Győr and Jewry

Bandi A. Schima, master of metal works

Why did Bandi Schima write a letter to Manó Adler?

The life of Bandi Schima

Bandi Schima, master craftsman awarded the distinction Master of the Gold Ribbon, found his place at the forefront of Hungarian and European ironwork and applied arts between the two World Wars with his high quality religious and secular, artistic and applied works. He donated his legacy to the museum in Győr, where it was received in 1962.

András Schima was born on 23 November 1882 in Orosháza in a poor, Swabian family. He inherited his manual skills from his father, a mechanical fitter, who himself had experimented with metal objects. Hoping for a better life, the family moved to Arad, where Bandi attended elementary school. As a schoolboy, he excelled in drawing. He continued his studies at the Arad Metal School, where he was a regular winner of school exhibitions and house design competitions. In 1898, he won a design competition at his vocational school with his entry under the title Miklós Toldi, and was awarded a scholarship to complete his studies.

Initially he worked as a locksmith, and then, with a scholarship from the Arad Chamber of Industry, he travelled to Berlin, where he graduated from the Academy of Applied Arts.

After graduation, he moved to Bratislava and became a teacher at the local school of wood and metalwork. His summary charts were used as teaching material in industrial schools throughout the country.

In 1909, at the age of 27, he arrived in Győr.

Head statue at the grave of Bandi Schima, by László Alexovics, bronze, 1958,

In 1914, he makes an ornamental axe for the German Emperor Wilhelm II, which wins the Emperor’s approval, so he sends Schima a brilliant-embellished tie pin as a gesture. In 1916, he sends a wreath of victory to the Turkish Sultan Mohammed V, who awards him the Silver Medal of Arts in recognition.

From 1919, Bandi Schima teaches at the Royal Hungarian State School of Wood and Metal Industry in Győr (now the Jedlik Ányos Mechanical and Information Technology College).

Jedlik Ányos Mechanical and Information Technology College in Győr today – Photo: Hegyaljai Imre

His career as a teacher lasted until 1927, from then on, he lived only for the art of engraving, and he opened a workshop in Zombor utca, Győr. He regularly exhibited at the Fine and Applied Arts Society of Győr.

In 1928, he visited Austria, Germany and France on a study trip to Western Europe.

In 1932, he was awarded the title of Master of the Gold Ribbon of Hungary at the 4th National Crafts Exhibition and Gold Ribbon Master Competition.

In 1936, he won an Italian scholarship to study in Italy, but only set off in 1937, partly because of the protracted work on his gift to Mussolini (!) and partly because he was short of money. On the occasion of this visit, he presented the Duce with a metal-ornamented oxen horn…

Bethmann Hollweg (1856-1921, German Imperial Chancellor 1909-1917), caricature sketch, Schima Bandi, Germany, 1920s, from the local history collection of the Rómer Flóris Museum of Art and History, reproduced from the Journal of Law and Political Science, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2018 (Jog- és Politikatudományi Folyóirat)

Back home, he created church ornaments, religious objects, home furnishings, signboards and much more.

The famous Golden Boat Sign, by Bandi Schima, 1938, Győr, Jedlik Ányos u. 16 – Photo by Péter Krausz

His life was the subject of a reportage film, and in 1958 it was shown in many cinemas as “Iron Flowers” in the 22nd Film News. In the year of his death, he was nominated for the Kossuth Prize, but he fell ill and died of pneumonia in April 1959. He could not receive the Kossuth Prize.

A street in Győr bears his name near his former workshop.

Cover page of the book Bandi A. Schima, master craftsman, Master of the Gold Ribbon (1882-1959), 2018, Emese Pápai (study and editor) –

The Rómer Flóris Museum of Art and History has published studies on Bandi Schima, edited by Emese Pápai, art historian. The album is illustrated with a rich collection of photographs from the artist’s post humus exhibition (2017, Magyar Ispita, Győr). The studies in the album cover Schima’s life, work, correspondence and photographic legacy.

Portrait of Bandi Schima, graphic by A. Kresz, 5 September 1956

Why did Bandi Schima write a letter to Manó Adler?

Manó Adler (known to the author of this article as “Manó Bácsi”), an architect from Győr, played an active role in the Győr Neologue Community and in the recovery of the bereaved community after his return from forced labour service and the tragic murder of his family in Auschwitz. He designed and led the construction of a completely unique pyramid-shaped Holocaust Monument in the Jewish cemetery in Győr-Sziget.

Bandi Schima was commissioned by the Jewish community leaders to create the decorative metalwork for the Monument .

Ernő Munkácsi (1896-1950, lawyer, legal writer, museum director, Jewish community officer) commemorates the merits of both the architect Manó Adler and the metal artist Bandi Schima – History of the Jewish Community of Győr, 1930-1947 (see Sources)

The Monument was unveiled on 15 June 1947. It is known that the ceremony was attended by Zoltán Tildy, President of the Republic, less known that he was accompanied by Prime Minister Lajos Dinnyés, and ministers István Dr. Ries, Gyula Ortutay and Ernő Mihályfi. Of course, national and local Jewish organizations, as well as top leaders of the American Joint and the town of Győr, were also present. Representatives of the Red Army were in attendance.

To recall an always topical quote from Prime Minister Dinnyés’ speech:

“… no truer and nobler verdict can be delivered by Hungarian democracy than that we all pledge to create a life under Hungarian skies that will make it impossible for hatred, inhumanity and evil to reappear within the borders of our country” – History of the Jewish Community of Győr, 1930-1947 (see Sources)

On 18 June 1947, three days after the unveiling ceremony, Manó Adler received a letter from Bandi Schima. This unique letter, reflecting Schima’s particular formal demands and the merits of Adler’s work as an architect, was preserved by the architect’s son György.

Here is the transcript of the handwritten letter:

„Addressed with due respect to
Mr Manó Adler
Dugonits utca 11.
Bandi A. Schima
Master of Applied Arts
H. Zombor utca 46

Dear Mr Architect,

I don’t usually push my luck at ceremonies. I preferred to go to the cemetery the next morning, when I could admire a magnificent work of art: your beautiful work.

Although I was already familiar with your unusual concept after your kind explanations and drawings, which already appealed to me, now that your concept has been translated into space and the dimensions are revealed in reality, only now does the artist really feel the magnificent juxtaposition of antique and modern lines, alongside the profound symbolism.

I was also pleasantly disappointed with the interior of the memorial, which is more monumental than I had imagined, not to mention the subtle atmosphere of solemn reverence created by the subdued smooth walls, the cleverly resolved ceiling design and the modest decorative band of letters. I regret, however, that, as I saw, there is something wrong with the book cabin, but I was also struck by the book … (Schima does not continue the sentence; here he speaks certainly about the Book of Martyrs listing the deportation victims – ed.).

The pedestal, staircase and entrance are all organically connected to the large mass of stone by their relatively filigree design.

The placement of the monument itself is extremely fortunate, and yet it is a pity that it is so far away from the city’s bloodstream and so isolated in a cemetery.

Summa-summarum: a fine and lasting work accomplished by you, dear Mr Architect, for which I offer you my sincere congratulations and warm handshake, and I remain with the high esteem which I always hold for the creative fellow human being.

Győr, 18 June 1947

                                                                               Schima B.

Bandi Schima’s original letter to Manó Adler, 18 June 1947 – the letter is in the possession of György Adler, photo by Péter Krausz
The Pyramid Monument in 1947, postcard, 1947,
The Pyramid Monument today, photo by Péter Krausz
The gate to the Pyramid Monument with Menora, Kohana and Levite symbols as well as that of the great disaster, created by Bandi Schima for the Jewish Community of Győr – Photo by Péter Krausz

Bandi Schima also created other works to preserve the memory of the tragedy of the Jews of Győr, namely the Book of Martyrs, which contains the names of the victims. For many decades, this completely original metal work, which preserves the names of the murdered, was on display in the Pyramid Hall, where relatives could search for entries about their family members, also in Schima’s handwriting.

The Book of Martyrs, cover plate, by Bandi Schima for the Jewish Community of Győr – Photo by Péter Krausz

For several years now, the book has been housed in the Prayer Room of the Jewish Community of Győr, where its physical integrity is better ensured. It has been replaced by a printed list of names in the cemetery. As new names of martyrs appear, Schima’s original list of names is always completed in his style, by hand.

The Book of Martyrs, bookmarks, by Bandi Schima for the Jewish Community of Győr – Photo by Péter Krausz
The Book of Martyrs, a list of the murdered Community leaders, by Bandi Schima for the Jewish Community of Győr – Photo by Péter Krausz
The Book of Martyrs, the beginning of the list of the martyrs, where you can see the names of Architect Manó Adler’s wife and daughter (!), by Bandi Schima for the Jewish Community of Győr – Photo by Péter Krausz

Schima, the great metalsmith was attracted to the powerful (Turkish sultan, German emperor, Italian dictator). Apart from this moment, I have not been able to find out his views about the world, since there are hardly any trace of them, except perhaps the caricature of the German Chancellor of the First World War published in this post and similar drawings.

His art and works in memory of the victims of the Holocaust are definitely enduring.

My father, whose extensive family, including wife and children had also perished in the Auschwitz hell, held the artist in high esteem.

Compiled, edited and translated from Hungarian by Péter Krausz

Special thanks to Gyuri (György Adler) for making Bandi Schima’s letter available for this publication and for his useful remarks on the draft text.

I would also like to thank Dr. Emese Pápai, art historian, chief museologist, Head of Department, Contemporary Cultural Centre, Rómer Flóris Museum of Art and History, Győr, for her important comments, which greatly improved the first part of the article.