Hebrew: “Remember what Amalek did to you”
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Also in Experiences of Forced Labor in Wartime Europe and Objects of Memory
In 1942, German authorities established a forced labor camp in the city of Peterswaldau (now Pieszyce, Poland).1 Two years later, Jewish women from Auschwitz were sent to the camp to work in a munitions factory there. Ida Katie Frankfurter was one of these women.2 In Peterswaldau, Frankfurter, like her fellow prisoners, was forced to make detonators for bombs.3
This silver-plated metal cup was made by Jewish forced laborers in Peterswaldau. Frankfurter believed that the cup was part of a bomb made in the factory, designed to kill or maim unsuspecting people. Another forced laborer at the camp recalls the pain of working on bombs that she believed would be used by the German military against the Allies.4
Conditions in Peterswaldau were harsh.5 Frankfurter recalls receiving very little food, often feeling lightheaded from hunger, and suffering a beating by a female SS guard. Prisoners worked long shifts almost every day, and were locked into the large room at night, without a bathroom. The women hid signs of illness or weakness, fearing deportation to Auschwitz during the frequent selections made in the camp.
Just before the camp's liberation, the camp's SS guards took Frankfurter and two other women into a part of the camp to destroy materials. When they finished, the female guards told the prisoners that they were free.6 Frankfurter took this cup from the camp when she was liberated on May 8, 1945.
In 1989, Frankfurter and her husband, George Frankfurter, had the cup engraved with Katie’s history. Frankfurter’s prisoner number and her maiden name appear below the groove. Beneath her name is a list providing the places of her persecution under Nazism: her hometown, a ghetto, and camps. The date of her liberation appears at the bottom. The significance of Frankfurter's ordeal is also reflected in the biblical verse that her husband chose to have engraved on the cup in Hebrew because of its resonances for him with Nazi crimes: “Remember what Amalek did to you” (Deuteronomy 25:17). This famous verse relates the story of Amalek and his tribe’s attack on the Israelites fleeing slavery in Egypt, targeting those who lagged behind—women, children, the elderly, and the sick. For some Jews, the figure of Amalek has come to signify the idea of evil.7
The engravings on this cup turn this part of a bomb made by forced laborers in the Nazi munitions program into a different kind of object. While it remains a symbol of imprisonment, it is also a commemoration of liberation. In addition, because of the Hebrew inscription, the material, the polished state, and the dimensions of the cup, it resembles a kiddush cup.8 Kiddush cups are ceremonial objects that are common in Jewish homes. They are meant to hold wine over which a blessing is said on the sabbath.
How does this cup place the experience of forced labor and the Holocaust within a religious Jewish context?9 In what ways does the cup express the Frankurters' memory and understanding of the Holocaust four decades after the persecution?
Peterswaldau became a subcamp of Gross-Rosen in April 1944, and the vast majority of women deported there from Auschwitz were, like Frankfurter, Hungarian. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, Vol. I: Early Camps, Youth Camps, and Concentration Camps and Subcamps under the SS-Business Administration Main Office (WVHA), edited by Geoffrey P. Megargee (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009), 777. For information on forced labor, see Bella Gutterman, A Narrow Bridge to Life: Jewish Forced Labor and Survival in the Gross Rosen Camp System, 1940–1945, transl. Leah Aharonov (New York: Berghahn Books, 2007).
Frankfurter was born Kato Ritter in Vilmány, Hungary, in 1925. For more on women performing forced labor during the Holocaust, see the related collection, Experiences of Forced Labor in Wartime Europe.
Forced laborers in the camp made bombs for the German company Diehl. On memory and forced labor at Diehl, see Niel Gregor, "'The Illusion of Remembrance': The Karl Diehl Affair and the Memory of National Socialism in Nuremberg, 1945–1999," Journal of Modern History 75.3 (2003): 597. In 1999, the Diehl company paid reparations to 100 survivors of Peterswaldau.
For more details, see the oral history interview with Madeline Deutsch.
For information on life in Peterswaldau, see oral history interviews with Molly Gross and Annie Hollander (two sisters who did forced labor in the textile mill and were in the camp prior ot the arrival of Hungarian Jewish girls) and The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, Vol. I: Early Camps, Youth Camps, and Concentration Camps and Subcamps under the SS-Business Administration Main Office (WVHA), edited by Geoffrey P. Megargee (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009), 777–781.
The night before the camp was liberated, the SS guards abandoned the camp. See oral history interview of Molly Gross.
Other Jewish survivors of the Holocaust refer to the biblical figure Amalek in their oral histories. In fact, numerous Holocaust memorials also feature the same Deuteronomy inscription, including in the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, the Davidster (Star of David) in the Hague, the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial in Vienna, and in Salzburg, Austria. For a discussion of Amalek and Jewish memory, see the related item in Experiencing History, Tefillin Owned by Alexander Kuechel. See also Clementi K. Federica, Holocaust Mothers and Daughters: Family, History, and Trauma (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2013), 1–2.
There are several examples of kiddush cups in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's collections. For a narrative of one survivor's memories of a kiddush cup, see "The Kiddush Cup" by Alfred Traum, USHMM, Echoes of Memory (Nov. 1, 2011).
For more on religious practices among Jews during the Holocaust, see the related collection, Jewish Religious Life and the Holocaust.
Hebrew: “Remember what Amalek did to you”
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
May 1944 to May 1945
|Dimensions||Height: 5.750 inches (14.605 cm) - Width: 2.875 inches (7.302 cm) - Depth: 2.875 inches (7.302 cm)|
|Maker / Creator||
Ida Katie Frankfurter
Ida Katie Frankfurter
Peterswaldau, Germany (historical)
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