Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp scrip, 2 kronen note, belonging to a German Jewish woman
overall : 2.125 x 4.250 in. (5.398 x 10.795 cm.)
Selma Ansbacher (nee Schlossberger, 1897-1956) was born in Wachbach, Germany to Bertha Schlossberger (nee Strauss, 1864-1936) and Sigmund Schlossberger (1863-1942, died from chronic illness). She had four siblings: Palma (1894-?), Josef (1899-?), Hedwig (later Holzer, 1903-1995), and Gisela (later Levi, later Feuchtwanger, 1906-2003). In 1921, at 24 years old, she married Ludwig Ansbacher (1888-1950), a veteran of the German army in World War I. Ludwig lost an eye during the war and was awarded the Iron Cross for his service. Initially he worked in the family business as a cattle dealer and later ran a fabric store. The couple had three children: Manfred (1922-2012), Heinz (1925-1942), and Sigrid (b. 1928). The family lived in Dinkelsbühl, Germany, in an apartment above Ludwig’s fabric store. Hitler came to power in 1933 and Ludwig was forced to close his store after the Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1935. He then began to work as a traveling fabric salesman, riding his bike into the countryside to sell to farmers. The family attended an Orthodox synagogue, and had many good friends that were non-Jewish. However, those relationships changed as anti-Semitism increased. In 1936, Manfred was sent by his parents to an agricultural school near Hanover; by 1939, he immigrated to Australia, changed his surname to Anson, and eventually joined the Australian army. In 1937, anti-semitism in the small town had grown so much that the family decided to re-locate to Frankfurt, joining extended family. The Ansbacher family did not live in Frankfurt’s central Jewish neighborhood, and therefore avoided the vandalism and damaged stores of the Kristallnacht attacks on November 9-10, 1938. The following day, however, the SS arrested Ludwig, sending him and 10,000 other Jews to Buchenwald concentration camp, where they received extremely cruel treatment. Ludwig was sent home after 2-3 weeks and Selma attempted to obtain paperwork for the family to immigrate to America. The United States had a quota system for German immigrants, and the Ansbachers’ numbers were too high to make immigration an option. In May 1942, 17-year-old Heinz was assigned to a transport, and the rest of the family volunteered to go with him. Heinz was separated out at the collection center; the guards prevented the rest of the family from getting on the transport and they were sent home, perhaps due to Ludwig’s military service. Heinz died on August 1, 1942 at Majdanek killing center in German-occupied Poland. Sigrid later credited her father’s war injury with the rest of the family being sent to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. They were deported as part of Transport XII/3 on September 15, 1942. Selma and Ludwig were assigned to a group house while Sigrid was assigned to a children’s home a few blocks away. Initially, Selma worked as a group leader in the kitchen, peeling potatoes for soups. She became known as the “Potato Queen,” letting the women go each day without checking pockets, allowing them to take home potatoes to supplement the meager rations. This was a big risk as it was against the ghetto rules. If Selma had been caught, she probably would not have survived. Later, she was reassigned to work in a factory that split mica for industrial applications, contributing to the war effort. In October 1944, at age 16, Sigrid was assigned to a transport out of Theresienstadt. Selma wrote a letter to the Central Secretariat, begging him to keep Sigrid off the transport. Her plea went unheeded, and Sigrid was deported to a number of concentration camps, including: Auschwitz in German-occupied Poland, Kurzbach and Gross-Rosen in Germany, Mauthausen in Austria, and Bergen-Belsen in Germany, where she was liberated by British forces on April 15, 1945. Germany surrendered on May 7. Sigrid volunteered to be part of a contingent to travel on a ship to a Swedish hospital on July 26. Selma and Ludwig continued to live at Theresienstadt until the Soviet Army liberated the camp on May 9, 1945. The couple later moved back to Frankfurt. They were notified about Sigrid’s survival by a letter from Ludwig’s brother in Boston. The postal system was fractured after the war, but the family was finally able to exchange letters and Selma kept everything her daughter wrote. Selma and Ludwig immigrated to the United States in July 1946 and settled in New York City. They met Sigrid on the dock when she arrived in New York in December. Sigrid married Fred Strauss (1926-2013), another refugee, in September 1948 and had two children. Manfred Ansbacher immigrated to the United States in 1961.
Franz Peter Kien was born January 1, 1919, in Varnsdorf, Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic), to Leonard and Olga Frankl Kien. His father Leonard was born in 1886, in Varnsdorf, and was a member of the German-speaking Jewish population in the, the Sudetenalnd, which bordered Germany. Leonard was a textile manufacturer with his own factory. Peter’s mother Olga was born in 1898, in Bzenec, Austro-Hungary (Czech Republic), to Jewish parents. After 1929, the Kien family moved to Brno. Peter enrolled at the German Gymnasium, where he excelled at drawing, painting, and writing. In 1936, he graduated and moved to Prague to study at the Academy of Fine Arts. He also attended the Officina Pragensis, a private graphic design school run by a well-known Jewish artist, Hugo Steiner-Prag. On September 29, 1938, Germany annexed the Sudetenland. On March 15, 1939, Germany invaded Prague and annexed the Bohemia and Moravia provinces of Czechoslovakia, ruled by a Reich Protector. Jews were banned from participation in government, businesses, and organization, including schools. Peter had to leave the Academy, but continued to study at the Officina Pragensis. He also taught at Vinohrady Synagogue. In September 1940, Peter married Ilse Stranska, who was born on May 9, 1915, in Pilsen, to Jewish parents. In late September 1941, Heydrich, the SS head of RSHA, Reich Main Security Office, became Reich Protector. Soon there were regular deportations of Jews to concentration camps. At the end of November, Theresienstadt concentration and transit camp near Prague got its first shipment of Jewish prisoners. On December 14, Peter was transported to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp. He was assigned to the technical department where he worked as a draftsman and designer alongside other artists, including Bedrich Fritta, Leo Haas, and Jiri Lauscher. On July 16, 1942, Peter’s wife Ilse arrived in the camp. On January 30, 1943, Peter’s parents Leonard and Olga were transported from Bzenec to Terezin. Peter was assigned major projects by the Jewish Council that administered the camp for the Germans, such as the scrip receipts used in place of money in the camp. He secretly documented the inmate’s daily life, creating portraits and other drawings, and wrote plays, poems, and an operatic libretto. On October 16, 1944, Peter’s wife Ilse and his parents Leonard and Olga were selected for deportation. Peter volunteered to go with them. Before leaving, Peter and his family were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in German occupied Poland. Peter survived the selection process, soon fell ill, likely with typhus and died, age 25, in late October 1944. His wife and parents were killed at Auschwitz. Some of the work that Peter left with other prisoners or hid at Theresienstadt survived and has been exhibited worldwide.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sigrid Jean Ansbacher Strauss
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