Another step in the effort to honor names, not numbers

Note in murdered boy’s shoe lets Auschwitz Museum match with father’s briefcase

Researchers discover that a barely visible number scrawled on Ludwig Steinberg’s valise corresponds to transport number of his six-year-old son Amos, killed at Auschwitz in 1944

Ludwig, Ida, and Amos Steinberg, circa 1940; the briefcase of Ludwig Steinberg. (Courtesy of the family and Auschwitz Museum)
Ludwig, Ida, and Amos Steinberg, circa 1940; the briefcase of Ludwig Steinberg. (Courtesy of the family and Auschwitz Museum)

JEWISH NEWS — After some extraordinary detective work by the Auschwitz Museum, a briefcase at the memorial has been linked to a child’s shoe which was identified in July as belonging to a little boy called Amos Steinberg. The briefcase, according to the museum, almost certainly belonged to the boy’s father — and he survived the Holocaust.

Amos Steinberg was born in Prague on June 26, 1938. On August 10, 1942, Amos, his father Ludwig (who also went by Ludvik), and his mother Ida were first imprisoned in Theresienstadt, and then deported from Czechoslovakia to Auschwitz.

Documents show that mother and son arrived at the concentration camp on October 4, 1944, and were almost certainly murdered in a gas chamber on the same day.

Researchers believe that Ida Steinberg put the note inside her six-year-old’s shoe to show to whom it belonged.

Ludwig, Ida, and Amos Steinberg, circa 1940. (Courtesy of the family and Auschwitz Museum)

But the family was split up at Theresienstadt and Ludwig was apparently sent to Auschwitz on an earlier transport. “We know,” says a museum spokesperson, “that he was transferred from Auschwitz to Dachau on October 10, 1944. He was liberated in the Kaufering sub-camp.” So six days after his wife and son had been murdered, Ludvik was still being processed in the Nazi system.

This summer, members of the Steinberg family, who live in Israel, contacted the Auschwitz Museum and sent additional biographical information and some family photographs.

Ludwig Steinberg changed his name to Yehuda Shinan and emigrated to Israel in May 1949. He became a teacher and principal of several schools in Israel. He was highly valued and liked by his pupils, as well as the teachers who worked with him. He still loved music and worked as a cantor in several synagogues. He also conducted choirs. He died in 1985. His second wife, Chana, whom he had met before the war in Prague, died in 2014. They had six grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

The shoe of Amos Steinberg in which the note identifying his father’s briefcase was hidden. (Courtesy Auschwitz Museum)

The link between Amos’s shoe and the battered case was not easy to find. The case was already in the museum collection, and documentation showed that at least two men named Ludwig or Ludvik Steinberg were at Auschwitz.

But barely seen on the case is the number “541,” almost invisible to the naked eye. After infrared technology showed the number, the researchers understood that this was the number under which Amos was registered on the transport list to the Theresienstadt Ghetto. That clue, together with material in the case itself and the date on which the Steinberg family arrived in Auschwitz, has led the museum to believe that the case did belong to Amos’s father.

A note found in the shoe of six-year-old Amos Steinberg has helped identify his father’s briefcase, also kept in the Auschwitz Museum. (Courtesy Auschwitz Museum)

The director of the Auschwitz Museum, Dr. Piotr Cywinski, said: “I am deeply grateful to the Steinberg family for the information they have given us and for supplementing our knowledge. With this gesture, objects inextricably linked to Auschwitz lose the anonymity weighing down on them — sometimes unbearable — and acquire a deeper, individual significance.

“As an object of great documentary value, the shoe is proof of the suffering of a particular person, and along with thousands of other objects that we preserve at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, evidence of the genocide that took place here.”

The plan now is to move the case with Ludwig Steinberg’s name on it to the main exhibition — and the guides at Auschwitz will be told about the heartbreaking link between it and a child’s shoe.

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