Colorful plaid handkerchief found by a German Jewish teenage inmate at Birkenau

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Washington, United States

Orange, pink, yellow, and green plaid handkerchief found by 14 year old Ruth Krautwirth in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where she was held from April 1943 to November 1944. Ruth worked in the Kanada unit, sorting the inmates discarded belongings. It is likely that she found the kerchief there. She kept the handkerchief as a reminder "that once there was a world without gassings, without filthy latrines and flea infested straw cots, without electrically charged wire fences." Ruth, her parents Hanna and Isak, and brother Zev were deported from Frankfurt, Germany, to Birkenau in April 1943. Ruth and Hanna, separated from Isak and Zev, were together through Birkenau, Ravensbruck, and Malchow, and were liberated on a death march by US troops in May 1945. Zev survived Birkenau, Sachsenhausen, Gunskirchen, and Mauthausen, and then went to Palestine. Several of Ruth’s relatives were killed in the Holocaust. Her father Isak, 46, was killed in Auschwitz on November 19, 1943. Her maternal grandfather and cousins also were killed. Ruth and Hannah left for America in 1947.


  • Title: Colorful plaid handkerchief found by a German Jewish teenage inmate at Birkenau
  • Provenance: The handkerchief was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1988 by Ruth Krautwirth Meyerowitz.
  • Subject Keywords: Child concentration camp inmates--Germany--Birkenau--Biography. Concentration camp inmates--Germany--Biography. Death marches--Germany--Biography. Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Germany--Frankfurt am Main--Personal narratives, Jewish. Holocaust survivors--New Jersey--Biography. Jews--Persecution--Germany--Frankfurt am Main--Biography. Slave labor--Germany--Biography. Woman concentration camp inmates--Germany--Biography.
  • Type: Dress Accessories
  • Rights: Permanent Collection
  • External Link: See the full record at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Medium: Square plaid cotton handkerchief with outer pink and inner green, yellow, and offwhite squares overlaid by sets of narrow blue and green intersecting stripes. The edges are machine sewn onto the back with pink thread.

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