A suitcase has a significant meaning , it indicates a change, often temporary and sometimes for an extended time, but no one ever expects the symbol of the end of a life.
Many songs have the word suitcase in their lyrics and it is often in a sad context like in the Beatles son Lady Madonna the line says “Friday night arrives without a suitcase” indicating yet another weekend has come still trying to make ends meet, without getting a break.
But a suitcase can also bring excitement for there is an imminent journey, heading to perhaps exotic places. A break from the daily grind, time to refresh yourself.Or it can signify a new start beginning.
The Nazi’s had one plan for the Jews and one plan only they referred to it as ‘die Endlösung” or “Final Solution”, the eradication of all Jews.But just killing them wasn’t good enough they also had to be humiliated. They were also given false hope. They were told they were going to be resettled to the east, where they would have a ‘new beginning’.
All they could take though was one suitcase, they were instructed to mark their suitcases for later identification..
I have thought about this , what would I take if I was told I could take only 1 suitcase?. I would pack some clothes but above everything else I would pack things which were dear to me, photographs, keepsakes of family members,heirlooms and in my case also music.
I am sure that most people would pack similar things.Many Jews also believed they would return to their homes after the nightmare which was World War 2 was over, they didn’t know they would end up in an even worse nightmare . the holocaust, and they would never see their belongings or loved ones again for they were murdered often in the most brutal way possible. And even for those who survived their belongings would have been spread all over the world, the Nazis made sure of that.
They had special units who were tasked and specialized in stealing all belongings of the Jews and emptying the homes of Jews. Units like the Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce.
The stolen art would end up in places like Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris, which was used by the likes of Hermann Göring as an art Supermarket where he could go in and take whatever he fancied, without paying anything for it. He didn’t even mind taking the so called Degenerate art.
His henchman ,the art dealer Bruno Lohse, would ensure to get a good price for the stolen goods making himself and Göring wealthy men. Unlike Göring who committed suicide before he could be sentenced, Lohse would live a long and comfortable life, he died in 2007 aged 95. A few weeks after his death in May 2007, the seizure of a secret Zurich bank vault registered to Schönart Anstalt ( which had been under Lohse’s control since 1978) turned up a valuable Camille Pissarro painting stolen by the Gestapo from the Fischer family in 1938 when they fled the Nazis and left Vienna, as well as paintings of uncertain provenance by Monet and Renoir.
Still to this day stolen jewelry,art and furniture is showing up and sold on antique markets all over Germany and other European countries.
Even the possibility to pass family belongings to future generations was denied to those who were murdered in the concentration camps and the death camps, often all that remains to remind us that they even existed is a suitcase with a name written on it.
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