The tale of a family who escaped Nazis and a tea cannister that bears proof to all

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In the Bronx home of Guta and Mayer Rak, this tin canister used to hold Swee Touch Nee tea. Image source: Sabina Rak Neugebauer
  • A canister from the time of holocaust was retained by Rak couple.
  • It contained gold that the couple hid for financial crisis
  • Their grand daughter came up with the idea of getting her engagement ring made from the gold in canister

Discovery at Auschwitz led to a mug that concealed a ring and necklace that was painstakingly hidden from the Nazis for 70 long years but the sad part is that the museum couldn’t identify the owner.

Following the story, a reader, Sabina mailed soon and wrote that she wanted to share a story of similar object. “But in this case, I know a lot about the people the object belonged to” she said. Very soon, a story of Sabina’s grandparents and their tea canister popped up, according to the NPR report.

The canister was rusty, having size similar to a coffee can. It contained bags of Swee Touch Nee tea that had differentiated, sweet and floral smell. The tea was hallmarked in the home of Guta and Mayer. Sabina’s mother, Eda Rak commemorates her parents drinking the tea in large glass cups and held a sugar cube between their teeth.

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Before World War II, Mayer Rak worked as a writer, but years later, he worked in the garment industry in the Bronx. And switching between these two professions, he and his wife spent years escaping the Nazis and Soviets. All their lives, they used the canister without elucidating its story until one day, they disclosed the story to their daughter.

Guta and Mayer Rak with their daughter, Eda, in 1947. Eda was born in Lodz, Poland, when the Raks briefly returned to their home country after the end of World War II. Image source: Courtesy Sabina Rak Neugebauer
Guta and Mayer Rak with their daughter, Eda, in 1947. Eda was born in Lodz, Poland, when the Raks briefly returned to their home country after the end of World War II. Image source: Courtesy Sabina Rak Neugebauer

The story dated back to 1939 in Warsaw, capital of Poland where the Raks lived. That very September, Nazis invaded Poland. So the Jewish couple-the Arks were frightened about the holocaust. “Aware of what was to come, they took whatever small pieces of jewelry they had” said Eda. “They went to a local tinsmith and asked him to hide the metals in the lip of the container by melting them.”

The smith forged the jewelry and gave it back to the Raks. The tin travelled east with them and later to Soviet Union, where the Raks were arrested in the view of being spies.

They carried it to labor camps in Siberia, where they were forced to cut timber there as told by Sabina. After they were released from the refuge camp in 1942, they took a road to south and reached Tashkent that lies in modern Uzbekistan. The canister followed them there too. “At the end of the war, they fled Russia just ahead of the secret police, and went west back to Poland hoping to be reunited with their family, the canister still with them,” Sabina wrote. The Arks returned to Warsaw to learn that their whole family was wiped out and all their relatives were dead. The Raks had to travel to Sweden and then to New York as they had nothing left in Poland.

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Although the canister covered fathoms with them, they never felt a need to open up the canister. They never inquired if the gold was actually melted and put in by the tinsmith. There could have been a possibility that the smith might have pocketed the jewelry. “They were immensely proud,” Eda says, “that through all these peregrinations they never needed to find out if they had been cheated or not.”

“At their death, that was my inheritance,” 70-year-old Eda says. And she said she was never interested in knowing what was inside the canister. The thing inside canister remained a mystery until an idea popped up in Sabina’s head. She and her fiance, Marcio Siwi, are abot to get married later this month. She expressed a desire to her mother if she and her fiancé could get their wedding rings made out of the gold inside the canister.

The can contained enough gold to be made into two rings for Sabina and her fiancé
The can contained enough gold to be made into two rings for Sabina and her fiancé. Image Courtesy: npr.org

The matter wasn’t about gold or lead present; it was about the history that the metal has lived, said Sabina. The object allegories a great amount of pain and resilience, that had to be incurred to the next generation so as to let the emotions survive. Eda wasn’t sure at first. “What was in the tea canister … wasn’t what was valuable,” she says. “It was the fact that it was their companion through all their travels. How is that possible, that you can be locked up in a slave labor camp and still hold onto this little piece of tin?”

But after being convinced by Sabina’s thought, Eda finally agreed to the idea and took the can to a local jeweler, Harmeet Singh. The jeweler readily agreed and took the challenge. As an experienced jeweler, he could feel the metal being tucked away under the lip but couldn’t identify it well.

In order to retain the shape of can, he made a special bent tool to reach inside the container and he hen heated the container slowly.

“Things started to loosen up,” Singh says. Afterwards, he was able to pull out three curves of metal that had distinctive luster of gold. “It was an amazing moment,” Sabina says. “It was so powerful, because it meant even in this incredible moment of vulnerability, the jeweler in Poland, the tinsmith, really stuck to his word.”The gold was held in place with lead solder and Singh expressed astonishment as bonding gold, tin and lead like that is not an easy task.

Singh melted down the metal and came to know that it was 18-karat rose gold ,a kind that was very much prevalent in most of Eastern Europe.

The amount of gold it had were enough to make rings for Sabina and her fiance, Albeit, more of gold left over can be used by Sabina’s younger sister if she wants it.

But Eda prefers to keep the tin forever. It’s still a symbol of her parents’ resilience and their resistance to pain.

“It was just so thrilling that there was goodness in the world,” Eda says.

-by Shruti Pandey, an intern at Newsgram.Twitter: Shruti Pandey

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  • devika todi

    such tales of survival fill me with so much of inspiration!

  • AJ Krish

    The hope despite all the odds.The gold that they never needed.Now,he history behind the ring is a tale to be told.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Survival tales have always fascinated me. The one where Mr Sugihara saved 40,000 lives is another inspirational story

Next Story

Jewelery Will See a Faster Recovery: Sachin Jain

Jewellery Sector may be at an advantage during this time believes Sachin Jain

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'"I don't believe luxury is recession proof, but since diamonds hold a meaningfulness of genuine love and promise, the jewellery sector may be at an advantage during this time" said Sachin Jain. Pixabay

By IANSlife Features

“In this crisis, there is a stage of impact to revival. Currently we are in the impact stage which we are working towards sustenance. By the second half of the year, we will be in a stage of revival and slowly move towards recovering business,” states Sachin Jain, President of Forevermark India.

Jain, is a passionate business driver whose clarity of vision has carried various companies through rapid and abiding growth. With a career spanning 17 years at luxury goods and retail companies, he effortlessly juggles between multiple responsibilities whilst spearheading the business affairs of the brand.

IANSlife caught up with the “entrepreneur at heart” at STIMULUS 2020.

Read Excerpts:

Q Luxury is said to be recession proof, do you think the economic slowdown will affect jewellery, especially the diamond segment?

Jain: We are currently in a very unique situation where different consumers are impacted in a variety of ways. There is a certain set of consumers who are not economically affected at all during this time. I don’t believe luxury is recession proof, but since diamonds hold a meaningfulness of genuine love and promise, the jewellery sector may be at an advantage during this time. All sectors may take time to recover in this economic situation but with the strong value a diamond holds, jewellery will see a faster recovery.

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Kalki Koechlin flaunts exquisite diamond jewelry by Forevermark. Wikimedia Commons

Q. Forevermark has many different collections catering to different needs; do you think post the lockdown we will witness desperate buying like in China?

Jain: In China the consumption patterns are very different. It is a high consumption market where saving is close to negative. Economically India is very different where there is no crazy consumption. For Indian consumers, saving is very important. This lockdown has taught people to be resilient just like a diamond. Post lockdown, consumers will be conservative in their spending patterns. I believe brands that are sustainable and who hold a true meaning in one’s life will survive.

Q. The wedding season might be one of the worst hit, do you feel when it comes to jewellery for weddings in India people will continue to spend as they did pre-COVID-19?

Jain: There are two segments of wedding shoppers, one the Bridal & Trousseau customers who will continue to purchase jewellery based on traditional sentiments but simplicity and classic products will be sought after which hold a feeling of gratitude. Opulence during this time will be avoided.

The second set of consumers in this category is the ones who purchase for celebratory reasons and may hold back due to the current situation.

Q. Prices for gold have seen an all time high, can we expect to see the curve flattening in this case too?

Jain: Gold prices are a function of the global economic situation. In the past we have seen that in a fragile economy, gold tends to be much stronger.

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“Gold prices are a function of the global economic situation. In the past we have seen that in a fragile economy, gold tends to be much stronger”, says Sachin Jain. Pixabay

Q. Most brands are focusing on digital marketing during this period of lockdown; does the brand plan to take forward any customer engagement initiatives?

Jain: We believe in staying connected to our consumers through the digital space through simple messaging reflecting the current scenario. We also have taken some of our offline events like Diamond master classes online to our consumers through Instagram and other platforms which resulted in very positive responses from the participants.

Q. Forevermark retails through established jewellery partners, does this help cushion the impact of COVID-19 crisis on the brand, considering you don’t have overheads like rentals and retail stores?

Jain: We work very closely with our partners. While the business model may be different, we share our partner retailer costs. We have a deep rooted relationship with our partners and will help them bring back the customers once things settle.

Q. Brand ambassadors and social media influencers a thing of the past in the post COVID-19 era?

Jain: The concept of brand ambassadors has been diluting over the years as influencers endorse various products. We, at Forevermark feel that the qualities of a diamond represent itself well enough and therefore is the true ambassador for its category.

Read More: “COVID-19 Crisis has Taught us That Everything Needs to be Digitized”, Says Entrepreneur Stuti Jalan

Q. Lastly as a brand what measures will you be take to ensure things go back to normal, or will it be a new normal for Forevermark?

Jain: In this crisis, there is a stage of impact to revival. Currently we are in the �impact’ stage which we are working towards sustenance. By the second half of the year, we will be in a stage of revival and slowly move towards recovering business.

STIMULUS 2020 was a one of kind webinar encompassing 70 speakers across 14 panel discussions. Organised by The Global Luxury Group, Crosshairs Communications (PR Partner) & WIN (Women Inspiring Network – Content Partner), it is designed to cut through the volume of rhetoric and despair surrounding the current COVID-19 scenario, which has declared the market slow-moving or outright stagnant. The aim being to connect with strategists, business owners and executives in order to canvas possibilities and new ideas in media, luxury, lifestyle, leadership and other industries. (IANS)

Next Story

OnePlus Lays Off Several Workers in Europe With Due Course To its “Restructuring Plans”

According to OnePlus, the changes has nothing to do with the pandemic, but as the company raced towards premium 5G smartphones, carriers like O2 and EE discontinued their partnerships with the brand in the UK

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OnePlus
The Chinese smartphone maker said that it has decided to make some changes to the current organisational structure within Europe to better streamline its operations while continuing to meet the needs of its growing community. Wikimedia Commons

Chinese company OnePlus that launched flagships OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro this week has laid off several workers in Europe as part of its ‘restructuring plans.

The smartphone manufacturer said it is making organisational changes in some existing markets, specifically Germany, France and the UK, adding that “it is doing everything it can to support the approximately 20 total employees in these three markets who will be affected by this restructuring, including offering redundancy packages per local regulations.

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The Chinese smartphone maker said that it has decided to make some changes to the current organisational structure within Europe to better streamline its operations while continuing to meet the needs of its growing community. “These changes only apply to Europe, which remains a key region for OnePlus where we are committed to bringing the best products and services to users as we have done since day one,” the company said in a statement on Saturday.

OnePlus
Chinese company OnePlus that launched flagships OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro this week has laid off several workers in Europe as part of its ‘restructuring plans. Wikimedia Commons

“As part of our strategy, we are looking to capitalise on opportunities in the Nordic region and Benelux by hiring for new positions, relocating some existing European staff and further enhancing our capabilities in these strategic markets,” the company added. However, the teams in Denmark, Finland, Netherlands and Belgium appear to be unaffected, as these are the markets where OnePlus apparently sees most potential.

According to OnePlus, the changes has nothing to do with the pandemic, but as the company raced towards premium 5G smartphones, carriers like O2 and EE discontinued their partnerships with the brand in the UK. Ben Wood, Chief Analyst at CCS Insight, said that “OnePlus has fallen into the trap of over-promising and under-delivering”.

ALSO READ: Video Meeting App “Zoom” Aims To Expand as Indian Company

The company is struggling hard to maintain relationships with carriers in Europe. (IANS)

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Police in Spain Distributes Masks to Commuters

Police in Spain Hand Out Millions of Masks to Commuters

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Spain COVID-19
A member of Civil Protection gives out free protective face masks outside a food store during a lockdown amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Ronda, southern Spain. VOA

Police in Spain handed out millions of masks to commuters Monday as the country started to ease its tough coronavirus lockdown, allowing some businesses to reopen.

Construction and manufacturing businesses were allowed to reopen, while retail businesses remained closed and office workers were encouraged to keep doing their jobs from home.

Spain COVID-19
Commuters wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus at Atocha train station in Madrid, Spain. VOA

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Transportation officials said that they were limiting the number of riders on trains and buses and passengers were spaced one meter apart.

Also Read- Definition of Pure Vegetarian Diet For Hindus

Spain’s Health Ministry reports, as of Monday, the cumulative death toll from the coronavirus rose to 17,489, up 517 from 16,972 on Sunday. Total confirmed cases reached 169,496, up from 166,019 the previous day. (VOA)