SS Totenkopf (Death’s head) ring taken from an SS officer by a liberator and later given to a Holocaust survivor

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Washington, United States

SS Ehrenring [honor ring] given to Benjamin Meed on October 24, 1992, by a liberator, who removed it from the finger of an SS officer in Germany in 1945. The rings, also called Totenkopfrings [Death’s head rings], were engraved with Himmler's name and were a highly prized award for SS officers. The SS (Schutztaffel; Protection Squadron) controlled the police forces and the concentration camp system for the Nazi Reich. In 1939, they created the Final Solution to eliminate the Jewish problem. Benjamin and his wife Vladka were Jewish resistance members in Warsaw, where they lived in the Ghetto and in hiding during the German occupation of Poland. They emigrated to the US in 1946. The couple were leaders in the survivor community and in promoting education about the Holocaust. In 1963, they founded the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization, having helped commemorate the event since 1945. In 1981, Ben and Vladka worked to establish the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in Jerusalem and, in 1983, organized the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. Benjamin served as president of the American Gathering until his death in 2006. A Registry of Jewish Holocaust Survivors was created during his leadership. In 1978, Benjamin served on the Advisory Board of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust which recommended the establishment of a national museum. He was a founder of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and served on the Memorial Council from 1980-2004.


  • Title: SS Totenkopf (Death’s head) ring taken from an SS officer by a liberator and later given to a Holocaust survivor
  • Location: Poland--History--Occupation, 1939-1945--Biography.
  • Provenance: The ring was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1992 by Benjamin Meed.
  • Subject Keywords: Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Poland--Warsaw--Personal narratives. Holocaust survivors--United States--Biography. Jews--Poland--Warsaw--Biography. World War, 1939-1945--Jewish resistance--Poland--Warsaw--Personal narratives. World War, 1939-1945--Underground movements--Poland--Warsaw--Personal narratives, Jewish.
  • Type: Jewelry
  • Rights: Permanent Collection
  • External Link: See the full record at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Medium: Silver finger ring with a molded skull and crossbones attached to the band, flanked by a triangle and diamond design. Text is engraved on the band interior. The engraving is very worn and there are remnants of gold finish where there is less wear on the interior.

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