STUDENTS FROM Germany visit the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Canadian descendants of a couple who survived the Lodz Ghetto held in their hands this week a gift given by their grandfather to their grandmother – a small silver powder compact Jacob Stopnoky gave his wife, Tanya, in 1941, having traded his daily ration of bread for it.
Yad Vashem recently tracked down the owners of the item, which has been displayed at the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem since its founding.
According to Yad Vashem, Jacob, Tanya and their infant daughter, Krysia – who was born in the ghetto – survived the Holocaust by hiding in a bunker until the end of the war. But Tanya died a year after the liberation of the ghetto.
A woman donated the powder compact to the Yad Vashem in the 1980s, but only in the past year did the researchers in the Artifacts Department at Yad Vashem investigate the story behind it, as part of a research project led by department director Michael Tal into Holocaust- era presents.
They found that the powder compact had been donated by a woman who helped Jacob when he set up a business in Lodz. Before he moved to Canada, he gave her the compact. When she later moved to Israel, she handed the artifact over to Yad Vashem.
Etched on the powder compact is a portrait of a Jewish man behind barbed wire, the work of Jewish artist Max Prinz. Researchers were able to determine that this portrait is based on a photograph taken by Lodz Ghetto photographer Mendel Grossman of his father, Shmuel Grossman. On the back of the compact, “Ghetto Lodz 1941” is engraved. Shmuel Grossman and Max Prinz were murdered in the Holocaust.
The lady who donated the compact had since passed away, but researchers worked tirelessly to find more information about the owners of the compact and their family members. They eventually tracked down the couple’s granddaughter, Tina Rosenstein, who lives in Canada. Jacob died in recent years.
Rosenstein and her family had toured Yad Vashem last year, but they were unaware that a piece of their family history was on display there. They promptly returned this year, after learning what the museum had in its possession.
“I was truly overwhelmed with emotion holding my grandfather’s powder compact for the first time,” Rosenstein said. “I will always remember my grandfather as a generous and loving man. Holding the compact, I tried to imagine what he felt like giving such a beautiful present to his wife under such horrific conditions.
“I still can’t believe the personal connection I now have with Yad Vashem – part of our family’s history is literally on display to share with the millions of visitors that come here every year,” she continued. “I told my teenage boys that I hope that when they grow up, they bring their children to see the powder compact displayed in the Lodz Ghetto exhibit and that they never forget their personal connection to Yad Vashem.”