The Holocaust destroyed European Jewry. Its memorialization and representation have been studied, but the objects that refugees took with them into exile, survivors brought with them from the camps, ghettos and killing fields have received only scant attention. Ordinary things and objects have stories and meanings for different people, past and present. They “continually assert their presence as simultaneously material force and symbol. They frame the way we act in the world, as well as the way we think about the world.” Some objects have artistic and monetary value. Others are memorabilia. Artifacts of the Holocaust are what remains. Artifacts like these are not souvenirs but remnants. Nostalgia is invariably a mournful memory or what the scholar Svetlana Boym has called reflective nostalgia, a remembrance that is predicated on a deep rupture, and takes the past as a mournful subject to which one cannot return. They are the debris of violence - not objects of longing but of fear and hold traces of dissociated, dislocated and often destroyed lives. They are the remains of the destruction and ruination of European Jewry.
The objects also have often an intensely personal meaning that extends beyond their overt purpose. Artifacts like eye glasses and shoes most often illustrate in museums and memorial sites the enormity of the destruction and countless victims. Yet the objects’ meanings extend beyond their role in exhibits and lodge often diverse experiences and memories. They recall forgotten, hidden, and even destroyed pasts and retell the story of their safe-keeping and preservation. They evoke moments of survivors’ violent pasts and survival. A yellow star speaks not only of anti-Jewish measures, drastically changed circumstances, but also of the experience of wearing and keeping it after the Holocaust. It is not only a marker of anti-Jewish measures but a reminder of the person who wore it. These and other remnants do not simply exist. They remain because they were taken from sites of destruction. The history of their preservation details meaningful acts of remembrance.
Object and Memories
Today, artifacts largely exist in museums and memorial sites that bestow upon them meaning and coherence. At Auschwitz–Birkenau Memorial and Museum, vast quantities of confiscated artifacts like suitcases, eyeglasses, brushes, pots, shoes and even hair have remained. They are utilized to proof and document the Holocaust. Historians of Holocaust remembrance like James Young, question the value of artifacts in museums and memorial sites. He asks “What precisely does the sight of concentration-camp artifacts awaken in viewers? Historical knowledge? A sense of evidence? Revulsion, grief, fear, pity? That visitors respond more directly to objects than to verbalized concepts is clear. But beyond affect, what does our knowledge of these objects—a bent spoon, children’s shoes, crusty old striped uniforms—have to do with our knowledge of historical events?”
Young critically dismisses exhibitions around artifacts. They do not impart knowledge of historical events but elicits strong emotions within visitors including grief, horror, and revulsion. More importantly, he argues that that Holocaust artifacts “force us to recall the victims as the Germans have”. The artifacts remind visitors “not of the lives that once animated them, in so much as the brokenness of those lives”. The artifacts make visitors recall the victims as a murdered people. The objects, he contends, do not even have “traces of what bound these people together into a civilization, a nation, a culture”. For Young, Holocaust artifacts only represent the destruction of European Jewry.
Oren Stier’s Committed to Memory expresses similar suspicions toward artifact-based museums. In Stier’s chapter dedicated to Holocaust museums, he seeks an understanding of how Holocaust museums construct an accessible connection for the general public to the past. Informed by reading Theodor W. Adorno’s observation that the word museum is not only phonetically connected to a mausoleum, artifacts are in exhibits because they do not fulfill a need in the present. Stier, too, is uneasy about artifacts reductive representation of victims. Museums, he stresses, must “be aware of the distinct separation from lived experience and social memory engendered by the placement of artifacts.” Stier’s critical observation becomes more balanced when he incorporates Andreas Huyssen’s reflections on museums and ultimately argues that museums are both places of memory and forgetting.
Thinking about artifacts, Stier is most distressed at the risk of artifacts leading to an unmediated memory. Like Young, he is concerned that visitors will be unable to differentiate their experience in a museum from a victim’s experience during the Holocaust. The presentation of the artifacts blur the here and there and create “a highly charged atmosphere for meditation”. Because the artifacts seem to move through history, they encourage the visitor to travel along, inviting them to imagine the past that they did not experience. Other historians like Omer Bartov echoes these critical voices. The artifact of the Holocaust Museum create a “false sense of reality” and end up “trivializing the genocide.” 
Their criticism seems highly reductive. There are significant differences between the various museums and the ways they employ artifacts. At Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, and Dachau, exhibits consist largely of what was discovered by the Allied forces and used immediately to document the crimes. Shoes and other personal belongings featured prominently in the documentary films of the liberated camps by the Allies. These documentaries functioned as means to chronicle and witness the crimes that had been committed just as much as these objects today serve in museums to authenticate their owners’ narratives.
Resembling largely the display strategies of Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and the State Museum of Majdanek, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), which opened in April 1993, displays even large quantities of plundered possessions. Its collection seeks in the words of the historian Edward Linenthal to “shrink the geographical distance …” between America and the sites of the Holocaust. The masses of artifacts serve to confront Holocaust deniers. On display are not only endless small items but even a railcar, piles of shoes from Majdanek, cobblestones from the Warsaw ghetto and “restored” barracks from Auschwitz-Birkenau. In the USHMM, visitors encounter, for example, a large collection of victim’s shoes from the Majdanek killing center. The installation recalls plunder and murder on a large scale.
The museum offers a comprehensive narrative, which, however, is intended to be deciphered by the visitor who creates individual pathways through the exhibit that is anchored in documents, poetry, letters, drawings, films, photographs, and videos. For the relational learning process, the artifacts have a central importance. Yet their individual histories are never explored. Objects are listed primarily as part of the USHMM Collection, which obscures the identity of previous owners and the respective history of their respective artifacts.
Similarly, the exhibit at the Imperial War Museum in London entails numerous artifacts. Opened in 2000, the exhibit is the result of painstaking research of artifacts, testimonies, audio and visual sources. Fifteen survivors’ testimonies lead together with archival footage through the exhibition on nine monitors. Whereas the voices of the survivors are presented to tell the history of the Holocaust in addition to their own stories of survival, the museum’s display of artifacts is not unlike the exhibit in the USHMM. Here too, visitors confront a large display of shoes from the Majdanek. Existing displays of artifacts only portray a larger narrative but fail to explore their individual meanings. A display case exhibits objects that German Jewish refugees took with them without however wondering what these objects might tell us about the meaning of exile, survival, fears and hopes. A set of playing cards with historical scenes from Mannheim for example, in the possession of refugees, speak volumes not just about survival but their loss of home.
The Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance employs a very different strategy. Opened in 1993, its exhibition displays very few original artifacts. Instead, it relies on artificially created dioramas and films. Three plaster-of-Paris models serve as guides to the exhibit that mixes theatrical staging with historical film footage of camps and liberation is less intended to forge historical immediacy but stages a realm within which the visitors are meant to become witnesses. Different still is the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The museum never intended to become a large depository of artifacts. For Libeskind, no quantity of objects can ever overcome the absence. To the architect of the museum, the space connects across the voids. Accordingly, the museum displays only a few objects that were in the possession of German Jews, along with names and histories of their former owners. Artifacts represent not just their past but often are inserted into the life of individuals, who owned and preserved them.
Yad Vashem, founded in 1953, as the central memorial site in Israel, only started collecting artifacts in 1962. The first museum created in 1973 largely enclosed only photographs and documents.” A campaign that commenced in 2011 titled, “Gathering the Fragments”, acquired over 71,000 items during its first two years. This initiative coincided with the launch of a new exhibition “Bearing Witness: Stories Behind the Artifacts” which curates according to the Senior Curator, Haviva Peled-Carmeli, “the use of a personal story with a tangible, authentic artifact as its focus, with the addition of documents, photographs, and testimonies, enables the visitors to understand fragments of the experiences of the survivors.
These tentative approaches are indicative of a process of rethinking the place of artifacts. Yad Vashem’s presentation resonates with contemporary interests in story-telling, but even so, the artifacts do not intrude upon the existing narrative of the Holocaust and its remembrance. Individual artifacts are placed into the context of life-stories. Tellingly they are also only narrating stories and not histories.According the Yad Vashem’s chairman Avner Shalev “[p]ersonal stories, told through items such as letters and postcards, artwork, diaries, toys and more add a critical dimension to Holocaust commemoration and education.” The history of the Holocaust and these stories coexist. In line with this limited role, the number of artifacts that serves both as general educational resources and as memory space of the respective survivors remains limited.
Artifacts are largely used like survivors’ testimonies. They only supplement and illustrate already existing account of destruction and mass murder and are barely investigated on their own terms and for the possible complex and confusing reality that they might represent. Tony Kushner’s criticism of the way testimonies are employed in historical studies and public documentaries equally applies to artifacts: “The words of the eyewitnesses are used to bring home the reality of what racism or mass murder meant in practice. Yet the testimony itself, if not always in the form of sound bites, is rarely allowed to have space to reveal its own internal dynamics, especially in relation to the rest of the person’s life story.” 
Documents, photographs and other artifacts play prominent roles in survivors’ testimonies. Guidelines for interviews conducted by the Shoah Foundation invite survivors at the end of their testimonies to show documents and artifacts. Testimonies thus hold a wealth of untapped sources. In Holocaust studies, these have not been utilized while the investigation of artifacts outside of Holocaust studies has already gained significant momentum. Neal MacGregor, director of the British Museum, curated in 2011, a history of the world featuring one hundred selected artifacts from its selection followed by a history of Germany, which he published in 2015. The Smithsonian launched in 2014 History of America in 101 Objects as well.
Within Holocaust studies, artifacts have only received scant attention and have been considered largely for education purposes. At best, they are merely pieces to a story rather than telling their stories. Stier observes that the removal of artifacts from their original location, or their displacement occasions change. They are placed “in an institutional context to create a fictional coherence” or put differently they are pressed into the service of an already existing narrative which they simply illustrate. Yet artifacts offer ways to connect pre-Holocaust and post-Holocaust lives. To bequeath something to a museum is a highly meaningful act. The act entails often conflicted choices. Survivors can choose between local, regional, national institutions. Whether a survivor donates an artifact to local Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, the Washington Holocaust Museum, the Jewish Museum in Berlin or in Warsaw or any of memorial sites betrays different ideas about oneself and the respective significance of these institutions. Donations sometimes coincide with relief, having transferred the responsibility of safekeeping, as curator of Yad Vashem, Peled-Carmeli, suggests, “Often we find that the survivor expresses relief after giving us the object as if he is saying: until now I was responsible for transferring the story to the next generations, now that the object is in your hands, you are taking on the responsibility of telling the story with the object helping you in your mission.” To study therefore artifacts is to trace the material objects of the Holocaust and their enclosed complicated histories and practices of memory.
Hitler’s seizure of power commenced the destruction of German Jewry’s economic basis. New legislation and governmental agencies sought not only to exclude German Jews from Germany’s economic sphere, but required them also to register and record their domestic and foreign property to prepare for the gradual expropriation of wealth and objects. The Nazi regime methodologically looted and ransacked the belongings of Jews. They pursued not just simply ideological ends and economic motivation but their actions betrayed an awareness of the importance of goods and objects of people’s place in society. Seizing Jewish properties became an essential part of the dehumanization prior to the extermination. In cities like Hamburg and elsewhere in the Reich, Jews were reclassified under the Nuremberg Laws, stripped of their citizenship, harassed and intimated, and their belongings were publicly auctioned off. Alongside the Aryanizations emerged a “utilization business” that trafficked in Jewish property exploiting the predicament of many German Jews. The historical documents that illuminate the economic boycott and exploitation of Jewish shops, financial resources, and goods in Nazi Germany provide information on material objects of Jewish households. The possessions of Jews in Paris were seized in the so-called Möbel-Aktion that started in February 1942. The goods were destined to supply Germans and those in the colonized East. Even the belongings of the last deported Jews of the Reich in March 1945 were carefully listed. The properties of the deportees were confiscated and listed the possessions of those, for example, that had been deported from Hamburg to Theresienstadt in February 1945. After the Holocaust, the process of painful postwar restitution illuminates how much belongings furnished identities.
Material objects that German Jews took with them into exile narrate their complex and conflicting ideas about themselves, Germany, and about their expected lives in their new homes. Ernst Frankenstein, not unlike many other German Jewish middle-class families, created a photo album of their former home before he left Berlin in 1933. Practices like these attach importance to everyday life and its material objects. Photo albums also served to preserve and mourn. Already in exile and living in a hotel on the Upper Westside in New York, Isidor Kiefer, a tin manufacturer and chairman of the Jewish community of Worms, recreated the Jewish museum in his hometown with the available photos in an album. He poured himself into this task of assembling a virtual museum that provided him solace, because “the devoted love for the venerable Jewish community had experienced no change and suffered no loss.” Dedicating this work to the memory of his parents and his community of Worms, Kiefer claimed that historical destiny had put him in the position of preserving the local heritage. Out of gratefulness for this opportunity, he placed alongside the photos what he knew about the items for future generations. If the museum were destroyed, Kiefer’s notes would also serve as a permanent record of the museum’s contents.
Safe-guarding other objects of material culture sought to prepare for possible irrevocable rupture that exile represented. In May 1936, Leopold Frank, a sales representative for a stocking firm in Bavaria and Württemberg, emigrated with his wife and two children to Palestine. Prior to his migration, his sister-in-law who already lived in Tel-Aviv advised him to bring vacuum cleaners, irons and electric cooking-pots with him to Palestine. The inclusion of these household goods amongst the few precious items to be taken created a continuity of lives for the emigrants.
The temporary relaxing of anti-Jewish measures between the Nuremberg laws of 1935 and the 1936 Olympics made some speculate as to whether the worst had already occurred. In 1935 war veterans like Peter Gay’s uncle received the Cross of Honor as a First World veteran issued by Adolf Hitler. As a token of his identity, the Iron Cross was amongst the few selected objects that his uncle took with him when they emigrated to the United States. Yet when the United States entered the war, he donated the once precious object to be melted-down for the war effort.
The leading scholar on memory storage in neurons and the 2000 Nobel-prize winner, neuropsychiatrist, Eric Kandel, explains his scientific interest as “…rooted in my childhood experiences in Vienna.” Kandel’s biography that the film, In Search of Memory (2009) narrates, is rooted in his experience as the son of a Jewish toy shop owner. His most vivid memory is that of battery-operated remote-controlled car he received on his ninth birthday. Writing in present tense, it is “a beautiful, shiny blue car. It has a long cable that connects it motor to a steering wheel with which I can control the car’s movement, its destiny.“ He continues to recall how he played for the next days with the car. When his family returned home to their apartment after Kristallnacht, they found their belongings ransacked. The car was also gone. Kandel’s memories are attached to his car and it only later that he “ would come to understand that these events coincided with Kristallnacht. Personal memories of the much loved toy precedes later historical understanding but ultimately intertwined in his initial historical interest and his later scientific studies. To him, his scientific works examines the “…biological basis” of the post-Holocaust “Never to forget.” 
Max Guggenheim, a native of Worms, the city of one of the oldest Jewish communities of Europe saw in 1938 its famous synagogue destroyed at a time when already the better part of it community had dispersed into exile. One of the exiled Jews of Worms described his last trip to the partially destroyed synagogue in 1938, before his emigration to Chile. In the torched synagogue, Guggenheim had taken the old metal key from the Aron Kodesh and bequeathed it after the Holocaust to the Bezalel National Museum in Jerusalem under the provision that it would be returned to Worms once a Jewish community had reestablished itself there.
Taking the key into exile was a symbolic act of departure and acknowledgment of the end of German Jewish history in Worms. Bequeathing the key to museum in Jerusalem completed this act. They key no longer served or would serve its original purpose but had become reminder of world destroyed. The stipulation to have to key return to Worms if a community would be reconstituted still entailed a possible new future. Studying objects like these provides evidence to various meaningful acts and practices that speak of a complicated sense of rupture and the possibility of renewal.
The small provisional clause underlines the paradoxical confluence of existing hopes for the renewal of Jewish life in Worms with Guggenheim’s severance from the synagogue by ridding himself of the key he had brought out of Nazi Germany. Concurrent with the key’s transfer, Michael Oppenheim, in 1945, discovered the goblets of the burial society of Worms. He arranged for their shipment to the Jewish Museum in New York. In a letter to Oppenheim, Stephen Kayser of the Jewish Museum welcomed the arrival of the goblets, which, he wrote, enriched the collection of the museum that had few older objects. These additions to the collection were all the more significant insofar as the museum had, in the course of the Holocaust, acquired a new meaning as a “monument for the remembrance of the Jews of Europe,” Kayser explained. The fate of the key and the goblets epitomizes the scattering of memorabilia around the globe. Together the key and goblets provide conflicted stories of closure and conditional hope amongst survivors.
During the Holocaust, objects of daily use played important roles in the camps. Moreover, they helped to visualize already during the Holocaust the mass murder. Joseph Richter’s pencil drawing “The Lublin Railway Station” (1943) shows along railroad tracks prayer shawls, dolls, crutches, Torah scrolls, and caps. Abraham Sutzkever poem “A Load Shoes” written in Vilna ghetto in 1943 views shoes as just barely detached from their former owners. In the poem, the pain and mournful howl come precisely from knowing the shoes as shoes of people of his ghetto. There are not just shoes but “look, there are my mother’s: her Sabbath pair, in with the others.” After liberation, the Yiddish Poet Moshe Shulstein saw the piles of shoes at in Majdanek “Higher than Mt. Blanc/ And more Holy that the Mountain of Sinai.” To him, the shoes had become last witnesses not solely of the mass killings but of the lives not lived. “We shoes—that used to go strolling in the market/ Or with the bride and groom to the chuppah/ We shoes from simple Jews, from butchers and carpenters,/From crocheted booties of babies just beginning to walk and go/ On happy occasions, weddings and even until the time/ Of giving birth, to a dance, to exciting places of life…/Or quietly—to a funeral./ The steps that measure out the judgment.”*
Shoes also often entailed very personal memories, when survivors took them from the camps after the war. After 2-year-old Hinda Cohen had been deported from the Kovno ghetto only her shoes remained. Her father inscribed March 17, 1944 as the date of her deportation on the shoes that her parents Dov and Tzipporah Cohen kept for many years. Bluma Walach from Lodz gave her eyeglasses to her daughter during the selection at Birkenau. Blum was killed in the gas chamber, but her daughter survived, keeping her mother’s glasses as the last memory of her. In this excerpt from “Eyeglasses,” Untitled, the poet Oriana Ivy (2012) writes: “Before my grandparents left Auschwitz, / they went to the mountain of eyeglasses, / thinking that by a miracle / they might find their own”. A survivor of Auschwitz brought with her to her new life a spoon. She used the spoon that she kept amongst other kitchen utensils to feed her children. The spoon that conjures memories of starvation became through shared used in the survivor’s family a reminder of survival. 
Examples like these complicate narratives of objects and their respective meaning and tell a story about their recovery and the process of remembrance. Survivor testimonies describe how artifacts like tablespoons, religious objects, Vaseline jars and pre-war family photos were often carried away from camps. Photographs of pre-war family members often helped to recall pre-Holocaust lives and allowed second generation children of survivors to inscribe themselves into a genealogical chain. Prisoner’s uniforms represented a visible marker of the first account of survivors of Auschwitz. A few copies of the book, We Were in Auschwitz, were bound in the original fabric recycled from the prisoners' striped uniforms. Prisoner’s uniforms mark not just survivors but also at times their children. Spiegelman’s Maus portrays him in a striped uniform. [Photo] These examples speak to the widely iconic status of the striped uniforms that mark individuals as survivors in the public sphere and bear witness to the individual experiences.
Amongst the victims of the Holocaust were 1.5 million children. Toys and other remains of children feature prominently in museums. They perform at times complicated roles for survivors. A survivor, who lives now in Israel, regularly enacted his childhood by entering his bedroom, where he kept in a drawer a photo and childhood toys. Erich Fried’s story “My doll in Auschwitz” recalls a visit of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1967 where despite his detailed preparation he is unprepared for the “mountain of children’s toys. The encounter overwhelms him as he discerns in the pile a toy identical to the Moritz of his Viennese childhood.
Once artifacts are in a museum, their meaning is still not limited to their respective role in an exhibition. Miles Lerman, campaign chairman of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, felt great unease when he was asked to pose for a fundraising letter holding a child’s shoe. He was devastated and froze as he recalls. Amongst the artifacts of the Washington Holocaust Museum, is Zofia Burowska’s (Chorowicz) still pristine doll. Zofia, who received the doll before the war before and took it with her to the Cracow ghetto. Non-Jewish friends kept the doll with other family belongings. After surviving several camps, she returned after the Holocaust to Krakov, where she retrieved it from the family friends.
Stella Knobel, who fled with her parents Poland in 1939 to Soviet territory was imprisoned by the Soviets and came to Palestine with the largely orphaned Polish children, who were evacuated in 1943 to Teheran in Iran. When she donated in 2011 her teddy bear, Mishu, to Yad Vashem it became a way to safeguard him. As Knobel wrote, the doll “is a symbol of my life”. Knobel recalls also the emotional meaning that a visit to Yad Vashem had for her to see the tattered bear that misses an eye and an arm: “I can’t begin to describe how emotional I was in advance of the visit and particularly how moved I was when I could hold him again and tell him what I am experiencing and to express my longing for him.” The bear continues to hold intensely personal memories to Knobel. At the same time, he and Knobel have acquired a greater importance in Yad Vashem. Sponsored by the organization “Pave the Way” that works for understanding between religions, Yad Vashem erected in 2012 a bronze statue of the seven-year-old Knobel with a suitcase and her bear depicting her escaping Poland in 1939, and it marks the entrance to their new children’s memorial.
Other objects also enclosed unresolved and often changing meanings for survivors. Elie Wiesel, a Romanian-born Jewish writer, Holocaust survivor, and Nobel Laureate, wrote in 1964 a short essay titled “The Watch”. The story begins in Hungry, late April of 1944, the day of Wiesel’s bar mitzvah, when he receives as a present a “magnificent gold watch”. The occupation of Hungary that began on March 12, 1944 brought along with the anti-Jewish policies of the Reich and Elie together with his family decided to bury items of significance because the local paper had announced that the town would rid itself of “every single one of its Jews”. Some 10,000 Jews from Sighet, almost half of the town’s population, were loaded onto freight trains from May 16 to 22, 1944, and sent to Auschwitz. Only 1,000 to 2,000 survived. A few returned to Sighet after the war but the majority of the survivors spread across the world.
What is remarkable about the story is the constantly changing meaning of the watch. When he celebrates his Bar Mitzvah, he received as a present a “magnificent gold watch.” The watch was not only a marker of social class but also of culture and carried symbolic meaning to denote the “Torah and its timeless laws”. In April 1944, he buried the watch in the garden as a valuable commodity along family members who buried similar objects. Twenty years later he returned to the garden. Wiesel noted he was “seized by an irrational, irresistible desire to see if it is still there in the same spot, and if defying all laws of probability, it has survived – like me – by accident”, not knowing how or why. The wish to locate the watch is emotionally charged. It is an “irresistible desire” and becomes an “obsession”. He is not interested in recovering any other objects but only “my gold watch”. The watch has become Wiesel. When finally holds the watch again, it is briefly “the only remaining symbol of everything I had loved, of everything I had been.” It is like him and Wiesel even calls the watch a survivor. Possessing it elicits temporarily strong emotions. “I touch it, I caress it. What I feel, besides compassion, is a strange kind of gratitude.”
The imaginary possibility of confiding in the watch and to have the watch fixed so that it “might recover its luster, its memory of past,” proves illusionary and Wiesel decides to bury the watch once again. In the end, the once magnificent golden Jewish watch serves as an “instrument of delayed vengeance: one day, a child would play in the garden, dig near the tree and stumble upon a metal box. He would thus learn that his parents were usurpers, and that among the inhabitants of his town, once upon a time, there had been Jews and Jewish children, children robbed of their future.” The meaning of the watch constantly changes but at every step it elicits strong emotions. These varied meanings and emotional responses are part of the evolving histories of artifacts of the Holocaust.
Zsuzsanna Ozsvath, professor of Holocaust studies and literature, and survivor from Budapest, who fled Hungary after the crushed revolution of 1956 and eventually moved to Texas, possesses a yellow star. In a still unpublished short essay, she relates the history of the star, how it was preserved and the challenges the star poses. Titled tellingly “My Yellow Star,” the essay does not recount the history of yellow stars but charts the history of her star.
Half a month after Wiesel buried his golden watch in the garden of his family house, in late November 1944, the Soviet army intensified its heavy military attack against Budapest. The German army and the Hungarian Nationalists ruled Hungary. Together with her family, she was hiding under false names, hoping to survive by avoiding discovery, identification, and execution. On January 17, 1945, the Hungarian and German armies collapsed, and in Pest, the Russians took over. She, along with her family, emerged from the shelter once the shelling and bombing had stopped:
“We came out of the shelter, gazing at the daylight, which we had not seen for weeks … As we were walking, my brother suddenly cried, “My God!” He was staring at our chests. “We are still wearing the yellow star.” … Still walking along the street, I grabbed my yellow star, as did Ivan and my father. We tore them off our winter coats and threw them into the snow-covered, dirty puddles under our feet. As we walked away, I turned back and saw the yellow stars moving slowly in the water. I looked back and saw that my mother still had her star. “Why don’t you throw it away?” I asked. “Why? Because I want to keep it, so that we remember,” her mother responded.
Her star is not hers but her mother’s, and became hers to keep. In 1956, she saw the yellow star again in Budapest, where her mother had placed it in a prayer book. Once again she challenged her mother, who insisted on keeping it “To let your grandchildren know what happened to us!” Many years later, when her parents visited her in Dallas, she again faced the yellow star still in the prayer book buried in her mother’s luggage. Eventually, she inherited the yellow star in the prayer book: “Since then I have kept the prayer book in my closet, and in it the yellow star. But I am at a loss to know what to do now. Should I leave it to my daughter, who would leave it to her daughter? Should I leave it to my son? And what about his four daughters? Should I give it to Yad Vashem? To the Holocaust Museum in Washington? To the Holocaust Museum in Dallas? Who will keep it for the next generations? Who will understand that it was my mother’s? Can it survive several generations? Will it mean as much to others as it means to me? Does it tell about the horrific humiliation of those who wore it? Does it tell of the shame and debasement of the Jews? How will they react who do not know the fear of separation from parents, a fear I have never forgotten, but have had to live with for the rest of my life? The fear I felt when I was ten years old and still feel today? Who should have my yellow star? And what would it mean to others?”
These open-ended questions illustrate the highly complex nature of these artifacts and the conflicting responses they elicit. Artifacts of the Holocaust are often traumatic objects. They are remnants of violence and torture, reminders of loss and destruction. The gathering of inmates’ belongings in camps embodied an extreme form of their exploitation. The recirculation of items most often represented the completed erasure not only of the object but also of its former owner. They are products of fright and trauma. The world in which they existed is shattered. When objects like these are donated to archives and museums, their shattered selves are emptied and encapsulated in a new world and narrative. They are currently donated to Holocaust museums around the world in record numbers. Most donations come from second or third generation children of survivors, who often even do not always have a complete history of the artifacts. It is therefore also very timely to seek to document the artifacts before their histories will be forever lost.
Studying artifacts aims to recollect them. In this manner, it is not unlike what Walter Benjamin observed when he unpacked his library. In his essay “Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collecting” of 1931 Benjamin contemplates less his collection and more on the act of collecting and people’s relationships to their books. He insists that it is a “relationship to objects which does not emphasize their functional, utilitarian value—that is, their usefulness.” Collector’s books have individual value and are not simply a commodity. For Benjamin, unpacking his library became an exercise in reinvesting in books imbued with his mental images and memories. The collector liberates books from their commodity character. The Curio Project similarly recollects and thereby aims to restore objects with their memories. Unlike a museum, it is not a narrative site but curio of stories. It is a collaborative and educational platform to foster new ways of curating, seeing and interpreting.
 Daniel Miller, Material Culture and Mass Consumption (Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1994),105.
 Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York, 2001), 41.
 James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 1993),viii.
 Memorial and Museum, 2013.***
James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 1993), 132.
 Young, The Texture of Memory, 132.
 Young, The Texture of Memory, 132.
 Young, The Texture of Memory, 132.
 Young, The Texture of Memory, 132.
 Oren Baruch Stier, Committed to Memory: Cultural Mediations of the Holocaust (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003), 114 and Theodor W. Adorno, "Valery Proust Museum," Prisms, trans. Samuel and Shierry Weber (London, Neville Spearman, 1967), 173-186, here 175.
 Stier, Committed to Memory: Cultural Mediations of the Holocaust, 114.
 Stier, Committed to Memory, 117.
 Stier, Oren Baruch. Committed to Memory, 114.-118.
 Omer Bartov, Murder in Our Midst: The Holocaust, Industrial Killing, and Representation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 182. See also Jennifer Hansen-Glucklich, Holocaust Memory Reframed: Museums and the Challenges of Representation (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2014), 122-123.
 Jeffrey Shandler, "“The Man in the Glass Box,” While America Watches: Televising the Holocaust (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 5-26 and Barbie Zelizer, “Collective Memories, Images, and the Atrocity of War,” Remembering to Forget: Holocaust Memory Through the Camera's Eye (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).
 Edward T. Linenthal, Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Make America's Holocaust Museum (1995) and James Ingo Freed, “The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,” James Young, ed. The Art of Holocaust Memorials in History (New York: Jewish Museum and Prestel, 1994), 89-101
 Hansen-Glucklich, Holocaust Memory Reframed, 127.
 Adrian Dannat, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: James Ingo Freed (London: Phaidon Press, 2002).
 Hansen-Glucklich, Holocaust Memory Reframed, 143.
 Yad Vashem’s Artifacts Collection, http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/museum/artifacts/collecting.asp, (accessed May 2nd, 2016).
 http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/pressroom/pressreleases/pr_details.asp?cid=684 and https://jewishaz.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/yad-vashem-rescuing-personal-items-from-the-holocaust/
 Tony Kushner, "Holocaust Testimony, Ethics, and the Problem of Representation." Poetics Today 27, no. 2 (2006): 275-95, here 279.
 "Shoah Foundation Interview Guidelines @Http://Dornsife.Usc.Edu/Vhi/Cms/
 Neil MacGregor, *
 Christina Chavarria, "“The Role of the Artifact in Teaching About the Holocaust,” ".
 Stier, Committed to Memory, 118.
 "AHR Conversation: Historians and the Study of Material Culture,” American Historical Review (December 2009): 1354-1404 and Richard Grassby, ""Material Culture and Cultural History,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 35.4 (2005): 591-603.".
 Helmut Genschel, Die Verdrängung der Juden aus der Wirtschaft im Dritten Reich (Göttingen: Musterschmidt, 1966); Avraham Barkai, From Boycott to Annihilation: The Economic Struggle of German Jews, 1933-1943 (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1989); and Peter Hayes, “Big Business and 'Aryanization' in Germany 1933-1939,” Jahrbuch für Antisemitismusforschung, 3 (1994), 254-281.
 Leora Auslander, “Coming Home? Jews in Postwar Paris,” Journal of Contemporary History Vol. 40, No. 2(2005): 237-259, here 239.
 Frank Bajohr, “Aryanisation” in Hamburg: The Economic Exclusion of Jews and the Confiscation of their Property in Nazi Germany (New York/Oxford: Berghahn, 2002).
 Leora Auslander, “‘Jewish Taste’? Jews, and the Aesthetics of Everyday Life in Paris and Berlin, 1933-1942,” Histories of Leisure, ed. Rudy Koshar (Oxford: Berg, 2002), 299-331, here 244.
 Hamburger Staatsarchiv, 522-1_1041, Deportation nach Theresienstadt (14.2.1945).
 Leora Auslander, “‘Jewish Taste’? Jews, and the Aesthetics of Everyday Life in Paris and Berlin, 1933-1942,” 299-331; idem, “Beyond Words,” The American Historical Review, 110 (2005), 1015–1045 and idem, “Coming Home? Jews in Postwar Paris,” Journal of Contemporary History 40, No. 2 (2005): 237-259.
 “AHR Conversation: Historians and the Study of Material Culture,” American Historical Review 114 (December 2009), 1354-1404, here 1373.
 Museum d. Israel. Gemeinde Worms, Isidor Kiefer, New York, 1938, Stadtarchiv Worms, Judaica-Sammlung, 203: 10b.
 Joachim Schlör, “How to Cook in Palestine: Kurfürstendamm Meets Rehov Ben Jehuda." In Longing, Belonging, and the Making of Jewish Consumer Culture, ed. Gideon Reuveni and Nils Roemer (Boston: Antilles, AN, Boston, 2010), 163-82.
 Peter Gay, My German Question: Growing Up in Nazi Berlin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 71.
 Eric R. Kandel, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006), xiv.
 Eric R. Kandel, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006), xiv.
 Eric R. Kandel, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006), 5.
 Max Guggenheim, “Episoden aus der Geschichte meiner Vaterstadt. Worms am Rhein und ihrer jüdischen Gemeinde,” , 5 and 9, Leo Baeck Institute, New York, ME 222; “Precious At Random,” Palestine Post (February 2, 1947): 4 and “At Random,” Palestine Post (April 1, 1947): 4.
 Stephen S. Kayser’s letter to Michael Oppenheim, July 24, 1951, Michael Oppenheim Collection, Stadtarchiv Mainz, 50II: 14
 Myer, Adrian. "Portable Material Culture and Death Factory Auschwitz,” PIA 18 (2007)."
 Hansen, 119.
 David Roskies, Literature of Destruction, 493-494.
 p. 110) [see PRISM, Spring 2012—Ed.]
 Kidron, "“Breaching the Wall of Traumatic Silence: Holocaust Survivor and Descendant Person–Object Relations and the Material Transmission of the Genocidal Past,” 11-12.
 Carol A. Kidron, "“Breaching the Wall of Traumatic Silence: Holocaust Survivor and Descendant Person–Object Relations and the Material Transmission of the Genocidal Past,” Journal of Material Culture, 17, 1 (March 2012): 3-21, here 11.
 Kidron, "“Breaching the Wall of Traumatic Silence: Holocaust Survivor and Descendant Person–Object Relations and the Material Transmission of the Genocidal Past,” 13.
 Bozena Shallcross, The Holocaust Object in Polish and Polish-Jewish Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011), 131.
 Kidron, "“Breaching the Wall of Traumatic Silence: Holocaust Survivor and Descendant Person–Object Relations and the Material Transmission of the Genocidal Past,” 14.
 Erich Fried, ““My doll in Auschwitz” Children and Fools.
 Liliane Weissberg, “In Plain Sight,” Barbie Zelizer, ed. The Holocaust and Visual Culture (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2001), 13–27, here 21-22.
 Bozena Shallcross, The Holocaust Object in Polish and Polish-Jewish Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011), 4.
 Cathy Davidson, “Humanities 2.0: Promise, Perils, Predictions,” PMLA 123.3 (2008): 707-17.