Rachel Pollack is excited to have her unique wedding this September. While her wedding outfit is a Pokémon cosplay designed and sewn by a local artist, she has a family heirloom to add to her special day: a veil. But it’s not just an heirloom passed down one generation; the veil was her great-great-great grandmother’s, a 19th century veil. And the most shocking part of the veil’s history? It survived the Holocaust.
In 1940, Rachel’s great- grandparents were trying to flee Czechoslovakia and sail to Palestine to escape the war. They sent their belongings on a ship ahead of time so they’d be waiting upon arrival. The veil and everything they had were on their way to Palestine. Rachel’s great grandparents boarded the last refugee ship to transfer Jews, the Pentcho, with 500 other passengers. The ship was rickety, old and made for rivers, rather than a journey across the Mediterranean. Sure enough, the ship sank in the Aegean Sea.
The passengers, along with crew, were able to get ashore and Italian soldiers took them to an island called Rhodes. The passengers lived in a refugee camp built in a soccer stadium for over a year. This is where Rachel’s grandmother was born. In January 1942, the refugees were transferred to an internment camp in southern Italy called Ferramonti di Tarsia.
Luckily for Rachel’s family, the Frischers, Ferramonti was an internment camp, not a concentration camp. Because it was run by the Italians and not the Germans, the Italians were more lenient and didn’t send anyone to Hitler’s death camps. The Italians didn’t subscribe to the racial elimination policies of the Nazis and even found loopholes to try and save lives. This doesn’t mean that the internment camp was pleasant. Food was still withheld and the living conditions were dirty and cramped.
When the camp was liberated on September 14, 1943, the Frischers stayed in the town working as doctors until the end of the war. When the Allies finally won the war, the Frischers finally made it to their destination: Palestine. When they arrived, five years after departing Czechoslovakia, they found that the trunk that had the wedding veil, was waiting for them.
The Frischers stayed in Palestine and fought in the Israeli Independence Movement. But, when Rachel’s great-aunt became sick with polio, their family moved to the United States and settled in New York. Rachel’s grandparents moved to San Diego, California, and Rachel came to Minnesota for school and decided to stay. From Czechoslovakia to Palestine, and across the United States, this wedding veil holds generations of family and world history. Rachel is keeping the traditions of her family, and their story, alive.
Treasured Garment Restoration was able to fully restore the wedding veil back to a bright white for Rachel’s upcoming wedding. Visit TreasuredGarmentRestoration.Com to learn more about restoration and preservation services available.