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, says 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 Ludvik (or Ludwig) 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.
But the family was split up at Theresienstadt and Ludvik was apparently sent to Auschwitz on an earlier transport. “We know”, say the Museum, “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 Museum, and sent additional biographical information and some family photographs.
Ludvik 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 and 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 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.
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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