Montreal

Auschwitz jacket given to Montreal museum

A Holocaust survivor is giving the jacket she was forced to wear at the Auschwitz death camp to Montreal's Holocaust Memorial Centre Monday afternoon, on her 97th birthday.

Holocaust survivor kept jacket in bedroom drawer for decades

Irma Nemenoff-Gellert, 97, decided to give the jacket she wore at Auschwitz to Montreal's Holocaust Memorial Centre after keeping it in her bedroom for decades. (Shawn Apel/CBC)
A Holocaust survivor is giving the jacket she was forced to wear at the Auschwitz death camp to Montreal's Holocaust Memorial Centre Monday afternoon, on her 97th birthday.

Irma Nemenoff-Gellert, known as Imy, is originally from Hungary. She and her first husband were deported to Auschwitz in 1944, where her husband was killed. She survived the internment and moved to Canada, settling in Montreal after a brief sojourn in Toronto shortly after the war.

Nemenoff-Gellert kept the blue-and-grey striped jacket she wore during her time at Auschwitz, with the number U609, in her dresser drawer next to her nightgowns for decades.

"I just keep it to remind me of bad times, not to complain," she told CBC News. "I clung to it. If sometimes I would be very upset for something, I have to look at that jacket and know that I went through worse times."

Michelle Nemenoff, Nemenoff-Gellert's daughter from her second marriage, said that the jacket was a presence in the house she never liked touching, but when it came time for her mother to move to a seniors home, she found she couldn't let go.

Nemenoff moved the jacket to her own cedar closet in her home near Philadelphia.

Nemenoff-Gellert kept the jacket as a reminder that no matter how upset she was about something, she had lived through worse times. ((Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre))

"It was something to hold up, for my family's history, for Holocaust deniers, it was part of the air we breathed," Nemenoff said. "But now it's time."

The family chose Montreal's Holocaust museum because they wanted the artifact to be in the city where Nemenoff-Gellert rebuilt her life.

The museum's curator said the donation is significant because a very small number of prisoners kept their uniforms after liberation and even fewer brought them along when they immigrated.

Julie Guinard believes the jacket will be indispensable in teaching visitors to the centre what it was like to survive internment at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre houses only three uniforms of concentration camp prisoners, and this jacket is the first worn by a woman in Auschwitz to join the collection.

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