Blue leather billfold used by a Latvian Jewish refugee and aid worker from Nazi Germany

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2005.379.6
1 Jan 1945 - 31 Dec 1947
Level of Description
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium

overall: Height: 4.500 inches (11.43 cm) | Width: 6.750 inches (17.145 cm) | Depth: 0.500 inches (1.27 cm)


Biographical History

Joseph Schadur was born on April 23, 1928, in Riga, Latvia, to Manja (Masha) Hasenson and Michel Schadur. His parents moved to Berlin, Germany, in 1927, shortly after their marriage on June 12, but his mother returned to Riga for Joseph’s birth to be with her family. He had one sister, Benita, born in Berlin in 1932. They were not a particularly religious family, and attended synagogue only on theJewish high holidays. His father worked in the wholesale fruit industry. He travelled widely and was fluent in several languages. Hitler came to power in 1933, and by 1935, Michel’s business began to decline due to antisemitic boycotts and restrictions. That year while in Belgium on business, Michel decided not to return to Germany. With much difficulty, Manja obtained temporary tourist visas and she and the children joined him in Belgium on January 1, 1936. Michel was able to re-establish his business. The children attended a Tachkemonia Orthodox Jewish kindergarten and boys’ school. Joseph later transferred to a private French school. They spent the summer months at a children’s home in Oostduinkerke, where they explored the dunes and the bulwarks that remained from World War I. In May 1940, Germany occupied Belgium, and the family had to flee once more. They left by private car and reached Bordeaux before the French surrender to Germany in late June. For seven months, they managed to get by in Bruges, a country village near Bordeaux. With the assistance of Joseph’s maternal aunt, Gitta, who had emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1939, they received immigration and transit visas. The family left for the Spanish border on December 14, 1940. After two month in Lisbon, Portugal, they sailed on the SS Exeter to New York on February 21, 1941. From there, they proceeded to St. Paul, Minnesota, where Gitta and other relatives had already settled. The family changed their last name to Shadur. Michel returned to Europe for a few years in the immediate postwar period to work for UNRRA, the United Nations Refugee Relief Association, chiefly at Backnang displaced persons camp. Joseph attended the University of Minnesota. In 1950, he moved to Israel where he married Yehudit, who would become an internationally recognized artist for her rediscovery of the art of Jewish paper cutting. Joseph passed away, age 77, in October 2005.

Michel Schadur was born on April 6, 1897, in Livani, Latvia, to Yeisef and Doba (Schender) Schadur, born 1868. He had one older brother, Isaac, who died in the Crimea in 1916, and two younger sisters, Gitta, born September 29, 1905, and Sonja, born in 1903. Michel attended the School of Mines and studied chemistry in Kharkov. In 1920, the family returned to Riga, and Michel continued his studies at the University of Latvia. He married Manja (Masha) Hasenson, born 1904, on June 12, 1927. Shortly afterwards, they moved to Berlin where Michel operated an international wholesale fruit business with his brother -in-law, Josef Hasenson. Michel travelled widely and was fluent in several languages. Another brother-in-law, Jacob Chankin, ran a banana import business; he was married to Manja’s eldest sister, Asya. His sister, Gitta, and their widowed mother moved to Berlin in 1931. Michal and Manja had two children: Joseph, who was born on April 23, 1928, in Riga, and Benita, who was born on June 3, 1932, in Berlin. They were not a particularly religious family, and attended synagogue only on the Jewish high holidays. Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and by the fall of 1935, the antisemitic boycotts and restrictions had undermined Michel’s ability to do business. While on a business trip to Belgium, Michel decided that it was better not to return to Germany. With great difficulty, Manja acquired temporary tourist visas for the children and Michel’s mother and they met him in Antwerp on January 1, 1936. Michel re-established his wholesale fruit business. In 1937, he became director of Overseas Fruit, in partnership with a prominent Belgium family, the Langlois. In November 1938, his sister, Sonja, her husband, Bernard, and their three year old daughter, Janet, arrived in Belgium, having fled Germany illegally following Kristallnacht. They were supported by HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) while in Belgium and during their immigration to the US in mid-March1940. In September 1939, his sister, Gitta, left Germany for the United States, where she settled in Minnesota. In May 1940, Germany occupied Belgium and the family was forced to flee once again. They escaped in their 1933 Buick Oldsmobile on May 14 to France. They had heard for months about the advanced mechanized French Army that would come to the aid of Belgium if there was war, and Michel was shocked by the splintered columns and lack of organization he saw as they drove towards France. The roads were packed with refugees, many with on foot, with no belongings. The Schadur family stopped for two day in Le Parcq, a village on the crossroads to Dieppe and Dunkirk, where they encountered British troops. When Michel told one British soldier that he had no planned destination, but was thinking of going to the coast, near Dieppe or Dunkirk, the soldier advised him to go south to Bordeaux. When Michel said that he did not have enough gasoline for that journey, the soldier told him that since they were going over the Channel, they could give him some gasoline. Michel and his family left the next day and that is when they encountered German airplane fire. They hid in holes and trenches and soon the roads were filled with German troops. They finally reached Bordeaux, shortly before the French surrender to Germany on June 22. Michel found a place to say in a village outside Bordeaux, called Bruges. Bordeaux was occupied by German troops and there were frequent bombing raids by the British Royal Air Force to destroy the ports. Food and other provision were shipped out to Germany and the region began to experience severe shortages. There was no fuel for cooking or heat and Michel began to fear they might starve. The family finally received their US visas, but the German authorities denied them permission to travel until December 14. They reached Portugal where the border guards at first told them that that their papers were not in order; however, Michel was able to convince them otherwise. After two months in Lisbon, the last free port in Europe, they sailed on February 21, 1941, for New York on the SS Exeter. The family settled in St. Paul, Minnesota, near Gitta and other family members. The spelling of the family surname was changed to Shadur. After the war ended in May 1945, Michel joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). He was sent to Germany, where he served as a supply officer for UNRRA teams in the district of Wurttemberg, and later as the director of the Jewish displaced persons camp in Backnang (Baden-Wuerttemberg). Michel died, age 77, in 1976, in Nyon, Switzerland. His wife, Manja, passed away, age 85, in 1989, also in Switzerland.

Archival History

The billfold was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2005 by Joseph Shadur, the son of Michel Shadur.


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Joseph Shadur

Scope and Content

Dark blue leather wallet used by Michel Schadur (later Shadur) in Belgium, France, and Germany during and after the Holocaust. Michel left Germany in 1935 because the Nazi government's anti-Jewish policies were making it dangerous to live there. His wife, Manja, their 2 children, 8 year old Joseph and 4 year old Benita, and his mother joined him in Antwerp, Belgium, in January 1936. After the Germans occupied Belgium in May 1940, the family was forced to flee once more. Traveling by private car, they eventually made their way to Lisbon, Portugal. They sailed for New York on board the SS Exeter on February 21, 1941. In the immediate postwar period, 1945-1947, Michel worked for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) in Germany as a supply officer for the Wurttemberg district and as the director of a displaced persons camp for Jewish refugees.

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions on access

Conditions Governing Reproduction

No restrictions on use

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Rectangular, dark blue, textured leather billfold with black cloth lining. The interior left side has 1 pocket with a flap closure and a tab that inserts into a leather strip. Below this are 2 compartments separated by a leather partition. On the right side is an expandable pocket with a rounded edge pocket.

Corporate Bodies



This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.