Brown leather belt worn by a Dutch Jewish political prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2017.608.3
Level of Description
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium

overall: Height: 1.000 inches (2.54 cm) | Width: 41.625 inches (105.728 cm) | Depth: 0.500 inches (1.27 cm)


Biographical History

Arie Torner (1918-1991) was born in Wloclawek, Poland, to Malka (neé Olewski,?-1940) and Chaim Torner (?-1940). He grew up with a large family, including five brothers and one sister. At some point while Arie was growing up, the family moved from Poland to the Netherlands. They were all living together in Rotterdam when the German blitzkrieg against the Netherlands occurred. Following the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, England and France declared war on Germany. The Netherlands planned to stay neutral in this war, as they had done in World War I. Adolf Hitler, Germany’s chancellor, even assured the Dutch government he would respect their neutrality. However, on May 10, 1940, Hitler broke his promise of nonaggression, and the German army invaded the Netherlands. On May 14, the German Luftwaffe bombed the city of Rotterdam. At the time of the bombings, Arie was on the opposite side of town from his family at a youth party. When he returned home the next morning, he found that both of his parents and all six of his siblings had been killed. That same day the Netherlands capitulated and the German forces occupied the nation. The death of his family and the German occupation pushed Arie to join the emerging underground Dutch resistance movement. He was often sent to infiltrate the German lines because he spoke German fluently. While behind German lines, he would steal papers detailing which areas they were planning to raid to collect Jews. While working for the resistance Arie spent months at a time away from home, sleeping and bathing outside. In October 1941, Arie was arrested with two other resistance fighters in Milaczewskie Mlyny, Poland. They were captured by the Ordnungspolizei or order police, also known as the Grune Polizei, or green police. Arie was transported to the Jewish ghetto of Kowale Panskie, or Kolonie Heidemühle, in German-occupied Poland. Arie continued working for the resistance while detained within the ghetto. One day, he was forced to watch 10 underground leaders get hanged after the guards found an illegal radio had been smuggled into the camp. The German leaders at the camp claimed it was punishment for evading work. On May 20, 1942, Arie was part of a group of roughly 200 men from the ghetto transported to Schwaningen (Swarsedz), labor camp in the Poznan region. At the camp he spent all day building railroad tracks for a German firm. The camp was liquidated, and in August 1943, Arie was transported to Auschwitz concentration camp. Upon arrival, the SS tattooed the inmate number, 141629, onto Arie’s left arm. Arie was forced to wear a red triangle badge on his uniform rather than the yellow Star of David typically assigned to Jewish prisoners, because he was arrested as a political prisoner. Shortly after his arrival, Arie was selected as part of a group of men sent to work at the Janina coal mine in Janinagrube, a subcamp of Auschwitz. The camp was also known as Johannagrube and Gute Hoffnunsgrube. The coal mine was operated by the German company Furstengrube GmbH. After less than a month at the coal mine, Arie and a group of other fit looking, young men were sent to the inmate hospital at the Auschwitz main camp. At the hospital he was subjected to medical experiments performed by SS doctors under the direction of SS Officer Josef Mengele. They injected diseases, such as trachoma, into his eyes, and scabies into his skin. They also injected him with diseased blood from other people, and cut off pieces of his skin without using anesthesia. On April 25, 1944, Mengele selected Arie to be sent to the gas chamber, but somehow his name got crossed off the list, so the medical experiments continued. He received 10 to 20 x-rays a day, and spent six weeks unconscious while they experimented on him. These torturous experiments, along with others, led to permanent heart damage and skin cancer. Eventually, Arie was sent back to the Janina coal mine. In January 1945, as Soviet forces were advancing towards Auschwitz, the camp was evacuated. On the 18th, Arie and the men at Janinagrube were sent on a forced march to Gross-Rosen concentration camp in Germany. The march lasted about 18 days, during which they were given nothing to eat, and any prisoner who fell down was shot. Of the approximately 800 men sent on the march, only around 200 survived. By the time they arrived at Gross-Rosen, Arie had developed pneumonia. At the camp, the SS were shooting anyone who could not work, so when the SS asked if anyone was an electrician, Arie lied and said he was. They forced him to work cleaning screws at an airplane factory in Zittau, a subcamp of Gross-Rosen. On May 8, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the camp. In December, Arie arrived at the Fürth displaced persons camp in the American-occupied zone of Bavaria, Germany. He lived at the camp until September 1947, when he was able to return to the Netherlands. Arie operated a clothing factory in Amsterdam before immigrating to the United States. He departed on May 24, 1956, aboard the SS Maasdam. He settled in Nashville, Tennessee, where he worked as a tailor. He became a US citizen on December 1, 1961, and shortly thereafter resettled in Falls Church, Virginia. He worked as a sales manager in a clothing store in Washington, DC, and was an active member of the Temple Beth El congregation of Alexandria. Arie spent his time visiting Northern Virginia high schools where he spoke to students about his experiences during the Holocaust. In 1974, Arie provided testimony to the German Embassy in Washington DC in the criminal case against Heinrich Niemeyer, a former SS guard at Janinagrube.

Archival History

The belt was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2017 by Louis Widawski, in memory of Arie Torner.


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Louis Widawski in Memory of Arie Torner

Scope and Content

Leather belt worn by Arie Torner during his internment in various ghettos, labor camps, and concentration camps in German-occupied Poland from October 1941 through May 8, 1945. While being held, Arie had to add seven hand-cut holes to the belt to compensate for all of the weight he lost due to malnutrition and the small quantity of food provided to prisoners. Arie was born in Wloclawek, Poland, but was living with his family in Rotterdam, Netherlands by 1940. His parents Chaim and Malka, his sister, and his five brothers were all killed when the German Luftwaffe bombed the city on May 14, 1940. Following the Netherlands surrender, Arie joined the underground Dutch resistance movement. He was arrested in Poland in October 1941, and sent to Kowale Panskie ghetto. Afterwards, Arie was sent to the Swarsedz labor camp, where he built railroad tracks for a German firm. He was transported to Auschwitz concentration camp in August 1943, where he was subjected to medical experiments led by Josef Mengele. When Arie was not undergoing experiments, he was forced to work in the Janina coal mine at Janinagrube, a subcamp of Auschwitz. As Soviet troops advanced on the camp, the SS sent Arie and the other Janinagrube prisoners on a forced march to Gross-Rosen concentration camp in Germany. Soviet troops liberated Gross-Rosen on May 8. After liberation, Arie spent two years at a displaced persons camp before returning to the Netherlands in 1947. Arie immigrated to the United States on May 24, 1956.

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions on access

Conditions Governing Reproduction

No restrictions on use

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Brown leather belt with a rectangular, tarnished, silver-colored metal, frame style buckle with a prong at one end. The buckle is attached by a sewn leather fold using brown thread, and beside the buckle there is a fixed leather loop. The other end has a tapered square tip with rounded edges and a combination of 16 machine-made and hand-made holes and slits. There are nine, evenly spaced, machine-made holes. Additionally, there are two hand-punched holes, one in-between the last two machine-made holes, and the other after the last one. Following the holes there are five hand-cut slits. The belt shows signs of wear with abrasions and stretching, particularly on the back of the leather fold and the front around the holes. The leather is worn enough to cause the tan color beneath to show through.


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.