

Read the complete AP story here.

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