Family Story Uncategorized

The 20th century story of the Spitzer family

Before World War II

Károly Spitzer was born on 29 September 1882 in the village of Szabadi, near Győr, to Illés Spitzer and Róza Neufeld. The large family moved to Révfalu at the turn of the 20th century. (At that time Révfalu was still an independent village, annexed to Győr in 1905.) They bought a house in the Erzsébet királyné street, today’s Ady Endre street, where they ran a pub.

Károly Spitzer chose another trade and opened a butcher’s shop at 4 Czuczor Gergely u. in Győr.

Vilma Kellner and Károly Spitzer, 1910 © Olga Spitzer

In 1910 he married Vilma Kellner, born in Ács. Vilma was half an orphan at the time, her father, Hermann Kellner, a master tailor, died prematurely. Her mother, Hermann Kellner, née Antónia Berger, lived a long widowhood until her death in Auschwitz.

Károly Spitzer bought his own house, also in Révfalu, in Báthory Street. They had two children, Ferenc in 1911 and Olga in 1913. They lived the life of an honest, hard-working merchant-industrial family. They prospered financially, employed a helper in the shop, and had a servant in the household. On weekdays, they worked hard in the shop, and on Sundays, as was the custom of the time, Károly went to the café, where he discussed business and the world with his friends.

Olga Spitzer and Ferenc, 1930 © Olga Spitzer

They had their children educated, Ferenc at the Miklós Révai Grammar School, and Olga at the Count Albert Apponyi (now Ferenc Kazinczy) Girls’ Grammar School. Ferenc was not admitted to the Technical University, where he wanted to study architecture, because of the numerus clausus. So he studied at the textile college in Brünn (now Brno in the Czech Republic).  On his return home, he was unable to find a job in the textile industry, so he learned the trade of a butcher alongside his father.

Károlyné Spitzer b. Vilma Kellner, Hermanné Kellner b. Cecília Berger, Lacika Kohn, Lajosné Kohn b. Olga Spitzer (from left to right), around 1935; all Holocaust victims © Spitzer Olga

In 1933, Olga married Lajos Kohn, born in Bezi, who was engaged in cattle trade. He sold the cattle in Vienna and Italy. He was a good citizen. They had two sons, Lacika (1934) and Ferike (1938).

Lilla Lovas, 1941 © Olga Spitzer

In 1942, Ferenc Spitzer married Lilla Lovas, who was born in Bátorkeszi in the Felvidék. His father was Sándor Lovas (Lőwinger) from Galanta. His mother, Sarolta Wetzler from Komarno. His maternal grandfather, Mór Wetzler, was a wine merchant in Komarno.

Lilla Lovas és Ferenc Spitzer,  1942 © Olga Spitzer

Lilla Lovas and her mother were expelled from Bratislava by the Slovak authorities because of Slovak Jewish laws. So in 1939, they came to Győr, where they were declared stateless. Lilla did not get a work permit, but fortunately, thanks to her language skills, she was able to work as a governess for the family of the then master tailor Nándor Lőwi, who was working on Baross út. After her marriage, her husband was called up for forced labour service. The young married couple kept in touch through frequent correspondence. In these letters, Lilla gave a detailed account of the increasingly difficult daily life for the Jews. Ferenc managed to preserve the letters, which are now considered historic documents.

The family, along with their relatives near and far, were forced into a ghetto in 1944 and deported to Auschwitz. Lajos Kohn, a forced labourer, froze to death in the Don Bend.

Lajos Kohn’s death certificate from the Russian front, where he died in a forced labour camp © Spitzer Olga

Ferenc Spitzer was liberated in Mauthausen. First, Lilla was held prisoner for six weeks in Auschwitz, then for ten months in Lippstadt, where she worked as a slave in a war factory, twelve hours a day, on a grinding machine, without protective goggles. He was freed by American soldiers on 1 April 1945 and moved to a place called Kaunitz.

Of the narrow family, only Lilla and Ferenc survived the Holocaust, the others fell all victims of Nazi madness.

Life after World War II

Miraculously, my later parents, Lilla Lovas and Ferenc Spitzer, having lost parents and siblings, in failing health but surviving the horrors, tried to start life together again. The family house in Báthory Street survived, where a foreign family had moved in. My father managed to get the house back, so at least they had somewhere to live. Yes, many people of return did not have that.

My father tried to continue the independent animal trade business, but he was not allowed to do so for long. After that he had several jobs. He remained true to his social democratic political principles and refused to join the communist party. According to him, when he entered the recruitment centre, he was greeted by former Arrow Cross members, so he thanked them for the invitation but did not seek membership. He could therefore not expect any promotion. Until his retirement, he remained a junior officer on a modest salary.

Lilla Lovas and Ferenc  Spitzer, 1983 © Olga Spitzer

My parents died at the age of 79 and 88 respectively. They are buried in the Jewish cemetery in Győr.

In 2016, in memory of my grandparents, I placed stumbling stones in front of the entrance of their former residence.

To help you find your way around my family, here is a fragment of our family tree.

Our family tree © Olga Spitzer

I will tell the story of my own family in another chapter.

Contribution by Olga Spitzer