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A story hidden in the seams

These Christmas-themed charms in our collection were made by a seamstress named Trude Baumann, within the walls of Oederan concentration camp between 1944 and 1945. Delicately detailed using small pieces of green and red felt, they showcase her talent for intricate stitchwork.

She was incarcerated in Theresienstadt and Auschwitz before being taken to Oederan and forced into slave labour. Like many Holocaust survivors, Trude didn’t often talk about her experiences during the war. As such, her son had little information to share when he donated the charms to the Sydney Jewish Museum in 1999 after her passing.

Image: SJM Collection

For years, we’ve speculated about how and why she made the tiny charms.

Were they a passion project or were they created on Nazi orders?
We know that inmates at Oederan worked in a munitions factory that was once a textile mill. It is possible that scraps of fabric found in the factory were used for making charms – a common decorative element attached to shirts, blouses, and cardigans.

Another possibility is that inmates were forced to make the mementos handed out at street collections for the Winterhilfswerk (WHW) – a Nazi-run charity program supporting poorer Germans under the slogan ‘none shall starve or freeze’. Donors received small decorations like these as a token of appreciation for their contribution, and a new token could be collected each week to prove support for the cause.

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