Belgian Collections in Figures 2022

Four years ago, I began researching the origin of decorated flour sacks in WWI.

In the Textile Research Centre (TRC) in Leiden, the Netherlands, my fascination originated as it allowed me to discover the existence of these sacks. It led to research questions, “Where in Belgium could I view embroidered flour sacks; which museums and public collections preserve WWI flour sacks?”

The Flanders’ List of Masterpieces includes nine flour sacks, eight in public ownership (In Flanders Fields Museum collection) and one in private ownership. In 2016, the motivation for safeguarding this cultural heritage was, “This is one of the few material witnesses of food aid during World War I as there are few such embroidered flour sacks in public collections in our country.”

Many flour sacks passed through my hands: In Flanders Fields Museum, 2019. Photos: Marc Dejonckheere

By now I have tracked down hundreds of decorated flour sacks. I have held many in my hands, I photographed them and processed their details in my “Register of WWI Flour Sacks”. A year and a half ago, in the blog “Belgian Collections in Figures 2020”, I reported on 235 registered flour sacks. Now I count 310 flour sacks in the register, an increase of over 30%.

Time for an update: this blog presents the key figures of the Belgian collections as of January 2022.
Are you interested in a particular section? Then please use the links to my dozens of previous stories on decorated flour sacks for more information.

Belgian public and private collections


17 public and 25 private collections collectively contain 310 WWI flour sacks, with 196 sacks (63%) in the public collections [1] and 114 sacks (37%) in the private collections.

Bag of flour sack “Belgian Relief Flour”, 1915. Belgian private collection

Original and decorated flour sacks
Original/unprocessed flour sacks are emptied flour sacks, which remained as they were, cotton sacks with original printing of colored letters, logos, pictorial marks and stamps.

Decorated flour sacks are the emptied flour sacks that have been transformed in Belgium into cushion covers, wall ornaments, runners, pouches, bags, tea hats, aprons, dresses, jackets, or pants.


In the Belgian collections, 130 (42%) flour sacks are original/unprocessed and 180 (58%) are decorated.

The distribution of original and decorated flour sacks in the public and private collections, respectively, shows considerable differences.
In absolute numbers the distribution is as follows:


Original flour sacks
The public collections contain the largest part (87%) of the original/unprocessed flour sacks, while 13% of the original flour sacks are in private hands.

Isabella and Paul Errera. Photo: internet

A 100 original flour sacks are kept in three museums: the Royal Art & History Museum (RAHM) in Brussels preserves 54 of these flour sacks, collected during the Great War by textile expert and collector Mrs. Isabella Errera.
The WHI/Royal Army Museum has several dozen original flour sacks in its collection.
Musée de la Vie wallonne (MVW) in Liège preserves the educational series of the Welsch collection: 12 original/unprocessed and 12 decorated flour sacks with the same print in each pair.
Both RAHM and MVW seem to have consciously collected original flour sacks. Material and original printing were the reasons for preservation. Monsieur Welsch defined the printings as embroidery patterns. Madame Errera captured used materials of cotton and jute, printing techniques, colors and logo designs from overseas.

Flour sack “Yellowstone”, worked (embroidered) and original, 1915, donation Welsch. Coll. Musée de la Vie wallonne

Decorated flour sacks
46% of the decorated flour sacks are in public ownership and 54% in private ownership.
Throughout Belgium, many households have acquired and preserved one or more flour sacks as family heirlooms through grandparents or other family members. Knowledge and awareness of the history of the Belgian WWI flour sacks allows continued and increasing recognition of the country’s national heritage.

Flour sack “Sperry Mills, American Indian”, embroidered. Coll. and photo: Belgian private collection

Active private collectors visit flee markets, garage sales, thrift and brocante stores, local and online auctions through which several collectors have built up wonderful flour sack collections.
The transfer of decorated flour sacks from private owners to public collections takes place in small steps.

Young Belgian embroiderers of flour sacks in Mons. Photo collection of the Musée de la Vie wallonne

The crafts
Painting and embroidery were the main techniques used to decorate the flour sacks: 60 sacks were painted, 145 sacks were embroidered. Several sacks underwent both, they were first painted, then embroidered.

In public collections, 24% of the flour sacks are painted (by artists such as Godefroid Devreese, Armand Rassenfosse and Henri Thomas) and 76% are embroidered.

Armand Rassenfosse, Nu (Nude), 1915. Photo: Belgian private collection

In private collections, 32% of the flour sacks are painted (e.g., the painted flour sacks in Dendermonde) and 62% are embroidered.

The origin of the flour sacks

Pictorial trademark of the decorated flour sack “Portland”, Oregon, USA. Coll. and photo: Mons Memorial Museum

The countries of origin of the flour sacks are the United States and Canada. The original printing on the flour sacks provides this information.

Several decorated flour sacks lack the indication of origin because the original print was cut away in Belgium when flour sacks were transformed into wall hangings, tablecloths and table runners, bags, etc. They are included in the category “Unknown”.

Some (decorated) sacks are mistakenly labeled as “Belgian relief flour sacks”, they are not original “American” flour sacks. This is also the case for some embroideries made by Belgian prisoners of war. This is the category “Belgium”.


83% of the flour sacks have as their origin the USA, 11% are from Canada and of 3% the origin is unknown.

Conclusion
Thanks to the cooperation and help of many people, I was able to collect the data of 310 American/ Belgian Relief flour sacks preserved in Belgium.
I expect that hundreds more sacks will have been preserved by Belgian families. They are well hidden in cupboards, attics, cellars, sometimes forgotten…

Sacks are full of memories. Every sack houses a fragile and precious story.

Many thanks to Georgina Kuipers, Jason Raats, Florianne van Kempen and Tamara Raats. With their expert advice and work I have created my “Register of WWI Flour Sacks”.
Thanks to Georgina Kuipers for her attentive corrections to the English translations of my blogs.

[1] On my website under “Museums” the numbers of decorated flour sacks in Belgian collections are different for two reasons:
– a few publicly accessible institutions display flour sacks from private collections;
– I discovered the collection of 62 flour sacks of MAS Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerp after writing this blog.

Belgische collecties in cijfers 2022

Vier jaar geleden startte ik het onderzoek naar de ontstaansgeschiedenis van de versierde meelzakken in WO I.

Het Textile Research Centre (TRC) in Leiden, Nederland, ontvouwde voor mij het bestaan van de zakken. Het leidde tot research vragen: “Waar in België zou ik geborduurde meelzakken kunnen bekijken; welke musea en openbare collecties bewaren meelzakken?”
De Vlaamse Topstukkenlijst bevat negen meelzakken, acht in publiek bezit (in collectie In Flanders Fields Museum) en een in privébezit. In 2016 was de motivatie voor het veiligstellen van dit cultureel erfgoed: ‘Het gaat om één van de weinige materiële getuigen van de voedselhulp tijdens Wereldoorlog I daar er weinig dergelijke geborduurde bloemzakken in publieke collecties in ons land te vinden zijn.’

Vele meelzakken gingen door mijn handen: In Flanders Fields Museum, 2019. Foto’s: Marc Dejonckheere

Inmiddels heb ik honderden versierde meelzakken opgespoord. Vele heb ik in handen gehad en gefotografeerd, hun gegevens verwerkt in mijn ‘Register van Meelzakken WO I’. Anderhalf jaar geleden rapporteerde ik in het blog ‘Belgische collecties in cijfers 2020’, over 235 geregistreerde meelzakken. Nu tel ik in het register 310 meelzakken, een toename van ruim 30%.
Tijd voor een update: dit blog presenteert de kerncijfers van de Belgische collecties in januari 2022.
Ben je geïnteresseerd in een bepaald onderdeel? Laat je dan leiden via de links naar mijn tientallen eerdere verhalen over de versierde meelzakken.

Belgische publieke en privécollecties versierde meelzakken WO I

17 publieke en 25 privécollecties bevatten gezamenlijk 310 meelzakken, waarvan 196 zakken (63%) in de publieke collecties [1] en 114 zakken (37%) in de privécollecties.

Tasje van meelzak ‘Belgian Relief Flour’, 1915. Belgische particuliere collectie

Onbewerkte en bewerkte meelzakken
Onbewerkte meelzakken zijn geleegde meelzakken, die bleven zoals ze waren,katoenen zakken met originele bedrukking van gekleurde letters, logo’s, beeldmerken en stempels.

Bewerkte meelzakken zijn de geleegde meelzakken die in België zijn getransformeerd tot kussenhoes, wandversiering, loper, etui, tas, theemuts, schort, jurkje, jas, broek.

In de Belgische collecties zijn 130 (42%) meelzakken onbewerkt en 180 (58%) bewerkt.

De verdeling van onbewerkte en bewerkte meelzakken in de publieke, respectievelijk de particuliere collecties, levert aanmerkelijke verschillen op.
In absolute aantallen is de verdeling:

Onbewerkte meelzakken
De publieke collecties bevatten met 87% het overgrote deel van de onbewerkte meelzakken, 13% van de onbewerkte meelzakken is in privébezit.

Isabella en Paul Errera. Foto: internet

100 onbewerkte meelzakken bevinden zich in drie musea: KMKG/MRAH in Brussel bewaart 54 onbewerkte meelzakken, verzameld tijdens de Groote Oorlog door textielkenner en verzamelaar Isabella Errera.
Het WHI/Koninklijk Legermuseum heeft enkele tientallen onbewerkte meelzakken in de collectie.
Musée de la Vie wallonne in Luik kent de educatieve serie meelzakken van Welsch: 12 originele/onbewerkte en 12 bewerkte meelzakken met per tweetal dezelfde bedrukking.

In KMKG/MRAH en Musée de la Vie wallonne is dus sprake van bewuste collectie-vorming van onbewerkte meelzakken. Materiaal en originele bedrukking zijn de redenen geweest voor bewaring. Madame Errera legde gebruikte materialen van katoen en jute, druktechnieken, kleuren en logo ontwerpen van overzee vast. Monsieur Welsch definieerde de bedrukkingen als borduurpatronen.

Meelzak ‘Yellowstone’, bewerkt (geborduurd) en onbewerkt, 1915, schenking Welsch. Coll. Musée de la Vie wallonne

Bewerkte meelzakken
Van de bewerkte meelzakken is 46% in publiek bezit en 54% in privébezit.
Doorheen België zijn in vele huishoudens door overlevering van grootouders/familie een of enkele meelzakken verkregen en bewaard gebleven als familie-erfgoed. Kennis van versierde meelzakken in WO I maakt herkenning van het erfgoed mogelijk.

Meelzak ‘Sperry Mills, American Indian’, geborduurd. Foto: Belgische particuliere collectie

Actieve verzamelaars bezoeken markten, kringloop- en brocante winkels, lokale en online veilingen en hebben op deze wijze prachtige verzamelingen opgebouwd.
De overdracht van versierde meelzakken door particulieren aan een museum of historische kring vindt druppelsgewijze plaats.

Belgische borduursters van meelzakken in Bergen. Fotocollectie Musée de la Vie wallonne

De bewerkingen
Schilderen en borduren waren de belangrijkste bewerkingen waarmee de meelzakken zijn versierd: 60 zakken zijn beschilderd, 145 zakken zijn geborduurd. Een aantal zakken heeft beide bewerkingen ondergaan, ze zijn eerst beschilderd, daarna geborduurd.

In publieke collecties is 24% van de meelzakken beschilderd (door kunstenaars als Godefroid Devreese, Armand Rassenfosse en Henri Thomas) en 76% geborduurd.

Armand Rassenfosse, Nu (Naakt), 1915. Foto: Belgische particuliere collectie

In privécollecties is 32% van de meelzakken beschilderd (bijvoorbeeld de beschilderde meelzakken in Dendermonde) en 62% geborduurd.

De herkomst van de meelzakken

Beeldmerk van de versierde meelzak ‘Portland’, Oregon, VS. Coll.: Mons Memorial Museum

De landen van origine van de meelzakken zijn de Verenigde Staten en Canada. De originele bedrukkingen op de meelzakken bieden de informatie.
Op een aantal bewerkte meelzakken ontbreekt de herkomstaanduiding, omdat de originele print is weggeknipt bij de transformatie van meelzakken in België tot wandkleed, loper, tasje, etc. Ze zijn opgenomen in de categorie ‘Onbekend’.
De categorie met herkomst ‘België’ zijn zakken die abusievelijk als ‘Amerikaanse meelzakken’ worden bestempeld, maar hun oorsprong niet als meelzak hebben. In de categorie ‘België’ vallen ook enkele borduurwerken die door Belgische krijgsgevangenen zijn gemaakt.

83% van de meelzakken heeft als herkomst de VS, 11% is afkomstig uit Canada en van 3% is de herkomst onbekend.

Conclusie
Dankzij de bewustwording en medewerking van velen zijn in vier jaar tijd de gegevens van 310 versierde meelzakken in WO I in België bij elkaar gebracht.

Ik verwacht dat er nóg honderden zakken door Belgische families bewaard zullen zijn. Ze liggen goed opgeborgen in de kast, op zolder, in de kelder, soms misschien vergeten…

Zakken zijn vol herinneringen.
Iedere zak koestert een kostbaar en kwetsbaar verhaal.

 

Mijn grote dank aan Georgina Kuipers, Jason Raats, Florianne van Kempen en Tamara Raats. Met hun deskundig advies én werk is het Register Meelzakken WO I tot stand gekomen en in gebruik genomen.

 

[1] De pagina ‘Musea’  toont iets andere cijfers van versierde meelzakken in Belgische collecties dan beschreven in dit blog.  Het verschil is te verklaren doordat:
– een aantal voor publiek toegankelijke instanties meelzakken tonen uit privé-collecties;
– ik een collectie van 62 meelzakken ontdekte in MAS Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerpen na het samenstellen van dit blog.

The watercolored comic on an Idaho flour sack in Liège

Nelly Sasserath, a student at the Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle in Liège, painted and embroidered an Idaho flour sack to transform it into a tablecloth.
In this blog, I will tell the impressive life story of Nelly and her family.

Nelly Sasserath, tablecloth made from flour sack “Record Flour”, Farmers Elev. & Milling Co., Rexburg, Idaho, painted, embroidered, lace, 1915. Coll. MVW
Nelly Sasserath, tablecloth made from flour sack “Record Flour”, 1915. Coll. MVW no. 5058638

I saw the tablecloth in the collection of Musée de la Vie Wallonne in Liège (MVW); it was part of the donation from the Welsch family.
Please see my blog Musée de la Vie wallonne’s Educational Collection, Liège.

Together with Nadine de Rassenfosse, in charge of the museum depot, I admired the fine watercolor drawings, set in a carousel on the cotton canvas.

Original flour sack “Record Flour”, Farmers Elev. & Milling Co., Rexburg, Idaho, 1915. Coll. MVW

The flour sack “Record Flour” originated in Rexburg, Idaho at the Farmers Elev. & Milling Co.; presumably it arrived in Liège with American food relief in late April, early May 1915. After the sacks of flour were emptied at the bakeries, a series of sacks were transferred to the Ecole Moyenne.

Nelly chose to cut a square from the flour sack with the print as the center. In the four corners she painted a watercolor.

In a comic strip of four paintings, she tells her story about the food relief:

– In the field: two farmers plow their field, one farmer guides the draft horse, the other leads the plow; they will sow the field with wheat, after the harvest the wheat will go to the mill.

 

 

– In the field: a woman readies her donkey; the miller makes a deep bend to load a sack of flour on the animal’s back.

 

 


– In the bakery: the ovens are burning, the baker’s wife is kneading the dough in a trough, the baker -with bare torso- chases away three startled black mice with his peel.

 

– In front of the house: a girl bites into her sandwich, another child is being handed a sandwich by her mother, while their cat looks on expectantly!

 

 

 

When the watercolors had been finished, Nelly added the embroidery: she embroidered the brand name Record and the circle of the logo in the Belgian colors red, yellow, black.

 

 

 

Finally, she added a lace decorative border at the edges of the cloth. The total size is 20 by 19 inches (52 by 50 cm).

 

 

 

Painting and drawing class Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle, Liège, February 1915. At this school, many students and classes worked on decorating empty flour sacks. Photo: coll. HHPLM

Alfred Sasserath
Nelly’s father was Alfred Sasserath (ºLiège 1869.05.19 – +Wilrijk 1945.04.11). He was the youngest in a family of five children: Salomon (º1860), Rosalie (º1861), Charles (º1864†), Maurice (º1866) and Alfred.

La Meuse, October 11, 1890

As a very young, hard-working dentist in Liege, Alfred regularly advertised his practice in the newspaper La Meuse. Already at the age of twenty he began doing so, established as “M. Alfred Sasserath, chirurgien-dentiste, Quai d’Université 7 in Liège”. On October 11, 1890, he “informed his venerable clients that he had returned from vacation and resumed his practice!

La Meuse, April 25, 1891

A few months later, he warned the public against the misuse of his name, by people who pretended to be dentists without proper schooling.

Les Degrés de St.-Pierre, Liège, where Alfred Sasserath practiced dentistry. Postcard, circa 1911; website: liege-belle-epoque.wifeo.com
La Meuse, May 2, 1892

By May 2, 1892, he had established his practice at Place Saint-Pierre no. 2 in Liège, near the Palace.

 

“Dentistry”, La Meuse, October 8, 1902

In 1902, his practice was located at no. 6. The newspaper La Meuse praised his dentistry.

 

 

 

 

 


Betty Dürhenheimer
Nelly’s mother was Betty Dührenheimer (ºNeidenstein, Germany 1869.06.20 – +Liège 1910.11.21). Betty and Alfred probably married in Germany. They had two daughters: Nelly Henriette (ºLiège 1897.10.08) and Lucienne Berthe (ºLiège 1902.04.01).

There was a great sense of grief when Mother Betty died at the age of 41; Nelly was only thirteen years old, Lucienne was eight.

La Meuse, November 23, 1910

“Madame Sasserath was a charming young woman, she was gifted, with the best qualities of heart and mind. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her”. (La Meuse, November 23, 1910)

La Meuse, April 16, 1912

In April 1912, Grandpa Dührenheimer (+Liège 1912.04.14), Betty’s father, died.

 

 


Louise Van Hamberg
Alfred Sasserath remarried a year later to Louise Van Hamberg in Antwerp. The ties to Antwerp were present through Alfred’s brother Maurice Moritz (ºLiège 1866.10.25 – +Antwerp 1913.06.08), he had settled in Antwerp as a dentist; his children were daughters Yvonne (ºAntwerp 1901.02.06 – +Auschwitz 1942.09.04) and Reine (ºAntwerp 1903.07.18) and son Ernest (ºAntwerp 1904.09.10), thus peers of Nelly and Lucienne.

Alfred’s second wife was Louise Ludovica Charlotta Van Hamberg (ºAntwerp 1874.07.05 – +Liège 1925.07.13). Louise was the eldest in a family of six children; she had three sisters Charlotta (º1876), Rosalia (º1877), Marianne (º1880) and two brothers Maurice (º1879) and the Benjamin of the family, Louis (º1889). The Van Hamberg family was originally from Amsterdam. Grandfather Mozes Van Hamberg was based there as a leather merchant.

The marriage took place on 1913.06.24 in Berchem.
The celebration had a tinge of grief: Alfred’s brother Maurice had died a few days earlier at the age of 46.
Nelly was 15 years old and would have been a pupil at the Ecole Moyenne in Liège. A year later, war broke out; on August 4, 1914, Liège was in the middle of the firing line.

Food relief, watercolored comic by Nelly Sasserath on Idaho flour sack, 1915. Coll. MVW

Nelly Sasserath
The arrival of Louise, her stepmother, in Liège and the contacts with the Van Hamberg family in Antwerp must have meant a lot to Nelly and her sister Lucienne. This I infer from the choice of Nelly’s marriage partner.

Charitable donation of 110 francs for war invalids at the wedding of Nelly Sasserath and Louis Van Hamberg. La Meuse, January 21, 1920

She married Louis Benjamin Van Hamberg (ºAntwerp 1889.09.26 – +Antwerp 1931.01.27), Louise’s youngest brother, over a year after the Armistice; he had been a war volunteer. The marriage took place on January 15, 1920, in Liège.

Markgravelei 140, Antwerp, current situation streetview Google Maps

Together they had three children: daughters Betty Hélène Louise (ºBerchem 1921.08.20), Claudine Claire Nelly (ºBerchem 1923.06.26) and son Lucien Alfred Isidor (ºAntwerp 1925.04.04). Nelly’s family Van Hamberg lived at the address Markgravelei 140, Antwerp.

A few months after Lucien’s birth the family again bore witness to great sadness: Louise, Nelly’s stepmother, sister of Louis and second wife of Alfred Sasserath, died, a week after her 51st birthday.

Lucienne Sasserath
Lucienne Sasserath followed her sister to Antwerp. She married the engineer Alexander Stein (ºBogopole, Russia 1892.10.01) in Liège in 1924. They had two children: daughter Jeanine-Betty-Tatiana (ºAntwerp 1925.07.05) and son Robert-Joseph-Alfred (ºAntwerp 1929.03.31).
Jeanine was thus born in Antwerp on the birthday of her step-grandmother Louise, a week before she was to die in Liège. Robert was born a day before his mother’s birthday, turning 27. Lucienne’s Stein family lived at 297 Lange Leemstraat in Antwerp.

Nelly Van Hamberg-Sasserath

De Nieuwe Gazet, January 30, 1931

Fate struck once more. After a short illness, Nelly’s husband Louis Van Hamberg died. He was 41 years old and was buried in the family plot at Schoonselhof Cemetery in Antwerp. Nelly was left behind, widowed with her daughters aged nine and seven and her son aged five.

Charlottalei 34, Antwerp, current situation streetview Google Maps

She remarried in Antwerp in May 1936 to Edouard Frenkel (ºTilburg, NL, 1894.05.31; he was a sales representative. (Betty’s Swiss pen pal (see below) described him: “Ihr Vater war ein angesehener Geschäftsmann im Schiffsbau auf den Werften der Hafenstadt”. (“Her father was a respected shipbuilding businessman in the port city’s shipyards” )).

Nelly’s family Frenkel-Van Hamberg lived at 34 Charlottalei in Antwerp.

Daughter Claudine attended the school Athenée Communale pour Jeunes Filles as a teenager. In 1939 she made a school trip to Liège and the newly opened Albert Canal. In the photo book of Henny Moëd, a former classmate, she is in the group photo at the bottom right.

Claudine Van Hamberg on a school trip, 1939; photo book “Just a Jewish Girl. A Pictorial Family Album of Pre-World War II”. Antwerp, Belgium by Henny Moëd, p. 24; (collections.ushmm.org)

Sas-Frenel Family
After the outbreak of the Second World War, the threat of deportation became ever greater for Jewish families. Nelly’s family went into hiding; perhaps her father Alfred went with them.

They took refuge in Château de Bassines near Méan in the late summer of 1942. The estate was home to the Ecole Nouvelle des Ardennes, a boarding school where Lucien Van Hamberg would be educated.

Betty and Claudine were 21 and 19 years old, they may have helped teaching the youngest at school.

Château de Bassines near Méan (dossier-bassines.nl)

Nico Hamme, a Dutch Jewish boy, also spent a year, from September 1942 to October 15, 1943, at the boarding school:
“At our boarding school there were boys and girls, from 5 to 18 years old, in a primary and a kind of secondary school. In total there were about 60 people: pupils, teachers, and other staff. The school was in a sort of Renaissance-style palace called “Château de Bassines”. It was located amidst vast forests, near the village of Méan, in the region of “Condroz”.
The director of the school was Eugène Cougnet. Château de Bassines offered a hospitable home to the persecuted since the beginning of the war. It housed 40 Jewish people in hiding. Of the remaining 20, some also had to hide; either they were in the resistance, or they had to go to Germany to work, etc.
People who had the money paid, others did not. The adults made themselves useful by working. They became teachers, cooks, bakers, or tilled the vegetable garden. The baker, for example, was an economist from Austria, [1] and by the way, he baked delicious bread. There was plenty of food; the school was in an agricultural area near a large farm. The atmosphere was pleasant, the education excellent and the surroundings beautiful. I think back to those days with pleasure.” (dossier-bassines.nl)

Cougnet Family
The school was run by founder and director Eugène Cougnet (ºLedeberg 1891.01.16 – +Nordhausen/Bergen-Belsen, March 1945). Cougnet married Joséphine Fouarge (ºRocourt 1890.08.22 – +Kalmthout 1935.02.10) in 1915. They had three sons, Pierre (ºRocourt 1917.12.18 – +Libramont 2009.09.22), André (ºLiège 192 1 – 1997, see below) and Jean-Pierre (ºGhent 1927.01.07 – +Liège 2007.01.18) [2].

“Eugène Cougnet was an educator and a teacher who devoted his entire life, not only to young people but to anyone in difficulty who called on him. This was especially the case during the occupation.” [3] (dossier-bassines.nl)

Inquiries of the City of Antwerp about registration in the Register of Jews of Lucien Van Hamberg. Letter November 16, 1942; photo from: André Dessaint, Glanages a Méan

The threat of discovery was constant. The Registry Office of the City of Antwerp inquired about Lucien Van Hamberg on November 16, 1942, with the Mayor of Méan concerning his registration card of the Jewish Register. However, the municipality of Méan did not cooperate with such inquiries.

The art teacher at the school was Klaus Grünewald [4] (pseudonym Maurice Torfs). He made sketches of the castle’s daily life.

Listening to Radio London in Château de Bassines (dossier-bassines.nl)

Nico Hamme noted on this drawing:
“An animated conversation in the large salon. One sees the antique-style chairs, the paintings, and the high windows. The people are easy to recognize, on the sofa from left to right Mr. Cougnet, Mrs. Van Liefferinge, Mr. Sas (real name Sasserath?). On the seats from left to right Mr. Brancard (correct name Brancart), teacher of classical languages, Mr. Frenel (real name Frenkel) from Rotterdam and Mr. Pappy (correct name Georges Papy), teacher of mathematics. Mrs. Frenel, (not in this photo) was called Von Hamburg (real name Van Hamberg) and was a widow but Mr. Frenel was now her husband or partner. She had a son, Lucien, and two daughters. The entire Frenel family was deported to Auschwitz.”
(dossier-bassines.nl)

Conversation in the salon at Château de Bassines (dossier-bassines.nl)

Deportation
The people in hiding at Château de Bassines were betrayed.
On Monday October 25, 1943, the gardes wallonnes surrounded the castle. German soldiers invaded and interrogated everyone present. Every person they could identify as Jewish was captured and taken away in trucks.
Nelly’s family disappeared.

In the Belgisch Staatsblad/Moniteur belge under no. 16735 on July 15, 1949, the judicial declaration of death appeared for seven people, presumed dead at Auschwitz on January 17, 1944, resp. presumed dead at Monowitz in early January 1945:
Stein, Alexander, 51 years old
Sasserath, Lucienne-Berthe, 41 years old
Stein, Jeanine, 18 years old
Stein, Robert, 14 years old
Frenkel, Edouard, 49 years old
Sasserath Nelly-Henriette, 46 years old
Van Hamberg, Lucien, 19 years old.

Belgisch Staatsblad/Moniteur belge, July 15, 1949

 The archivist of Dossin Barracks in Malines explains what happened:
“Nelly was registered with her second husband Edouard Frenkel and her three children from her first marriage – Betti Van Hamberg (°1921/08/20, Antwerp), Claudine Van Hamberg (°1926/06/26, Antwerp) and Lucien Van Hamberg (°1925/04/04) – at the Dossin Barracks on November 17, 1943. For some time, they had been living in hiding under the name of Freney at the Château Bassines in Méan. During a raid on the castle on October 25, 1943, the Jews hiding there were arrested. They were held in the citadel of Huy and the prison of Liège before being taken to the Dossin Barracks in Malines. The real names of Nelly and the children were added to the deportation list of Transport XXIII under numbers 504 to 507. An application was made to the Secretariat of Queen Elisabeth to obtain a release of the family, but without result. The train left the Dossin Barracks on January 15, 1944 and arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 17, 1944. What exactly happened to Nelly and Edouard is not known to us. Son Lucien was selected as a laborer. The number 172335 was tattooed on his arm. However, he did not survive. Daughters Betti and Claudine were selected as laborers. They survived Auschwitz; they returned to Belgium.” (email message Dorien Styven, Dossin Barracks, Malines, Belgium, October 2021)

Nelly Henriette Frenkel, born Sasserath is listed in the virtual monument “Gerechte der Pflege” (Righteous of Care) (hriesop.beepworld.de)

Nelly Henriette Frenkel, born Sasserath, is listed in the virtual monument Gerechte der Pflege (Righteous of Care).  I infer from this that she was a nurse.

The family of Lucienne Stein, née Sasserath
The Dossin Barracks tell the story of the deportation of Lucienne Stein-Sasserath, her husband Alexander Stein and their children. A new owner of their house at 297 Lange Leemstraat in Antwerp, discovered a hidden container including 26 documents underneath the floor in 2013.

Portrait Lucienne Berthe Stein-Sasserath, sister of Nelly. The Image Bank of Dossin Barracks contains more than 20,000 portraits of deportees; there are no photos of Nelly Sasserath and her family, their names are listed on the transport lists; website: kazernedossin.eu

“Alexandre Stein was born in Elizabethgrad (suburb Bogopol, Russia) in 1892. He migrated to Belgium in 1910 to study at the university of Liège (Lüttich) to become an engineer. In 1914, Alexandre, as a Russian citizen, served as a paramedic with a Belgian ambulance. He then joined a German ambulance crew, supposedly to spy for the allies, and was subsequently arrested by the German military. Alexandre Stein was sent to Chartreuse and was later on deported to the internment camp in Munster (Germany). In 1920 he was able to return to Belgium from Wolfenbüttel. Belgian immigration authorities distrusted him due to his reputation as a Bolshevik adept in Liège (Lüttich) before the First World War. When presenting himself at the immigration authorities in April 1920, Alexandre Stein was arrested for illegally crossing the Belgian border. In May 1920 he was allowed to settle in Belgium again, where he finished his engineering studies.

Lange Leemstraat 297, Antwerp, actual situation streetview Google Maps

He married the Belgian national Lucienne Berthe Sasserath in Liège (Lüttich) in 1924. The couple moved to Antwerp where their first child, Jeannine Betty Tatiana Stein, was born in 1925. In 1927, Alexandre Stein himself became a Belgian citizen. A son, Robert Joseph Albert Stein, was born in Antwerp in 1929. From 1930, the Stein family lived at Lange Leemstraat 297 in Antwerp. Alexandre Stein, his wife and both children were arrested there in the night of 3 on 4 September 1943 when the Nazis organized Aktion Iltis, arresting hundreds of Jews whose Belgian nationality had protected them until then. The complete family was deported via transport XXII B from the Dossin barracks on 20 September 1943. None of the family members survived.

Archival: 26 documents were discovered in 2013 in a tube hidden beneath a double floor in the attic of the former Stein family home at Lange Leemstraat 297, Antwerp, by the current owner Ann Verhaert.”(beeldbank.kazernedossin.eu)

Betty and Claudine Van Hamberg
Betty and Claudine’s experiences in captivity were recorded by Betty’s Swiss pen pal, Ellen Keckeis-Tobler of Küsnacht, Zürich, Switzerland. Betty and Ellen wrote each other letters in the French language since 1937. In 1938 Betty came to Küsnacht on holidays, it was a carefree time. With the outbreak of war, the correspondence was disrupted, and Ellen no longer received replies to her letters.

Ellen Keckeis-Tobler, “Meine Freundin Betty aus Antwerpen (My friend Betty from Antwerp)” in: Küesnachter-Jahrheft, 1996, p. 86 (ortsgeschichte-kuesnacht.ch)

Until 1945, when Betty wrote a letter that she and her entire family had been deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. The parents and grandparents were separated from the children and murdered in the gas chambers. Betty, Claudine, and Lucien were employed as young workers. Betty and Claudine worked over 12 hours a day in a German weapons factory but managed to hold out. Lucien had to work in Monowitz until he died of pneumonia and malnutrition.

Ellen Keckeis-Tobler, “Meine Freundin Betty aus Antwerpen” in: Küesnachter-Jahrheft, 1996, p. 87 (ortsgeschichte-kuesnacht.ch)

Betty and Claudine visited Küsnacht shortly after the war. They told their stories; they showed the number branded into their forearms. Betty had become thin and pale. Betty spoke most about the horror of the journey home on foot from Auschwitz to Antwerp. “Once again, the sisters had to experience the horrors of men. For the victorious Russian army, which had conquered the area from Poland to far in East Germany, also behaved shamelessly! The Soviet soldiers “plucked” young and old women from the streets wherever they could be found. Despite their emaciated bodies and dirty clothes, they took Betty and Claudine by force and raped them in the open. . . Thank God, without consequence, Betty said. For after so much hunger and effort, the girls’ menstruation had long since been disrupted or stopped. Their weak bodies had become infertile.
So, the girls decided to hide and sleep in haystacks during the day and walk further west at night. Far from civilization, they found peasant women, without husbands or sons, taking care of the fields and their remaining livestock. They were kind to the two girls and, when food was available, gave them the meals they needed to survive. Thank God it was summer after the war ended in May 1945; therefore, they did not have to freeze to death.” (ortsgeschichte-kuesnacht.ch)

Ellen concludes with the marriages of her friends: “Betty hat in Belgien ihren christlichen Jugendfreund wieder gefunden. Die beiden haben geheiratet und wurden Eltern von zwei gesunden Kindern. Auch Claudine hat eine Familie. Sie haben gelernt, vorwärts zu schauen. Ihre Lagernummern an den Armen haben sie nach einiger Zeit wegoperieren lassen.”
(“Betty found her Christian childhood friend in Belgium. The two married and had two healthy children. Claudine also has a family. They have learned to look ahead. They had their camp numbers on their arms removed after some time.”) (ortsgeschichte-kuesnacht.ch)

Photo of André Cougnet at Château de Bassines, circa 1942 (dossier-bassines.nl)

It was during their year in hiding at Château de Bassines that the sisters met their future life partners.

Claudine married André Auguste Paul Jozef (Pous) Cougnet (ºLiege 1921.02.23 – +1997.02.27), the second son of Eugène Cougnet.

 

 

 

Raoul Brancart, a teacher of classical languages at the Ecole Nouvelle d’Ardennes in Château de Bassines, became Betty’s husband after the war (ortsgeschichte-kuesnacht.ch)

The legacy of Nelly Sasserath
Betty married Raoul Eugène Aurélien Ghislain Brancart (ºBraine-le-Comte 1921.01.15). He was a teacher of classical languages in Bassines and a contemporary of Betty. They had two daughters.

These daughters also married and had daughters.
“We had no idea that our (great) grandmother was an artist! Mother spoke of her as a wonderful woman and a very talented singer, but she probably knew nothing about these flour sacks. It was a shock to become aware of so many aspects of Nelly”.

Nelly Sasserath’s signature to her watercolored comic strip, 1915. Coll. MVW; photo: author

Thus, Nelly Sasserath stands in the lineage of generations of women.
Her decorated flour sack invited us to find out and document her life story. So that our daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters will know the origin of this special flour sack and know the impressive life story of the Liège student Nelly Sasserath, who as a seventeen-year-old drew the comic strip in watercolor at the Idaho flour sack.

Nelly Sasserath, back of flour sack tablecloth “Record Flour”, painted, embroidered, lace, 1915. Coll. MVW

 

Many thanks:
– Hubert Bovens in Wilsele, Belgium, for the searches of biographical data, and his extensive search for many of my sources. Sharing the sad life story of Nelly Sasserath has deeply affected both of us.
Please note that new questions continue to arise. For example, we did not find a photo of Nelly Sasserath, nor photos of her family(s). If we find more information, it will be added to this blog.
– Dorien Styven, Dossin Barracks, Malines, Belgium, for her information on the Sasserath/Van Hamberg/Stein family;
– André Dessaint in Méan, Belgium, for his information on Château de Bassines;
– Nadine de Rassenfosse, Musée de la Vie Wallonne in Liège, Belgium, for showing the museum’s flour sack collection.
– Georgina Kuipers for her attentive corrections to the English translations of my blogs.

Footnotes:
[1] The economist from Austria was Kurt Pick. The story of his life in WWII is described in Jennifer Henderson’s book, Against All Odds: the Story of Kurt Pick, London, Radcliffe Press, 1998.

[2] We did not find descendants of Eugene Cougnet’s sons.

[3] Quote from George Liefferinge in letter January 7, 1982, to Yad Vashem, for a recognition as Righteous Among the Nations for Eugene Cougnet.

[4] Drawings and paintings by the artist Klaus Grünewald are preserved in the collection of the Jewish Museum of Belgium, Brussels.
His sister Margot Grünewald, later married to Massey, also stayed at Château de Bassines; she published the book Spring into Winter: A Novel, Ann Arbor, MI: Wyman House Publications, 1994, about her life in WWII.

Sources:
Dessaint, André, Glanages a Méan. Histoire(s) d’un village condrusien. Troisième partie. Special 1940-1945. Méan: 2019.

Hamme, Nico, website: Un Hollandais, caché en Belgique (A Dutchman, hidden in Belgium). 1995/2008. (www.dossier-bassines.nl) consulted in December 2021. This website is not available anymore in March 2022.
George Liefferinge provided the images of drawings by Klaus Grünewald for the website; he sent photos to Nico Hamme. There is said to be a small book of all the Bassines sketches by Klaus Grünewald in the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels. When asked, the curator of the museum informed me on 2021.12.16 that unfortunately he cannot find any trace of the book of drawings. Hopefully the book will be found.

Pauwels, Ivo, Huts, Karine, Wat mijn kleinzoon weten moet. Hoe een joodse jongen onderdook in België (What my grandson needs to know. How a Jewish boy went into hiding in Belgium) (1939-1945). Tielt, Belgium, Uitgeverij Lannoo, 2017. This romanticized chronicle tells the colored life story of the Jewish boy Georges Kluger from Austria including his experiences at Château de Bassines.

Brouwers, Fred, De Koninginnewedstrijd. Gesprekken met 18 Elisabethlaureaten (The Queen’s Competition. Conversations with 18 Elisabeth laureates). BRT, 1987.

Keckeis-Tobler, Ellen, Meine Freundin Betty aus Antwerpen in: Küesnachter-Jahrheft, 1996 (website: www.ortsgeschichte-kuesnacht.ch, consulted in December 2021)

Moëd, Henny, Just a Jewish Girl. A Pictoral Family Album of Pre-World War II. Antwerp, Belgium. Los Angeles, California: Jans Custom Photobooks, 2011. (website: collections.ushmm.org, consulted in December 2021)

Het stripverhaal op de Idaho-meelzak in Luik

Nelly Sasserath, leerlinge van de Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle in Luik, beschilderde en borduurde een Idaho-meelzak en transformeerde de zak tot tafelkleedje. In dit blog vertel ik het indrukwekkende levensverhaal van Nelly en haar familie.

Nelly Sasserath, tafelkleedje van meelzak ‘Record Flour’, Farmers Elev. & Milling Co., Rexburg, Idaho, beschilderd, geborduurd, kantwerk, 1915. Coll. MVW
Nelly Sasserath, tafelkleedje van meelzak ‘Record Flour’, 1915. Coll. MVW nr. 5058638

Ik zag het tafelkleedje in de collectie van Musée de la Vie Wallonne in Luik (MVW); het maakte deel uit van de schenking van de familie Welsch. Zie mijn blog ‘De educatieve collectie van Musée de la Vie wallonne, Luik’.
Samen met Nadine de Rassenfosse, verantwoordelijke voor het museumdepot, bewonderde ik de fijne aquareltekeningen, die in een carrousel op het katoenen doek zijn gezet.

Onbewerkte meelzak ‘Record Flour’, Farmers Elev. & Milling Co., Rexburg, Idaho, 1915. Coll. MVW

De meelzak ‘Record Flour’ vindt zijn oorsprong in Rexburg, Idaho bij de maalderij Farmers Elev. & Milling Co.; vermoedelijk is deze eind april, begin mei, 1915 met de Amerikaanse voedselhulp in Luik aangekomen. Nadat de zakken met meel geleegd waren bij de bakkers, is een reeks zakken overgebracht naar de Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle.

Nelly heeft ervoor gekozen om uit de zak een vierkant te knippen met de bedrukking als centrum. In de vier hoeken schilderde ze een aquarel.
In een stripverhaal van vier schilderijtjes vertelt ze over de voedselhulp:

– In het veld: twee boeren ploegen hun akker, een boer drijft het paard op, de ander leidt de ploeg; ze zullen de akker inzaaien met graan, na de oogst gaat de tarwe naar de maalderij.

 

 

– In het veld: een vrouw staat gereed met haar ezel, de molenaar buigt zich diep voorover om een zak meel op de rug van het dier te laden;

 

 

– In de bakkerij: de ovens branden, de bakkersvrouw kneedt het deeg in een trog, de bakker -met ontbloot bovenlijf- jaagt met zijn plank drie geschrokken, zwarte muizen weg;

 

– Voor het huis: een meisje hapt in haar boterham, een ander kind krijgt een boterham door moeder aangereikt, terwijl de kat des huizes vol verwachting toekijkt!

 

 

Toen de aquarellen klaar waren, voegde Nelly het borduursel toe: ze borduurde de merknaam Record en de cirkel van het logo in de Belgische kleuren rood, geel, zwart.

 

 

 

Tenslotte zette ze een kanten sierrand rondom het kleedje. Het totale formaat is 52 bij 50 cm.

 

 

 

Schilder- en tekenklas Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle, Luik, februari 1915. Op deze school is met veel studenten en klassen gewerkt aan het decoreren van lege meelzakken. Foto: coll. HHPLM

Alfred Sasserath
Alfred Sasserath (ºLuik 19.05.1869 – +Wilrijk 11.04.1945) was de vader van Nelly. Hij werd geboren als jongste in een gezin van vijf kinderen (Salomon (º1860), Rosalie (º1861), Charles (º1864†), Maurice (º1866) en Alfred).

La Meuse, 11 oktober 1890

Als piepjonge, hardwerkende tandarts in Luik adverteerde Alfred met regelmaat voor zijn praktijk in de krant La Meuse. Reeds op twintigjarige leeftijd begon hij daarmee, gevestigd als ‘M. Alfred Sasserath, chirurgien-dentiste, Quai d’Université 7 in Luik’. Op 11 oktober 1890 liet hij ‘zijn eerwaarde cliënten weten dat hij van vakantie is teruggekeerd en zijn praktijk heeft hervat!

La Meuse, 25 april 1891

Een paar maanden later waarschuwde hij het publiek voor misbruik van zijn naam, door mensen die zich, zonder diploma,  voordeden  als tandarts.

Les Degrés de St.-Pierre, Luik, waar Alfred Sasserath zijn tandheelkundepraktijk uitoefende. Postkaart, circa 1911; website: liege-belle-epoque.wifeo.com
La Meuse, 2 mei 1892

Op 2 mei 1892 had hij zijn praktijk gevestigd op Place Saint-Pierre no. 2 in Luik, vlak bij het Paleis.

 

‘Tandheelkunde’, La Meuse, 8 oktober 1902

In 1902 was zijn praktijk gevestigd op no. 6 en roemde La Meuse zijn tandheelkunde.

 

 

 

 

 


Betty Dürhenheimer
Betty Dührenheimer (ºNeidenstein, Duitsland 20.06.1869 – +Luik 21.11.1910) was de moeder van Nelly. Waarschijnlijk trouwden Betty en Alfred in Duitsland. Ze kregen twee dochters: ‘Nelly’ Henriette (ºLuik 08.10.1897) en ‘Lucienne’ Berthe (ºLuik 01.04.1902).

Groot was het verdriet toen moeder Betty overleed op 41-jarige leeftijd; Nelly was pas dertien jaar, Lucienne acht jaar.

La Meuse, 23 november 1910

Mevrouw Sasserath was een charmante jonge vrouw, zij was begaafd, met de beste kwaliteiten van hart en geest. Ze zal enorm worden gemist door iedereen die haar kende’. (La Meuse, 23 november 1910)

La Meuse, 16 april 1912

In april 1912 overleed Opa Dührenheimer (+Luik 14.04.1912), de vader van Betty.

 

 


Louise Van Hamberg
Alfred Sasserath hertrouwde een jaar later met Louise Van Hamberg in Antwerpen. Banden met Antwerpen waren er via Alfred’s broer ‘Maurice’ Moritz (ºLuik 25.10.1866 –  +Antwerpen 08.06.1913), hij had zich gevestigd in Antwerpen, hij was tandmeester; zijn kinderen waren dochters Yvonne (ºAntwerpen 06.02.1901 – +Auschwitz 04.09.1942) en Reine (ºAntwerpen 18.07.1903) en zoon Ernest (ºAntwerpen 10.09.1904),  dus leeftijdgenoten van Nelly en Lucienne.
Alfred’s tweede vrouw was ‘Louise’ Ludovica Charlotta Van Hamberg (ºAntwerpen 05.07.1874 – +Luik 13.07.1925). Louise was de oudste uit een gezin van zes kinderen; ze had drie zussen Charlotta (º1876), Rosalia (º1877), Marianne (º1880) en twee broers Maurice (º1879) en de nakomer, Louis (º1889). De familie Van Hamberg kwam oorspronkelijk uit Amsterdam, grootvader Mozes Van Hamberg was daar gevestigd als koopman in leer.
Het huwelijk vond plaats op 24.06.1913 in Berchem.
Verdriet was er ook: Alfred’s broer Maurice was enkele dagen eerder op 46-jarige leeftijd overleden.

Nelly was 15 jaar en zal reeds leerlinge zijn geweest op de Ecole Moyenne in Luik. Een jaar later brak de oorlog uit; op 4 augustus 1914 lag Luik midden in de vuurlinie.

‘De voedselhulp’, stripverhaal van Nelly Sasserath op Idaho-meelzak, 1915. Coll. MVW

Nelly Sasserath
De komst van Louise, haar stiefmoeder, naar Luik en de contacten met de familie Van Hamberg in Antwerpen zullen veel voor Nelly en haar zus Lucienne hebben betekend. Dit maak ik op uit de keuze van Nelly’s huwelijkspartner.

Liefdadigheidsgift van 110 francs voor oorlogsinvaliden bij het huwelijk van Nelly Sasserath en Louis Van Hamberg. La Meuse, 21 januari 1920

Ze trouwde met ‘Louis’ Benjamin Van Hamberg (ºAntwerpen 26.09.1889 – +Antwerpen 27.01.1931), de jongste broer van Louise, ruim een jaar na de Wapenstilstand; hij was oorlogsvrijwilliger geweest. Het huwelijk vond plaats op 15 januari 1920 in Luik.

Markgravelei 140, Antwerpen, actuele situatie streetview Google Maps

Samen kregen ze drie kinderen: de dochters ‘Betty’ Hélène Louise (ºBerchem 20.08.1921), ‘Claudine’ Claire Nelly (ºBerchem 26.06.1923) en zoon ‘Lucien’ Alfred Isidor (ºAntwerpen 04.04.1925).
Nelly’s gezin Van Hamberg woonde op het adres Markgravelei 140, Antwerpen.

Enkele maanden na de geboorte van Lucien was er opnieuw groot verdriet in de familie: Louise, stiefmoeder van Nelly, zus van Louis en tweede vrouw van Alfred Sasserath, overleed, een week na haar 51ste verjaardag.

Lucienne Sasserath
Lucienne Sasserath volgde haar zus naar Antwerpen. Ze trouwde in 1924 in Luik met de ingenieur Alexander Stein (ºBogopole, Rusland 01.10.1892). Zij kregen twee kinderen: dochter Jeanine-Betty-Tatiana (ºAntwerpen 05.07.1925) en zoon Robert-Joseph-Alfred (ºAntwerpen 31.03.1929).
Jeanine werd dus in Antwerpen geboren op de verjaardag van haar stief-oma Louise, een week voor deze zou sterven in Luik.
Robert werd geboren een dag voordat zijn moeder jarig was en 27 werd.
Lucienne’s gezin Stein woonde in de Lange Leemstraat 297 te Antwerpen.

Nelly Van Hamberg-Sasserath

De Nieuwe Gazet, 30 januari 1931

Het noodlot sloeg wederom toe. Na een kort ziekbed overleed Nelly’s echtgenoot Louis Van Hamberg. Hij was 41 jaar en werd begraven in het familiegraf op de Antwerpse begraafplaats Schoonselhof. Nelly bleef achter met haar dochters van negen en zeven en haar zoon van vijf jaar oud.

Charlottalei 34, Antwerpen, actuele situatie streetview Google Maps

Ze hertrouwde in Antwerpen in mei 1936 met Edouard Frenkel (ºTilburg, NL, 31.05.1894; hij was handelsvertegenwoordiger. (Betty’s Zwitserse penvriendin (zie hieronder) beschreef hem: ‘Ihr Vater war ein angesehener Geschäftsmann im Schiffsbau auf den Werften der Hafenstadt ‘)
Nelly’s gezin Frenkel-Van Hamberg woonde in de Charlottalei 34 te Antwerpen.

Dochter Claudine zat als tiener op de school Athenée Communale pour Jeunes Filles. In 1939 maakte zij een schoolreis naar Luik en het net geopende Albertkanaal. In het fotoboek van Henny Moëd, een oud-klasgenote, zit ze op de groepsfoto rechts onderaan.

Claudine Van Hamberg op schoolreis, 1939; fotoboek ‘Just a Jewish Girl. A Pictoral Family Album of Pre-World War II. Antwerp, Belgium’ van Henny Moëd, p. 24. (collections.ushmm.org)

Familie Sas-Frenel
Na het uitbreken van de Tweede Wereldoorlog werd de dreiging van deportatie voor de Joodse families steeds groter. Het gezin van Nelly dook onder; misschien ging vader Alfred met hen mee.

Zij huisvestten zich in de nazomer van 1942 in Château de Bassines bij Méan. Op het landgoed was de ‘Ecole Nouvelle des Ardennes’ gevestigd, een kostschool waar Lucien Van Hamberg onderwijs kon volgen.

Betty en Claudine waren 21 resp. 19 jaar en zullen misschien hebben geholpen op school bij de lessen aan de kleinsten.

Château de Bassines bij Méan (dossier-bassines.nl)

Nico Hamme, een Hollandse joodse jongen, heeft ook een jaar, van september 1942 tot 15 oktober 1943, op de kostschool gezeten:
“Op onze kostschool zaten jongens en meisjes, van 5 tot 18 jaar, op een lagere en een soort middelbare school. In totaal waren er ongeveer 60 mensen; leerlingen, leraren en verder personeel. De school was gevestigd in een soort paleisje in renaissance-stijl “Château de Bassines” geheten. Het lag te midden van uitgestrekte bossen, bij het dorpje Méan, in de landstreek “Condroz”.
De directeur van de school was Eugène Cougnet. Château de Bassines bood sinds het begin van de oorlog een gastvrij tehuis aan de vervolgden. Er verbleven 40 Joodse onderduikers. Van de overige 20 personen moest ook een aantal zich schuilhouden; of zij zaten in het verzet, of ze moesten naar Duitsland om te werken, etc.

Mensen die geld hadden betaalden, anderen niet. De volwassenen maakten zich nuttig door te werken. Ze werden leraar, kok, bakker of bewerkten de moestuin. De bakker b.v. was een econoom uit Oostenrijk. [1] Hij bakte trouwens heerlijk brood. Eten was er volop; de school lag in een agrarisch gebied vlak bij een grote boerderij. De sfeer was er prettig, het onderwijs prima en de omgeving prachtig. Met plezier denk ik terug aan die tijd.” (dossier-bassines.nl)

Familie Cougnet
De school werd geleid door oprichter en directeur Eugène Cougnet (ºLedeberg 16.01.1891 – +Nordhausen/Bergen-Belsen, maart 1945). Cougnet trouwde in 1915 met Joséphine Fouarge (ºRocourt 22.08.1890 – +Kalmthout 10.02.1935). Zij kregen drie zoons, Pierre (ºRocourt 18.12.1917 – +Libramont 22.09.2009), André (ºLuik, 1921 – 1997) en Jean-Pierre (ºGent 07.01.1927 – +Luik 18.01.2007) [2].

“Eugène Cougnet was een pedagoog en een leraar die zijn hele leven heeft gewijd, niet alleen aan jongeren maar aan iedereen in moeilijkheden die op hem een beroep deed. Dit was vooral het geval tijdens de bezetting” [3]
(dossier-bassines.nl)

Stad Antwerpen informeert naar registratie in het Jodenregister van Lucien Van Hamberg. Brief 16 november 1942; foto uit: André Dessaint, Glanages a Méan

Dreiging van ontdekking was er voortdurend. De burgerlijke stand van Stad Antwerpen deed op 16 november 1942 navraag naar Lucien Van Hamberg bij de burgemeester van Méan inzake zijn registratiekaart van het Joods register. De gemeente Méan werkte echter niet mee aan zulke aanvragen.

De tekenleraar op de school was Klaus Grünewald[4] (schuilnaam Maurice Torfs). Hij maakte schetsen van het dagelijks leven in het kasteel.

Luisteren naar Radio Londen in Château de Bassines;  (dossier-bassines.nl)

Nico Hamme noteerde bij een tekening:
“Een geanimeerd gesprek in de grote salon. Men ziet de stoelen in antieke stijl, de schilderijen en de hoge vensters. De personen zijn goed te herkennen, op de bank v.l.n.r. meneer Cougnet, mevrouw van Liefferinge, meneer Sas (echte naam Sasserath?). Op de stoelen v.l.n.r. meneer Brancard (correcte naam Brancart), leraar klassieke talen, meneer Frenel (echte naam Frenkel) uit Rotterdam en meneer Pappy (correcte naam Georges Papy), leraar wiskunde. Mevrouw Frenel, (niet op deze foto) heette Von Hamburg  (echte naam Van Hamberg) en was weduwe maar meneer Frenel was nu haar man of partner. Ze had een zoon, Lucien, en twee dochters. De hele familie Frenel is gedeporteerd naar Auschwitz.” (dossier-bassines.nl)

Gesprek in de salon in Château de Bassines (dossier-bassines.nl)

Deportatie
De onderduikers op Château de Bassines werden verraden.
Maandag 25 oktober 1943 omsingelden de ‘gardes wallonnes’ het kasteel. Duitse militairen vielen binnen en ondervroegen alle aanwezigen. Ieder persoon die zij als Joods konden identificeren werd gevangengenomen en afgevoerd in vrachtwagens.
Het gezin van Nelly verdween.

In het Belgisch Staatsblad/Moniteur belge verscheen onder n. 16735 op 15 juli 1949 de gerechtelijke verklaring van overlijden van zeven personen, vermoedelijk overleden te Auschwitz op 17 januari 1944, resp. vermoedelijk overleden te Monowitz in begin januari 1945:

Stein, Alexander, 51 jaar
Sasserath, Lucienne-Berthe, 41 jaar
Stein, Jeanine, 18 jaar
Stein, Robert, 14 jaar
Frenkel, Edouard, 49 jaar
Sasserath Nelly-Henriette, 46 jaar
Van Hamberg, Lucien, 19 jaar.

Belgisch Staatsblad, 15 juli 1949

 De archiviste van Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen licht toe wat er is gebeurd:
“Nelly werd samen met haar tweede echtgenoot Edouard Frenkel en haar drie kinderen uit haar eerste huwelijk – Betti Van Hamberg (°20/08/1921, Antwerpen), Claudine Van Hamberg (°26/06/1926, Antwerpen) en Lucien Van Hamberg (°04/04/1925) – in de Dossinkazerne geregistreerd op 17 november 1943. Zij leefden al enige tijd ondergedoken onder de naam Freney op het kasteel van Bassines in Méan. Tijdens een razzia in het kasteel op 25 oktober 1943 werden de daar ondergedoken Joden opgepakt. Ze werden vastgehouden in de citadel van Huy en de gevangenis van Luik voordat ze naar Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen werden gebracht. De echte namen van Nelly en de kinderen werden hier onder de nummers 504 tot 507 toegevoegd aan de deportatielijst van Transport XXIII. Er werd een aanvraag ingediend bij het secretariaat van Koningin Elisabeth om een vrijlating van het gezin te bekomen, maar zonder resultaat. De trein verliet de Dossinkazerne op 15 januari 1944 en kwam op 17 januari 1944 in Auschwitz-Birkenau aan. Wat er precies met Nelly en Edouard gebeurde, is ons niet bekend. Zoon Lucien werd als arbeider geselecteerd. Het nummer 172335 werd op zijn arm getatoeëerd. Hij overleefde echter niet. Dochters Betti en Claudine werden als arbeiders gekozen. Ze overleefden Auschwitz; zij keerden naar België terug.” (mailbericht Dorien Styven, Kazerne Dossin, oktober 2021)

Nelly Henriette Frenkel, geb. Sasserath. Vermelding in virtueel monument ‘Gerechte der Pflege’

Nelly Henriette Frenkel, geboren Sasserath, staat opgenomen in het virtuele monument ‘Gerechte der Pflege’ (‘Rechtvaardigen van de Zorg’).  Ik maak hieruit op dat zij verpleegster is geweest.

Het gezin van Lucienne Stein, née Sasserath
Kazerne Dossin vertelt ook het verhaal van de deportatie van Lucienne Stein-Sasserath, haar man Alexander Stein en hun kinderen. Een nieuwe eigenaar van het huis in Lange Leemstraat 297 in Antwerpen, ontdekte in 2013 onder de vloer een verborgen koker met 26 documenten.

Portret Lucienne Berthe Stein-Sasserath, zus van Nelly. De Beeldbank van Kazerne Dossin bevat meer dan 20.000 portretten van gedeporteerden; foto’s van Nelly Sasserath en haar gezin zijn er niet, hun namen staan vermeld op de transportlijsten. (kazernedossin.eu)

“Alexandre Stein was born in Elizabethgrad (suburb Bogopol, Russia) in 1892. He migrated to Belgium in 1910 to study at the university of Liège (Lüttich) to become an engineer. In 1914, Alexandre, as a Russian citizen, served as a paramedic with a Belgian ambulance. He then joined a German ambulance crew, supposedly to spy for the allies, and was subsequently arrested by the German military. Alexandre Stein was sent to Chartreuse and was later on deported to the internment camp in Munster (Germany). In 1920 he was able to return to Belgium from Wolfenbüttel. Belgian immigration authorities distrusted him due to his reputation as a Bolshevik adept in Liège (Lüttich) before the First World War. When presenting himself at the immigration authorities in April 1920, Alexandre Stein was arrested for illegally crossing the Belgian border. In May 1920 he was allowed to settle in Belgium again, where he finished his engineering studies.

Lange Leemstraat 297, Antwerpen, actuele situatie streetview Google Maps

He married the Belgian national Lucienne Berthe Sasserath in Liège (Lüttich) in 1924. The couple moved to Antwerp where their first child, Jeannine Betty Tatiana Stein, was born in 1925. In 1927, Alexandre Stein himself became a Belgian citizen. A son, Robert Joseph Albert Stein, was born in Antwerp in 1929. From 1930, the Stein family lived at Lange Leemstraat 297 in Antwerp. Alexandre Stein, his wife and both children were arrested there in the night of 3 on 4 September 1943 when the Nazis organized Aktion Iltis, arresting hundreds of Jews whose Belgian nationality had protected them until then. The complete family was deported via transport XXII B from the Dossin barracks on 20 September 1943. None of the family members survived.

Archival: 26 documents were discovered in 2013 in a tube hidden beneath a double floor in the attic of the former Stein family home at Lange Leemstraat 297, Antwerp, by the current owner Ann Verhaert.” (beeldbank.kazernedossin.eu)

Betty en Claudine Van Hamberg
Wat Betty en Claudine hebben moeten doormaken in gevangenschap is opgeschreven door de Zwitserse penvriendin van Betty, Ellen Keckeis-Tobler uit Küsnacht, ZH. Betty en Ellen schreven elkaar Franse brieven sinds 1937. In 1938 kwam Betty op vakantie naar Küsnacht, het was een onbezorgde tijd. Met het uitbreken van de oorlog werd de correspondentie verstoord en kreeg Ellen geen antwoord meer op haar brieven.

Ellen Keckeis-Tobler, ‘Meine Freundin Betty aus Antwerpen’ in: Küesnachter-Jahrheft, 1996, p. 86. (ortsgeschichte-kuesnacht.ch)

Tot in 1945 Betty een brief schreef dat zij met haar gehele familie naar het concentratiekamp Auschwitz in Polen gedeporteerd was. De ouders en grootouders werden van de kinderen gescheiden en in de gaskamers vermoord. Betty, Claudine en Lucien werden als jonge arbeidskrachten ingezet. Betty en Claudine werkten meer dan 12 uur per dag in een Duitse wapenfabriek, maar wisten het vol te houden. Lucien moest werken in Monowitz tot hij aan een longontsteking en ondervoeding overleed.

Ellen Keckeis-Tobler, ‘Meine Freundin Betty aus Antwerpen’ in: Küesnachter-Jahrheft, 1996, p. 87. (ortsgeschichte-kuesnacht.ch)

Betty en Claudine zijn kort na de oorlog op bezoek geweest in Küsnacht. Zij vertelden hun verhalen; ze toonden het nummer dat gebrandmerkt stond in hun onderarm. Betty was mager en bleek geworden.
Betty sprak het meest over de horror van de terugtocht te voet van Auschwitz naar Antwerpen.“Wederom moesten de zussen ervaren dat het beest in de mens zit. Want ook het zegevierende Russische leger, dat het gebied van Polen tot ver in Oost-Duitsland had ingenomen, gedroeg zich schaamteloos! De Sovjet soldaten “plukten” jonge en oude vrouwen van de straat, waar ze maar te vinden waren. Ondanks hun uitgemergelde lichamen en vuile kleren, namen ze Betty en Claudine met geweld mee en verkrachtten hen in de open lucht. . . Godzijdank, zonder gevolgen, zei Betty. Want met zoveel honger en inspanning was de menstruatie van de meisjes allang ontregeld of opgehouden. Hun zwakke lichamen waren onvruchtbaar geworden.
Dus besloten de meisjes zich overdag in hooibergen te verstoppen en te slapen om ’s nachts verder naar het westen te lopen. Ver van de bewoonde wereld vonden ze boerinnen, die zonder mannen of zonen, voor de akkers en het hen resterende vee zorgden. Ze waren vriendelijk voor de twee meisjes en gaven hen, wanneer er voedsel was, de nodige maaltijden om te overleven. Godzijdank was het zomer na het einde van de oorlog in mei 1945; daarom hoefden ze niet dood te vriezen.” (
ortsgeschichte-kuesnacht.ch)

Ellen besluit met de huwelijken van haar vriendinnen:
Betty hat in Belgien ihren christlichen Jugendfreund wieder gefunden. Die beiden haben geheiratet und wurden Eltern von zwei gesunden Kindern. Auch Claudine hat eine Familie. Sie haben gelernt, vorwärts zu schauen.
Ihre Lagernummern an den Armen haben sie nach einiger Zeit wegoperieren lassen. (ortsgeschichte-kuesnacht.ch)

Foto van André Cougnet op het kasteel van Bassines, rond 1942. (dossier-bassines.nl)

Het was tijdens het onderduikjaar op het kasteel van Bassines dat de zussen hun toekomstige levenspartners hebben ontmoet.

Claudine trouwde met ‘André’ Auguste Paul Jozef (Pous) Cougnet (ºLuik 23.02.1921- +27.02.1997), de tweede zoon van Eugène Cougnet.

 

 

 

Raoul Brancart, leraar klassieke talen op de Ecole Nouvelle d’Ardennes in Château de Bassines, werd na de oorlog de echtgenoot van Betty. (ortsgeschichte-kuesnacht.ch)

Het erfgoed van Nelly Sasserath
Betty trouwde met ‘Raoul’ Eugène Aurélien Ghislain Brancart (ºBraine-le-Comte 15.01.1921). Hij was de leraar klassieke talen in Bassines en leeftijdsgenoot van Betty. Zij kregen twee dochters.

Ook deze dochters huwden en kregen dochters.
“We hadden geen idee dat onze (over)grootmoeder een kunstenares was! Moeder sprak over haar als een geweldige vrouw en een zeer getalenteerde zangeres, maar ze wist waarschijnlijk niets van deze meelzakken. Het was een schok bewust te worden van zoveel aspecten van Nelly”.

De handtekening van Nelly Sasserath bij haar stripverhaal, 1915. Coll. MVW; foto: auteur

Zo staat Nelly Sasserath in de lijn van generaties vrouwen.
Haar versierde meelzak nodigde uit haar levensverhaal uit te zoeken en te documenteren. Zodat onze dochters, kleindochters en achterkleindochters de oorsprong weten van de versierde meelzakken én het indrukwekkende levensverhaal kennen van de Luikse studente Nelly Sasserath, die als zeventienjarige het stripverhaal aquarelleerde op de Idaho- meelzak.

Nelly Sasserath, achterzijde tafelkleedje van meelzak ‘Record Flour’, beschilderd, geborduurd, kantwerk, 1915. Coll. MVW, foto: auteur

 

Hartelijk dank:
Hubert Bovens in Wilsele voor de opzoekingen van biografische gegevens, de speurtocht naar de vele bronnen en het delen van het trieste verhaal dat ons beiden diep trof.
Let wel, er blijven vragen opkomen: we hebben bijvoorbeeld geen foto van Nelly Sasserath gevonden, noch foto’s van haar gezin(nen); als we meer informatie vinden, zal dit aan het blog worden toegevoegd.
– Dorien Styven, Kazerne Dossin, Mechelen, voor haar inlichtingen over de familie Sasserath/Van Hamberg/Stein;
– André Dessaint in Méan voor zijn inlichtingen over Château de Bassines;
– Nadine de Rassenfosse, Musée de la Vie Wallonne in Luik, voor het tonen van de meelzakken-collectie.

Voetnoten:
[1] De econoom uit Oostenrijk was Kurt Pick. Het verhaal van zijn leven in WO II staat beschreven in het boek van Jennifer Henderson, Against All Odds: the Story of Kurt Pick, Londen, Radcliffe Press, 1998.

[2] We hebben geen afstammelingen van de zonen van Eugene Cougnet gevonden.

[3] Citaat uit: George Van Liefferinge in brief 7 januari 1982 aan Yad Vashem, voor een erkenning als Rechtvaardige onder de Volkeren voor Eugène Cougnet.

[4] Tekeningen en schilderijen van de kunstenaar Klaus Grünewald (pseudoniem Maurice Torfs) zijn bewaard in de collectie van het Joods Museum van België, Brussel. Zijn zus Margot Grünewald, later getrouwd met Massey, verbleef ook op Château de Bassines.; zij publiceerde over haar leven in WO II het boek Spring into Winter: a Novel, Ann Arbor, MI: Wyman House Publications, 1994.

Bronnen:
Dessaint, André, Glanages a Méan. Histoire(s) d’un village condrusien. Troisième partie. Special 1940-1945. Méan: 2019.

Hamme, Nico, website: Een Hollander, ondergedoken in België, 1995/2008 (www.dossier-bassines.nl.), geraadpleegd december 2021. De website is in maart 2022 niet meer actief.
Met afbeeldingen van tekeningen van Klaus Grünewald (pseudoniem Maurice Torfs). George Van Liefferinge leverde de afbeeldingen aan; hij stuurde foto’s aan Nico Hamme. Er zou een klein boekje bestaan van alle ‘Bassines’-schetsen van Klaus Grünewald wat zich zou bevinden in het Joods Museum van België te Brussel. Desgevraagd deelde de conservator van het museum mij op 16.12.2021 mee, dat hij helaas geen spoor van het boekje tekeningen kan terugvinden. Hopelijk zal het worden teruggevonden.

Pauwels, Ivo, Huts, Karine, Wat mijn kleinzoon weten moet. Hoe een joodse jongen onderdook in België (1939-1945). Tielt, Lannoo, 2017. Deze geromantiseerde kroniek vertelt het ingekleurde levensverhaal van de joodse jongen Georges Kluger uit Oostenrijk waarin zijn belevenissen op Château de Bassines.

Brouwers, Fred, De Koninginnewedstrijd. Gesprekken met 18 Elisabethlaureaten. BRT, 1987.

Keckeis-Tobler, Ellen, Meine Freundin Betty aus Antwerpen in: Küesnachter-Jahrheft, 1996 (website: www.ortsgeschichte-kuesnacht.ch, geraadpleegd december 2021)

Moëd, Henny, Just a Jewish Girl. A Pictoral Family Album of Pre-World War II. Antwerp, Belgium. Los Angeles, California: Jans Custom Photobooks, 2011. (website: collections.ushmm.org, geraadpleegd december 2021)

Musée de la Vie wallonne’s Educational Collection, Liège

In early September 2021 I was finally able to go on another Flour Sack Trip to Belgium! I visited the city of Liège where I studied more than thirty decorated flour sacks at Musée de la Vie wallonne. I enjoyed speaking to the museum staff and visiting the depot, so I could photograph the flour sack embroideries in detail. Musée de la Vie wallonne (MVW) preserves an interesting collection of decorated flour sacks. An important donor, as early as 1919, was the Welsch family.

Welsch family[1]
Ernest Welsch, married to Marie Anne Dupont, worked as an education inspector. Their son Paul, married to Elise Sauvage, also worked in education.

Painting class at the Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle, Liège, Feb. 1915. Photo: coll. HHPLM

Ernest and Marie Anne Welsch-Dupont and/or their son and daughter-in-law collected 24 flour sacks of great educational value: a class project of twelve original flour sacks, and -of the same origin- twelve decorated flour sacks.

Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle

Thérèse Foidart was 17 years old when she painted and worked on her flour sack. Coll. MVW; photo: author

Pupils of the girls’ school Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle in Liège have decorated the flour sacks in 1915. Three of these flour sacks have been signed by the student who decorated them: Nelly Sasserath, Lucy Jossa, Thérèse Foidart, and the name of the school Ecole Moyenne de Liège. The girls were advanced students, at sixteen and seventeen years old.

Students of the Ecole Moyenne are taught in a room full of patriotic decorations, February 1915. Photo: coll. HHPLM

The origins of the twelve flour sacks

Twelve places in the United States where the flour sacks in the Welsch collection originated in late 1914/early 1915. Map: © Annelien van Kempen, 2021

Where did the twelve flour sacks originally come from?

  State in USA
Place Milling Co.
Trademark
1 Idaho Preston Preston Milling Co Cream of the Valley
2 Rexburg Farmers Elev. & Milling Co. Record
3 St. Anthony St. Anthony Milling & Elevator Co. Yellowstone
4 Kansas Pawnee County Keystone Milling Co. Keystone
5 Peabody Moffet &Co. Pride of Peabody
6 Wichita Kansas Milling Co. Silk Floss
7 Hillsboro Ebel Bros White Lilly
8 Hillsboro Ebel Bros White Lilly
9 North Dakota Valley City Russell-Miller Milling Co. Producer
10 Ohio Columbus The Gwinn Milling Co. Square Deal
11 Oregon Portland St. Jobes Milling Co. Portland
12 Washington Tacoma Tacoma Grain Co. Millers Balloon

How were the full sacks of flour transported?

Map: © Annelien van Kempen, 2021

The transportation went overland by train to ports on the east or west coast of the United States. From the ports, steamships transported the loads of flour sacks to Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

The Oregon Daily Journal, January 10, 1915

East Coast:
– SS Hannah: the sacks of flour from Kansas (New York d. Jan. 5 – Rotterdam a. Jan. 27, 1915)
– SS South Point: the sacks of flour from North Dakota (Philadelphia d. Feb. 11 – Rotterdam a. Feb. 27, 1915)
– SS Naneric: the sacks or flour from Ohio (New York d. March 27- Rotterdam a. April 20, 1915)

West Coast:
– SS Washington: the sacks of flour from Idaho, Oregon and Washington (Seattle v. Jan 29 – Rotterdam a. March 30, 1915)

© Annelien van Kempen, 2021

In Rotterdam, the sacks of flour were transshipped into barges and transported to Liège via the Meuse River (period January-April 1915).

The Welsch donation in 1919
In 1919 the Welsch family donated twelve original flour sacks and -of the same origin- twelve decorated flour sacks to Musée de la Vie wallonne.
Here are my photos per set with original and decorated flour sacks.

1 Cream of the Valley, tablecloth; painted, embroidered, trim along the edge with band and fringe.

2 Record, tablecloth; painted, embroidered, edged with needle lace and fringe.

Nelly Sasserath, 17 years old, Coll. MVW; photo: author

Signed with the name: Nelly Sasserath (ºLiège 1897.10.08 – +Auschwitz, Poland 1944.01.17; she married Louis van Hamberg; they had three children of which two daughters survived WW II: Betty Helène Brancart, née Van Hamberg (ºAntwerp 1921.08.20) and Claudine Cougnet, née Van Hamberg (ºAntwerp 1923.06.26)). My blog “The watercolored comic on an Idaho flour sack in Liège” describes details of the tablecloth and tells the impressive life story of Nelly Sasserath and her family.

3 Yellowstone, laundry bag; embroidered, rings for cord

4 Keystone, “sous-main”, desk pad with posters from the Sacs Américains sales exhibition in Liège from November 20 till December 26, 1915.

The reverse of the original flour sack is printed with the text “1000 sacks of Flour donated to Belgium Sufferers from Pawnee County, Kansas, USA”. This text is on the back of the desk pad.

5 Pride of Peabody, tablecloth; embroidered with various decorative stitches, edge with picots.

6 Silk Floss, hanging folder for newspapers; embroidered, sewn with blue fabric on sides and back.

7 White Lily, purse; embroidered, sewn, with closing cord and tassel at bottom.

8 White Lily, table runner; art deco motifs are stamped or worked with template on the cloth, embroidered, back is lined, fringe around edges.

9 Producer, table runner; art deco motifs are stamped or worked with template on the cloth, embroidered, back is lined, fringe around edges.

Lucy Jossa, 16 years old, Coll. MVW; photo: author

Signed with the name: Lucy Jossa (ºLiège, 1898.08.07 – +1993.10.17; she married George Bartholomé; her parents were Philomène and Jean Paul Jossa-Genicot; her father was a clerk).

10 Square Deal, hanging folder for newspapers; painted and trimmed with blue border and six tassels, sewn on sewing machine.
Signed with the name: Thérèse Foidart (ºLiège 1898.04.12; she lived at Boulevard des Anglais, Spa, in 1930; daughter of Anne Marie and Laurent Foidart-De Radoux; her father was a musician).

11 Portland, tablecloth; embroidered, decorative edges with fringe; reverse of original flour sack is printed with the text: “For Belgium Relief donated by Coeur d’Alène Mining District, Shoshone County, Idaho, USA”.

 

12 Balloon, tablecloth; painted on reverse with sunflowers, decorative edges with fringe.

Exhibitions in Liège

Poster of the Liège sales exhibition in late 1915, design D. Poissinger. Coll. MVW, photo: author

The decorated flour sack Keystone is a sous-main, a folder or desk pad, which holds two posters from the late December sales exhibition of Sacs Américains in Liège at the “Continental, Salle Mauresque”. Would the Welsh family have made the purchase there?
Or did (one of the members of) the Welsch family help prepare an exhibition at the Ecole Moyenne?

Perhaps the collection had already been created earlier. A newspaper reported the sale of decorated flour sacks through store windows.

 

Le Quotidien, October 11, 1915
Photobook of CRB delegate David Nelson, February 22, 1915. Coll. HHPLM

The class contribution from the Ecole Moyenne may have been destined to go directly to the U.S.A. via the American delegates for the province of Liège from the Commission for Relief in Belgium. The CRB delegates visited the school in February 1915. David Nelson’s photo album dated February 22, 1915 bears witness to this.

When studied closely, the collection of two times twelve flour sacks resembles what today would be called a “teaching kit”. Thanks to the Welsch donation, we have a practical “pattern and inspiration book” of decorated flour sacks.

 

Thanks to:
– Musée de la Vie wallonne’ staff for their welcome and the preparations for my visit. In particular, I would like to thank Nadine de Rassenfosse, Aurélie Lemaire and Anne Stiernet.
– Hubert Bovens from Wilsele for his search for biographical data on the Welsch family and the three students of the Ecole Moyenne, in particular his work on and exploration of the impressive life story of Nelly Sasserath and her family.
– Georgina Kuipers for her attentive corrections to the English translations of my blogs. 

 

Footnote:
[1] Welsch family: Marie Anne Dupont (ºSaint-Josse-ten-Noode 1857.05.08) married Ernest Eugène Welsch (ºTourcoing (F) 1852.09.26) on April 17, 1879. Ernest Welsch worked as an education inspector (“inspecteur des écoles primaires communales de la ville de Liège”). In 1926 he was appointed professor at l’Ecole industrielle de Grivegnée. He wrote a play about the war ten years after the war, the Walloon one-act play Li Dièrinne lète.

The collection of MVW contains some miniature paintings painted by E. Welsch: “une palette de peintre miniature décorée et signée par un certain “E. Welsch” et qui date du début du 20ème siècle. Elle fait partie d’un ensemble de plus de 300 palettes miniatures décorées par des artistes amateurs ou professionnels à l’initiative d’un marchand de tabac-cigares Félix Schroeder.”

The son Paul Welsch (ºLiege 1886.08.30 – +Liège 1941.09.20) married Elise Sauvage (ºLiège 1887.07.28 – +Liège 1965.03.23) on April 14, 1914. Paul Welsch worked as a teacher (instituteur communal), then as a hotelier.

 

 

De educatieve collectie van Musée de la Vie wallonne, Luik

Begin september 2021 ben ik eindelijk weer op Zakkenreis geweest!
De stad Luik was een van mijn pleisterplaatsen waar ik in Musée de la Vie wallonne een collectie van meer dan dertig versierde meelzakken bestudeerde. Feestelijk om live te kunnen spreken met de medewerkers van het museum, het dépot te bezoeken, de rijk versierde meelzakken in detail te fotograferen. Musée de la Vie wallonne (MVW) bewaart een interessante collectie versierde meelzakken. Een belangrijke donateur, reeds in 1919, was de familie Welsch.

Familie Welsch
Ernest Welsch, getrouwd met Marie Anne Dupont, was werkzaam als onderwijsinspecteur (inspecteur des écoles primaires communales de la ville de Liège). Ook hun zoon Paul, getrouwd met Elise Sauvage, werkte in het onderwijs. (zie voetnoot 1)

Schilderles op de Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle, Luik, febr. 1915. Foto: coll. HHPLM

Ernest en Marie Anne Welsch-Dupont en/of hun zoon en schoondochter verzamelden 24 meelzakken van grote educatieve waarde: twaalf meelzakken onbewerkt en -van dezelfde origine- twaalf meelzakken bewerkt.

Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle

Thérèse Foidart (Luik 12.04.1898) was 17 jaar toen zij haar meelzak beschilderde en bewerkte. Coll. MVW; foto: auteur

De bewerking zal gedaan zijn in 1915 door leerlingen van de meisjesschool ‘Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle’ in Luik. Enkele van de versierde meelzakken zijn gesigneerd met eigen naam: Nelly Sasserath, Lucy Jossa, Thérèse Foidart, én naam van de school: Ecole Moyenne de Liège. De meisjes waren gevorderde studenten, ze waren zestien en zeventien jaar oud.

Studentes van de Ecole Moyenne krijgen les in een lokaal vol patriottische versieringen, februari 1915. Foto: coll. HHPLM


De origine van de twaalf meelzakken

Twaalf plaatsen in de VS waar de meelzakken in de verzameling Welsch hun oorsprong hebben eind 1914/begin 1915. Kaart: © Annelien van Kempen, 2021

Waar kwamen de twaalf meelzakken oorspronkelijk vandaan?

  Staat in VS plaats maalderij merk
1 Idaho Preston Preston Milling Co Cream of the Valley
2 Rexburg Farmers Elev. & Milling Co. Record
3 St. Anthony St. Anthony Milling & Elevator Co. Yellowstone
4 Kansas Pawnee County Keystone Milling Co. Keystone
5 Peabody Moffet &Co. Pride of Peabody
6 Wichita Kansas Milling Co. Silk Floss
7 Hillsboro Ebel Bros White Lilly
8 Hillsboro Ebel Bros White Lilly
9 North Dakota Valley City Russell-Miller Milling Co. Producer
10 Ohio Columbus The Gwinn Milling Co. Square Deal
11 Oregon Portland St. Jobes Milling Co. Portland
12 Washington Tacoma Tacoma Grain Co. Millers Balloon

Hoe werden de volle zakken meel vervoerd?

Kaart: © Annelien van Kempen, 2021

Over land ging het vervoer per trein naar de havens aan de oost- of de westkust van de Verenigde Staten. Vanuit de havens vervoerden stoomschepen de lading meelzakken naar Rotterdam.

The Oregon Daily Journal, 10 januari 1915

Oostkust:
SS Hannah: de meelzakken uit Kansas (New York v. 5 jan – Rotterdam a. 27 jan 1915)
SS South Point: de meelzakken uit North Dakota (Philadelphia v. 11 febr – Rotterdam a. 27 febr. 1915)
SS Naneric: de meelzakken uit Ohio (New York v. 27 maart – Rotterdam a. 20 april 1915)
Westkust:
SS Washington: de meelzakken uit Idaho, Oregon en Washington (Seattle v. 29 jan – Rotterdam a. 30 maart 1915)

© Annelien van Kempen, 2021

In Rotterdam zijn de meelzakken overgeladen in binnenvaartschepen en via de Maas naar Luik vervoerd (periode januari-april 1915).

De donatie Welsch in 1919
De collectie van Musée de la Vie wallonne bevat dus twaalf meelzakken onbewerkt en -van dezelfde origine- twaalf meelzakken in 1915 bewerkt door studentes van de Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle in Luik. Hier volgen mijn foto’s per set met onbewerkte en bewerkte meelzak.

1 Cream of the Valley, tafelkleedje; beschilderd, geborduurd, afgebiesd met band en franje.

2 Record, tafelkleedje; beschilderd, geborduurd, rand met open naaiwerk en franje.

Nelly Sasserath, Coll. MVW; foto: auteur

Gesigneerd met de naam: Nelly Sasserath (Luik 08.10.1897-Auschwitz, Polen 17.01.1944; is getrouwd geweest met Louis van Hamberg, heeft drie kinderen gekregen waarvan twee dochters WO II overleefden: Betty Helène Brancart, née Van Hamberg (Antwerpen 20.08.1921) en Claudine Cougnet, née Van Hamberg (Antwerpen 26.06.1923)). Mijn blog ‘Het stripverhaal op de Idaho-meelzak in Luik’ geeft details van het tafelkleedje en vertelt het indrukwekkende levensverhaal van Nelly Sasserath.

3 Yellowstone, waszak; geborduurd, ringen voor koord

4 Keystone, ‘sous-main’, map, bureaulegger met affiches van de verkooptentoonstelling ‘Sacs Américains’ in Luik van 20 november tot 26 december 1915.

Achterzijde van de originele meelzak is bedrukt met de tekst ‘1000 sacks Flour donated to Belgium Sufferers from Pawnee County, Kansas, USA’. Dit is ook de achterzijde van de map/bureaulegger.

5 Pride of Peabody, tafelkleedje; geborduurd met diverse siersteken, rand met picots.

6 Silk Floss, tijdschriften of krantenhanger; geborduurd, genaaid met blauwe stof aan zijkanten en achterzijde.

7 White Lily, tasje; geborduurd, naaiwerk, met sluitkoord en kwast aan onderzijde.

8 White Lily, tafelloper; beschilderd/gestempeld of gewerkt met mal, met art déco motieven, geborduurd, achterzijde is gevoerd, rondom franje.

9 Producer, tafelloper; beschilderd/gestempeld of gewerkt met mal, met art déco motieven, geborduurd, achterzijde is gevoerd, rondom franje;

Lucy Jossa, Coll. MVW; foto: auteur

Gesigneerd met de naam: Lucy Jossa (Luik, 07.08.1898-17.10.1993, is getrouwd geweest met George Bartholomé; haar ouders waren Philomène en Jean Paul Jossa-Genicot; haar vader was bediende).

10 Square Deal, krantenhanger; beschilderd en afgebiesd met blauwe rand en zes kwastjes, genaaid op naaimachine.
Gesigneerd met de naam: Thérèse Foidart (Luik 12.04.1898, woonde in Spa, Boulevard des Anglais, in 1930; dochter van Anne Marie en Laurent Foidart-De Radoux; haar vader was musicus).

11 Portland, tafelkleedje; geborduurd, sierrand open naaiwerk, franje; achterzijde van de originele meelzak is bedrukt met de tekst: ‘For Belgium Relief donated by Coeur d’Alène Mining District, Shoshone County, Idaho, USA’.

 

12 Balloon, tafelkleedje; beschilderd op achterzijde met zonnebloemen, sierrand en franje.

Tentoonstellingen in Luik

Affiche van de Luikse verkooptentoonstelling eind 1915, ontwerp D. Poissinger. Coll. MVW, foto: auteur

De versierde meelzak ‘Keystone’ is een ‘sous-main’, een map of bureaulegger, waarin twee affiches zijn opgeborgen van de verkooptentoonstelling van ‘Amerikaansche bloemzakken’ eind december in Luik in de ‘Continental, Salle Mauresque’. Zouden de Welschen daar de aankoop hebben gedaan?

Of heeft (een van de leden van) de familie Welsch meegewerkt op de Ecole de Moyenne Professionelle de Liege aan de voorbereiding van de tentoonstelling?
Misschien was de verzameling al eerder aangelegd. In de krant werd ook melding gemaakt van verkoop van versierde meelzakken via etalages van winkels.

Le Quotidien, 11 oktober 1915
Fotoboek van CRB gedelegeerde David Nelson, 22 februari 1915. Coll. HHPLM

En de klassikale bijdrage van de Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle kan ook voorbestemd zijn geweest om via de Amerikaanse gedelegeerden voor de provincie Luik van de Commission for Relief in Belgium direct naar de VS te gaan. De CRB-gedelegeerden hebben in februari 1915 een bezoek gebracht aan de school. Daarvan getuigt het foto-album van David Nelson gedateerd 22 februari 1915.

Goed bekeken lijkt de collectie van twee keer twaalf meelzakken op dat wat tegenwoordig een ‘lespakket’ zou heten.
Dankzij de donatie van de familie Welsch beschikken we nu over een praktisch ‘patronen- en inspiratieboek‘ van versierde meelzakken.

Dank aan:
– De medewerkers van Musée de la Vie wallonne voor hun ontvangst en voorbereiding van mijn bezoek. In het bijzonder wil ik bedanken Nadine de Rassenfosse, Aurélie Lemaire en Anne Stiernet.
– Mijn grote dank gaat uit naar Hubert Bovens uit Wilsele voor de opzoeking van biografische gegevens van de familie Welsch en de drie studentes van de Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle van Luik, in het bijzonder de navorsing van het indrukwekkende levensverhaal van Nelly Sasserath en haar familie. Haar geschiedenis zal ik later in een speciaal blog vertellen.

Voetnoot
1) Familie Welsch: Marie Anne Dupont (Sint-Joost-ten-Noode 08.05.1857) trouwde op 17 april 1879 met Ernest Eugène Welsch (geboren Tourcoing (F) 26.09.1852). Ernest Welsch was werkzaam als onderwijsinspecteur (inspecteur des écoles primaires communales de la ville de Liège). In 1926 werd hij benoemd als professor aan l’Ecole industrielle de Grivegnée. Hij schreef tien jaar na de oorlog een toneelstuk over de oorlog, de Waalse eenakter “Li Dièrinne lète”.
In de collectie van MVW bevindt zich ‘une palette de peintre miniature décorée et signée par un certain “E. Welsch” et qui date du début du 20ème siècle. Elle fait partie d’un ensemble de plus de 300 palettes miniatures décorées par des artistes amateurs ou professionnels à l’initiative d’un marchand de tabac-cigares Félix Schroeder.’
De zoon Paul Welsch (Luik 30.08.1886 – Luik 20.09.1941) trouwde op 14 april 1914 met Elise Sauvage (Luik 28.07.1887 – Luik 23.03.1965). Paul Welsch werkte als onderwijzer (instituteur communal), daarna als hotelier.

 

From Aid to Embroidery in Ohio, USA

High demand for wheat. The Lima Morning Star and Republican Gazette, Lima, Ohio, October 24, 1914

American wheat sales rose to unprecedented levels in the fall of 1914 due to the European war. The wheat exchange in Chicago made record sales through purchases from agents of the German and English governments.

Northwestern Elevator and Mill Company, Mount Vernon, Ohio

An Ohion newspaper headlined “Flour Mills busy” in October 1914. Northwestern Elevator & Mill Co.’s two largest mills, in Mount Vernon and Toledo, and National Milling Co. in Toledo, coped well with the large orders. They exported their entire production to Liverpool, Glasgow and Paris[1]. 

Northwestern Elevator and Mill Co, American School painting, oil on canvas, 46×61 cm; photo: artnet.com

At the end of November, the mills made the newspapers again because of a humanitarian relief movement intended to help the population of occupied Belgium. The mills contributed to the relief effort of the Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement, organized by the Minneapolitan trade journal Northwestern Miller.

The Fulton County Tribune, Fulton, November 27, 1914

Northwestern Elevator & Mill Co. immediately pledged 50 barrels of flour and invited the citizens of Mt. Vernon to contribute to the relief campaign by purchasing at least one sack of flour at cost price:

 

The Democratic Banner, Mount Vernon, December 22, 1914

“The flour is to be shipped in heavy cotton bags containing forty-nine pounds. Anyone wishing to donate, can purchase flour from us at the cost price of $5.00 per barrel. No donations will be accepted for less than one forty-nine pound sack. … We will donate 50 barrels, and trust that enough more will be donated by our generous citizens to make the shipment from Mt. Vernon at least a car load of two hundred barrels.” (The Democratic Banner, 1 december 1914)

The call for aid made by Northwestern Elevator & Mill Co. was a success: a full train car with 820 sacks of flour (205 barrels) left for Philadelphia at the end of December to be delivered to SS South Point. The local organizing committee of Mt. Vernon thanked all donors through a newspaper article:

The Democratic Banner, Mt. Vernon, December 25, 1914
Flour sack “Belgian Relief Flour”, The National Milling Co., Toledo, Ohio, 1914/15. Coll. en photo: HHLP 62.4.120

The Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement’s relief effort was successful throughout Ohio. Dozens of mills contributed for a total of 4,861 barrels of flour (equivalent to over 20 carloads, 19,444 sacks of 49 Lbs, 430 tons of flour). The Relief Report[2] stated the following regarding Ohio’s mills:

Ohio millers and residents donated 4,861 barrels of flour. Report Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement, Minneapolis, Minn., 1915

Re-use of Ohio flour sacks in Belgium

Instructions from the Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement; Beatrice Daily Sun, Beatrice, Nebraska, January 2, 1915

Using cotton sacks was a necessary stimulus to the American cotton industry. The cotton sacks in which the flour was packed were intended for reuse in Belgium. The Belgian women and girls have gratefully made use of the cotton. After the sacks were emptied at the bakeries, they proceeded to make the sacks into clothes.

Flour sack “Belgian Relief Flour”, The Northwestern Elevator & Mill Co., Toledo, Ohio. Back of a jacket, 1915. Coll. HHPL; photo: Callens/Magniette
Decorated flour sack “Belgian Relief Flour”, The National Milling Co., Toledo, Ohio, 1914/15. col. and photo: HIA

An example of a jacket made from a Northwestern Elevator & Mill flour sack is part of the collection of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, West-Branch, Iowa (HHPL).

Most flour sacks are embroidered and embellished.

Belgian author Gilles wrote about a flour sack from Springfield, Ohio[3]:
Saturday 17 July 1915
The American sacks that contained the wheat flour for the Belgian National Relief and Nutrition Committee (CNSA) are particularly popular among collectors of war memories. The sacks are printed and the more characteristic the printing, the higher the sales price. A sack of 30 francs is printed with blue and red letters, the text reads in English:

                                               From the city of Springfield, Ohio
                                               As a testimony of affection
                                               Our friends the Belgians
                                               To this heroic nation
                                               God bless it!

Decorated flour sack The Moody & Thomas Milling Co, Peninsula, Ohio. Coll. and photo HHPL 62.4.391

Besides the jacket, I have located four more copies of the flour sacks delivered in Belgium by the Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement.
Two embroidered flour sacks have been preserved:

One flour sack of the Moody & Thomas Milling Co., Peninsula (collection HHPL); the second of The National Milling Co., Toledo (Hoover Institution Archives collection, Stanford University, HIA).

 

Flour sack “DEWEY’S”, The Dewey BROS. Co., Blanchester, Ohio. Coll. WHI; photo: author

Also, two original flour sacks have been preserved: one from Dewey Bros. Co., Blanchester (collection War Heritage Institute, Brussels (WHI)); the second of The National Milling Co., Toledo (collection HHPL 62.4.120).

 

OHIO Commission for Relief of European War Sufferers
Six weeks later, another appeal was made to Ohioans. The Ohio Commission for Relief of European War Sufferers was founded on January 4, 1915 in Columbus. During a luncheon those present decided to raise supplies and money to help victims of the European war, with the support of State Board of Commerce staff.

The Fulton County Tribune, Fulton, January 15, 1915
Mr. Edward Drummond Libbey (1854-1925) and Mrs. Florence Scott Libbey (1863-1938), ca. 1901; photo Wikipedia

President of the committee was E.D. Libbey from Toledo, treasurer E.R. Sharp from Columbus, Secretary O.K. Shimansky from Columbus.
The state of Ohio was home to European emigrants and their descendants from many countries; that is why the Commission made a broad effort to provide assistance to “European War Sufferers”. Priority was given to assistance to the Belgian population; the commission intended to secure a shipload of provisions for the Belgians to be moved early in February 1915.

The Ohio Woman’s Auxiliary: Mrs. Estelle Thompson, née Clark
Although men were appointed to the committee, women carried out the work. The existing and well-managed women’s organizations started working centrally and locally. Communication proceeded through letters, calls and advertisements in the newspapers; orally at regular meetings of clubs, churches and schools.

History of the Woman’s Section of the CRB, 1915

The Ohio Woman’s Auxiliary was headed by Mrs. Estelle Godfrey Thompson, née Clark (Massillon, Stark County 13.02.1862 – Columbus 29.06.1945), wife of President William Oxley Thompson of Ohio State University in Columbus. Mrs. Wm. O. Thompson was a member of The Woman’s Section of The Commission for Relief in Belgium, serving both on the “Executive Co-operating Committee” as chair of  the National Federation of College Women as the “State Chairmen” as chair of Ohio.

Estelle Clark Tompson in “Woman’s Who is Who in America, 1914/15”

Estelle Clark Thompson descended from a well-to-do Cleveland family; she worked as a teacher of dramatics at Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio. At the age of 32 she married William Thompson; she was his third wife; he was twice widowed and had two daughters from his first and two sons from his second marriage. Estelle Clark Thompson took care of the four young children; she remained childless herself. She played an active role in Ohio women’s organizations and campaigned for women’s rights: “Favors women suffrage”.

Detail flour sack “Kentucky and Southern Indiana”/Brand Whitlock; 1915/16. Coll. and photo CCHSM no. 4003

Mr. Brand Whitlock and Mrs. Ella Whitlock, née Brainerd
During World War I, the diplomat Brand Whitlock (Urbana, Ohio, USA 04.03.1869 – Cannes, France 24.05.1934) was American minister plenipotentiary in Belgium seating in Brussels. He acted as patron of the international “Commission for Relief in Belgium” (CRB) and the Belgian National Relief Committee “Comité National de Secours et d’Alimentation” (CNSA), the organizations that coordinated and implemented food relief for the population in occupied Belgium.

Mrs. Ella Brainerd Whitlock; photo: Library of Congress

He lived in Brussels with his wife, Ella Whitlock, née Brainerd (Springfield, Ill. 25.09.1876 – Brewster, NY 11.07.1942). Ella Brainerd Whitlock worked energetically to help the Belgian population and closely collaborated with the Belgian women’s organizations.

Detail flour sack “Kentucky and Southern Indiana”/Brand Whitlock; portrait L. van Loo, 1915/16. Coll. and photo CCHSM, no. 4003

Brand Whitlock felt connected to the state of Ohio. Before becoming a diplomat in 1914, he had been elected mayor of Toledo four times (1906-1914); he had worked there as a lawyer from 1897. Due to his connection with Ohio, he became member of the honorary advisory commission of the Ohio Commission for Relief of European War Sufferers. He successfully appealed to the American people to aid the Belgians with food.

As a result of their work, the Whitlocks received many gifts for their efforts, including decorated flour sacks.

After her husband passed away, Ella Brainerd Whitlock returned to the US. She donated many objects, including their interesting collection of flour sacks to the Champaign County Historical Society in Urbana and Toledo. The Champaign County Historical Society Museum in Urbana (CCHSM) preserves this collection. See also the blog: Flour sack trip from Urbana to Overijse

Flour sacks with portrait of Brand Whitlock
Two flour sacks with Brand Whitlock’s portrait stand out.

Embroidered flour sack “American Commission”/ Brand Whitlock; 1915. Coll. and photo CCHSM, no. 4001

The origin of flour sack no. 4001 is “American Commission”; the Belgian embroiderer added as texts: “A.S.E.M. Brand Whitlock, M. P. des Etats-Unis à Bruxelles; E Pluribus Unum; La Belgique Reconnaissante 1914-1915”. The portrait looks like a lithography, surrounded by an embroidered green laurel wreath; to the left and right of the portrait are embroideries of the Belgian and American flags; on the lower part of the flour sack the “Great Shield of the United States” is embroidered, along with the eagle with spread wings and the stars representing the thirteen original colonies of the US plus the text: “E Pluribus Unum”.

Decorated flour sack “Kentucky and Southern Indiana”/Brand Whitlock; portrait L. van Loo, 1915/16. Coll. and photo CCHSM, no. 4003, recto
Decorated flour sack “Kentucky and Southern Indiana”/Brand Whitlock; 1915/16. col. and photo CCHSM, no. 4003, verso

The other flour sack, no. 4003, bears the original print “Contributed by the People of Kentucky and Southern Indiana” via The Louisville Herald, produced by Louisville Milling Co, Louisville, KY. In Belgium, the sack had been printed with red letters: “A Son Excellence Monsieur Brand Whitlock, Ministre des Etats-Unis à Bruxelles. La Belgique entière acclame les Etats-Unis.” The flags of Belgium and the US are embroidered, as are the letters of the original print. The photo portrait of Brand Whitlock is colorized, signed “L. van Loo”. The photographer may presumably have been Leo Petrus Julius (Leon) van Loo (Sint-Joris-ten Distel 19.08.1841 – Cincinnati 10.01.1907) He was an art photographer born in Belgium, who emigrated to Ohio at the age of 15, following his Ghent teacher Charles Waldack. Waldack was able to emigrate to Cincinnati, because Leon van Loo’s father paid him in exchange for his son’s training as a photographer. Van Loo lived in Cincinnati for the rest of his life. It seems likely that he made a photo portrait of (a younger) Brand Whitlock in the US and that a print of the portrait ended up in his old hometown Ghent, Belgium, where it has been used for the flour sack(s).

SS Naneric; photo: Allen C. Green series (online)

State Ship SS Naneric
CRB’s New York office contracted the British steamship Naneric as State Ship of Ohio. SS Naneric had made an earlier trip to Calcutta, India, and had to voyage from there to New York to take the cargo on board. On that 65-day voyage from Calcutta to New York, SS Naneric passed through the Suez Canal and was caught up in war. The battle it found itself in was between the Allied army, supported by fire from French and British cruisers, and a Turkish land force, commanded by German officers.
Captain Tulloch of the Naneric reported that his steamer entered the Suez Canal on February 1, 1915 but had not been allowed to proceed because of the battle. After days delay, the vessel was permitted to proceed to Port Said, protected with sandbags. On March 8, SS Naneric docked in Philadelphia.[4]

The Ohio women’s fundraising campaigns were successful; trains brought carloads of flour to New York Harbor.

The Democratic Banner, Mt. Vernon, February 19, 1915
The Democratic Banner, March 9, 1915

On March 27, SS Naneric departed from New York as the Ohio State Ship with the relief supplies on board and arrived in Rotterdam around April 20. The relief supplies were transferred to barges for transit to the Belgian villages and towns. By the end of April, the Belgian bakers were able to bake bread from the flour and the local population could taste the good gifts that the people of the state of Ohio had given for a second time.

Original flour sack Bakoto Flour, Canton Feed & M’L’G Co., Canton, Ohio, 1915. Photo: US Embassy in Belgium

With the emptied flour sacks, the Belgian women and girls could continue with their charitable work, transforming them into souvenirs.

Nine embroidered sacks, presumably from the State Ship Ohio, have been preserved.

  • A sack of “Bakoto Flour” from Bako Mills, Canton Feed and M’L’G Co., Canton, is in the Embassy of the United States of America in Belgium in Brussels[5];
  • Three preserved “Square Deal” sacks from The Gwinn Milling Co., Columbus are in the Musée de la Vie wallonne in Liège (one embroidered, one original), respectively in Mons Memorial Museum in Mons (one embroidered);
  • Decorated flour sack “Square Deal”, The Gwinn Milling Co., Columbus, Ohio, 1915/16. Coll. Musée de la Vie wallonne
  • Detail original flour sack “The Famous White Loaf”, Sunbury Mills. Coll. RAHM Tx 2648 ; photo: author

    Five flour sacks “The Famous White Loaf Roller Flour” by Sunbury Mills, G.J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, are preserved in both a private collection in Belgium (98 Lbs) and in the United Kingdom (49 Lbs) (both embroidered): at the In Flanders Fields Museum (IFFM), Ypres (98 Lbs, embroidered, panel in folding screen); at the Royal Art & History Museum (RAHM), Brussels (49 Lbs, original sack, Tx 2648); at Hoover Institution Archives, Palo Alto, Ca. (24 1/2 Lbs embroidered).

Burrer Mills, Sunbury, 1929; photo: BigWalnutHistory.com

Sunbury Mills, G. J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, Ohio
The history of the Sunbury Mills mill is detailed on the website of the Big Walnut Historical Society located at the Myers Inn Museum in Sunbury.
Gottleib Jacob (Jakie) Burrer (Germany, 03.01.1848 – Sunbury 18.02.1926) owned Sunbury Mills since 1875. It was a family business. He was married to Amy Ann Gammill; their sons Karl (age in 1914: 35), Paul (28), Rudolph (26) and Gordon (20) worked in the expanding business (including electricity generation and supply), which meant a lot to Sunbury. Sunbury Mills has been the longest operating mill in Sunbury. In 1945 the mill, which had meanwhile merged with the Condit Elevators, was sold to the Farm Bureau.

Charlotte Burrer, née Pagels: American Flour Sack Embroiderer in Ohio
The youngest Burrer son, Gordon Jacob (Sunbury 02.02.1894 – Pleasant Ridge, Ohio, 04.07.1960) is a war veteran. He served in World War I, in 1917/18, as a captain in the US Army Infantry.
At the age of 35 he married Charlotte Grace Pagels (1895 – Hamilton, Ohio, July 2, 1991); they married on October 3,1929 at Pleasant Ridge, near Cincinnati. They had three children: Charlotte Amy, Gordon Jacob and Frederick Pagels. Charlotte Pagels Burrer’s grandparents had been German emigrants.

Hoover Tower, 1941; photo: HIA

Charlotte deserves eternal glory for embroidering a Sunbury Mills flour sack! Yes, a flour sack “The Famous White Loaf Roller Flour” by Sunbury Mills, G.J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury.
In which year she embroidered the flour sack I do not know, but it seems she produced the embroidery after a visit to the Hoover Tower at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California[6]. She became acquainted with the collection of decorated flour sacks in the archives of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, kept in the Hoover Institution Archives and was surprised to see an embroidered flour sack “White Loaf” from Sunbury Mills.

Decorated flour sack “White Loaf”, Sunbury Mills, G.J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, Ohio. Embroidered in Belgium in 1915/16. Was a model for a replica of Ch. Pagel’s Burrer. Coll. Hoover Institution Archives

It inspired Charlotte to embroider exactly such a flour sack.

Embroidered Flour sack “White Loaf”, Sunbury Mills, Sunbury, Ohio. Replica of flour sack in Hoover Institution Archives. Embroiderer Charlotte Burrer, née Pagels, Cincinnati, Ohio. Coll. and photo: Community Library, Sunbury

Back home in Ohio, she looked for a flour sack printed with the “White Loaf” brand at Sunbury Mills and got to work. A so-called ‘Replica’ of the flour sacks decorated in Belgium during WW I was born; it is proudly preserved in Sunbury’s Community Library.
Former Sunbury librarian, Mrs. Polly Horn, is now curator of the Myers Inn Museum in Sunbury. She published a photo of Charlotte’s embroidered flour sack in her “Burrer Mills” blog. Thanks to her I came into possession of a photo of this embroidery by an American flour sack embroiderer: Charlotte Pagels Burrer.

Embroidery of flour sacks in WW I: getting started

American booklet about the “Embroidered Belgian Flour Sacks” with embroidery patterns and detailed descriptions. Photo: Giftshop HHPLM

The embroidery of flour sacks in times of war and occupation has been a remarkable undertaking by Belgian women and girls in 1915/16. The recognition for their special work is recorded in the American booklet “Out of War. A Legacy of Art”.[7]

The publication came about as a group project from the Red Cedar Questers, Iowa. Belle Walton Hinkhouse took the initiative and Joanne Evans Hemmingway led the project to bring about the release.

Central to the book is the collection of decorated flour sacks from the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, Iowa. Former curator Phyllis Foster Danks of the museum (circa 1977-1986) contributed with her expertise on the “Embroidered Belgian Flour Sacks”.

Embroidery pattern “Viking ship” with description in the American booklet about the “Embroidered Belgian Flour Sacks” (HHPL 62.4.401)

Two experienced embroidery teachers, Catherine Robinder and Angeline Hoover Shuh, analyzed the embroidery on the flour sacks.

Embroidery pattern “Bluebird” with description in the American booklet about the ‘Embroidered Belgian Flour Sacks’. (HHPL 62.4.432)

They concentrated on decorations added by the Belgian women themselves and chose six copies for a reconstruction. The result are six embroidery patterns with detailed descriptions of threads used and embroidery stitches. Embroiderers receive instructions on which cloth to use for the pattern: you could use a sack, but that’s not necessary.
The embroidery patterns are:

  • Woman and sheep
  • Flemish scene
  • Viking ship
  • Bluebirds
  • Violets
  • Poppies

 

Anyone who wants to, can get started! Just like Charlotte Grace Pagel’s Burrer did embroidering her Sunbury flour sack.

Decorated flour sacks can inspire even more creative crafts!

Embroidered flour sack “White Loaf”, Sunbury Mills, G.J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, Ohio, 1915. Private coll. United Kingdom
Embroidered flour sack “White Loaf”, Sunbury Mills, G.J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, Ohio, 1915/16. Private coll. Belgium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embroidered flour sack ”White Loaf”, Sunbury Mills, G.J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, Ohio, 1915/16. Panel in folding screen. Coll. IFFM

Thanks to:
– Mrs. Polly Horn, curator of the Myers Inn Museum in Sunbury, Ohio, for the wealth of information she sent me about the Sunbury Mill and the Burrer family. She is the author of dozens of blogs on the Big Walnut Area Historical Society.
Watch my program at YouTube:  “Decorated Flour Sacks in WWI. From Aid to Embroidery in Ohio”.
Program of the Big Walnut Area Historical Society, Ohio. Mrs. Polly Horn, director of the Myers Inn Museum in Sunbury invited me to develop this presentation. Enjoy!
– Mrs. Cheryl Ogden, director, and Megan, intern, of the Champaign County Historical Society Museum;
– Hubert Bovens from Wilsele, Belgium, for his research into the biographical data of photographer Leon van Loo.

– Georgina Kuipers for her attentive corrections to the English translations of my blogs.

[1] The Tribune, Coshocton, Ohio, October 22, 1914

[2] Edgar, William C., ‘The Millers’ Belgian Relief Movement 1914-15 conducted by The Northwestern Miller. Final Report of its director William C. Edgar, Editor of the Northwestern Miller, MCMXV’. Minneapolis, Minn. USA, 1915

[3] Gille, Louis, Ooms, Alphonse, Delandsheere, Paul, Cinquante Mois d’Occupation Allemande. Volume I 1914-1915. Brussels: Librairie Albert Dewit, 1919

[4] Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, 9 maart 1915

[5] The US Ambassador, Mr. Gidwitz, showed the flour sack during a recorded message at the online opening of the exhibition ‘When Minnesota Fed the European Children’ on October 12, 2020. Here the link to the YouTube recording of the opening, the American ambassador speaks 4 minutes: you can find it between 3.30 and 7.50 min. https://www.globalminnesota.org/events/past-events/exhibit-opening-of-when-minnesota-fed-the-children-of-europe/

[6] The two black and white photographs of Hoover Tower and the embroidered Sunbury Mills flour sack in HIA are from the book: Danielson, Elena S., Hoover Tower at Stanford University. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2018

[7] Hemingway, Joanne, Hinkhouse, Belle, Out of War. A Legacy of Art. West Branch, Iowa: Iowa State Questors, 1995.

“Out of War. A Legacy of Art” is available for purchase for $9.95 in the Gift Shop of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, Iowa, USA.

 

 

 

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