At Grounds For Sculpture, a guest named Bruce shared the story of how in 1942 his mother, Manya, was separated from her family and sent to a German labor camp at the age of 16. She survived, and poignantly, so has a postcard she sent to her parents shortly after arriving in the camp.

During ANTIQUES ROADSHOW's June 2021 visit to Grounds For Sculpture in New Jersey, a guest named Bruce brought a collection of personal items that belonged to his late mother Manya, who had been born to Jewish parents in Poland in 1926, from her time confined in a German concentration camp during World War II.

As Bruce recounted to Books & Manuscripts appraiser Ken Gloss, "In February of 1942, shortly after her 16th birthday, my mother was summoned to the train station at 4:00 in the morning, and under armed guard, she was sent to a labor camp in Czechoslovakia called Oberaltstadt," which was a subcamp of the Nazis' Gross-Rosen network of concentration camps.

Among the items Bruce brought to ROADSHOW was a postcard Manya managed to write and have delivered to her parents, dated May 25, 1942, a few months after her arrival at the camp. As the postcard was written in unfamiliar handwriting, Bruce and his family believe a German officer may have originally transcribed the letter on Manya's behalf.

ROADSHOW was able to obtain a typewritten copy of the postcard, supplied by a German transcriptionist, who informed us the postcard had been written in an unusual, or at least non-standard, dialect of German that was difficult to interpret. Ian Ehling, who also appraises Books & Manuscripts for ANTIQUES ROADSHOW and is German, assisted by reading the transcript and providing his interpretation of the content.

He confirmed Manya was writing to her “Dear precious (beloved) and not forgotten parents,” and was emotional to hear from them. She comments on the ongoing struggles against deportation in Sosnowiec, and lets them know “she is working and in health and wishes the same for her parents.” She then discusses the “beautiful landscape” around her as she has been granted two days off for a Sunday afternoon excursion.

Ehling goes on to explain Manya wishes her parents well and promises to continue writing every other week, and offers names of those she sends her regards to.

Two photographs also accompanied Bruce's letter: an image of Manya taken a few years prior to the war, when she was 13 or 14, and an image of Manya and several Germans in Oberaltstadt. Bruce noted how the second photograph is cut out in spots, as Manya was told that if she was photographed with "Aryans," that she could be punished, and the Aryans could be punished for having their photograph taken with a Jew.

Nevertheless, Bruce believed the photograph to be significant to his mother, as she kept it with her in her wallet for years after the war. Bruce's family archive also included a blouse that he says his mother Manya was able to fashion for herself at Oberaltstadt from scraps of material she found on the factory floor where she worked.

Bruce explained that, thankfully, his mother survived her ordeal in Oberaltstadt, and in May 1945, after the camp was liberated by the Allies, Manya was reunited with her older sister and younger brother. Sadly, however, she also learned a short time later that both of her parents, as well as a younger sister and brother, did not survive.

Acknowledging the difficulty of placing a monetary value on such intensely poignant and personal artifacts, Gloss said: “There's the famous quote that people who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it," emphasizing that we need to appreciate and preserve objects such as these in order to do such learning.

For the purpose of insurance or gifting to a museum, Gloss placed an insurance value of $10,000 on Bruce's collection.

See the German transcription of Manya's postcard, and photos of Bruce's other family mementoes below.

Postcard written in 1942 from Oberaltstadt labor camp in Czechoslovakia

Wohnlager I. Firma Kluge Oberaltstadt Kr. Trautenau Sudentengau für A. Lajonz[?]. Oberaltstadt. 25.V.42 aufwiderzein meine libe. Libe, teire un nicht fergesene Eltern. Oire p.K. von [...] habe ich erhalten mit fil froide und treinen geleisen. Libe Eltern es wundert mihr zehr warum ihr schreib zu mir zo weinig ich habe schon nicht kein Kop zo fil zu iberkleiren was ist. Ich habe gehert dass dize Woche ist schrecklich gewein bei oich mit die umsidlung es zint fil Leute vort von Sosnowitz. Andeis(?) hat mich ein bisl beruig dass Lola Apfelbaum hat erhalten ein pk. von zu hauze, dass die ale Familie was(?) haben die Kinder in lager bleiben zu hause forloifik, bin ich zehr zufriden dass ich kann auch uplaizen(?). Bei mihr kein noies ich arbeit in bin gezund dass zelbe wünsche ich mihr fon oich imer zu heiren Liebe Eltern. ich kann oich benachrichten az dize Woche haben mihr zwei tage fajertage. Zontag nachmitag wirden mihr ale gemein(?) auf ein Asflug. Wir haben angeschaut wo herlich ist hir dass Landschaft. Liebe Eltern ihr konnt sei fon dize Annsehskarte nur(?) es kaini ich schreiben dass ich habe mihr gemust ein par schuhe borgen. Die Schuhe brauch ich zehr noitig [...] [...] L. Eltern es ist meiglich az die ich wirde zu oich schreiben nur zwei mal in monat ale zwei wochen, das mal bitte nicht zu iberscheiren(?). Zu Kochenn bitte mihr gar nicht zu schicken. Ich grusse und küsse die Libe Eltern und geschwistl zehr herzlich fon mihr oire nicht fergesene tochtl und swestl was hoft imer gute post zu bekomen Mania[?] . Ein besondere gruss für Moter[?], Bata[?], Pinkus, Sala[?] und Kirele[?] Ein herzliche gruss vonn Sureke[?]. Ein gruss fur die F [...] Rosenberg [...] Kurz[...?], Zajonz[?], Szulimarier[?] und ale bekante inn [...] [...] [...]

About the Author Emily Soubasis
Emily is a production intern for ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.