A Boston woman whose mother immigrated to the U.S. in the wake of the Holocaust donated a rare artifact similar to one worn by fellow Holocaust survivor and author Anne Frank to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Andrea Pollinger’s mother, Ruth Wermuth (maiden name) received one of just 11 pendants located worldwide that were given to Jewish girls in Frankfurt, Germany, including Frank, in 1928-29. These pendants served as protective amulets. Wermuth’s was marked with her birthday, April 20, 1929, her birth location, a Star of David and a name for God.
Museum Acquisitions Curator Fred Wasserman called the artifact “extremely rare.” He said the pendants were typically given to Jewish boys, but were also given to newborn girls starting at the end of the 19th century. The accounted-for pendants include Wermuth’s, Frank’s, one unearthed in an excavation at a concentration camp in 2016, two owned by Israeli women and eight owned by American women.
Pollinger was inspired to donate the items after participating in the Museum’s virtual event back in March for New Englanders interesting in donating artifacts or learning about their family history.
“When I first attended the presentation, I was curious about what would be involved in donating my possessions to the Museum, especially as to whether there would be any interest in them at all,” Pollinger said. “I was surprised by the amount of discussion given to ‘why parting with one’s possessions is a good idea.’ I hadn’t thought about the practical side of the decision — having precious items preserved for posterity and not leaving it up to future generations of my own family to take care of the materials.”
Wermuth and her parents Hilde and Arnold Wermuth were arrested on Kristallnacht, or “the night of broken glass,” in November 1938 and sent to the Polish border. After the family was separated, they eventually found each other on the Frankfurt train station platform through a whistle code, according to the family’s oral history.
Arnold Wermuth went into hiding and eventually escaped to London, where his sister lived, while Hilde and Ruth Wermuth stayed in Frankfurt for another year before joining Arnold Wermuth in London. They then sailed to New York on the SS Volendam on June 17, 1940.
Pollinger donated the pendant as well as several family photos of the family’s life in Frankfurt, their journey to America and their new life here. She also sent an oral history she conducted with her grandmother in the 1980s.
Pollinger felt a wave of emotion as she dropped her items off to be delivered to D.C. “I hadn’t realized how emotional it would be to drop everything off at the FedEx office,” she said. “I got teary-eyed and felt compelled to tell the clerk behind the counter what these items were, where they were going and why that was so important.”