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Stitching History From the Holocaust: New Remnants

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Stitching History From the Holocaust: New Remnants

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While working on the original research for Stitching History From the Holocaust, we cherished each small detail about the “talented dressmaker” and her husband Paul. JMM started this process with one letter, eight dress designs, two envelopes, and one photograph. This led us to international archives and connected us with European family members.

Through our research and connections, we located several additional pictures and two more letters written by Paul detailing the challenges of escaping from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. These pieces offered us new details about the couple, their professional and family lives, and their attempt to escape. This is the backdrop to the small trove of new pieces we recently discovered about the Strnad family.

After Ambassador Andrew Schapiro spoke at Jewish Museum Milwaukee in July 2018, he mentioned that he had a surprise for us. The next morning, he sent an email with four pictures of Hedy Strnad attached with the following message:

“I mentioned that there’s a very useful database maintained by the Terezin Initiative, compiling documents from municipal records (many from the inter-war period) relating to people who ultimately were sent to Terezin and beyond.  In case your researchers have not yet used it to research the Strnads. You might want to pass along this link. There are a few (mundane, but with photos) 1920s and 30s documents there relating to Hedy and Paul.  I attach a few photos of Hedy that I copied from the site.”

For me, these pictures of younger Hedy were anything but mundane. They show a twenty-something Hedy, before she married Paul. Through the next three, we see her develop into the woman we know from our photograph of the couple. Her signature matches the one that we used to create our label for the dresses. Going through this trove of information, we found Paul’s passports and pictures of Hedy’s sister and mother.

We are still combing through this new resource, but we are already working towards including some of these new images in the exhibit and updating the Strnad family tree to include the pictures of Hedy’s family. These additions show the evolution of the exhibit, but also demonstrate that historical research is never done. There will always be more archives to explore and people to connect with, but each small salient connection like these helps expand our understanding of the lived experience.

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Ellie Gettinger
Education Director

In Honor of Memorial Day: The Arthur Grossman Collection

By Shandra Morehouse, Jewish Museum Milwaukee Archives Intern

The Archives at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee recently received a collection of letters  written by Arthur (Artie) J Grossman, a Jewish soldier from Milwaukee during World War II; they were donated by Lloyd Levin, Artie’s nephew. This collection of letters provides insight to what life was like for both Artie in the Army and his family in Milwaukee during World War II.

Artie was born March 19, 1918 to Frank and Sarah Grossman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was a graduate of Riverside High School and went on to the University of Wisconsin in Madison for college. He enlisted in the armed services in August 1941 and attended Officer Candidate School in Kansas. He was sent overseas in January 1943 and was stationed in Northern Ireland, England, and later in France where he was a Lieutenant.

“As for me, you know I don’t change much despite the locality” (Artie to Ros, January 1944)

Artie wrote his family often and asked his family to do the same. His letters were full of questions about home, updates on his life, and requests for things to be sent to him – more letters, cigarettes, apple strudel, cookies, and fruitcake because “it stays fresh very well”. To his family, he wrote about the skills he was learning that would be useful in the future and the logistics of getting his car taken care of. To his sister, Ros, he often wrote dating news, or, as he frequently bemoaned, the lack of news.

 “I suppose I should sign off with the “lone wolf” or something!” (Artie to Ros, February 1944)

In October 1943, while stationed overseas, Artie wrote the following letter to his family:

First of all, I suppose it won’t do any good to tell you not to worry about me for that will be anyway. At least know this – your son is also doing his part in this great effort of ours to make things right again….Be proud that you have strong sons to help save homes, families, and the ability to raise kids to love and enjoy freedom, the pursuit of happiness, and the right to worship as we please. These aren’t just words anymore, for some have already died in their defense; and no where could there be a more glorious cause for which to give one’s life…Rejoice that half your son power will soon be in it. Be strong, for your strength live in me and helps me to do the right I must. Love Ever, Artie.

In August, 1944, the family of Lt. Grossman received word that their son was missing in action. They later received word that Lt. Grossman had been killed in action somewhere in France on August 4, 1944. Arthur was posthumously awarded the Silver Star in 1945 for his actions. His grave is located in the St. James Military Cemetery, St. James, France.

This Memorial Day, the Jewish Museum Milwaukee remembers those, like Lt. Grossman, who have served their country and have made the ultimate sacrifice.