Saving a piece of history

The U.S. Holocaust Museum will catalog items that belonged to the mother of a CLU librarian.

After Rose Mondschein passed away in December, her son, Henri, and husband, Jack, discovered more of her possessions dating back to the 1930s.

Photo: Brian Stethem

Henri Mondschein, Ed.D. ’07, an information specialist in Pearson Library, grew up hearing stories about his parents’ harrowing experiences in concentration camps during World War II.

Almost as miraculous as their survival was the fact that Mondschein’s mother, Rose, was able to preserve an autograph book in the Nazi German labor camp Landshut. She was 10 when the Germans came to her home in Sosnowiec, Poland, and shipped her family members to separate concentration camps. Young Rose was forced to work in a munitions factory.

The autograph book was a special treasure, since it contained sentiments written by her father. Her older sisters also wrote entries and drew colorful pictures for Rose, the youngest of six children. During the war years, Rose wore it on a string around her neck, hidden under her clothes. She was able to save it while in the labor camp with the help of other prisoners, who protected the book when she had to undress for group shower.

After Rose passed away this December, Henri and his father, Jack, discovered more of her things dating back to the 1930s: a diary, papers, letters, passports and a heart-shaped memory book. The materials are written in Yiddish, Polish and German.

“My dad believes there is still a diary kept by my mother during the war. We still hope to find it,” Mondschein said.

Now the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., will accept and catalog the collection under Rose’s name, so that it will be available to future generations. When Mondschein wrote to scholars, historian Alan E. Steinweis, who directs a Holocaust studies center at the University of Vermont, encouraged him to donate them.

Brad Bauer, chief archivist for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, met with Jack and Henri Mondschein in January to view the collection.