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From Germany to Bolivia and Back: A Patented Stamping Hammer with Counter and Its Inventor

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This stamping hammer with an automatic counter was invented by the Leipzig furrier Gustav Maletzki (1884–1947). The nails on the head of the hammer stamp a mark on the inside of an animal pelt. A joining rod transfers the force of every blow to a mechanical counter, which conveniently shows the number of furs stamped and delivered to the tannery.

Stamping hammer with automatic counter

Stamping hammer for raw animal pelts with counter, 1930–1938; Jewish Museum Berlin, Gift of Alfred Malecki, photo: Jens Ziehe

Travels as a Journeyman

The stamping hammer was made around 1930 and is one of the patented inventions for which Maletzki earned several awards. Maletzki's father was also a furrier, and in 1895 he moved with his family from Sieradz, Poland, to Leipzig. For centuries the German city, famous for its fairs, had been the center of the international fur trade, and many Jews worked in the industry. Gustav Maletzki spent several years as an apprentice and journeyman in Berlin, Brussels, Paris, and New York.

Return to Leipzig

Maletzki returned to Leipzig as an apparel furrier and founded his own company around 1910. Thanks to his innovative fur finishing methods, his business became highly successful and exported fur products to many countries in Europe. Even after the Nazis took power, Maletzki continued to apply for invention and utility model patents related to fur processing.

Escape to Bolivia

In autumn 1938, the German government ordered all Polish Jews to be deported. Facing the threat of forced expulsion, the Maletzki family gave up their company and fled to Bolivia in October 1938. There, Gustav Maletzki continued to work as an apparel furrier until his death in 1947.

»Polenaktion«

The term “Polenaktion” refers to the last-minute deportation of up to 17,000 Polish Jews from the German Reich in late October 1938. The mass deportation was carried out violently and came as a complete surprise to those affected. In response to this, Herschel Grynszpan, whose parents were affected, shot Ernst vom Rath, an employee of the German Embassy in Paris. He died two days later. The Nazis used this as a pretext to initiate the November Pogrom of 1938.

More on the Bundesarchiv website

Title Stamping hammer for raw animal pelts with counter, invented by Gustav Maletzki
Collection Material Collection
Location and year of origin Leipzig (?), 1930s
Medium Wood, metal
Dimensions 37 x 11,5 x 6,5 cm
Acquisition Gift of Alfred Malecki
Furrier

A furrier is a craftsperson who creates fur garments and fur products out of animal pelts.

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Selected Objects: Material Culture Collection (10)