The Auschwitz cap
Elie Dawang holds a carefully preserved prisoner’s cap that was given to his father upon his arrival at Auschwitz (occupied Poland). A symbol of his father’s life in the camps, the hat also represents the many hardships his family endured. Elie and his father were the only survivors. When Elie was reunited with his father in the fall of 1945, his father told him of his experiences and the circumstances under which he received his cap. Elie later shared this story with his own children.
Listen to the cap’s story
This is what my dad wore when he was deported to the camps, Auschwitz, Warsaw, and
Dachau. When he got to Auschwitz, he was given a convict’s uniform with these striped clothes,
etc. And one of those things he was given to wear was his hat and he kept it. And I remember
very well when Dad came back to Paris in May 1945, a little later he told me his whole story.
What it was like, his experience in the camps. And then he showed me his hat.
To me it’s something, it’s almost a sacred object, to me it represents everything that happened
during the war. With my mom, who was also deported in February 1943, she did not come back.
And also the rest of my family. Dad did some research after the war to find out if any of his
family survived the Holocaust and found no one. So for me, this is something that represents all
the tragedy, everything that happened during the war. At the same time, I was a hidden child
and it’s lucky that I am still alive and that I can tell you this story.
When my dad died in 1990, my wife and I, Berta, we cleaned, we cleaned his apartment, where
he lived and in one of the drawers, I don’t remember if it was in one of the drawers or in a
cupboard, we found this hat, which of course, we have, I kept preciously. And when later,
hopefully much later, I’m not here anymore, it’s going to be my kids, my son[s] Howard and
Steven who will decide what to do with this hat. They told me they wanted to keep it. They
knew their grandfather of course, and for them it is a very important object. It’s one thing in the
family that we will keep for the rest of our lives.