Ghetto-crafted brooch with husband’s message recovered near Auschwitz

Stainless steel ‘bread card’ design was made inside the Lodz ghetto for Hinda Weiksel, presumed murdered by Nazis

Jewish inmates of the Lodz ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland at labor making baskets (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Jewish inmates of the Lodz ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland at labor making baskets (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

WARSAW, Poland — A rare Holocaust-era brooch, crafted inside the Lodz ghetto to resemble a bread ration card and given as a wedding anniversary present, has surfaced near the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

Made from stainless steel, the brooch is inscribed with the words “Bread Card” in German along with a woman’s name, “Hinda Weiksel,” and her address at “Hanseaten 42” street inside the ghetto in the then Nazi-occupied Polish city of Lodz, dubbed Litzmannstadt by the Germans.

An inscription on its reverse side reads: “To dear Heli on our VI wedding anniversary. Pawel,” plus the date “August 15, 1937-1943.”

“Bread was rationed and precious — a real matter of life and death — in the ghetto, so this brooch was a highly symbolic gift of love for a couple imprisoned there,” Dagmar Kopiasz, who runs the Foundation of Memory Sites near Auschwitz-Birkenau (FPMP), told AFP on Monday.

According to Kopiasz, a family living near the former Birkenau camp found the brooch after the war in a Nazi-era rubbish heap and then kept it safe for decades.

A member of the family “gave it to us this year,” he told AFP.

Although there is no record of Hinda’s fate, it is believed the Nazis sent her to die at Auschwitz along with tens of thousands of other Lodz ghetto prisoners.

Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum features a strikingly similar brooch also styled as a Lodz ghetto bread ration card.

Chaim Klieger, an artisan in the ghetto, made it in silver for his sister Sara, according to the museum’s website.

Screen capture from the Yad Vashem website showing a brooch made by Chaim Klieger for his sister in the Lodz ghetto during the Holocaust. (Yad Vashem)

Despite their remarkable similarity, Kopiasz says it is still unclear whether Klieger also made the brooch that belonged to Hinda Weiksel.

According to Yad Vashem, Klieger crafted items like “combs, brooches and medallions”, from scrap metal collected in the ghetto and bartered them in exchange for food.

Ghetto life

“Many of these items depicted scenes from ghetto life,” reads the online description.

Klieger survived the Holocaust and moved to Brazil, where he died in 1956.

The FPMP organization collects Holocaust-related items found by local residents living in the southern Polish towns of Oswiecim and Brzezinka, near the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

Nazi Germany built the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp after occupying Poland during World War II.

The Holocaust site has become symbolic of Nazi Germany’s genocide of six million European Jews, one million of whom were killed at the camp between 1940 to 1945. An estimated 232,000 of the victims there were children.

More than 100,000 non-Jews also died at the death camp, according to the museum.

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