Győr and Jewry

Bandi 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 family. He inherited his manual skills from his father, 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.

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 1926, from then on, he lived only for the art of engraving, and he opened a workshop. In 1932, he was awarded the title of the Master of the Gold Ribbon of Hungary at a competition of metalworkers. In 1936, he travelled to Italy. It was probably in connection with this visit that he presented Mussolini (!) with a metal-ornamented oxen horn… He undertook study tours in Austria, Germany and France.

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 has had success after success. He has 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 1956 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.

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.



Fisch Anhalzer Olga, from Győr to Ecuador

„Once in Ecuador she was mesmerized by the colors textures and tradition of folk art and began to collect and curate the first popular art collection in Ecuador, a collection that would later be touring the world.” [1]

Fisch Anhalzer, Olga Fisch, painter and textile artist, was born in Budapest in 1901 and died in Quito (Ecuador) in 1990. Her father was a porcelain merchant and she was the fifth child in a line of four brothers.

From an early age she wanted to be a painter.

Győr in 1913, Rába bridge, the Synagogue building on the upper left side – regigyő

Her family moved to Győr in 1906.

The gravestone of Olga Fisch’ parents in the Győr cemetery –

Olga attended the Hungarian State High School for Girls and Gymnasium in Budapest, and as a private student at the Benedictine Gymnasium in Győr, she passed some of her exams at the age of 16. She attended art classes at the present-day Kazinczy Ferenc Gymnasium in 1917.

During the Council Republic in Hungary, she painted political posters. She then moved to Vienna, where she became a ceramics designer at the Wiener Werkstätte. [2]

The logo of Wiener Werkstätte – Wikipedia

Besides her work, she illustrated books and worked for Népszava in Budapest (daily paper of the Social Democrats established in 1873 – ed.).

Female head, by Olga Anhalzer, engraving, cold needle, 1925 –
Old woman, by Olga Anhalzer, etching, signed, 1923 -the collection of the Bánki family, The Netherlands, photo by Esther Bánki

In 1920, she used her paternal inheritance to move to Düsseldorf, where she met and married the sculptor Jupp Rübsam.

Family Anhalzer, the parensts on the left, Olga second from the left in the 2nd row, her first husband, Jüpp Rübsam to her right, 1920s – collection of family Anhalzer, Quito

She studied at the Düsseldorf Academy of Arts. She and her husband worked together, creating public sculptures, painting and drawing. Around 1930 they divorced, but remained on good terms – shortly afterwards she married Béla Fisch, a trader in an Italian-Yugoslavian cement factory.

The staircase of the Düsseldorf Academy of Art today (the National Socialist “purge” in 1933 led to the dismissal of several lecturers, including Paul Klee) –

She and her husband travelled a lot, and she was able to spend a whole year in Africa. They returned to Germany in 1934, but sensing the spread of Nazi ideology, they returned to Győr.

Somewhere at a railway station, from left to right Pál Anhalzer, Olga’s brother, Olga and friends of the family, 1930s – Esther Bánki’s collection, The Netherlands

But they also perceived the historical dangers in Hungary. So, they left for Brazil. In 1939, they finally settled in Quito, capital of Ecuador, where she became a professor at the local school of fine arts.

Quito in 1930 –

She started weaving her own unique carpets combining Hungarian and Indian motifs, and discovered the art of the craftsmen of the Indian villages around Quito. In 1940, by chance, he ran into Lincoln Kirstein, then director of MoMa New York [3], who made her an offer to buy a rug for 300 dollars, an important sum at that time. Olga Fisch used this money, among other things, to open her folklore gallery in Quito in 1942, which is still in operation today.

Gallery Olga Fisch in Quito today –

Her relationship with the Native American folk artists soon became a two-way street: she learned from them their motifs, weaving techniques and exotic use of materials, and taught them to use stronger knotting, typical of Persian rugs, instead of the local loose weaving. At the same time, she became a regular customer and buyer for the Indian artists. She was not only interested in carpets: she also had interest in costumes, masks, musical instruments, paintings and ceramics, as well as clothing, from classic ponchos to modern garments.

The jewel of the gallery is a unique collection of pre-Colombian art –

Next to the gallery, she ran her own carpet weaving workshop, where she also worked a lot. She organised fashion shows, the business became internationally known and she had to move to larger premises in the 1960s. Her husband died in 1958, from then on, she ran the business alone, later with her niece and her descendants.

Not only did she collect and trade, but in 1962 she was instrumental in the creation of the Instituto Ecuatoriano de Folklore (Ecuadorian Institute of Folklore), documenting art that had previously been of no interest to anyone, and founding a scientific journal. Her role in drawing the attention of Ecuadorian intellectuals to ancient indigenous art is indisputable.

Olga Fisch in old age – twitter

Some accuse Fisch of “commercialising” Indian folk art, as she replaced the free hand of the artist with commissioned pieces. Others argue that the unintentional infiltration of Hungarian forms and the mixing of Indian and Hungarian folk art has broken the integrity of Ecuadorian folk art. Others consider it most significant that she discovered and made visible to others the indigenous values and that the inhabitants of many villages were able to earn a secure livelihood through Fisch’s work in the organizing and trading of the indigenous culture.

The Christian Science Monitor quoted her in 1980 and wrote this: “‘When I first started collecting the local Indian art and then opened this gallery, people were shocked,’ she says. I remember someone asking, ‘How can you, as a cultured European woman, collect this trash?’ Largely because of the efforts of Olga Fisch the artifacts produced by Ecuador’s 250 Indian tribes are no longer regarded as trash. Over the decades she has helped thousands of Indian artists and craftsmen acquire the means of placing their wares in the world market.”

Fisch visited her home country once more in 1987. Several exhibitions were held in Hungary: in 1988, her collection of Indian art was shown at the Ethnographic Museum.

The British Museum has bought dozens of works of art from Olga Fisch –

In Ecuador, Fisch’s name is well known, but even in the United States of America, several public collections, the Lincoln Center, the MoMa and the United Nations Palace hold a weaving of her.

Quito, with Cotopax volcano in the background –

Compiled and English translation by Péter Krausz


Wikipedia click (with modifications) and click


The Christian Science Monitor, 1981. szeptember 15

El Mundo

Hungarian State High School for Girls and Gymnasium, Budapest, Könyvtár | Hungaricana; Arcanum (thanks for the information to Esther Bánki, Netherlands)

St Benedict’s Catholic High School, Győr, 1917 Könyvtár | Hungaricana (thanks for the precision to Esther Bánki, Netherlands)


[2] The Wiener Werkstätte (Engl.: Vienna Workshop), established in 1903 by the graphic designer and painter Koloman Moser, the architect Josef Hoffmann and the patron Fritz Waerndorfer, was a productive association in Vienna, Austria that brought together architects, artists, designers and artisans working in ceramics, fashion, silver, furniture and the graphic arts. The Workshop was “dedicated to the artistic production of utilitarian items in a wide range of media, including metalwork, leatherwork, bookbinding, woodworking, ceramics, postcards and graphic art, and jewelry.” It is regarded as a pioneer of modern design, and its influence can be seen in later styles such as Bauhaus and Art Deco.

[3] The Christian Science Monitor, 15 September 1981

Győr and Jewry

Tapestry Synagogues – Judit’s self-confession

Handicrafts by Judit Siklósi in memory of those killed in the Holocaust

I started creating tapestries depicting Hungarian synagogues because my husband, Vilmos Siklósi, born in Budapest was a child of survivors. When we moved to Zalaegerszeg in 1991, he founded the “Peace Shalom Hungarian-Israeli Friendship Society” to promote cultural and economic exchanges between the two peoples.

Synagogue of Zalaegerszeg, tapestry by Judit Siklósi, 2004 – Photo by Judit Siklósi (built in 1903-04 based on the designs of József Stern using elements of Romanesque and Oriental styles – editor)

In 1995, the Jews of Zalaegerszeg awoke from their sleep and re-established the local Jewish community. At that time there were still survivors in and around Zalaegerszeg. My husband led the community until his death.

In 2004, the synagogue in Zalaegerszeg turned 100 years old currently serving as an exhibition and concert hall. For this anniversary I sewed the first tapestry depicting the synagogue in Zalaegerszeg. Aunt Bözsi, Imréné Anhalczer, a survivor, helped me to buy the material for my first creation. The tapestry measures 130×160 cm, has 500,000 stitches and was made in 1’700 man-hours.

Újpest Synagogue (Budapest), tapestry by Judit Siklósi, 2014 – Photo by Judit Siklósi (built in 1885-86 based on designs by Greier or Gränner (first name unknown) or Jakob Gärtner, featuring neo-Moorish motifs – ed.)

Seeing this work, Borgó (Dr. István Csaba György István [BORGO] (b. 10 May 1950, Marosvásárhely, RO, 10 May 1950), a Hungarian painter, graphic artist, tapestry designer, sculptor and teacher of Transylvanian origin – editor) said that what I had realized was so beautiful that he would organize an exhibition of it if there were more such works. After all, it was not he who organised my first exhibition, and I haven’t met him since, but it was on his suggestion that I should sew more that I took up preparing synagogue tapestries.

Synagogue of Debrecen, tapestry by Judit Siklósi, 2011 – Photo by Judit Siklósi (built in 1884 based on plans by Jenő Berger, architect of Debrecen, featuring late eclectic motifs – ed.)

In addition to synagogues, I also sew Jewish holiday images and symbols.

Synagogue in Lendava, tapestry by Judit Siklósi, 2004 – Photo by Judit Siklósi (built in 1866 in present-day Slovenia under Rabbi Moses Schacherlesz – ed.)

How are these pieces made? I draw the synagogue building myself on the tapestry fabric and follow the drawing with tapestry stitching. Most of the pictures are sized 40×50 cm.

Synagogue of Győr, tapestry by Judit Siklósi – Photo by Judit Siklósi (built in 1869-70, based on the Moorish and historicist-art nouveau designs of architect Károly Benkó – ed.)

So far, I have had eighteen exhibitions including abroad, e.g. in Marosvásárhely. Other venues include Hévíz, Zalaegerszeg, Bak, Szombathely, Mosonmagyaróvár, Győr, Pécs, Budapest (ORZSE), Szolnok, Tiszafüred, Szekszárd, Újpest, Siófok, Nagyatád (all in Hungary – editor). Several newspaper articles about these exhibitions were published, for example in Új Élet (“New Life” – newspaper of the Association of Jewish Communities in Hungary – editor). If I am invited to an exhibition anywhere, I am happy to go and produce a tapestry of the synagogue of the inviting city as a memento.

Synagogue of Frankel Leó Street (Budapest), tapestry by Judit Siklósi, 2011 – Photo by Judit Siklósi (built in 1887 based on the neo-Gothic style plans of architect Sándor Fellner – ed.)

In Nagyatád, I was confronted with the fact that the people of the countryside do not even know that a synagogue and a Jewish community once existed in their town. It was then that I realised that preserving the memories of synagogues is a tribute, a kind of “cultural mission” to the memory of our fellow human beings who were cruelly killed in the Holocaust.

Synagogue in Hévíz, tapestry by Judit Siklósi, 2005 – Photo by Judit Siklósi (built in 1933, demolished in 1977, in its place stands a Holocaust memorial – ed.)

I sew colour and black and white tapestries, the latter of synagogues that no longer exist because even the buildings have been destroyed, leaving no trace or memory of them.

Synagogue in Tiszafüred, tapestry by Judit Siklósi, 2012 – Photo by Judit Siklósi (built in 1912 in Art Nouveau style; no longer exists, the remaining block of the building is a furniture shop; there is a small plaque on the side of the building commemorating the victims of the Holocaust – ed.)

In short, I started the series to create pieces that would serve as a reminder and at the same time strengthen the connection of the local audience, of the city, to a destroyed piece of our common past.

Judit Siklósi

Those interested and wanting to purchase or order a piece may want to contact Judit at the following address: (ed.)

Edited and English translation by Péter Krausz

Győr and Jewry

Historical review of the co-existence of Jewish and non-Jewish communities in Győr – Part Two

Historical model changes in Győr and their relationship with the religious (ethnic) structure and spatial location of the population

Excerpts from a study by Dr Gyula Szakál, Associate Professor in ret., Economic Historian, Széchenyi István University, Győr

In the first part, you learned how the Jewish population of Győr came into being and how it co-existed with the majority community of other religions over the centuries. In part two, you will learn how the elite of Győr responded to the political crisis and human tragedy of 1944.

The reaction of the Győr elite to the political and human crisis of 1944

An important component of the economic mentality is the ability to gain, keep and overcome disadvantages. We have seen that from the 1850s to the turn of the 1890s, all the behavioural traits appeared in Győr. To what was due this flexibility and sense of reality? Here we must return to the historical path and the time factor. In our city – as in the country as a whole – the organic development of local society from the 1848-49 War of Independence to the Second World War or its eve (here I mean the time of adopting the restrictive laws on Jews) was not disrupted by external political forces. Within families and in the micro- and macro-textures of the urban elite, two or three generations of experience and patterns of behaviour were passed on. [5]

The roots of this pattern of behaviour go back to the city’s more distant past. The need and struggle to change from military town, episcopal city, patrician town, open trading town and then industrial town, the acceptance of the New has always won. Economic and human relations have always been open. This is the reason for the city’s inclusiveness.

Győri Nemzeti Hírlap announcing the 2nd law oj Jews –

The attitude of Győr’s elite was characterised by a sense of reality and social awareness, solidarity and personal responsibility. … In spite of overcoming economic crises and successful model changes, urban elites and their values were also affected by the events of the Second World War, including the laws on Jews and attitudes towards them.

In any case, from the mid-19th century onwards, Győr’s Jewish society became very quickly integrated with the city’s other religious populations. This was a consequence of the overwhelming majority of the Jewish population of the town belonging to the Neologue community and the resulting physical appearance and, crucially, mentality. Naturally, this also required the welcoming, opportunity-seeking attitude of the Christian economic and political elite as a partner. In industrial joint-stock companies seeking to modernise local economic life, or even in Masonic lodges attempting to improve society, the city’s most prominent citizens could cooperate regardless of their religious affiliation. One, if not the decisive, reason for this was that business competition was not linked to ethnicity but to personal performance.

The Józsa-house or Zichy Palace in Győr, with Atlases and commercial publicity, Liszt Ferenc u 20 – Photo: József Glück, around 1920

The quality of a society – and this is even more true for local communities – depends on how it treats immigrant aliens, minority religious and ethnic groups. In the case of Győr, 10% of the population after the turn of the century was Jewish. Among the economic elite, they held a stable position of around 30%, while in the Legislative Committee (of the city) they accounted for 20-30% of the members. They were therefore an inescapable part of the economic and political life of Győr. If we look at the network of relations and the culture of interaction in the bourgeois society of the time, we do not find any tensions that were specifically induced by the antagonism between the Jewish and Christian communities. The best example of this is the Masonic lodge Philanthropy, founded in 1901, in which Christian citizens were involved in addition to Jewish members. Two memoirs, in which no grievances are mentioned, testify to the smooth relations between the two religious groups. [6]

Bishop’s Palace- Photo: József Glück, around 1920-30

However, it is worth mentioning the daily Dunántúli Hírlap, published by the Bishop’s Office of Győr, in which more cautious, sometimes harsher, biting articles were regularly published. Their impact was negligible. We asked about this in conversations with the descendants of successful entrepreneurs (the second generation could still remember the 1910s and 1920s), but they did not perceive such a problem.

This seamless relationship, the interplay of social events and obligations, is illustrated by a series of ceremonies that accompanied the unveiling of a marble plaque commemorating the 85 Jewish heroes of Győr who died in World War I. It was the autumn of 1923 … The ceremony was attended by a delegation from the Ministry of Defence, the Győr Regiment, the leaders of the city and county administration and representatives of Christian churches. [7] The county bishop of Győr, Antal Fetser, himself spoke moving words of remembrance.

Memorial to the Jewish soldiers victims of WW1 in the Synagogue – Photo by P. Krausz

Peace continued and was extended well into the 1930s. In the spring of 1931, on the occasion of the quarter-century anniversary of the inauguration of the county bishop, Dr. Mór Schwarz, Chief Rabbi of Győr, praised the activities of the high priest with striking respect, obviously not without oratorical turns. Almost all Jews in Győr remembered that the wave of anti-Semitism that had appeared at the beginning of the 1920s had largely bypassed the city.

The Back Mill at the turn of the century-

Coexistence and supportive relationships worked on several levels. Around the turn of the century, Ignác Schreiber, a descendant of a former wealthy grain merchant family, set up a foundation to support students, helping those in need regardless of their religious affiliation. The foundation of Hermann Back – the family had long been baptised – helped start-up entrepreneurs.

News about Hermann Back’s foundation and the emperor’s recognition, Győri Hírlap, 9 November 1904 –

Even after the First World War, the establishment of various foundations was linked to Jewish citizens of Győr. Berta Kohn and her sister Jenny Kohn support the city hospital with a substantial sum of money, which is even appreciated by the Minister of the Interior, Ferenc Keresztes Fischer. In June 1925, the industrialists Lajos Buchwald and János H. Schmiedl registered a foundation to help workers. No wonder that the city’s authoritative bourgeois elite does not allow any anti-Semitic voices anywhere near it. In August 1934, the mayor, Dr. Ferenc Szauter, praised the activities of the Chief Rabbi Dr Mór Schwarz, a member of the General Assembly, and the Legislative Committee recorded this in a resolution.

It cannot be considered a coincidence that the combined support of the liberal and social democratic parties in Győr far exceeded that of the conservative parties in the Horthy regime. In fact, when in 1939, in the absence of liberal parties, only the Hungarian Social Democratic Party existed, it received far more support from local voters in percentage terms than in Budapest. The relations described above thus not only reflect the values of the wealthy bourgeois elite, but also the opinion of a broad section of the population of Győr.

Whereas the economic power field was reorganised earlier, the major political power field was reorganised later. The Second law on Jews abolished the daily Győri Hírlap and from 1 October 1939, with the publication of the Győri Nemzeti Hírlap (National Newspaper), the right-wing and even extreme right-wing media took over the provision of information to the citizens of the city. Among the local bourgeoisie, an attempt had already been made to bring about a (political) realignment, also at the behest of the central authorities.

Just look at the titles. The first page of the Győr National Newspaper (Győri Nemzeti Hírlap), 5 April 1944 –

In July 1937, a local group of the Baross Szövetség (Baross Association, a nationwide social association founded by tradesmen and craftsmen in 1919. Only members of Christian denominations were admitted – ed.), founded in 1919, was set up in Győr.[8] Its first hesitant local steps were limited to communicating the news from the capital and the central patterns of behaviour (expectations). A review of the association’s local membership list suggests that the mainstream urban bourgeoisie approached the organisation with due caution. Despite all the enticements of benefits, they were preoccupied with a lot of petty personal matters. Until they gained local publicity, their visibility was not very high. It was not only the more moderate bourgeoisie of Győr that kept their distance, even their leaders were not very prestigious. This organisation of so-called national Christian craftsmen and merchants was headed first by a lawyer and then by a doctor. It is true that the latter was extremely ambitious, but few people joined him in his activities.

Simultaneously with the events of the war, anti-Semitic language became a permanent feature of the local press. It was constructed quite simply. Jews were either helping ‘foreign agents’ to undermine the chances of victory in the war, or ‘trying to corrupt young Christian girls’, or spreading rumours. The citizens of Győr were bombarded with factoids (in today’s parlance, “fake news” – ed.). And from 1944 onwards, measures taken against the Jews were regularly reported on. Of course, news stories condemning Christian citizens who helped the Jews, highlighting the punishment imposed on them by the law, could not be neglected.

The question for us is how the people of Győr reacted to this. The effect of the fervent anti-Semitism fomented by the local newspaper was not satisfactory to the editors, and in several cases, it was reported with strong disapproval.

On April 21, 1944, 15-20 members of the Attila József Circle of Győr (Attila József (1905-1937), a progressive Hungarian poet – ed.) held a protest walk on Baross Street, wearing yellow carnations in their jackets. It took no small courage to do this simple act in those days, we might add. What we have here is essentially a humane expression of the cultural elite. But just as important for us is what the city’s political elite have been doing in these weeks.

The most difficult test has been the implementation of the decree on ghettoisation. It should not be forgotten that this had to be carried out against Jewish citizens who were members of the municipal council for a longer or shorter period of time, and therefore had a working relationship with the mayor and the drafters of the decree. Their number was not small, since over the previous 20 years or so, between 50 and 100 people had appeared in the municipal Legislative Committee as members of the Jewish community, either as important tax payers and voters or as members of the religious representation.

Forced removal to the ghetto across the Révfalu Bridge, mid-May 1944 –

The mayor of the city, Jenő Koller, presented the most humane solution to the Prime Minister. Based on the model of the capital city, he formed three groups of houses. Accordingly, there would be pure Jewish, pure Christian and mixed streets. Looking at the first plan, we can see that the so-called Jewish streets and squares (Batthyány Square, Bisinger Promenade, Deák Ferenc, Kisfaludy, Király, Dunaszer, Czuczor and Dr Kovács Pál Streets) already had a large number of Jewish-owned houses and apartments, as well as large floor areas and very good running water and bathroom facilities. As few people as possible would have had to move, families could have helped each other, and sanitary conditions were good.

The ghetto was established in Győr-Sziget – Photo: István Nagy

The move to the ghetto had already begun when Interior Minister Andor Jaross disagreed, saying that the Jewish population of Győr should be relocated to a well-controlled and isolated area. The new location of the ghetto was designated on 15 May 1944, and was situated in the area bordered by the Moson-Danube, the Rábca and Bercsényi park. Needless to say, this was a decidedly inhumane solution on the part of the Minister of the Interior. From the 1870s onwards, the Jewish and non-Jewish populations of Győr gradually became mixed. The wealthier citizens moved from the former Jewish district to the central parts of the city. From 1904, with the unification of Sziget and Győr, this process accelerated even more. Christian citizens bought the smaller houses and flats, which were left empty and of low comfort there. Here, too, there was finally a thorough mix-up … Conditions here were much worse. Houses were small, space was tight and sanitary conditions were very poor. Even this did not please the Home Secretary. The city tried to postpone the resettlement to the third and absolutely horrible ghetto, but the elite of Győr were completely helpless, although even the church leaders tried their best. …

Vilmos Apor, who took up his episcopal office in Győr during the period of the adoption of the third law on Jews, did his best to help the persecuted. He used all the means at his disposal for their protection. As president of the Hungarian Holy Cross Association, he provided them with legal and material aid and also sought to relieve the pressure on the Jews through his contacts. He wrote letters and sent telegrams to church and secular leaders. Archival records show that, in his defence of the Jews, he became involved in a heated exchange with the county’s government commissioner, who was forced to tell him that there was nothing more he could do. In June 1944, he personally visited the barracks on Buda Street to bring food, medicine and spiritual aid to Christians of Jewish origin. But the guards turned him back in a brutal and humiliating manner. The barracks on Buda Street were built as an emergency military hospital during World War I. By 1944 they were almost uninhabitable. Who would have thought that this ruin would be the home of thousands of citizens of Győr, even if only for a short time.

Since 1953, a school has occupied the site of the Budai út barracks –

The Arch-abbot of the Benedictine Order in Pannonhalma, Kelemen Krizostom, who was closely connected to Győr, was more successful thanks to his position. He contacted the Hungarian representative of the International Red Cross and they agreed to consider the whole settlement of Pannonhalma as a children’s shelter and thus put it under the protection of the Red Cross. His goal was achieved, and thousands of Jews among the refugees managed to survive the war. In 1998, he was awarded the “Righteous Among the Nations” medal for his achievements.

Kelemen Krizostom, Abbot of Pannonhalma, was awarded the title of Righteous among the Nations on 22 June 1998 –

The civic tolerant value model of Győr, which permeated the churches here, tried to do something for the persecuted even during the time of the Holocaust. However, greater historical power structures overruled the destiny of the country and the life of the settlements within it.

Unfortunately, the values and attitudes that had been formed over a long period of time could not be handed down through the generations, as the life of the country and its towns and villages was repeatedly shattered from the late 1930s onwards, and the guiding principle became the denial of the past rather than its continuation.

[5] As a result of the traumatic changes following the First World War, Győr suffered perhaps the least loss of all the large towns close to borders. (There are no specific studies on this.)

[6] Quittner 1996; Körner 2005.

[7] Lónyai 2004. The years between the two world wars and the events of the Holocaust have so far only been briefly reviewed from this perspective by Sándor Lónyai. Detailed knowledge of the events still requires much research.

[8] Archives of the City of Győr X/1. Documents of the Győr group of the Baross Association 1937-1944. These documents are still completely unprocessed.


Computer processing of ecclesiastical sematisms in the Győr-Moson-Sopron County Archives

Computer processing of the list of the instructions of the second law on Jews, which is kept as a separate list in the archives of the City of Győr

Archives of the City of Győr X/1. Records of the Győr Group of the Baross Association 1937-1944. Data have been taken from the records, but the source as a whole is completely unprocessed


Borovszki Samu: Counties and towns of Hungary, Győr county; Budapest, 1910

Eva Quittner: Pebbles of memory Győr, 1996

József Kemény: The History of the Jews of Győr, Győr, 1930.

András Körner: Taste of the past, Budapest, 2005

Sándor Lónyai: From the numerus clausus to Auschwitz, Budapest, 2004

Lajos Gecsényi: Győr guilds in the second half of the 16th century and the first half of the 17th century; Arrabona 21, 1979.

Lajos Gecsényi: Soldiers and citizens in the fortresses of Győr in the 16th and 17th centuries; Military History Publications, 1984

Gyula Szakál: Citizen entrepreneurs in Győr; Budapest, 2002

This study was published in the journal Műhely (Vol. 36, No. 2, 2013). Republishing rights were granted by Dr. Gyula Szakál.

The pictures are not included in the study, they are for illustration purposes only.

Edited and translated into English by Péter Krausz.

Family Story

Erzsébet Kardos (1902–1945), a paediatrician and psychoanalyst from Győr

By Anna Borgos

Erzsébet Kardos was one of the most promising talents of the Budapest School of psychoanalysis. Her tragically curtailed career, besides being unique and individual, also shows many of the typical features of Hungarian (women) psychoanalysts in terms of social background, women’s education, the influence of the numerus clausus and the persecution of Jews, emigrations, fields of interests, or choosing a partner from the same profession.

Erzsébet Kardos was born in Győr in 1902 in an assimilated Jewish merchant family. Her father Jenő Kardos (né Jakab Kohn, Hungarianized to Kardos in 1899) ran a men’s fashion store in downtown Győr (at 4 Baross Street), while her mother Teréz Eislitzer had a shoe store (at 12 Baross Street). After she was widowed in 1924, she ran the two businesses on her own; from 1927 at 15 Baross Street, at the ground floor of the family house that she bought and extended (see below).

Kardos’s shoe and fashion store, 15 Baross Street, Győr, around 1932 (courtesy of Attila Horváth)

Her brother Imre was born in 1904 and her sister Ilona in 1905. Erzsébet graduated from the state girls’ high school in Győr (now Kazinczy Ferenc High School) in 1921 (“well matured”), among her classmates was Margit Kovács, the later famous ceramicist. Meanwhile, in 1916-17 she was a private student, and between 1917-19 he studied at the Győr City Higher Commercial School.

Her desire to study, as well as the family’s financial situation and support, was firm enough for her to start university studies abroad due to the restriction of the numerus claususlaw. Kardos studied at the Medical Faculty of Würzburg University (Germany) from 1921 to 1923. She attended the Medical Faculty of the Erzsébet University in Pécs for five terms from 1924 to 1926, where she graduated in 1927.

Erzsébet Kardos, Würzburg, 1920s

Her letters to Ödön Bánki, a friend and for a while a boyfriend, contain much information about her circumstances and the changes in her state of mind during that period. They studied in the same year in Würzburg, where they shared accommodation for some time.

Erzsébet Kardos, student register card, Würzburg University

The letters mostly refer to university matters, financial difficulties, plans and opportunities, the family, acquaintances and politics. They often reflect mood swings, sometimes despair, yet they also indicate a high degree of consciousness and self-reflection, intellectual interest and ambition.

Erzsébet Kardos and Ödön Bánki, Starnberger See, Germany, 1925

She commented repeatedly on current political events which crucially affected her decisions about her place of residence, studies and future. From 1923 onwards, she submitted her application for admission to several European universities, including Leipzig, Bratislava, Basel, Bern and Munich. Antisemitic manifestations were presumably expressed more frequently in Würzburg and thus she started to think of moving to other places, although she did have an attachment to the town. (The atmosphere of escape and search for a safe place might remind us of the current situation, although in a different historical context.)

Kuci, the other day some strange fear got hold of me under the influence of alarming rumours in Germany […]. Please, give in my application to Leipzig and perhaps to another university which is not in Bavaria and where there is a slim chance of being admitted. I don’t think there is any chance elsewhere but in Giessen. I don’t mind where, but I’d like some guarantee.
Erzsébet Kardos to Ödön Bánki, from Győr to Würzburg, summer 1923?

The dilemmas concerning university studies point well beyond the intellectual aspects: the possible places were limited by administrative practicalities, financial and political circumstances. To obtain the official recognition of a foreign degree in Hungary required attending at least four semesters in a Hungarian university. In addition to the complicated and/or unsuccessful applications to other universities, that was the reason why in the end Kardos decided to finish her studies in Hungary at the Medical Faculty in Pécs. In the countryside the numerus nullus for women (applied by the Medical Faculty of Budapest University between 1920 and 1926) was not in force, and the numerus clausus concerning Jews was not implemented so strictly either.

Her interests and ambition are indicated by her own idea of translating a fundamental German clinical book by Ernst Magnus-Alsleben (Vorlesungen über klinische Propädeutik), for which she was trying, albeit apparently unsuccessfully, to find a publisher.

After graduation Kardos did not stay in Hungary: from the summer of 1927 she worked for two years as an assistant at Arthur Schlossmann’s clinic for children (Kinderklinik der Städtischen Krankenanstalt) in Düsseldorf. During that time, she was also chief consultant at the Auguste-Victoria-Haus Children’s Home in Düsseldorf (Schlossmann’s daughter, Erna Eckstein-Schlossmann, was in charge of the institution), where 120 children were cared for, and she held lectures for nurses participating in medical training.

From there she made an even bigger leap, both geographically and professionally: in 1929 she was invited to Colombia where she worked as senior paediatrician in the private clinic of the German bacteriologist Maxim Bauer in Barranquilla, as well as performing laboratory tests of tropical diseases in the bacteriological institute also directed by Bauer.

During her 18-month stay in South America she organised expeditions on her own and as the first woman (following Bauer’s expeditions) she travelled to the Guajiro (Wayuu) Indian tribe, who lived on the Guajira Peninsula, on the border of Colombia in the northern part of Venezuela.

Here she conducted a study of their customs and way of life. Daily newspapers such as Magyar Hírlap (Hungarian Newspaper) and Délamerikai Magyarság (South American Hungarians) reported on the expeditions. In May 1932 Magyar Hírlap interviewed Maxim Bauer who talked about Kardos with appreciation so much so that he intended to name the 6000-metre-high glacier in the Sierra Nevada, he first climbed, the Kardos Peak (I have not found a later trace of that).

An October copy of Magyar Hírlap in 1932 gives an account specifically of Kardos’s trips and the way of life and customs of the Indian tribe she visited with comments by a journalist.

A soft-spoken and quiet young woman with a friendly gaze is sitting opposite me. No one would believe how much knowledge she has in her head, what incredible energy is within this small, charming creature who has achieved recognition in foreign scientific circles. […] This extremely talented young woman doctor returned from Colombia in the spring because, as she says, she could not cope with the atmosphere there psychologically. Since then, she has lived in Germany. She has worked successfully in various scientific institutes in Munich and Berlin. Homesickness is bringing her back to Hungary now. For some time, she will stay at home with her family in Győr, where she will also work.
Magyar Hírlap, 15 October 1932

Thus, in 1932 Kardos returned to Europe and worked with paediatrician Heinrich Finkelstein, the medical director of the Kaiser and Kaiserin Friedrich Municipal Children’s Hospital in Berlin. In late 1932 “homesickness brought her back to Hungary” (or, more likely, the political climate in Germany) and she lived and worked in Győr for a while, where she opened a private paediatric practice in the family house. The waiting room of her office was designed by Bauhaus artist Zsuzsa Bánki.

News about the opening of her private practice, Dunántúli Hírlap, 22 November 1932

For two years, from 1933, she worked with Lipót Szondi in the Pathological and Remedial Laboratory of the Hungarian Royal College of Special Education in Budapest. She performed the psychological and biological examination of juvenile criminals sent from the Juvenile Court and conducted the check-up and developmental therapy of children with special needs.

From 1934 she attended training analysis with Vilma Kovács and two years later, in addition to her Budapest paediatric practice, she began a psychoanalytic practice too. In 1940 she married paediatrician and psychoanalyst Endre Pető. In their shared work attempting the metapsychological description of play, they pointed out that all the specifics of the primary processes can be found in children’s play, which thus helps integrate these impulses into the ego. Kardos’s only (posthumous) study (“Contributions to the Theory of Play”) was based on this joint thinking. Endre Pető published the study with his own addenda in the British Journal of Medical Psychology in 1956.

In 1939 the couple applied for immigration to Australia where they were finally granted a visa in September. Yet they stayed in Budapest. Possibly it was Pető’s elderly mother and their recently furnished apartment that made them stay. They did not feel the danger strongly enough. In addition, both joined the Psychoanalytical Society that year and were ready for analytic practice. They could work for a while, until the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944. During the reign of the Hungarian Arrow Cross from the autumn of 1944, they were hiding separately with forged papers.

However, shortly before the liberation of Budapest in January 1945, someone denounced Kardos and she was discovered and murdered by an Arrow Cross squad in the city. Lívia Nemes writes in her article on the fate of Hungarian psychoanalyst during fascism: “Neurologist Margit Ormos recalled that she had met her at the gate to the ghetto in January 1945. She had a bag in her hand, perhaps was fleeing from somewhere or went to help someone. She was most likely the last person who saw her.” Kardos’s father had died as early as 1924, but her mother was deported from Győr and murdered in Auschwitz. Her brother Imre and sister Ilona emigrated to Australia in 1950.

The grave of her parents in Győr

In 1946 psychoanalyst Imre Hermann commemorated the war victims and Kardos’s work on children’s play was read out. Hermann characterised her as follows: “She was sensitive and compassionate, and courageously helped many in circumstances of great danger to herself. She was one of the younger members of the Society but had earned an excellent reputation, especially in the field of child analysis.” (International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 1946)

Erzsébet Kardos’s promising career was destroyed by the antisemitic ideologies and policies which she had to face from the beginning of her university studies. Partly political pressure and partly professional curiosity motivated her departures from Hungary. Despite her fragmented career, she realised an active, busy professional life of an insightful and emotional personality: a person with diverse interests in paediatrics, cultural anthropology and psychoanalysis, as well as a committed attitude to treatment and intellectual work.

For a longer version of this article, see (in Hungarian) and (in English).

I am very grateful to Ödön Bánki’s daughter, art historian Esther Bánki for sharing letters, photos and other valuable information with me. The English translation of the letters is mine.

Anna Borgos is a psychologist and women’s historian; she is a research fellow of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology and the editor-in-chief of the Hungarian psychoanalytic journal Imágó Budapest. Her main fields of research are the career of intellectual women in the early 20th century and the history of sexuality. (Note by the editor)

Győr and Jewry

Historical review of the co-existence of Jewish and non-Jewish communities in Győr – Part One

Historical model changes in Győr and their relationship with the religious (ethnic) structure and spatial location of the population

Excerpts from a study by Dr Gyula Szakál, Associate Professor in ret., Historian of economic relationships, Széchenyi István University, Győr

Introductory reflections

Győr … in 1743, having bought its way out, was elevated to the rank of free royal city. It could have remained a peaceful patrician town, but two generations later it was already on the path to becoming a grain trading city. Subsequent to the opportunity to trade in agricultural produce closing (1870s), there was a brief period of livestock trade, and then, recognising its limitations, the local elite quickly moved towards the establishment of modern manufacturing industry. …

Coat of arms of the Free Royal City of Győr –

How was this linked to the ethnic and religious structure of the city and its spatial location? The uniqueness of Győr was that within a relatively small radius, four settlements were divided by rivers and legally separated, while these parts were functionally completely united. For a long time, the three rivers were also the boundaries of the municipalities. Győr and the associated Újváros were located in the inner part of the city, bordered by the Danube, the Rába and the Rábca, while Sziget, Révfalu and Pataháza were located in the outer parts as independent villages. This legal status was maintained until 1905. The spatial separation also meant the division of religious groups.

Religious conflicts and the urban space

… the evangelical population, or its elite, was an economically innovative, successful stratum. This group represented 6-7% of the urban population, and among the richest (a group of 250 of the richest taxpayers) their share was around 15-20% until the early 1900s. The proportions are very similar to the performance of Jewish entrepreneurs. …

The movement of the Reformed (Christian) and the Jewish communities in the region of Győr in the 17th and 18th Centuries – Study by Gyula Szakál

Emergence of the Jewish population

The third religion and ethnicity whose increase in numbers was linked to the function of the military town was Judaism. There are no direct archival records until the 1800s, but there are indirect references to their presence. The number of soldiers increased or decreased, but it certainly meant an increase in consumption. In particular, the role of mobile traders grew in the preparation of military campaigns. There are also indications that military commanders did not despise the share of the surplus income of military contractors. In another period – 1720 – there are also indications that under the protection of General Heister, ‘large numbers’ of Jews, Greeks, Serbs and Armenians settled in the city, paying only to him for protection. [1]   It is quite certain that this practice could not have been otherwise in the past. There are also indications that in the town, which was rebuilt after the fire of 1567, there was already a ‘Judengasse’ and a house used as a synagogue close to it. If we look at the geographical location, these were located right on the edge of the most dangerous part of the city wall.

The intolerance of Maria Theresa, German-Roman Empress, Queen of Hungary, towards the Jews (e.g. their extermination in Prague, the introduction of the Jewish tax, ambiguously called “tolerance tax”) had a great impact on the fate of the Jewry in Hungary, including Győr –

The fate and geographic movement of the Jews of Győr took on a particular shape as the role of the military town faded. The settlement became a free royal town from 1743, but a council decision to expel the Jews from the town was taken as early as 11 December 1747. We do not know exactly how many people were affected, but it could not have been more than 300. As in the case of the evangelists, the expulsion was symbolic. They were moved to the village of Sziget, on the other bank of the Rábca River, which was owned by the bishop. The earliest record we have is from 1791, when the catholic church allowed 30 families to settle there for 200 Ft a year. Although it forbids the admission of further families, it also grants the community full autonomy. They can maintain a house of prayer, elect a judge who, in addition to internal affairs, settles disputes even between Jews and Christians. [2]

If you look at the number of families, you can only think of large families. The first accurate data is recorded in the ecclesiastical sematisms (directories; kept by village parish priests, including data on the denominational distribution of the settlement – ed.) from 1804. Only 13 years have passed since the forced emigration, but this census mentions 351 Jews, which was 9.6% of the population. The space cut up by the rivers and the divergence of jurisdictions provided an opportunity to exclude them fully from the city, but in essence it did not happen, having moved only a few hundred metres away from the centre. From then on, however, this area became the centre of their geographical identity, even when most of them no longer lived there.

The case of the construction of the new synagogue is a good example of this. A religious community, when it becomes financially strong enough, wants to visually present its existence. From the Middle Ages to the present day, the most concise form of this has been the building of churches. It was not only a simple place of worship that was needed, but also, depending on financial strength or even political influence, its location was also important.

This was the case in Győr, when the community, which had become financially stronger thanks to the grain trade, wanted to build a representative synagogue instead of a very modest and unimpressive prayer house (one was on Kígyó Street – a very small street – and the other was hidden on the floor of a guest inn). At this time, still the early 1860s, the more affluent sections of Jewry already began to move out of the village of Sziget which had once housed them.

Szarvas utca in Győr-Sziget was a poor neighbourhood even in the 1970s – facebook-régigyőr-photos

The internal tension in the community was palpable. Those pf the Sziget district – the poorer section of the group – felt that the townspeople were ‘trying to force them’ to leave the ancestral soil. Looking back to the late 1920s, József Kemény says there were serious struggles, various alternatives were considered, and finally the assembly of representatives, almost exclusively made up of very wealthy entrepreneurs, made the decision. … József Kemény assessed this decision: ‘The decision shows that the majority finally came to the conclusion that if the Jews were to develop their economic and cultural strength, if the centre of their activities is to be increasingly shifted to the city, their representative temple … must not remain in the former ghetto.’ [3]

It is worth noting that the land purchased was very close to the church of the Evangelical community (separated by a street), the church of the Carmelite Order (bordered by a river) and the bishop’s residence was only a few hundred metres away. The area was large enough for the planned synagogue to serve as a suitable landmark, or even a counterpoint. The city government of the time did not at all hinder this ambition (it should be noted that the representative body at this time was composed almost entirely of Christian citizens).

The Synagogue in the 1910s – Photo by József Glück , Dr Kovács Pál Library

We have already mentioned that the realisation of these dreams was made possible by the intermediary trade in grain. Grain from Bačka-Banát and partly from the lowlands was transported via the Danube and Győr to the markets of Vienna, and from there onwards. This trading role directly provided a livelihood of some kind for 15-20% of the population. But the multiplier effect was greater.

The huge housing and public buildings (schools, law courts, other public buildings) in the city centre were built with the capital generated. And for the top merchants, the profit margins, sometimes in the hundreds of percent range, made it possible to pursue almost ‘American’ careers. For the Jewish population of the settlement, this situation provided an excellent opportunity. All the opportunities were open to them to develop their previously accumulated knowledge, capital and contacts. This two-decade period from the 1850s onwards was exploited most skilfully by Jewish entrepreneurs. The names of families such as Fleischmann, Ehler, Kőnig, Keppich and Schreiber became known and, at the same time, respected.

These wealthy entrepreneurs started a spatial movement towards the most frequented streets of Győr’s city centre. In the absence of research in this direction, we can only deduce from scattered data that the properties they owned were not only of considerable size, but also served as landmarks. The spatial movements of the wealthiest group were later followed by others.

From the processing of the ecclesiastical sematisms, the numerical growth of the Jewish population of Győr can be clearly seen.

Increase in the Jewish population of Győr

YearCapitaProportion of the
population, %
18043519,6Sziget district
180935812,0Sziget district
181935420,5Sziget district
183072017,3Sziget district
184085019,8Sziget district
1851124331,0Sziget district
1861131835,2Sziget district
1872288512,0Győr, entire city
1881382614,6Győr, entire city
1891403617,3Győr, entire city
1901531715,7Győr, entire city
191054189,6Győr, entire city
1917564713,2Győr, entire city
1928602312,3Győr, entire city
194049679,7Győr, entire city
Source: own editing based on data from ecclesiastical sematisms.

Beyond tracing the numerical movement, the more interesting question for us is the relationship between the Christian and Jewish populations. Looking through the most diverse sources of contemporary social publicity – newspapers, publications – and oral recollections, we find only minimal manifestations of anti-Semitism in Győr.

Győr Distillery on a postcard at the beginning of the 20th century. Lederer Ágoston managed and modernised the factory as owner between 1895 and 1936. He also founded the Győr Wagon and Machine Works. – Collection of János Honvári,

The struggle between the entrepreneurial elite groups in Győr was evenly matched and in more than one case it was the Jewish entrepreneurs who had to cling to their Christian counterparts. If you look at the dozen or so bourgeois families that were considered the richest in the eyes of the public (tax lists confirmed this exactly), Christians were certainly predominant. There was no status envy, not even jealousy. In many cases of the change from a merchant town to an industrial model, we found a very high degree of cooperation between elite groups of different religions. The reason for this is to be found not only in the receptiveness, flexibility and Westernised civic values of the bourgeoisie of Győr, but also in the mentality of the local Jewish population. From very early on they lived together with local citizens, and if we look at the geography of immigration, they came from Western countries or from neighbouring settlements. According to the data in the local sematisms – and this was obviously also the case nationally – they very often, but by no means exclusively, performed commercial and other service functions in the surrounding villages.

Book of remembrance of the Jewish inhabitants of Gyömöre, also known as ‘Little Palestine’ – ©

In a nearby settlement, Gyömöre (about 25 km from Győr), a small Jewish colony with a Yeshiva was established by mid-19th century.  … We have scarce data to show that many people came from the surrounding settlements to Győr, which offered greater opportunities. The Jews of Győr belonged almost exclusively to the Neologue movement, in appearance and behaviour not unlike the bourgeoisie or even middle-class groups of the Christian faith as understood locally. According to an oral recollection, it was almost a unique opportunity to see Jews with sideburns and in kaftans in Győr, who did not move much from the Sziget district. Simply put, a Jewish entrepreneur in Győr is first an entrepreneur, then a Győr citizen and only then a Jew. Religiousness, as an identity-forming, group-forming, and thus bonding and excluding aspect in Győr, had been thoroughly weakened by the end of the 19th century. The pragmatic values of the bourgeoisie always overrode religious rifts.

Károly Zechmeister (1852-1910), Győr’s mayor –

The most prominent mayor of the town, Károly Zechmeister (1888-1906), was of Lutheran origin, while the town’s chief medical officer, Fülöp Pfeiffer, and the town’s fire chief, Ernő Erdély, were of Jewish origin.

The Napoleon House, owned by Dr Fülöp Pfeiffer (1845-1930), which he rented in 1892 for a girls’ school –

Estate inventories show that the general practitioners of active Catholic public figures were very often Jewish. It is therefore not surprising that the Masonic lodge(s) of Károly Kisfaludy, which was very strong and active at the turn of the century and had many members of Jewish origin, … included also many Christian members.

Ernő Erdély (1881-1944), Győr fire brigade commander, who was deported to Auschwitz and murdered despite his unheard-of merits

Spatial framework of coexistence

The integration of Jewish entrepreneurs into Christian society can be considered seamless. There was no question of occupational or even territorial segregation. Computer processing of historical housing and address directories and of the census ordered by the second law on Jews (“Law IV, 1939, on the Restriction of the Participation of Jews in Public and Economic Life” – ed.) proves this. The latter list contains 506 items (names, occupations, streets). [4] Of these, 67 were deleted, who had died or moved away, and were included in the processing, since we were carrying out a social history analysis and these citizens had lived and worked in Győr for a long time.

We were mainly interested in occupations and their spatial location. In our case, the names were only important in terms of the proportion of families that were considered to be truly wealthy locally (among the richest). After all, there is always a family behind the names. Our estimate may be subject to subjective errors, but a maximum of 20 families could be considered truly wealthy. The list therefore ranges from the local Jewish upper middle class to the lower middle class. It excludes doctors, lawyers, and business as well as technical intellectuals. In Győr in the 1930s, the latter was a group of considerable size and power. Also missing were the poorer group who worked as workers or employees.

If we take the entrepreneurs in the list as a family of four, this represents 40% of the local Jewish population, but if we think of a family of six, it represents 60%. It is likely that the latter figure is similar to the real proportion. 63% of the entrepreneurs on the list were engaged in trade. We were able to sort the trading occupations (the same occupation was described in more than one way) into 36 major groups. The distribution of occupations shows the trend towards industrialisation and urbanisation. Food, general merchandise, textiles and clothing retailers accounted for nearly 60% of the 235 traders. They were essentially found in all trade sectors. It is rather interesting where they were few in number, even though stereotypes would have led one to expect their presence there. Only 24 entrepreneurs were involved in the second-hand clothing trade, the rawhide trade and the feather trade, which represented 5% of the whole group. Only 15 inn/pubkeepers were recorded (3.3%), although there were many more inns and pubs at the time. As a mere curiosity, 8 pig traders and one loan librarian were also recorded.

Iron Rod House with a seed shop on Széchenyi Square – photo by József Glück around 1910, Dr Kovács Pál Library

We were able to organise the 271 craftsmen into 38 major categories. Almost every profession of the time was represented. Nearly a third of the craftsmen were tailors, hatmakers, embroiderers and other clothing-related businesses. We also found 30 shoemakers (15% of Jewish craftsmen), 12 hairdressers (4.4%), 10 photographers and 6 dental technicians. We can assume that the majority of the photographers and dental technicians of the period were of Jewish origin. It is merely of interest to note that one goldsmith, one shipwright, one thresher, one window dresser and one cleaner were also recorded.

Perhaps more important than the occupational structure is the spatial location of businesses. According to contemporary records, there is at least one Jewish entrepreneur in 121 streets (squares) of Győr. It could be said that by the early 1930s they had already settled in the entire city. Of course, we know that the place of residence and the place of business did not always coincide, but for us it was the presence in the urban space that was important. Their home in the Sziget district of the time almost emptied between the two world wars. We could link at most 13-15% of the businesses recorded in the inventory to this area. In the immediately adjacent Újváros, their share could be a maximum of 10%. Obviously, the poorest layer still remained in their old location, but these are not recorded in the source.

Rozália House on Kazinczy Street, one shop next to the other photo by József Glück around 1910, Dr Kovács Pál Library

Three quarters of businesses are concentrated on city centre streets. It should also be noted that doctors and lawyers of Jewish origin also lived in this area. (The downtown area occupies a circle with a maximum radius of 400 metres, which takes 15-20 minutes to walk around.) We found 53% of entrepreneurs in this area. However, one observation needs to be made. On Baross Street, which was the most representative shopping street in Győr at the time, their presence can be estimated at perhaps 30%. It would be good to know the religious distribution of the traders and craftsmen operating in each street. We can only estimate the 1938 data, as the closest accurate street list of businesses we have is from 1915.

Deák Ferenc Street, the second most important shopping street in Győr between the two World Warsphoto by József Glück around 1910, Dr Kovács Pál Library

It is also likely that the number of businesses could not have increased substantially from 1915 to the 1930s, as the geographical space of the street did not allow for this. We also assessed that in 1904, a business on Baross Street was a mere 5 m away, which had decreased to 4 m by 1915. The space of businesses could not have shrunk any more than this, or more precisely, their number could not have increased any more. The same proportion on the adjacent and equally long Deák Street fell from 9 to 7 m between the dates indicated. Thus, the proportion of Jewish businesses on the most important downtown streets can be put at less than 50%. More importantly, the premises of the leading businesses on Baross Street were quite large. This was the case with Ferenc Sándori’s hardware store, Jenő Kocsis’ department store, Gusztáv Kőnisgberg’s and Géza Alexy’s shops. They were Christian entrepreneurs.

The Kreszta House in Apáca Street photo by József Glück around 1910, Dr Kovács Pál Library

There is a surviving photograph of the Salzer brothers’ shop, which was very modest in size and we know that they had great difficulty in finding a place on Baross Street. The largest merchant’s house in the downtown area, which had two floors, was owned by the Catholic Kreszta family. On Kossuth Street, the longest street in Győr, which separates Sziget from Újváros and connects directly with the city centre, there were 170-180 businesses, of which we can estimate the proportion of Jewish businesses at 20% at most. Only one “Jewish Street” was found, Híd Street, where the proportion of Jewish entrepreneurs can be estimated at 90%. This was both a connecting and a dividing street between the three districts. They catered specifically to the needs of the poorer layers of the urban population, with their very modest-looking shops.


Be sure to read the Second Part to find out how the Győr elite reacted to the political crisis and human tragedy of 1944.

[1] Borovszky 1910: 363.; [2] Quoted by Kemény 1930: 18.; [3] Kemény 1930: 67.; [4] Győr City Archives: separate lists

The list of the literature and sources used is provided in the Second Part.

This study was published in the journal Műhely (Vol. 36, No. 2, 2013). Republishing rights were granted by Dr Gyula Szakál.

The pictures published here are not included in the study, they are for illustration purposes only.

Edited and translated into English by Péter Krausz.

Family Story

Dr István Bakonyi’s Wanderings, Part 6 and Epilogue

The misadventures of a Medical Doctor from Győr in the final days of World War 2

In the first part you learnt why and how the diary is born, in the second one you discovered that German and Hungarian military units couldn’t resist the Russian advance, bombs were dropped even during the Christmas holidays, a good pair of boots was worth its weight in gold and a doctor could help those in trouble anywhere and anytime. In part three you read about occasional forced work hours, the tampering with their medical supplies and medicines, the adventures of the wandering troop in Székesfehérvár and their approach to the capital city. We learn about the behaviour of drunken Russian soldiers in part four, as well as the mutually profitable exchange of “goods” with another Russian, a repeated robot (forced work for the Russians), how important it is to have good ID papers, and the search for wine for a Russian army unit. Dr Bakonyi explains the difference between the behaviour of the Hungarian authorities and the Russian Army towards the Jews. This comparaison goes in favour of the latter. In part five we meet the kind-hearted Uncle Schatz from Párkány, learn that Dr. Bakonyi’s medical work is paid for by his patients with flour, fat and bacon, that there are great difficulties crossing strictly controlled bridges, that the lice attacks in Zebegény, that the doctor runs into relatives and acquaintances in Budapest, that he stays for an extended period and practices medicine in a village called Penc.

Sunday, 25 March 1945

I was in church (not clear: church or synagogue? – editor’s note) this morning and I was really thinking about a lot of things. I really want to be home and especially with you, my wife. I read in today’s paper that Esztergom, Felsőgallá, Tatabánya have already been taken by the Russians, and some say even Komárom. I have just written to Feri Parányi, who is in Vác, asking him for further news, because if these reports are true, I shall be on my way home immediately.

Tuesday, 27 March

I hope to have Parányi’s reply by today. According to a Russian telephonist here, the Russian army has taken Komárom and has already surrounded Győr. This is not good news, because if it comes to a siege, there will be a lot more unnecessary casualty. I am very worried about what is to come! I’m counting the days, if the news is true, I’ll start tomorrow, and with a bit of luck I’ll be home by Easter, … it’s a little over 100 km from here.

Wednesday, 28 March

Feri Parányi wrote yesterday and in his letter, he says that he wants to leave in about two weeks only. For my part, I don’t want to wait any longer, I’m fully packed and will leave tomorrow morning. I will check in Vác what the situation is and which route I can take. If possible, I will go to Párkány and continue that way, because I am very interested in the fate of Uncle Schatz, who is still in Párkány.”


So far, “Dad’s Diary”.

But who was actually Dr István Bakonyi?

About her father I can no longer talk to his daughter, Hugi, who kept his Dad’s Diary.

Towards the end of his misadventures, Dr Bakonyi reached the village of Penc, which fortunately did not forget the forced labourer medical doctor who practised there in March 1945. This is what the local publication Penc News wrote about him in 2018:

“The author of the diary, István Bakonyi, a doctor from Győr, was born in 1904 into a civil family of Israelite religion. He completed his primary and secondary school education in his home town and although he passed his school-leaving examination, his intentions to continue his studies were “not encouraged” because of the numerus clausus in force at the time. Thus, in 1922-23, he worked as a carpenter.

István Bakonyi (upper row, fourth from left) with his fellow medical students in Pécs in the years 1923–1924,

In 1923, he was still admitted to the Faculty of Medicine at the Erzsébet University of Pécs, where he graduated in 1929. After his studies, he returned to Győr, where he worked as an ambulance doctor, and from 1937 until he was called up for labour service – realising his idea of building a modern medical practice – he served the citizens of Győr as a private doctor.

Irén Kőműves and Dr István Bakonyi, wedding photo 1942,

In the 1930s, he met Irén Kőműves, his future wife, who was not of Jewish origin, but according to the laws on Jews, their marriage on 23 August 1942 was only possible if his future wife converted to the Israelite faith. During the labour service she was often close to her husband, only leaving when the situation no longer allowed it. They had two daughters.”

And who was Irén Bakonyi?

A few words about Hugi (her nickname), one of István Bakonyi’s daughters, the guardian of the diary.

I met her decades ago in the Győr cemetery. To my great surprise, she told me in very modest and simple words that she was a sports shooter and not at any level, because she was a multiple Hungarian champion and a member of the national team!

She was a great sportswoman, and perhaps she inherited her perseverance from her father.

On the occasion of her very early death in March 2019, the Budapest Sport Shooting Association published the obituary (in Hungarian) quoted in part here:

“Irén Bakonyi was born in 1948 in a family of intellectuals.

She got acquainted with sport shooting in the club Győri Dózsa, from where she joined Újpesti Dózsa (UTE) in 1970. Soon she became a member of the national team …

As from 1981 she has been the Technical Director of the Sport Shooting Division of Újpesti Dózsa … She has made an invaluable contribution to the success of UTE today.

Hugi Bakonyi, the shooter,

But she was not only dedicated to the Division, but also to its competitors. Many of our athletes owe the development of their careers to Irén.

She was the one who stood by us in the most difficult times of the Club and the Division.

She also participated in the daily work of the Hungarian Shooters’ Association and the Budapest Shooters’ Association as a board member of both organisations. These positions were not just titles for Irénke. They meant a great deal of work for her. From student competitions to continental tournaments, she took part in all the work from preparations to execution. She was also involved in the everyday life of sport shooting as a competition judge.

She fought his serious illness like a sportsman, but after a moment of hope, finally, she did not emerge victorious.”

Edited and translated into English by Péter Krausz

Győr and Jewry Uncategorized

Talking with István Nagy, master photographer from Győr

Life Interview

Many people in Győr got to know him during his sixty years as a photographer. With tireless diligence, he researches and takes photographs of the history of Győr and its surroundings, its prominent personalities and landmarks. Many popular books illustrated with his great shots have been published on his research. István Nagy, 75 years old this year, a non-Jewish master photographer and amateur local historian, amateur in the noblest sense of the word, has also made a lasting contribution to the local Jewish community. He is the author of Quiritatio (Scream), a book about the tragedy of Győr’s Jews 79 years ago, which has become one of the founding works on the drama in recent years. He created the material for the exhibition of local Jewish history in the former Menház (former Jewish Hostel for the Poor and Elderly), which every year enables hundreds of visitors from Győr, the whole country and abroad, to learn about the daily life, the great figures and the tragedy of the community of once 5,000.

We talk to him.

When and where were you born? Tell us about your parents, siblings, childhood and schools.

I was born in Csorna, in Erzsébet Street, in 1948. My father worked as a “soda-man” serving shops and restaurants in Csorna and the surrounding area. There were four of us brothers and sisters, two of them are now dead, and my third brother lives in a social home for the elderly.

Anyone who knows Csorna knows that it was not an easy place to live in. In 19 (1919, the year of a short-lived communist takeover – note of the translator), the citizens of the town were so shocked that the effects are still being felt. My grandmother had to watch seven people hanged in the Main Square with her two-year-old twin boys in her arms.

As a curious child, my friends and I used to go on great exploratory tours of the city. As Roman Catholics in the late 50s and early 60s, we were also intrigued by what was happening beyond the high fence of the Jewish cemetery. We leaned our bicycles against the wall and, standing on the saddle and handlebars, peered into the mystical cemetery.

Holocaust monument, Csorna – by P. Krausz

Where I was born, the Rehberger family lived next door in a one-storey house. They were Hungarian citizens of the Jewish religion, who lived according to the rules of the Orthodox tradition. They strictly observed Jewish holidays and the Sabbath. My grandmother and mother helped them with their work on these days. They cut the goose’s neck and bled the animal, then helped with the processing and daily chores. Mr Rehberger had a thriving clothing trade thus compensation for their help they received not in money but in bedding and other clothing. Over the years this amounted to a fair stock of cloth, which my father buried in three large crates in 1945. When the Russian army invaded the country, including Csorna, the soldiers poked the area around the house with long metal rods, found the crates and took everything with them. (I heard this so many times as a child that I remember the story almost verbatim.)

I was not an excellent student, I usually got just Bs. I had two Jewish classmates, Gyuszi Deutsch and Toni Viola. Papa Deutsch worked in a wood turning and horn carving shop next to the synagogue. Looking through the window I often saw him producing small objects with his skilful hands. Perhaps they emigrated in 1957. Toni went through boys’ school with me, I don’t remember his fate.

As a child with an interest in technology, I wanted to continue my studies at the Jedlik Ányos Mechanical Engineering Technical College in Győr. Two of us from Csorna applied, my friend was accepted. The boy’s mum’s deliveries of eggs and smoked meats meant a few points extra in his grade. The Győr Photographic School also had a branch in Csorna. There was once a sign in its shopwindow saying “boy student wanted”. I have been to the master several times to have my pictures shot with the miracluous machine called “Pajtás” developed. He also gave me advice, so when I applied in 1962, he supported my admission. I passed my apprenticeship exams in 1965. After my years as an industrial apprentice in Csorna, I got a job in Győr. Cooperatives were formed by the not quite ‘voluntary’ mergers of old craftsmen’s businesses throughout the country, and this is how it happened also in Győr.

“Pajtás” (Buddy) camera (The 6×6 camera was manufactured by Gamma Optical Works between 1955 and 1962) –;

In 1965 I moved to Győr, my colleagues helped me in everything. From here I joined the army. I spent twenty-seven months in Sopron, and apart from the three months of training, I also did photography and a course in cinematography there, and then projected films. (In those years, the movies “The Golden Man” and “A Hungarian Nabob” were very popular /films based on the novels of the Hungarian writer Mór Jókai (1825-1904) – note of the translator/. It was also the beginning of Ilona Medveczky’s career (Hungarian movie and revue star in the years 1960-1970 – note of the translator). I had to screen her erotic scenes many times.) I had a lot of free time, I read all the books of the library of the border police and then continued in the city library. I took lots of pictures of the town and events. When I was discharged, unfortunately, I had to leave everything behind.

Révai High School today –

(I graduated from the Révai High School in Győr. At the beginning of the 1970s, workers were supported by a government programme to continue their studies, so for four years I spent three afternoons and evenings a week at the high school. We graduated in the same way as full-time students. I met great teachers with great personality; my Hungarian literature, history and biology teacher with a ’56 prius (reference to the participation in the 1956 revolution – note of the translator) could not teach in the public high school, but yes, he was allowed to educate workers at evening courses. I maintained a very good human relationship with them for decades after graduation. For example: when I published my first book in 1994, my teacher Károly Lády of Hungarian literature visited me in my workshop. He was an old-fashioned, respected teacher. He congratulated me and then shook my hand, “Hi Pista, from now on you can call me ‘Karcsi, my brother’.” /Pista = nickname of István (Nagy); Károly = Charles, Karcsi = Charlie – note of the translator/).

When did you decide on your career choice and how did you become a photographer?

In fact, my fate was decided on the eighth of August 1962. That was the day I signed a contract with the Győr Photographic Production Cooperative. I have never been unemployed for a single day and have been working as a photographer for 61 years.

Old cameras of the 72-year-old Photographers’ Cooperative, maybe István used them, too –

I was a follower of the classic branch of the profession. I have taken a sea of passport and identity card photos, wedding photos, school-class photos, business photos and countless photos of children. Underwater photography was not my business. I have developed my own style by drawing on the experience of my senior colleagues. Today, I am classified as working in the service industry.

I always tried to be a disciplined person. (If the wedding started at 4 p.m., I couldn’t get there at a quarter to 5 p.m.). On one occasion, on June 1, 2001, I missed a civil wedding at 6 p.m. because an irresponsible motorist hit me on the highway. With a bleeding head and bleeding arm, I had already photographed the church wedding. I met some wonderful people then too; the firemen got me out alive of the car totally destroyed. I left the ambulance saying: I have to be at the wedding. As I was not to blame, the police officers took me to the wedding venue and waited outside the church while I photographed the ceremony.)

In 1982, I became self-employed and worked as an independent craftsman for 35 years. I retired on August 8th 2010 but continued working for seven more years just as before. I have not been unfaithful to the profession; I produce local history books and albums. Soon I will publish my fifteenth book and I have co-authored ten more.

How did you start your career, did you have any difficulties, how did you become a successful photographer?

During the first decades of my career, I was able to witness and be part of the golden age of photography. The emergence and rapid spread of colour photography was a huge change, which brought with it the automation of processing. Traditional black and white photographs were developed at room temperature, learned and practiced by a professional photographer. Colour technology could only be run at 37,2 degrees Celsius by processing machines.

There has also been a huge technological shift in cameras. The previous experience-based setting has been replaced by automatic setting, and focusing by autofocus. Then, at the turn of the 2000s, digital technology conquered photography.

Within a few years, this made traditional photography and its practitioners almost impossible. The clever cameras put into practice the slogan of early photography: “push the button and we’ll do the rest”. In recent years, the few people who make a living from photography have still been using cameras, while smartphones produce ever better quality.

Modern, digital camera –

I had good masters and mostly helpful colleagues to learn from and to rely on. I have photographed on land, water and from the air, the latter being a special genre that I have had the pleasure of experiencing several times. During the first twenty years of working for the cooperative, whenever I had the opportunity, I attended professional training courses, where lectures were given by renowned representatives of the profession.

Another way of learning and gaining experience was to attend exhibitions. Between 1969 and 1982, national and international trade fairs were organised every year, where everyone could show their skills in a wide variety of categories. At these gatherings, a great deal of experience was gained and passed on. The first prize I won in ’69 was accompanied by a slender vase, which I cherish with great affection. Four times my pictures were selected for international exhibitions. My photographs have been shown in Budapest, Bucharest, Warsaw and East Berlin.

The moral recognition was nice, but in the circumstances of the time it brought little financial reward. I wanted to provide better than average conditions for my children born in ’71 and ’74, so I became self-employed in ’82. The small-scale, self-employed lifestyle “gave me the opportunity” to work 14-16 hours a day.

Folk dance 1 – by István Nagy

I considered it a success in my work that from the 1970s onwards, the managers of a number of institutions were keen to work with me. Factories and companies regularly commissioned me to photograph events. One morning I photographed 100-120 kindergarten children individually, with the head of the institution sitting behind me, trying to learn from me how to establish a good rapport with the little patients in a few seconds. Not with mime and mimicry, but with a few kind words, the results were much quicker. Even today, I am still delighted to be approached by people I don’t know, telling me how they enjoyed the experience of being photographed.

Baross Street terrace in Győr – by István Nagy

I’ve been asked to do an exhibition on a particular theme in many places. Over a long career I have put together just over two hundred exhibitions in a wide variety of genres. From aerial photographs to logos, from Christmas themes to the ruins of the Jewish synagogue, I have produced a wide range of subjects. My shots were also shown at village festivals in community centres or at schools.

Publicity 2 – by István Nagy

Your interests are very wide-ranging, and you are particularly passionate about the great questions of history, culture and faith. You have written several books on these subjects, what are they and what is their main message?

After I became an independent craftsman, I published a few photo compilations. I was involved in producing photographs for yearbooks. On several occasions it was suggested that the material from exhibitions should be edited into a book. Most of the good suggestions and ideas fail because of the printing costs. I have not been a partner for a cheap solution printed on simple newsprint. In the early 2000s, I put together several exhibitions on the first bombing of Győr on 13 April 1944. I was able to buy original photographs of the terrible events of a colleague of the time. I supplemented these photos with research in archives and newspaper cuts from the time.

Bombs also fell on the city centre of Győr –

My local historian and archivist friends and I concluded that the Second World War was also a turning point in the life of the city of Győr.

Cover of the book about Bishop Vimos Apor –

I have identified three important turning points, mainly those for which I have had enough material to start with. The first was the 35 air raids on Győr, the second was the deportation of Jewish Hungarians, and the third was the murder of Bishop Vilmos Apor of Győr.

The herm of St. László in the Cathedral of Győr – by István Nagy

In the meantime, I wrote the history of Kisfaludy Street, and then 600 pages of material for the 1005-page book of the Federation of Industries. The result of many exhibitions in the past is the three volumes of the Rábaköz Monuments. I have prepared a book for a doctor friend for his round anniversary. I managed to make a particularly beautiful publication of Dr. Lajos Petz, the builder of the hospital in Győr.

Cover of the book on Dr. Lajos Petz –

For decades, you have captured in your pictures the historical sites and permanent changes of Győr and its surroundings. What is the main focus of your pictures and how did you manage to combine your photographic profession with your researcher-writer’s vein?

In writing the books, I wanted the reader to experience that they were the work of a photographer. The archivist would obviously have focused on the documents. A librarian would have focused on literature or publications. Archival research provides a wealth of experience that will give ideas and inspiration for the next publication.

Flooding in Győr – by István Nagy

Your great interest in the history of the Jewish community in Győr is of oustanding importance to us. We refer to your extensive work Quiritatio (Sikoly), which deals with the Jewish tragedy in Győr between 1938 and 1945. But we can also talk about the exhibition you have created on the history of the Győr Jewish community in the former Hostel for the Poor and the Elderly in Győr. You also did an outstanding job in the production of a photo album to be published on the occasion of the 2024 Jewish Roots in Győr World Reunion. May I ask where you derive your affinity for Judaism from?

A high school teacher made me aware of the fate of the Jews. What happened to the Jews was simply not a topic, not in the public discourse. They were our fellow human beings, citizens just like Catholics, Reformed or Evangelicals. They had simply Jewish religion. Incredible as it may seem, there were thousands of laws, ministerial orders, government decrees and local restrictions on Jewish Hungarian citizens, while they were never deprived of their Hungarian citizenship. I am deeply outraged by this inhuman treatment, which is why I am so careful to say that Jews are Hungarian citizens of the Jewish religion.

I have never boasted of my Catholicism, I was baptised as such at the time. With my Jewish friend, we served in the army together and this topic never came up. In the late 1980s, I was already dealing with Jewish topics, when this subject came up once during a “librarians’ day meeting”. (For years we had an after-work open table from 5 to 6 p.m. We called it the “library”.)

Memorial in Dachau –

As a matter of historical fidelity, in 1982 I had the opportunity to travel to West Germany by car. Munich and the surrounding area were included in the one-week trip. I already knew the history of the death and labour camps. I travelled to Dachau, which is perhaps 20 kilometres from Munich. My photographs taken there are displayed on one of the panels in the Holocaust Memory Room of the Hostel for the Poor and the Elderly.

In the course of collecting the material for Quiritatio, I met a lot of people, including several Holocaust survivors I was able to talk to in person. Some people refused to share their memories. They locked themselves up in their apartment, in the physical sense of the word, and would not let anyone but their doctor in. But others were happy to tell me about what had happened to them.

Auschwitz 3 – by István Nagy

Thanks to the world of the Internet, I met Éva Quittner Klein, a painter from Győr who lived in Australia. We corresponded for almost fifteen years. Her story, entitled “The youngest survivor of the Holocaust in Győr”, is included in the book. She has had a successful career as a visual artist and, as a Holocaust survivor, she has written a book entitled “Pebbles of Remembrance”, which should be widely distributed. I asked her to prepare sketches of the places where she had suffered the terrible events. Despite repeated requests, she refused to do so, saying she was incapable of drawing them. I understood and took note of her decision. Her letters contained vague references to what had really happened, but she had no courage to recall the details. She died in Sydney on 10 July 2022, aged 91.

Éva Klein Quittner and her family in Australia- European Cultural Review

My historian friend Prof Dr Miklós Schubert was of great help in the preparation of the book. He translated several excerpts from English into Hungarian, including the wonderful life of his parents.

Not only did I collect memoirs, but I spent a week in Poland in 2009 researching the history of Judaism with my wife. The centre was Krakow, from where we made two trips to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Both days were spent in detailed photography. I researched in various national collections and took shots of big totals and small details according to my traditional method. This is how I found paintings of former prisoners. French or Italian deportations were sound-demonstrated by rattling trains and creaking rails. Even after so many years, the sound effects still ring in my ears.

It was a touching moment when I met an Israeli military unit paying a military tribute to all the victims at the gallows. I have compiled a series of tableaux from the many photographs taken at the two sites, which can be seen in the exhibition rooms of the Hostel for the Poor and the Elderly in Győr.

Auschwitz 11 – by István Nagy

The apt name, Quiritatio, is owed to István Gábor Benedek (Hungarian journalist, writer (1937-2022) – note by the translator). The book can be found in Israel, at the Yad Vashem Museum and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., as well as at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. I believe that no greater recognition can be given to a master photographer and local historian from the countryside.

Auschwitz 6 – by István Nagy

After the publication of Quiritatio, I received several enquiries. Of particular value to me are the letters I have received from people living in Israel. I am proud of the letter received from Károly Neuwirth, who emigrated to Israel after returning from labour service and fought for the birth of the Jewish State.

I am very sorry that I was unable to meet Eva Quittner Klein in person. I have kept two of her beautiful albums and many of her photographs. But I am happy that her grandparents’ gravestone has been restored and that in 2019, after two years of research, we were able to place a stumbling stone in front of her former home in memory of her parents and her brother. For the short and touching ceremony, her daughter and doctor son travelled from Australia to Győr together with their partner. At the street memorial service, the county government commissioner attended and spoke.

I often shudder to think that joyful excitement may have contributed to her death. However, I am reassured that Eva did her best to honour her ancestors during her lifetime.

The cover of Quiritatio –

Finally, what are your latest plans? How do you balance your tireless work, a genuine hobby, with your family life?

To begin the answer at the end: unfortunately, we have no grandchildren. My daughter and son are both single. We are helping to raise the 9-year-old son of a couple friends of ours. I used to say: the books are my grandchildren. I trust they will last for decades and bring joy to those who turn their pages. I know that a number of them have been used by other authors in their work. The perhaps four hundred copies of Quiritatio published at the time sold out very quickly.

Have you ever thought about making your immense and particularly valuable collection of photographs available to the public, and commissioning someone or some organisation to manage it?

I’ve thought about this a lot. If I were to die suddenly, my family would go crazy with all the collections.

I have already donated a large collection to the County Library. I have made many of the photographs of old colleagues from Győr available to Fortepan (Fortepan is a community photo archive – note by the translator), based in Budapest. I have already handed over the material relating to Judaism to Mr Villányi, the president of the local Jewish community. My collection on the War of Independence is being liquidated. The collection material of Dr. Lajos Petz, the founder of the Győr hospital, is waiting to be donated.

My largest collection is related to St. László (king of Hungary, 1077 – 1095 – note by the translator), I have had 23 exhibitions of it in different cities of the country. I do not want to part with it yet. The Rábaköz photographs (photos of monuments of a region close to Győr- note by the translator) occupy a large space, I have not yet decided on their fate.

I have an unimaginable number of shots, pictures and negatives from my work over sixty years. Processing an 18 square metre garage is no easy task. I only have 2x2x4 metres of space in my apartment for this purpose and I am always getting new commissions. The greatest problem is that it is difficult to be systematic in organising life, as there are only 24 hours in a day.

I know you weren’t expecting this answer, but I don’t want to use big words about the fate of my collections.

István Nagy –

Dear István, thank you for talking to me, I wish you very good health and strength for your future work.

Peter Krausz

Interview and English translation by Peter Krausz

Győr and Jewry

The Jewish Community of Győr Holocaust Commemoration

Photo report by István Nagy and Memorial Addresses

The commemoration ceremony in the funeral parlour of the Győr-sziget cemetery took place on a beautiful sunny summer day, 18 June 2023, with an increased attendance compared to previous years.

Tibor Villányi, President of the Győr Jewish Community, welcomed the guests and greeted the attendees.

Tibor Villányi Tibor, Photo by István Nagy, 18 June 2023

The first speaker was Prof. Andor Grósz, recently elected MAZSIHISZ President. It is of particular significance that Andor Grósz is a native of Győr, which he referred to in his speech (his address is available on the Hungarian post only in Hungarian).

Dr Prof Andor Grósz, Photo by István Nagy, 18 June 2023

Here you can also see an interview with the President of MAZSIHISZ, published in the daily Kisalföld on 24 June 2023. (Only in Hungarian)

Afterwards, László Rózsavölgyi, Győr Municipal Assembly Member, addressed the audience on behalf of Dr. Csaba András Dézsi, Mayor of Győr. (His address is available on the Hungarian post only in Hungarian.)

László Rózsavölgyi (first row left) with representatives of sister churches, Photo by István Nagy, 18 June 2023

Péter Joel Totha, Chief Rabbi of Győr and the Hungarian Defence Forces, recalled in his speech the events of 79 years ago in Győr and Hungary. Following a song of mourning by Cantor István Gara, the participants recited the ancient Kadesh in memory of those murdered in the Holocaust. (His address is available on the Hungarian post only in Hungarian.)

Péter Joel Totha, Photo by István Nagy, 18 June 2023
István Gara, Photo by István Nagy, 18 June 2023

Finally, Dr. Péter Krausz, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Roots in Győr Foundation, spoke about the World Reunion planned for next year’s 80th anniversary and the student competition already underway. He invited participants to these events. (His contribution is available on the Hungarian post only in Hungarian)

Dr Peter Krausz, Photo by István Nagy, 18 June 2023

The cemetery funeral parlour, Photo by István Nagy, 2022

Győr and Jewry

Vilma Popper, Győr’s forgotten writer

Vilma Popper is a little-known individual in the Hungarian literary history of the 19th and 20th centuries. Unfortunately, only fragments of her life are known, and even less about her relationship to Judaism.

The productive novelist was born on May 11, 1857, in Győr. Her father, Armin Popper, served in the so-called Vienna Legion of Austrian Volunteers, fighting on the side of the Hungarian revolution in the War of Independence against the Habsburgs in 1848-49. Following the overthrow of the uprising, he settled in Újváros, a district of Győr, as a medical practitioner. Her mother, Josephine Leon, was also Austrian. She had one sister, Helén Lujza. She graduated from a Győr secondary school. She wanted to become a doctor like her father, but it was impossible for a woman in those times. Vilma’s mother tongue was German, but she spoke excellent Hungarian, English, and French. Her upbringing was influenced by the ideas of the War of Independence, reflected in several of her works.

Vilma Popper – Source:  Internet

They lived close to the synagogue at today’s 14 Kossuth Lajos Street.

Popper worked as an English and German language teacher at the Royal High School for Girls in Győr (Ferenc Kazinczy Grammar School today) and often assisted in her father’s practice. In WW1 – already 57 years old – she volunteered as a nurse and served in the military hospital set up in her school. She was a member of the Győr Women’s Benevolent Association. Also, she established a foundation to support students in need, irrespective of their religion.

Vilma Popper never married. In the last decades of her life, she lived quietly and alone in her parent’s house, taking care of her sister’s children and grandchildren.

In 1944, following the coup d’état by the Hungarian nazis, the Arrow Cross Party, she found brief refuge in the  Csillag Sanatarium, but the institution was soon forced to shut down. Together with all the other Jews from the city and the region, she was forced into the Győrsziget ghetto and subsequently deported to Auschwitz. The 87-year-old woman survived the horrors of the journey only to die in the gas chambers.

Article from the Jewish Encylopedia (bottom left), Source:

She wrote in German

Vilma Popper’s works were all written in German. Only three of her sixteen volumes were published in Hungarian. So far, no one has made an effort to translate the rest of her oeuvre, probably explaining why she is little known. Some of her books have been published in English, though. Also, she has translated several Hungarian authors, including Kálmán Mikszáth, into German. For this reason, she was considered an ambassador of Hungarian literature in Austria and Germany.

Vilma Popper was a versatile storyteller writing tales, essays, sketches, and short stories on historical and other subjects. She maintained contacts with several well-known Hungarian contemporary writers, including Kálmán Mikszáth, Frigyes Karinthy, and Ferenc Molnár. She also was a close friend of the celebrated actress of the time, Mari Jászai, whom she met when Jászai still worked as a maid in Popper’s neighborhood. The memory of encountering the renowned artist is told in her short story ‘Mari Jászai and the Green Bench.’

Her first success as a writer came in 1891 with ‘Märchen und Geschichten für große und kleine Kinder’ (Tales and Stories for Children, Big and Small), published in Leipzig. From then on, she was constantly present in German literary life. This work was published in Hungarian in 1894 under the title ‘Tales and Stories by Aunt Vilma.’ It was not her, but Adolf Ágai, the founder of the legendary satirical magazine, ‘Borsszem Jankó’, who translated it into Hungarian and wrote a foreword using the pseudonym ‘Uncle Forgó.’ “I consider this storybook is suitable for developing a child’s independent thinking, as it will guide his developing soul to what is beautiful and true without moralizing,” Ágai wrote.

Interestingly, none of these stories reflect that Popper was Jewish. Instead, the traditions of the country’s Christian majority are displayed in titles, such as: ‘The First Christmas Tree’ or ‘Santa Claus,’ perhaps because she came from an assimilated Jewish family.

Her second work, ‘Altmodische Leute’ (Old-fashioned People), was published in Dresden in the same year. Its Hungarian version hit the bookshelves five years later. The third volume, ‘Neue Märchen und Geschichten’ (New Tales and Stories), was the last to reach booklovers in Hungarian in 1900.

Books published in Hungarian, Hungarian National Library – Photo: György Polgár

Popper was a founding member of the Kisfaludy Literary Society of Győr, established in 1909, aimed at  “promoting, developing and spreading Hungarian literature, cultivating fine arts, organizing readings and celebrations, and publishing the most significant literary works.” Starting then, her works were regularly published in Győr newspapers and recited at literary evenings. Between 1894 and 1920, she was also a member of the Verein der Schriftstellerinnen und Künstlerinnen Wien (Association of Women Writers and Artists, Vienna), where her works were regularly read. Her histories appeared in leading German literary magazines. Max Geißler, a well-known German literary scholar of the time, praised Popper’s talent as a short story writer in 1913 but also stressed that Popper had recognized the limits of her talent.

She celebrated the Kossuth1 centenary in 1902 by releasing a youth novel about the War of Independence, ‘Die Fahne hoch!’ (Raise the Flag High!), and subsequently wrote a biographical book about Richárd Forstmayer, a renowned organist and cellist in Győr. Until 1926, her short stories, translated into Hungarian, were frequently published in Győr newspapers. These were primarily short, concise narratives or fables written in the style of Aesopus.

Animal fables – Source: Győri Hírlap April 7, 1912 (Easter insert)

One of her most powerful short stories, Ahasuerus’ Sons, was published in the newspaper ‘Győri Hírlap’. (Ahasuerus, or the Legend of the Wandering Jew, is a medieval story about a Jewish man who Jesus Christ cursed on his way to Golgotha to eternal life until the Last Judgement.) Dr. Erzsébet Nagy, a local historian and secondary school teacher of history in Győr, describes this in her monograph on Popper. The characters in the story are outsiders: a sick Gypsy musician and a Jewish doctor. The dying man complains to his doctor of a lifetime of pain:

You see, doctor”, said the gypsy, when the bow fell from his feeble hand, “I am relieved now. My brothers will sing these tunes as I am being buried, as the blessed soil will welcome her son. The dead will finally be granted the land denied to the living. We, Gypsies, bear the curse of Ahasuerus. We must wander, always wander, without rest. No one loves his homeland more than we do, no one sings about the motherland in a way we do, of which not a single lump is ours, because we are not Hungarians – only Gypsies.” “Old man, I can say the same about myself,” the doctor said, “I, too, bear the curse of Ahasuerus because I am a Jew. We are free to fight, bleed and die for the homeland, but we are still strangers; we will always remain the children of the Ahasuerus.”

She also worked as a translator.

Translation of a short story by Jerome Klapka Jerome, a British writer – Source: Győri Hírlap, June 2, 1912

With the rise of the nazis, no more works of hers were allowed to be published. The Győri Hírlap remained loyal to her, and some of her animal stories, characterized by witty mockery and tormenting the spread of fascism, were printed under a pseudonym.

Limited memories

Vilma Popper’s legacy is all but forgotten.

Vilma Popper’s birthplace today – Photo: György Polgár

At the end of the war, in 1945, her nephew, Dr. Sándor Korein, a doctor at the Csillag Sanatarium, who had survived the Shoah, placed a white marble memorial plaque in the inner doorway of Vilma Popper’s former residence. The students at the Kossuth Lajos Technical College of Győr used to pay tribute to the writer every year by laying a wreath and doing a small performance at the plaque. Access has become impossible in recent years, and the custom has faded away.

Students at Vilma Popper’s memorial plaque – Source: Új Élet magazine, 15 December 2013

As the house, about 150 years old and in poor condition is currently under renovation, the commemoration will be in a little while possible again. The memorial plaque has been temporarily removed but will be reinstalled when the works are completed.

The memorial plaque today – Photo: György Polgár

Miklós Petőcz, a literary historian and poet, commemorates the Győr author with a poem created in 1997.

(The poem was not translated)

In 2006, Dr. Erzsébet Nagy compiled a gap-filling monograph titled ‘Vilma Popper, the Gentle-voiced Author’ that is a valuable tribute to the almost forgotten Jewish writer. According to Nagy: “The real way to maintain her memory, however, would be publishing her works so that her thoughts and gentle humanity would be present among literature lovers and readers.”

Translated by Viktor and György Polgár

1 Lajos Kossuth (1802–1894) was the political leader of the Revolution and War of Independence in 1848–1849.


Family Story

Dr István Bakonyi’s Wanderings, Part Five

The misadventures of a Medical Doctor from Győr in the final days of World War 2

In the first part you learnt why and how the diary is born, in the second one you discovered that German and Hungarian military units couldn’t resist the Russian advance, bombs were dropped even during the Christmas holidays, a good pair of boots was worth its weight in gold and a doctor could help those in trouble anywhere and anytime. In part three you read about occasional forced work hours, the tampering with their medical supplies and medicines, the adventures of the wandering troop in Székesfehérvár and their approach to the capital city. We learn about the behaviour of drunken Russian soldiers in part four, as well as the mutually profitable exchange of “goods” with another Russian, a repeated robot (forced work for the Russians), how important it is to have good ID papers, and the search for wine for a Russian army unit. Dr Bakonyi explains the difference between the behaviour of the Hungarian authorities and the Russian Army towards the Jews. This comparaison goes in favour of the latter.

Let’s continue.

Saturday, 20 January 1945

After Uncle Schatz’s house was fixed up, we moved in … The people who moved in are: the host, Ödön Schatz, the two ladies from Komárom and their son, the two Slovak partisans and us two. Uncle Ödön Schatz, the ladies and the boy are in the inner room, the four of us in the first room, which is a doctor’s surgery, waiting room, operating room during the day, but very often a discussion room, especially when I am not at home.

We fix outside a publicity board and the next morning the first patients appear, the number of which has grown and during my whole stay in the parish. I have had almost no free time except in the evenings. My stay in Párkány began on the 17th of January and lasted exactly one month, until the 17th of February. The situation in Párkány is not very encouraging as there are Germans in Esztergom opposite and they are shootings every day. These firings are totally irregular and unpredictable. A significant number of the inhabitants of Párkány are living in cellars, partly because their houses are ruined, partly out of fear …  

The bombed Párkány Bridge, 1980, Source: Fortepan

We did not go down to the cellar, of course, but took up residence in the apartment. Luckily, nothing happened to us. I went to visit the bedridden patients after the morning appointments were done and I usually went home for lunch only around 2 pm. After lunch, if I had some free time, I would play a game of patience …, but it soon got dark and I had to stop.

Our group tried to get all the food we needed.  I played a significant role in this, because some of the patients paid the fees in kind, flour, fat, bacon, etc. Fortunately, we had no meat problems, because the butchers in Párkány still had access to some beef for slaughter … we paid 10 Pengő per kilo of meat. The inmates of the Schatz house consumed a lot, because the number of those present was constantly increasing due to the returning forced labourers of Párkány, furthermore all those who lived further away were stranded here, because it was impossible to go further.

The front was only 20-25 km away in the direction of Komárom, so it was impossible to move on. Some of those who had arrived, seeing the situation here … went back to Nagymaros, Vác, Pest or even further. And so did the 2 Fleischmann brothers, brothers-in-law of Jóska Wolf, and time has proved them right. They wanted to go to Ács, but when they saw the situation, they turned back. Some of the people from Párkány also went back, as well as Laci Harmat. A decree was issued that all those who did not live in the former Czechoslovakia should return to the motherland. In my case, of course, the decree was not applied because the doctor was needed. I can say without boasting that “the young doctor from Győr” – this is how people called me – earned honour and respect in Párkány.

Párkány village (SK) before WW2, the Basilica of Esztergom in the background, Source:

The days pass in unison. … we are in constant contact with the Russians in order to learn something of the situation at the front. The shelling is definitely sounding nearer, … I sense what is coming, I keep everything in my backpack.

On the 14th of February the Germans did a nasty shelling, 2 shells hit right in front of the house and our remaining windows were broken. Luckily, I was not at home, the window where I normally read and write was smashed to pieces. Nobody in the house was hurt, a lucky coincidence!

The situation on the front seems to be calming down a little, but there is a strange tension in the air. The Russians are nervous, they are conducting repeated searches. There are remarkably few Russians in the place and we are in a constant state of suspense, but we are just waiting.

On Friday evening, 16 February, at Uncle Schatz’s request, all the Jews and half-Jews here came together for Friday night prayer and dinner. We also had two Russian guests and forced labourer Béla Kovács, a baker from Esztergom, baked a delicious white traditional Jewish loaf for the festive dinner. We had no idea that this would be a farewell dinner for us …

In the afternoon of the same day, I spoke to the local Catholic chaplain about sending a message to my wife in Győr via the Vatican. He replied that all contact had been broken and it was impossible. Perhaps he will remember my request and now that the Germans have retaken Párkány, he will somehow be able to send the news that I am alive and well.

Saturday, 17 February

The shelling can be heard from close by, people withdrawn to the cellars, conspicuously few sick today, news of the Germans coming back. The Russians are silent, but one of them spits out that something is up.

We pack up completely and wait. Rehberger, who is in Nána, also comes for news, because the mood there is also very bad. We send him back to inquire what is happening with the Russian hospital in Nána, because if there is a retreat, it will surely be moved. At about 5 p.m. he comes back in a state of breathlessness that the hospital has been sent on its way. We do not wait any longer, but pick up our things and move off at a strong pace. The people from Párkány are standing frightened at the gate, the Russians are waiting, fully loaded and ready to go, and a familiar Russian officer tells us to hurry.

Garamkövesd (SK) signpost today, Source:

Unfortunately, we can’t get to the bridge at Garamkövesd because the area is under water and we have to take the highway to Kőhídgyarmat. The highway is packed with retreating Russian troops and under constant shelling we run almost the whole way to reach the bridge. The feeling of danger is increased by the sound of shells hitting in our immediate vicinity and the fact that we don’t know what condition the bridge is in, as it was supposedly badly shelled by the Germans in the morning. 

Following the retreating columns, we make the journey in record time and, turning off the highway, reach the road to the bridge, which is in a terrible state and … in ankle-deep mud, we reach the bridge, which we manage to cross, amidst frenzied horses.

Párkány-Garamkövesd-Kicsind-Bajta (all in SK), Source: Google maps

The first village on the other side of the river is Kicsind, but this was evacuated of civilians by the Russians long ago and is still crowded with Russian soldiers. Here in Kicsind we meet a Russian captain who tells us to move on immediately to get as far away from the Garam river as possible. We have to do this because there is no house here where we can find shelter. We decide that we must reach Bajta during the night, where we may be able to take shelter.

The road, especially the first part, is in a terrible state, but there is no choice, it is cold, we have to go, otherwise we will freeze. It could have been one o’clock at night before we reached Bajta, but the village is packed with Russians and there is not a vacant place. We try again and again, finally they take us into a kitchen where eight people are already sleeping. We are cramped, but it is warm and at least we can take our boots off our feet. … I managed to get settled on a bench and slept like a log until 6 am. Our host here is János Vilmajor, Bajta.

Sunday, 18 February

In the morning, when we looked at each other, we saw … the traces of yesterday’s and last night’s rambling. We are covered in mud and dirt and we are trying to clean up a bit, but it will take days before the mud is completely dry and ready to be brushed off. We leave early because we want to get at least to Zebegény today. The group shows the effects of yesterday’s journey, and we drag ourselves along wearily.

The road is very slippery in the morning hours, and we are almost stumbling along the steep downhill road to Leléd.  Passing through Leléd, which also presents a haunted picture, still under the influence of the morning frost, we emerge along the Ipoly river and follow its flow for a long way, stopping several times and waiting for the others … we get to the bridge leading to Ipolydamásd. The only bridge guard standing here, after checking pieces of identification, lets the whole party through, and we sigh with relief, as three of us have no IDs.

Signpost of the village Leléd today, Source: wikiwand. com/hu

However, it is also very reassuring to know that there are two rivers behind us and that the cannonading can be heard from further away. At Ipolydamásd we have a long rest and a meal, potatoes boiled in water with salt make up very well for the bread and it must be about noon when we continue on our way. At a slow pace we reach Szob, where we are taken to the headquarters, where we are again checked.

The papers that were good for the bridge guard are good here too, and with three IDs the whole party can go on, only me and my medical bag were in danger, the lieutenant wanted to take one of my thermometers, but I managed to talk him out of it.

Bajta-Leléd-Ipolydamásd-Szob-Zebegény (SK-HU), Source: Google maps

We arrived in Zebegény early in the afternoon. We tried to find accommodation as quickly as possible, and after a long search I got a separate room at Ádám Harangozó’s place, while the company settled down at Ferenc Krebs’. I decided to stay in Zebegény for the time being, thinking …, as a doctor I could survive anywhere, because there were sick people everywhere who would somehow support me. The rest of the party went on to Nagymaros and Pest after a day’s rest.

Zebegény in the 1930s, Source:

My stay in Zebegény lasted from 18 to 27 February, and during this time I changed apartments three times, because the Russians returning for rest did not even respect the doctor.

The days in Zebegény were uneventful and the only problem was with the Komlós boy who had been picked up in Zebegény, who had gotten lice and despite having nothing to do all day, could not get rid of it and at the end I noticed that I had some lice too. This is the third time in my wanderings that I have had lice, but fortunately they are only immigrants and immediate action was taken to stop it from multiplying. First in Székesfehérvár, secondly in Párkány and now for the third time in Zebegény I managed to have got these “partisans” on my body and fortunately got rid of them immediately. Very unpleasant animals and spreaders of rash typhus! I finally placed the Komlós boy with somebody in Zebegény and I am moving to Ferenc Krebs’ place, where besides me there are two other former forced labourers who arrived with me from Párkány.

In three days, however, we have to leave Zebegény, because the Russians seem to want to evacuate the civilian population to make room for the troops returning from the front. In Zebegény, I had an unexpected encounter with Jucci Bíró, who had come from Pest and had escaped the Arrow Cross terror here. We were very crazy about each other, but the next day I … went on my way.

Tuesday, 27 February

After lunch, the three of us set off to get further away from the front, towards Vác, possibly Budapest.  After less than an hour’s walk we managed to get on a Russian troop transport car, which took us to Budapest. It was about 5 o’clock when we reached Pest and I, separated from my companions, decided to visit my wife’s aunt, who lived at 33 Nürnberg street.

A street in Budapest after the siege, 1945 Source: Fortepan

It was quite dark by the time I reached them and they were thoroughly surprised at my coming. The next day I went into town, where I met many people I knew, and went up to 12 Síp utca (headquarters of Jewish national organisations – note by the editor), where I found people from Győr, such as Dóri Salczer, Imre Steinfeld, Laci Raab and Fleischmann, the butcher, people who handled the affairs of the Jews of the countryside. Later, I met Gyuri Klausz, who lives with his father-in-law, Dr Oszkár Szekeres and Manó Ádler, all of whom are staying in Pest now.

The ruins of Erzsébet bridge in Budapest, 1945 Source:

Many people from Győr were or are still in Pest, but some of them have left because the food situation in Pest is very critical. The next day at noon I went to Aunt Mari, Kató’s mother, who received me very kindly and I stayed with her during my whole stay in Pest. I wanted to find out from Kató the address of Aunt Hermin, but neither from her nor from other acquaintances did I manage to get any news of my relatives.

I keep going around the city to receive information from someone, but no one knows anything about them. Walking around in Pest is not without its dangers, because at any moment you can be caught in a robot (work for the Russian army – note of the editor). I always take my medical bag with me and that’s how I manage to get away with it. It’s very unpleasant weather, there’s a sharp cold wind but I don’t want to take my fur coat with me anymore, I leave it at Aunt Marcella’s with my excess winter stuff. In the meantime, I keep thinking about where to go, because I don’t want to stay in Pest, although Aunt Mari is very nice, but they don’t have anything to eat themselves.

Kati managed to travel down to the Great Plain to get something to eat while I was there. … She left on the 2nd of March and I was to wait for her return, but she did not return home even on the following Wednesday and I could not wait any longer. All the more so because the spare food I had brought with me was already gone.

Postcard from Vác, 1938, Source:

On Wednesday, the evening of the 7th, I boarded the train for Vác, which left Nyugati Station at 6 p.m., and by 4 a.m. next morning, after record slowness and frequent stops, we arrived in Vác. I left my boots, snow hat, two pairs of flannel booties and a bedsheet in Budapest, as well as my sleeved sweater and winter gloves. I sent the latter items from Penc to Aunt Marcella.

During the journey, and in Vác, I met a teacher from Kosd, who told me that they had no doctor and I decided not to run into the front for once, but to get a little further away from it. So, I did not go back in the direction of Nagymaros and Zebegény, but positioned myself east of Vác.

Thursday, 8 March

We set off at about 5 o’clock in the morning, and as the teacher was moving very slowly, I went ahead to Kosd, where it turned out they already had a doctor. So, I decided to go on my way. The villages are close together, and I soon reached Rád, where the magistrate was very sorry for me, as he was very much in need of a doctor, but they were so full of Russians that he could not place me anywhere.

Three km from Rád is Penc, where there was originally a district doctor, who had however fled from the Russians thus was confident to be accommodated there. The situation in Penc is similar to that in Rád, there are many Russians and the doctor is needed, therefore they will make arrangements for me. So, I settled down in Pence and here I began to put my memories on paper.

Penc today, bird’s eye view, Source: google maps

I arrived in Penc on Thursday and until Monday I was staying in the kitchen of a widow called Mrs Szemere, while in the room there was a young man with staying with tuberculosis. I was not at all reconciled to the situation and by Monday I had managed to vacate a room in the village hall … which I managed to furnish, so I started to see patients in the village hall on Monday. I sleep on the daybed in the surgery and run an independent household. 

The practice started off with a bang, and for the first week I was busy most of the day, but now it has subsided a bit, and I have the possibility to start and continue my diary. Penc is a very pretty little village, and has suffered comparatively little from the war, but unfortunately the Russians have had their time, so that the purchase and obtaining of food is now a matter of some difficulty.

Yesterday, 24 March, a friend of a patient of mine went up to Pest, and I sent a parcel to Aunt Marcella, a bag of good quality flour and 8 eggs. I hope she will receive it, together with my sleeved sweater and winter gloves, so that I may have as few unnecessary things with me as possible when I start for home. Unfortunately, the cannons are still very loud and the windows are still vibrating, meaning the frontline is still close. Today is the 25th of March, your name day, my dear wife…

(Photos are for illustration only.)

The end of Part Five.

And don’t miss the last part, Part Six, in which you’ll find out how Dr Bakonyi is planning to return to his home town, Győr. And that will be the end of the diairy. As an Epilogue, the editor will insert a news-cut from the local paper “Penci Hírek” and a brief information about Dr Bakonyi’s daughter, Hugi Bakonyi, a former top sportswoman, who guarded the diary of his father for eternity.

Győr and Jewry

Origins of a Leader

Roots and early years in the life of Rabbi Dr Emil (Joel Zvi) Róth

By Amir Livnat

Hebrew version below


Rabbi Dr Róth Emil (Joel Zvi), the last Rabbi of Győr’s Neologue community before 1944, is a well-known figure in the city’s Jewish history. His Zionist approach convinced many of the city’s youth, including members of the Orthodox community, to immigrate to Palestine, the Land of Israel, in the years before the outbreak of World War II, and as a result saving their lives. Rabbi Róth stayed with his congregation throughout the war, even though he was given the opportunity to save himself and his family. As a teacher and spiritual leader loyal to his community, Rabbi Róth is often referred to as “Korczak of Győr”. He is also remembered for his joint sermon with the Orthodox Rabbi Benzion Snyders on the last Sabbath of the Jewish community, in the barracks camp in Budai Street before the deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

It is not surprising, then, that Rabbi Róth is remembered by Győr’s Jews and their descendants as a leader and a role model, almost a mythic figure. Accordingly, much has been written about his years serving as Rabbi in Győr, from 1935 until the last days of the community in June 1944. On the other hand, the period before Rabbi Róth assumed his position in Győr is less known and documented. In the following paragraphs we will fill in these gaps and trace the roots and early years of Rabbi Róth.


Emil Róth was born on September 21, 1907. Apart from his Hungarian, he was given the Jewish name Joel Zvi (יואל צבי), reasons for that will be discussed later on. His last name, Róth, is written in modern Hebrew as “רוט”, but in Jewish traditional Hebrew it was usually written as “ראָטה”.

Emil Róth’s birth record, 1907 (source: FamilySearch)

Civil records preserved in the Hungarian Archives in Budapest shed light on Emil’s family. His parents are Izsak Róth and Irén Kohn, who married on July 28, 1904. Emil is the third of Izsak and Irén’s five sons. His elder brother Dezső (David) was born on June 10, 1905. Andor (Mordechai) was born second, on August 29, 1906, and after them, as mentioned, followed Emil. Emil’s younger brothers are Sándor, born on October 6, 1909, and László, who was born about a year later, on October 21, 1910.

Marriage Record of Isaac and Irén Róth, 1904 (Source: FamilySearch)

Emil was born in the town of Kunszentmárton, where his parents Izsak and Irén lived, and where all their children were born. Kunszentmárton is located in the eastern part of today’s Hungary, in the Great Hungarian Plain, about 130 km southeast of the capital Budapest. It lies on the eastern bank of the Körös River: a tributary of the Tisza River, and is considered an important crossroad due to the bridge that crosses the river within its boundaries. Kunszentmárton was recognized as a city as early as 1807.

In 1910, shortly after the birth of Emil Róth, 10,921 inhabitants lived there, of which 222 were Jews. In 1912, a new synagogue was built in the town, which still exists today. Most of Kunszentmárton’s Jews made a living from agriculture, trade and various crafts. Jews in the town also owned a flour mill, a wood factory and a printing house. Emil’s family made a living as grain merchants. They would send grain on cargo ships that sailed across the Tisza River.

Kunszentmárton in the old days (Source: Képeslaptár)
Kunszentmárton Synagogue today (Source: Wikipedia)

Emil’s childhood family life can be visualized based on the memoirs of his brother, Sándor Róth, who in later years took the Hebrew name Israel Goren, a member of Kibbutz Ma’abarot in Israel. A booklet called “From the River Tisza to Hefer Stream” collects stories of Kibbutz members of Hungarian origin, among them Israel Goren. Some of his memories will be shared here:

“The village had a small Jewish community of 25 families. My parents maintained a Kosher kitchen, closed their shop on Shabbat, etc., they also celebrated the Jewish holidays – Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and more. They would often quote the verse “Le’Shana Haba’a Bi’Yerushalim” – “Next year in Jerusalem!”. Our family was very warm and there were good relations between the family members. In my parents’ home, I absorbed the Jewish tradition, which was common for all of us: my parents, grandparents and us, the five sons… On vacations, father would bring a student from the Rabbinic Seminary, who would teach us some Torah. During the school year we had religion studies for only an hour a week, which was a very poor study. Our vacations were wonderful: before noontime we would play in the synagogue yard, then we spent one or two hours learning with the student, and in the afternoons – like all the other children and boys – we would swim until nightfall in the stream near our house. This is how we grew up, and we enjoyed ourselves in the village. My father was in the grain tradesman. We were an affluent family”.

Emil Róth (possibly in the middle) and his brothers, from the booklet “From the River Tisza to Hefer Stream”, p. 53 (source: Yad Yaari archive)

Upon completion of the elementary school in the village of Kunszentmárton, the children of the Róth family, including Emil, were sent to high school in the nearby city of Szeged. In 1920, close to the beginning of Emil Róth’s studies there, the Jewish community in Szeged consisted of 6,958 people, which made about 6% of all the city’s population. Most of them belonged to the Neologue community.

Family History

We will now go back several years, to follow Emil’s extended family and their origins. We will start with his parents, and continue to follow the family tree to previous generations. Emil’s father, Izsak Róth, was born on April 3, 1878 in the town of Komádi, which is located about 120 km east of Kunszentmárton, near the present-day Hungary-Ukraine border. Previous generations of the Róth family lived in this town as well.

Komádi, 1910 (source: Bedo)

Izsak Róth’s father, and Emil’s grandfather, is Lajos/Leopold Róth, who bears the Jewish name Yehuda Aryeh. Izsak’s mother is Aranka Porgesz. Apart from Izsak, the couple had 4 daughters: Hermina who married Béla Fisch, Rosa who married Josef Baron, Ethel who married Izsak Schwarz, and another daughter. After the death of his wife Aranka, Lajos married Sara-Szerena Sussman. The two were married on September 15, 1891 and had one son and 3 daughters.

Emil’s mother, Irén Kohn, was born on June 4, 1877. Her parents were János Kohn and Regina Kohn. Apart from Irén, we know of another son named Ödön Kohn. Irén was born in the town of Csongrád, and grew up in the nearby town of Kunszentmárton, the birthplace of Emil Róth. Like the Róth family, János Kohn was also involved in the grain trade business. In a relatively small town, it is likely that the Róth and Kohn families were connected by business ties, which ultimately resulted in a match between Izsak and Irén, Emil’s parents.

Families of Izsak Róth and Irén Kohn, prepared by A. Livnat

Next, we will continue our journey further back in time to trace even more distant origins of the Róth family. Lajos, Emil’s grandfather, is the son of David Róth and his wife Frumet Klein. Apart from Lajos, they had three boys, Ignatz-Yitzchak, Isidore-Israel, Simon and a daughter, Memet (Engel). As mentioned, this generation of the family lived in Komádi already.

One generation before, David Róth is the son of Simon Róth and his wife Roza-Reisel Reich. Apart from David, they had two more children Josua and Sara, the wife of Jakob Feldman. Simon’s father, who is the earliest ancestor known in this family, is Joel Róth. Emil Róth carries, therefore, the Hebrew name of his ancestor from the fifth generation: his great-great-great grandfather. But as it turns out, this is not the person he was named after.

Early generations in the Róth dynasty, prepared by A. Livnat

The previously mentioned Simon Róth, Emil’s ancestor, had a first wife before Roza Reich: Zipora, born Gotlib. Their only son was Joel Zvi Róth, who was named after his grandfather, and later became the most famous figure in this dynasty. Emil Róth was, therefore, named after Joel Zvi Róth: his great-grandfather’s half-brother. Joel Zvi Róth was born in Komádi in 1820. He served as a Rabbi in several towns in western Hungary. In 1854 he began serving as Rabbi in the city of Huszt, established a large yeshiva there and gradually became one of the most important Rabbis in Hungary. After his death in 1892, several books containing his legacy were published, the most prominent one is Beit HaYozer (בית היוצ”ר, a name that refers to the acronym of his name in Hebrew).

Cover page of the book Beit HaYozer (source: HebrewBooks)


After reviewing the history of his family, we will now return our focus back to Emil Róth. In June 1926, Emil Róth started studying at the Jewish Theological Seminary and University of Jewish Studies, also known as the Rabbinical Seminary in Budapest (Országos Rabbiképző – Zsidó Egyetem). This institution, related to the Neologue community, was established back in 1877, and is still active today. The Seminary’s graduates were leading key figures of the Neologue Judaism in Hungary. At the time of Emil’s studies, Rabbi Lajos (Yehuda Aryeh) Blau was the head of the Rabbinical Seminary.

The Rabbinical Seminary in Budapest in early years (Source: Seminary website)
Emil Róth’s Seminar summary report, Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary – University of Jewish Studies, Hungary

Emil Róth studied at the Rabbinical Seminary for five years. During their studies, the students at the Seminary completed studies with a Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Budapest. As part of his studies, Emil Róth’s work focused on Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro: a 15th-century Rabbi and commentator who was born in Italy, moved to the land of Israel and served as one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Jerusalem. In 1930, Róth published his thesis under the title “Obadjah Bertinoro Palesztinai utazása” (The journey of Obadiah of Bertinoro to Palestine). He presented a copy to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This copy, which includes a handwritten dedication, is currently held by the National Library of Israel.

Internal cover page of the book Obadjah Bertinoro (Source: National Library of Israel)

During the course of his studies, Emil Róth spent certain time in Jerusalem as a guest student at the Hebrew University. The university was then in its early years, and consisted of a few buildings distant from the rest of the city, on top of Mount Scopus. Emil arrived in the British Mandatory Palestine on October 28, 1930, on the ship “Zelio”. He stayed in Jerusalem for about a year. In addition to his studies at the Hebrew University, Emil studied at the Rabbi Kook Central Yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel. During his studies, the yeshiva was located in Rabbi Kook’s house, in the street that is now named after him, in the center of Jerusalem. During Emil’s stay in Jerusalem, his younger brother Sándor Róth came to visit him, and ended up staying in Israel for about six months.

List of passengers on the ship Zelio (source: MyHeritage)
The Hebrew University on Mount Scopus in 1930 (source: Facebook, Hebrew University archives)

After his return to Hungary, on February 24, 1932, Róth took the Rabbinical ordination exam at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Budapest. He passed the exam successfully and was ordained as a Rabbi. A notification of this appears in the Seminary yearbook for the Academic Year 1931/2.

Notice of Rabbi Róth’s ordination, Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary – University of Jewish Studies, Hungary

Rabbi in the city of Eger

Soon after Emil Róth was ordinated, he was appointed Rabbi in the city of Eger. Reports about his links to this city appear already from the beginning of June 1931, even before his ordination as a Rabbi. Eger is located in the north of Hungary, about 120 km northeast of the capital Budapest.

Among Jews, the city was called Erlau or Erloi, deriving from its German name. Rabbi Róth was appointed as Rabbi of the Status Quo Ante community – an independent portion of Hungarian Jewry, which did not belong either to the Neologue or Orthodox communities. Status Quo Ante was a small portion of the Jewry of Hungary, however in Eger it was the dominant community, which most of the city’s Jews, numbering 2,100 these years, belonged to. At the same period, Rabbi Shimon Sofer, grandson of the famous Chatam Sofer, served as the Rabbi of the small Orthodox community in Eger. Rabbi Sofer served in Eger from 1881 until being murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.

Rabbi in the city of Eger, Source: Egyenlőség, June 6, 1931

The Great Synagogue, a magnificent building located in the center of the city, served as the center of the Status Quo Ante community in Eger. The building was inaugurated on September 13, 1913, and no longer exists today.

Eger Synagogue in 1954 (source: Wikipedia)

The Erloi Yizkor book (memorial book for the Jews of Eger), which was published in Jerusalem in 1975, sheds light on the work of Rabbi Róth during his time in Eger: “Dr Emil Róth, the young Rabbi, a graduate of the Rabbinic Seminary in Budapest, who spent two years in the Land of Israel at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and in [Rabbi Kook’s] Haro’e Yeshiva, came to the city in 1932. He was invited to the position of Chief Rabbi after Dr Eliezer Schweiger moved to Nitra.

During his short term of office, Dr Emil Róth introduced a revolution in youth education. Among all the Rabbis of Hungary, he was the most active and consistent in preaching for Zionism and the study of the Hebrew language… Dr Emil Róth brought new energy to the Zionist activities in Eger. In the Ohel Shem school classrooms, Rabbi Róth divided the youth into age groups, so that at least 4-5 educational groups, about 100 school students, could be educated in a Zionist Jewish atmosphere after their regular daily studies. They learned Hebrew songs, studied the Hebrew language, obtained knowledge about the Land of Israel and the history of the people of Israel. The many trips and summer camps that were organized and managed by the young and talented Rabbi himself, were particularly successful among the youth”.

Also in this book, we find the memories of Meir Zeira (Tibor Klein), who was born in Eger: “After Rabbi Emil Róth started his function, a significant turning point occurred: the Jewish holidays were celebrated by children as part of a connection with the Land of Israel, while learning about symbols of the holiday, beautiful songs in Hebrew and overwhelming stories told by the Rabbi. All of this happened after school, in the Ohel Shem hall, and there were often discords between the school management and the Rabbi and his young assistants.”

In 1935, Rabbi Róth was appointed Rabbi of the Neologue community in Győr, therefore he left Eger. After his departure, he was replaced by Rabbi Dr Zoltán Récz, also a graduate of the Rabbinical Seminary in Budapest. Like Rabbi Róth, he was also taken to Auschwitz together with his congregation, but he remained alive.

Rabbi Róth (Source: The Erloi Yizkor Book, unnumbered page)


During his time in Eger and Győr, Emil started a family. He married Erzsébet (Elisheva Baneth), who was born in Budapest in 1910. Around 1934, their eldest son György (Yehuda Aryeh) was born followed in about 1937 by their daughter Eszter Judit.

Emil Róth continued to serve as the Rabbi of Győr, his divers work in this city until the last days will not be detailed here. In June 1944, the Jews of Győr were sent in two transports to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. Among them were Emil Róth, his wife and children. None of them survived. During the years of the Holocaust, Izsak, Emil’s father, also perished. His mother Irén had passed away a short time before that. In addition, his brother Andor (Mordechai) Rot, his wife Ágnes and their daughter Hanna also perished.

Three of Emil’s brothers, Dezső, Sándor and László, were the last survivors of his family. All the three immigrated to Israel, and made their home there. His older brother Dezső married Klára Klein while still in Hungary. The two lived in Kunszentmárton, where their son Pál was born in 1932. Klára and Pál were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in June 1944, and killed there. Dezső survived the years of the Holocaust. After the war he married Sara Parcel Neiman, who also lost her husband in the Holocaust. They immigrated to Israel in 1951, and lived in Kiryat Bialik, a town close to Haifa. László Róth, the youngest of the brothers, also lived in Kiryat Bialik.

One of Emil’s brothers arrived in Israel at an earlier stage: Sándor Róth, who was mentioned above when discussing Emil Róth’s childhood and studies. Sándor studied law in Hungary, and simultaneously agriculture, which he hoped would be useful in the Land of Israel. He joined various Zionist groups, and after several attempts, immigrated to Israel in 1935. In Israel, he adopted the Hebrew name Israel Goren. He joined Kibbutz Ma’abarot, located in the Sharon area, not far from Netanya. He married Klara Kliger, and they had two children, Yitzhak and Igal.

Emil Róth’s siblings, prepared by A. Livnat

There is no better way to conclude this review about Rabbi Dr Emil Róth, than citing the words of his brother Israel Yanai: “My older brother, who studied at the Rabbinical Seminary, brought home the Zionist idea that ignited in my heart the desire to follow the path of practical Zionism. Under his influence, I joined the Zionist student union ‘Maccabiah’… thanks to him I came to Israel – while his own fate was very bitter… these things will serve as a monument to the memory of my brother, who perished in the Holocaust and was not buried according to the Jewish tradition”.

Memorials for Rabbi Róth in Győr, above: in the Pyramide Monument in the Győr-Sziget Cemetery, below: on the Synagogue building
© P. Krausz

In case you have any additional information about Rabbi Róth, please reach Amir Livnat,

Hebrew version

Family Story

The Return

For decades, Holocaust survivors rarely, if ever, spoke about their horrific experiences, even then only among close family and friends, never publicly. My parents were no exception. While today there are countless memoirs or oral history accounts, that was not the case in the past. Personal experiences were hardly ever reported in the media. I was, therefore, more than astonished when, in early 1984, upon their return from a holiday in the picturesque Giant Mountains in today’s Czech Republic, they told me that they had made a one-day train trip to Trutnov where my mother was a Häftling, a concentration camp prisoner, during the war. I was even more stunned when my mother sat down at her typewriter, summarized her memories, and sent them to the most popular women’s magazine, “Nők Lapja”. And to my greatest surprise it was published!

This is what she wrote.

György Polgár, a son of Gabriella Vágó


Nearly 40 years later, I returned to Trutnov, at the foot of the Giant Mountains, where I was a forced laborer. At that time, the town was called Trautenau, and the surrounding countryside was the Sudetenland. Where did I arrive from? From Auschwitz.

The original piece – Source: Nők Lapja, July 7, 1984

Not a Bite to Eat

On June 9, 1944, we, the persecuted were herded into cattle cars in Győr. An SS officer announced that we will report for labor service. The train didn’t stop before arriving in Auschwitz.

The horrors of the journey have already been written about many times. Everything was true. In Auschwitz, we marched by Dr Mengele and his magic wand. This wand – we did not know then – made the difference between life and death. I was lucky: with my mother, I was ordered to go to the side that meant life. We were first kept in a toilet barrack for two days, and later we were wet, cold, and starving for another six weeks. We slept on the bare ground when we didn’t have to line up for the “Appell” in the “Birkenau B Camp” barracks for hours. We saw the chimneys, and by then, we knew why they poured smoke day and night. We saw crutches stacked in piles and women kneeling, half unconscious. They most probably did something wrong in the eyes of the SS commandos. We feared the clubs, the dogs, the men, and women in uniform. Shyness and feminine vanity did not matter anymore.

Mother, Gabriella Vágó, Győr, 1943 © György Polgár

In August, (we even didn’t know what day it was) the SS commando came to the block to sort us out. My only thought was not to be separated from my mother. I managed to stay with her because I had grown old in these two months, almost like her, although I was only 19 years old.

They tossed black clothes and a pair of sandals at me. We were forced into cattle cars again, but we were indeed taken to work this time. After a few days’ travel, we arrived at the town of Parschnitz on the outskirts of Trautenau.

We were taken to an empty, unused two-story factory building. It was furnished with high bunk beds. We were given mugs, plates, and brown tin spoons. We had covers – a blanket to be shared by two of us because two women had to sleep in a single bay.

We worked in the AEG plant in Trautenau. First, we had to clean, practically with a toothbrush, a freshly painted hangar, carrying two buckets of water for 12 hours without a bite to eat. At four in the morning, we were given some warm water they called coffee and 100 grams of bread. In the evening, we received a so-called “Eintopf” (one-dish soup), which was no more than a thin soup made from potato skins.

Parschnitz (Porici) – Source:

Yarn for Bread

I lost weight and was no more than 40 kilos. At a particular moment, my mother mustered all her courage and asked the “Lagerführerin” to transfer me to some easier work. Apparently, the woman was in a good mood because she did. 

From then on, I had to assemble spare parts for airplanes. My mother worked on a big machine. We met in the evening. Winter came, and we walked two hours a day to the factory and two hours back to the Lager. Wooden clogs replaced our sandals. The wooden shoes often fell off my feet from their weight when the early snow grew to several centimeters. I limped along with my comrades.

In our camp, there were political prisoners from Kistarcsa, internees, women from the cities of Hatvan, Miskolc, Mosonmagyaróvár and Győr. Polish women also stayed with us. They worked in the textile factory. We exchanged with them yarn and knitting needles they made for bread, so we had scarves and caps for the winter to cover our bald heads.

We went through various hardships. A commando came to take away the sick every two or three weeks. We never saw them again. Pregnant women were taken back to Auschwitz to be gassed. Several of our companions went mad. We looked after them as long as we could cover for them, and they stayed with us, but this couldn’t last too long.

My mother’s and grandmother’s names are on the list of prisoners in Trautenau (#540 and #541). My grandmother managed to falsify her birth year and so that they
would be considered sisters and not separated Source: Arolsen Archives, Bad Arolsen, Germany

Once We Get Home

From early spring 1945, we were not taken to the factory but to the nearby forest to dig a bunker. One day, we, desperate wrecks of women, who no longer cared about life, spotted a barracks camp when marching to the bunker site. Men stood at the gate shouting at us, showing the number 15 with their hands and fingers. As we dug, we asked each other what that sign could mean. Then, by chance, we found a newspaper clipping torn from some French journal. We read that Budapest was liberated. The sign language continued, and after five days, when the men flashed only ten fingers, we realized that they were indicating how many more days they thought the war would last. We learned that they were French and Belgian political prisoners. 

It was May. One day, returning to our barracks, we noticed a shop window displaying a black mourning ribbon on Hitler’s portrait. We could hardly conceal our joy. Walking along the center of the road – we were not allowed to use the sidewalk – we kept looking back at the display. A black flag hung at half-mast at the camp gate. From that day on, we hoped that something good would happen to us.  

From far away, we heard cannon fire. The next day they didn’t take us to work. For days we were kept locked up. No one yelled at us anymore. We talked and cared for our sick who couldn’t get to the “Revier” (sick bay). We dreamed of nice food. We decided that if we ever got home and ordered mille-feuille at the famous Gerbeaud café in Budapest, we would sit at the table next to the lavatory, remembering the two days we spent in the Auschwitz latrine, being fed with slop from a bucket.

On Our Way Home

On May 7, 1945, at around five o’clock in the afternoon, we heard voices, together with the noise of heavy combat vehicles. The gate opened. A tracked armored vehicle stopped in the yard. Soviet soldiers got off it. They entered the building. By then, the Germans were nowhere to be seen; they had probably fled in the night.

Two young Soviet soldiers came in and greeted us. They told us that the war was over for us and that we were free. All the ragged women surrounded the two soldiers. We kissed them where we could and shook their hands. We saw sympathy in their eyes. They gave us some food. There was an interpreter, as a couple of women among us spoke one of the Slavic languages.

They asked us to strengthen ourselves for a few days, not to start the long journey, because the forest in the Giant Mountains was still full of Germans. After two days, we set off for home. In the Czech villages, the peasants put milk and bread in the windows of their houses. We realized that we were not the only inmates kept by the Germans; hundreds of political prisoners, French and Belgians, were also suffering in the camps of Parschnitz-Trautenau.

A Housing Estate at the Site

And now, after almost 40 years, here I was again! I looked around the streets of Trutnov, this small industrial town, walked on the sidewalk, not the carriageway. I asked a hotel concierge where the former AEG factory used to stand. When I told him why I was looking for it, he replied with much affection: he said it was close, within walking distance, and if I waited for a while, he would find the hotel manager to accompany me.

I found it by myself. It was Saturday, so the factory was not working. I explained to the porter, half in Czech, half in German, why I was bothering him. His tears began to flow. He remembered everything. He told me he was a schoolboy then and that they felt sorry for the prisoners but couldn’t help because they feared the Germans. He regretted that no one was in the factory because they would surely have let me in. He said I was the first Hungarian to come here since the liberation to see where we had suffered for months with our fellow prisoners. “I’m sure many of them are no longer alive,” he said.

We said goodbye and took a taxi to the former camp. The taxi driver drove us through the small town, and in five minutes, we were in Parschnitz or Porsici in Czech. We stopped. The taxi driver got out of the car with me in front of a memorial. We stood in silence for a minute.

A black marble plaque was inscribed that the Red Army liberated the political prisoners and deportees held here on May 7, 1945. “Their memory is being kept with devotion”, the inscription reads.

The camp building is still there but is empty and surrounded by a fence. A housing estate was erected on the site of the barracks. The driver told me he had fought some 50 kilometers from there as a partisan. He could not understand either why we had to march four hours daily, as it took only 20 minutes from the factory to the camp. Only the SS command could have answered that. 

I saw the woods where we were cold and wet. I saw the house where the German commander-in-chief lived and the fortified building where we had to dig a defensive wall.

The inhabitants of Trutnov-Porsici did not forget us. The memory of the dead is remembered, along with that of the liberators. Every year a wreath is laid at the monument.

The taxi driver hugged me. He didn’t accept a tip. He probably told his family about us that evening.

Gabriella Vágó

Translated by György and Viktor Polgár

Győr and Jewry

New stumbling stones in Győr

One of the fourteen already damaged

On May 5, 2023, another fourteen stumbling stones were placed in Győr in the framework of a project started years ago by the Hungarian Jewish Cultural Association (Mazsike).

Invitation to the stone placements in Győr © Mazsike

The first stone commemorates Ágnes Korein, who was murdered at the age of 15.

Stumbling Stone of Ágnes Korein (1929-1944), Győr, Király utca 20 © Spitzer Olga
Ágnes Korein‘s family places Ági’s stone, Győr 5 May 2023 © Győr+

Dr Csaba András Dézsi, Mayor of Győr, was also present at the stone-laying ceremony and made a short statement. Péter Kirschner, President of MAZSIKE, also spoke. A TV report was made of the commemoration.

Péter Kirschner and Dr Csaba András Dézsi commemorate those murdered, Győr 5 May 2023 © Győr+

Twelve (12) members of the family of Jakab Neuwirth, who was murdered in 1920 (!), were also given a memorial stone at three different locations.

The stumbling stones of Imre Neuwirth’s family, Miklós Szedő’s grandmother (Mrs Neuwirth 1894-1944) and two of his aunts (Jolán 1916-1944; Sára 1923-1944), Győr, Liszt Ferenc utca 8 © Spitzer Olga
Stumbling stones of Pál Neuwirth (1900-1944) and members of his family (Mrs Neuwirth 1899-1944; Judit 1925-1944; Erzsébet 1929-1944; Márta 1933-1944; Margit 1936-1944), Győr, Kisfaludy utca 25 © Szedő Miklós

Stones were laid in front of the former residence of the Hacker family. How devastating that one of the Hacker stones was damaged a day or two after it had been laid. A metal thief looking for a copper block instead of the thin copper plate covering in reality the concrete block? Or an anti-Semitic manifestation? Shocking.

Stumbling stones of Henrik Hacker (1880-1944) and his family (Mrs Hacker 1885-1944 and Miksa 1915-1943), Győr, Kossuth Lajos utca 56 © Szedő Miklós

Ferenc Mátyás Csillag, a 12-year-old boy when murdered, is commemorated by a stone in Árpád Street.

The stone of Ferenc Mátyás Csillag (1932-1944), Győr, Árpád út 20 © Szedő Miklós

May their memory be a blessing!

Reported by Miklós Szedő

Family Story

Gestetner, the father of the copying machine

From Csorna to world fame – Remembering Dávid Gestetner

David Gestetner on horseback in front of his own house, London, circa 1905, © Wikipedia

A few months ago, I went to Csorna, 30 km from Győr, where I met the history professor of the Csorna high school that had entered two teams in the Jewish local history student contest launched by our Foundation. The professor kindly invited me for a short walk in Csorna discover the local Jewish historical sites. During the walk, he asked me if I knew the Gestetner Jewish family of Csorna. I said, not really, but that I had seen a copying machine with that brand name in an office where I worked. Well, that’s just it – my friendly casual guide confirmed – the inventor of the copier was born in Csorna!

This little recollection of Csorna inspires me to publish some details about the life and work of Dávid Gestetner. The source of the details not specifically cited is Wikipedia.

P. Krausz

From Csorna

David was born in Csorna (1854-1939), the son of Zsigmond Gestetner and Regina Gestetner.  After his primary education he worked as a butcher in his uncle’s shop. At the age of 17 he left Hungary and started working in the Vienna stock exchange. His duties included copying statements and contracts at the end of the trading day. It was a very time-consuming job. That’s when he started thinking about a faster, more efficient method of duplication.

… to London

Gestetner arrived in London in 1880, where he received a patent for his first invention, the wheeled pen. A wheel pen is a device with a wheel with tiny teeth on the tip that leaves a broken line through a thin sheet of paper coated with wax that is to be forced through by an ink roller so that the same writing pattern appears on the blank sheet of paper underneath.

Two copies of the wheeled pen © Magyar Nyomdász

This invention became the forerunner of the stencil machine. Once perfected, up to ten thousand prints could be made from a single mould without any classical printing techniques.

Plaque on the wall of Dávid Geststner’s London home © Wikipedia

With the advent of electricity and electric motors, the manual machine could now be ordered with electric drive. No special printing skills were needed to operate it.

Almost at the same time as Gestetner’s patent, Thomas Alva Edison in America also registered a patent for so-called autographic printing. This invention was then further developed and trademarked by Albert Blake Dick in 1887. An agreement was reached between the inventors’ companies. Under this agreement, Dick’s machines were marketed exclusively in the United States, while Gestetner marketed his duplicators in Europe and the rest of the world.

French-language advertisement of the Gestetner copier around 1900 © Wikipedia

Continuing to perfect his invention, in 1906 he set up a factory in Tottenham specialising in the manufacture of stencil machines, inks, rollers and wheeled pens. The stencil machine became increasingly successful and the factory grew rapidly. It soon established an international network of branches to distribute its machines.

Gestetner Rotary Cyclostyle duplicating machine, circa 1920, on display at the Technical Museum in Vienna © Wikimedia Commons

By the 1930s, the mass-produced stencil machine had dominated the market for reproduction machinery for 40 years.

Dávid Gestetner around 1930 © Magyar Nyomdász

Modern times

However, in the 1970s, photocopiers appeared on the market. From 1973 onwards, a company founded by Gestetner also marketed such machines. This was the beginning of the decline of stencil machines. At this time, Gestetner had 52 subsidiaries worldwide, selling and servicing machines in 153 countries. Management of the company was taken over by the founder’s son Sigmund Gestetner and his sons David and Jonathan. In 1996, Gestetner’s interests were acquired by the Japanese Ricoh Group. Today it is part of the NRG Group, but some of its products still bear the Gestetner brand name. Its main activity is currently the distribution of digital office reproduction machines and systems.

Social effects

The stencil duplicator provided individuals with a means to produce their own uncensored and uncontrolled ideas and distribute them in public places (near factories, churches, government offices, parks etc.). Previously, producing mass numbers of copies required the co-operation of owners of printing presses, which required a large amount of capital. Owners of presses would not agree to publish opinions contrary to their own interest. In many countries, the stencil and later the modern copier became an indispensable tool for major social movements and changes. It literally was the paper-based internet in the development of which Dávid Gestetner has made an invaluable contribution.


Wikipédia és Wikipedia


Magyar Nyomdász

Family Story

Dr István Bakonyi’s Wanderings, Part Four

The misadventures of a Medical Doctor from Győr in the final days of World War 2

In the first part you learnt why and how the diary is born, in the second one you discovered that German and Hungarian military units couldn’t resist the Russian advance, bombs were dropped even during the Christmas holidays, a good pair of boots was worth its weight in gold and a doctor could help those in trouble anywhere and anytime. In part three you read about occasional forced work hours, the tampering with their medical supplies and medicines, the adventures of the wandering troop in Székesfehérvár and their approach to the capital city.

Let’s continue. It is already January 1945.

Friday, 12 January 1945

We set off on Friday morning, the terrible amount of snow that fell two days before has almost completely melted away and we arrive in Kőbánya via Soroksár, Szentimre, Szentlőrinc. On the way, we met a boy from Kőbánya who was on his way home and his family offered us lodging in one of their shelters.

Taksony – Kőbánya, Google maps

Saturday, 13 January

We are on the road early in the morning, because we want to get out of the Pest area as soon as possible, where heavy fighting is still going on and the shells are still whizzing over our heads.

Right at the start we are caught by two drunk Russians, I am released as a doctor, but Laci Harmat is thoroughly stripped, his pyjamas, handkerchief and small items are taken away. …

Soon another checkpoint, but the ID we got in Székesfehérvár proved to be good this time and we were released. Around 11 o’clock in Rákosszentmihály, another checkpoint, here things don’t go smoothly, they search me completely, take my maps (Hungary and Fejér county map), my stamps, my flashlight and even my ID card and throw me into a room where about 30 people are waiting to be judged.

Of course, we immediately get acquainted, besides us there are two other people with similar ID cards, they come from Bori, Serbia, where they worked in a labour camp, and they are going to Pestújhely, because they live there. They are terribly desperate. We don’t like it either, but what can be done, given the forced rest, we eat.

After about two hours, a Russian soldier with no insignia, who later turned out to be a G.P.U. captain, escorted four of us to a neighbouring courtyard, while the others, whose number had grown to at least 50, were lined up by armed guards and sent on their way to who knows where. I am the first to be called in and duly debriefed, then interrogated in detail. Where I have been, what I have done, from where to where, how I have been treated, etc.

While the others are being interrogated, I take the opportunity to wash myself thoroughly at the fountain in the yard. The sun is not shining, it is very cold, the temperature is around freezing.

During the interrogation I make the acquaintance of a Russian subaltern, with whom I have a long conversation, hand and foot, using a dictionary, which resulted in giving him a bottle of … that I had obtained from the pharmacist next door. As a token of his gratitude, the Russian brought me 4 pieces of cut meat, which I of course shared with the others, so we ate again.

After we had all been interrogated, we were escorted back to the building next door where we were being searched and now, we were placed in the inner room where there two tailors were already staying with moustaches. They have been working there for 3 days. There was a stove in the room, so we were immediately thoroughly warmed up. Since the house had a wooden fence, there was no lack of firewood, and I, as the eldest, fed the fire.

The only inconvenience was that there were Russian batteries set up about 200 m away from us, and the firing of these batteries was accompanied by a constant shaking. It was getting dark and we were hungry again. When the G.P.U. Lieutenant came in, we asked to be fed. He then arranged for us to be given bread, which we badly needed, as our stock was completely exhausted. We lay down on the parquet floor and slept very well …

Sunday, 14 January

In the morning we were given bread again, washed at the well and went back to the inner room, where an interrogation of those present took place in front of us. When about fifty or so people were collected, as they had been yesterday, armed guards took them away again. Towards noon, the G.P.U. Lieutenant came, brought our papers back and let us go. We asked him to write a few lines on our documents so we wouldn’t be caught again, but he refused. I have usually found that they are very difficult to provide anything in writing.

We set off at a fast pace and, following the instructions received from our friends from Pestújhely, we headed for Fót, as it was a shortcut to Vác. We managed to get on a Russian car heading for Vác and we were already making far-reaching plans for what we were going to do in Vác in the early afternoon when in Fót a Russian female traffic policewoman forced us off the car and even trashed our luggage.

Vác, Google maps

There was a beautiful, mild and sunny afternoon and we continued our journey towards Dunaharaszti – Alag, where we soon arrived and now, we were on the Budapest-Vác Road. Given the sad experience, we try to avoid the traffic police … Soon we were reached by a gypsy family, who came in a cart and allowed us to put our belongings on it. Now relieved of our luggage, we continued our journey at a brisk pace and arrived in Sződliget in the dark of the evening, where we immediately went to the police station. With the help of the police, we were given a room and rested our weary body on a wide hammock. …

Monday, 15 January

In Sződliget, the situation is quite dangerous, because people are being caught on the road and taken to robot (Russian word meaning “work”, in this case “forced labour” – editor). … Accompanied by a policeman, we reach the highway, where we continue our journey towards Vác. Soon we arrive at the Vác-Hatvan crossroads, where we can see the Russian policeman and some soldiers from a distance, but there is no other way, we are forced to go in their direction. Identification, the pass is good, but we have to go to robot, this time to help reconstructing a railway line.

I desperately insist that I’m a doctor and my legs hurt…, but the soldier puts us in line and we leave for the workplace. The workplace is about 3 km from the crossroads and when we get there, after unloading our luggage at a railway station, we are told that we have to remove the railway tracks because the Germans have destroyed them and we have to put them back in place again. Nice prospects! For the time being we wait and wait, I don’t like this situation one bit.

A lieutenant comes along, I show him my paper, he nods, and says harasho, harasho (Russian word meaning “alright” – editor) but he can’t relieve us, only the captain can. I look for the captain, he’s nowhere to be found, meanwhile the train arrives bringing the rails but the train did not stop where it should have done, so that the rear wheels of one of the wagons jumped off the rails… How lucky we were.

And the two of us started going back and decided that whoever asked, we would say that the officer had told us ydy damoi (Russian expression meaning “go home” – editor). We luckily avoid three working teams, quickly take our belongings from the guardhouse and just as we were leaving the guardhouse, we ran into a Russian patrol. Of course, we are immediately checked, we show our documents, but they don’t want to let us go and as soon as they see my medical bag, they start searching for Sulfidin. They don’t find it, but they take away a significant part of my bandages. In the meantime, I wink at a young Russian who understands and shows us out. We ask him to escort us a long way, and then I give him 20 pieces of Sulfapyridine tablets with a sore heart. Unfortunately, everything has a price and only later did I realise what a high price I had paid!

We quickly head back and now have an unobstructed crossing at the road junction. Soon we are at the Vác police station where we are given a Hungarian-Russian language pass to travel to Párkánynána, the Vác police cannot issue a pass further than that. We make the pass signed and stamped at the Russian headquarters, now we have the Russian stamp and we are on our way.

Párkány (Sturovo) és Zebegény, Google maps

We are in the outskirts of Vác, when a Russian car stops and the captain asks where Nagymaros is and if there is wine there. I say I know the way, but whether there is wine I cannot answer. I tell him, it’s 13-14 km away and I can show him the way if he wants. The Russian agrees and we climb on board the car and set off towards Nagymaros. It’s cold on top of the vehicle, but we resist the temperature heroically, and make the 3-hour journey in about 20 minutes, … before we had caught a cold we had arrived. The Russians’ information was correct, because they had indeed found about 30 barrels of wine in a restaurant along the Danube. As we guided them and helped them to tip the barrels, they filled our bottles. The Russian was pleased and so were we, for having come so far! The wine turned out to have fermented and we couldn’t drink it, but the Russians must have drunk it.

In the street we are wondering where to find a place to stay, when an elderly lady comes by and, when asked, she says that we can sleep at her place if we are not afraid of the Russians. We take the risk, and soon we are sitting by a burning stove, eating, having milk, then cooking potatoes and having a delicious dinner. … Laci goes on a reconnaissance expedition, some pickles are found, and under the bed we find beautiful apples, a full basket and of course we pick a few, but leave the rest there.

Tuesday, 16 January

Starting from Nagymaros, we take a scenic route to Zebegény, where we deliver a message to Brulik bakers. We were given a good lunch and a two-kilograms loaf of bread on departure.

We hear bad news from people on the road, there are Germans in Esztergom and they are constantly shooting at the Helemba-Garamkövesd road. The front is right in front of Párkány and the rumours that Komárom has been captured by the Russians are lies. But we go on blindly, driven by the desire to go home and hope that the (Russian) troops released at Pest will push the front further. We want to be at their heels and follow them immediately. 

We arrive in Szob, then cross the bridge over the Ipoly and reach Helemba at around 15:30. We find some quarters for the night when we hear that the road to Garamkövesd has been mined by the Germans to the point that it is not passable during the day. This would be the only way to get to Parkany. We get our things together and pack our bags to take advantage of the evening twilight to get to Garamkövesd yet by the end of the day. It’s supposed to be at an 8-km distance, but it seems we are very tired, because we can hardly walk at the end. Right at far edge of the village we find a house where we can stay for the night.

A four-engine bomber of the US Air Force bombing the railway bridge in Szob in 1944, Source:

Apparently, it was all the same now, I slept on a sack full of corn stalks, I could sleep, I even slept well, but when we woke in the morning we immediately packed and moved on. Going through the village, we reach the Garam military bridge, but here the guards won’t let anyone through, supposedly in a day or two crossing will be allowed, but not now. Nothing can be done about it, we have to go back and take shelter in a nearby house, just in case if crossing the bridge becomes possible.

In the meantime, one of the policemen asks me to see the local doctor because he is sick and needs some medicine. I go to see him, he is in a terrible state of neglect, his flat and consulting room have been ransacked, he himself is dirty, neglected, full of wailing and lamentations. What should we say then about our own affairs?

With the assistance of the entire population of the country, the Hungarian authorities took everything from us and made people, who had worked all their lives, into outcasts, condemning them to definite perdition, showing no mercy to anyone, from the infant suckers to the elderly. Yeah, that was different, we didn’t mean it, that’s what they say now, but … with very few exceptions, everyone stole and looted the Jewish stuff they could get their hands on!  The Russians were much better than the Hungarian gendarmes and at least they didn’t make exceptions. They take the watch from the Jews just as they do from the Christians.

I myself have been through a lot, the result of 16 years of my medical work has come to nothing, but as long as I can work, I will not despair. They cry and cry for mere material goods, but they are at home and their relatives and brothers are at home, but what about our relatives, where are they? I could go on and on about this, but that is not my intention, I intend to write the story of my wanderings.

Soon, I leave the ‘kind’ colleague and manage to get my shoes repaired in a Russian schusterei (German expression meaning “shoe repair shop” – editor) and return to my lodgings. After lunch, we noticed that civilians were being allowed across the bridge, and we immediately rushed over and managed to get across. We couldn’t take the highway because the Germans were shelling it so we took the Nána road to Parkany.

On the Nána-Párkány road, as we passed, I met Lajos Perlblum, with whom I had been together in Óbarok for quite some time. Both of us are thoroughly surprised, we greet each other stormily and slowly tell each other our stories. It turns out that he had simply been forgotten in Parkany to help the civilian population. We go to his place and enjoy his hospitality for two days. He lives in Dr Hermann’s doctor’s office in Parkany, or rather in the basement, because there are constant shots fired. We also move into the basement.

Wednesday afternoon we meet a nice, friendly, kind-hearted Jew from Parkany, who was hiding from the Arrow Cross in the area and has already returned home together with Ödön Schatz, who welcomed us with great joy. He has already taken under his protection two women and a boy who escaped from the Komárom ghetto and hid somewhere. They are currently living in the Tóths’ shelter. … they have decided to move to Uncle Schatz’s house, but here they are afraid of the Russians. Uncle Schatz thought that I, as a doctor, could protect them, and indeed I succeeded to do so during my stay in Parkany. The next morning, two more former forced labourers, also from Komárom, arrived at our place. They escaped from their troop in Győr, joined the Slovak partisans and fled from there to Pest, where they managed to survive with false documents until the Russians reached them.

(Photos are for illustration only.)

The end of Part Four.

And don’t miss the fifth, in which you’ll find out how a doctor managed to get food in hard times, what the war situation was like on the Czechoslovak-Hungarian border, and how much Uncle Ödön Schatz’s hospitality meant. They arrive in Pest, where they meet many of their fellow citizens from Győr.

Family Story

We Must Remember

Reflections by Les Sichermann on intertwined life stories

We are honoured to present Les’ writing here-below. His path is written in regular fonts and that of Albert in italics.

P. Krausz

I am fortunate to live in an era of relative peace and prosperity and cannot fathom the ravages of war that impacted my previous generation who still live with the memories of death and destruction. I have never enlisted with the military, whether it be the Korean War, Vietnam War or any Canadian mission requiring active military service.

When I left Hungary in 1956 as a six-year-old, I remember Russian tanks rolling by our apartment while picking up empty shell casings left behind as a result of skirmishes between Russian troops and Hungarian resistance fighters. That was my only perception of war on any appreciable level. My parents unfortunately were the benefactors of the horrors of the Auschwitz’s death camps and later refugees of the Hungarian Revolution. They had eleven years to recover following WW2, only to be thrust into the fallout of another invasion that would likely impact their livelihood and usher in an uncertainty under the Communist regime.

I am eternally grateful for the difficult decision my parents chose in leaving behind a country that had been their home and those of their ancestors for hundreds of years, allowing us the opportunity to begin a legacy in our new country, Canada, that I have the privilege to cherish.

My Mother and Father, Jolan Sicherman (Adler) and Miksa Sicherman, Budapest 1945-1956 © Les Sichermann

A reluctance to relate their war experiences is understandable. No one can fully appreciate the years of suffering and indignities they must have endured unless one was present as a witness. My references to their experience are but anecdotes gleaned from books, movies, documentaries, and holocaust survivors. Unfortunately, I know very little about my parents who passed away when I was quite young.

November 20, 1940

Hungary has joined the ‘axis of evil’ (Hungary became the fourth member to join the Axis powers – edit.). They are now an ally of Germany but playing a dangerous game of deception; trying to appease both Germany and the Allies. My Father is 38 years old and has been teaching in rural Hungary. He is married to his first wife and they have a daughter. I know very little of his life before he married my mother, his second wife, after the war.

Actually, any knowledge of my father’s situation during the war, I can only surmise from events that were part of the history Jews experienced in general while living under a government complicit with their German allies. Doctrines, dating back to 1938 and even to earlier times, restricting Jews from participating in the economy were reinforced in addition to the introduction of a forced labour regime in the frontlines for Jewish men as soon as Hungary entered WW2.   

May 18, 1941

About 1700 kilometres to the west, a parallel universe was unfolding that would intersect with mine many years later. Albert Cox, a resident of Leicester, England, had just attained his teaching certificate and was about to go to war. On July 14, 1941, he enlisted with the RAF at Regent Park, London on Bastille Day. From 1940 on, Albert kept a daily journal of military events including adventures that took him to places such as Georgia, Alabama Halifax, Winnipeg, Estevan Saskatchewan, Trenton Ontario, and Italy; places visited that were part of his training regiment as a pilot and navigator.

“I was introduced to military discipline. My rank was AC1 (Aircraftsman First Class). I was fitted out in the traditional blue uniform that showed the world that I was a flyer in training by wearing a white flash in my RAF cap. We learned how to march and drill in unison, how to keep our buttons and shoes shiny, how to prepare for kit inspection, how to salute an officer, in fact, how to become a model soldier. My hair was trimmed short. There was a nightly curfew – and I received a pay packet about every two weeks. I forget the actual amount, but I remember that AC’s receive a mere pittance.”

September 23, 1941

Albert Cox sets sail from Liverpool in a beat-up oil tanker to continue his training overseas. He was given no information of his posting but told to report in Manchester then whisked overnight to Liverpool.

“…  It carried about ten aircraftmen as passengers. We slept in hammocks deep in the hold of this wretched smelly ship. …The crew eased our fear of the rats that scurried along the hammock ropes and sometimes over our reclining bodies, informing us that they were too well fed to bother with humans. Cats were in a cat’s heaven. Their natural enemies were fat and sluggish. We were a convoy of about a hundred ships, guarded by a battle ship, a cruiser and quite a number of destroyers and corvettes…We were drilled over and over again as to what we should do when the alarm sounded … and we had lots of alarms. It was a nerve wracking two weeks…It was about this time that I learned from one of the crew that our destination was Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.”

“In mid-Atlantic, we came under attack from U-boats and one of the crew estimated that we lost four ships from torpedoes. The destroyers darted in and around the convoy and on at least two occasions we were surrounded by a black smoke screen.”

“One fine afternoon when the sky was clear and the sea was calm, we were called to the deck by an alarm. We were being stalked by a German Condor aeroplane. The convoy’s anti-aircraft guns opened up. The Condor aimed a salvo of bombs at the battleship but narrowly missed. The worry was that we were pretty certain that the Condor crew had pin-pointed our position to every U-boat in the area.”

December 12, 1941

Hungary, after joining the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, declares war on the United States. Jewish men drafted into labour service were sent to the Russian front. I now recall my father’s inability to write properly as a result of an injury received from an exploding device during the war.

Many Jews converted to Catholicism in order to circumvent limitations and oppression.

September 23-October 7, 1941

“It took us two days or so to reach Toronto where we were met at the railway station by a convoy of RCAF vehicles that carried us to Maple Leaf Gardens. An ice-hockey game was in progress as we arrived… I was fascinated with Toronto and had a three-night affair with an attractive 30-year-old woman who I met at a Toronto dance hall.”

October 1941-July 1942

“We travelled through the states of Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia, and Tennessee. Our final destination was the large American military base of Maxwell Field, Montgomery Alabama… It was all a completely new world to me. The meals were sumptuous.”

“The purpose of our three-week stay was to acclimatize us to the military expectations of the Americans. We were not impressed with the American version of discipline training… The menial tasks were carried out entirely by blacks… We were shown many films in all aspects of Venereal Disease which was rampant in Alabama. We were discouraged from having any contacts with blacks. We learned of the activities of the Ku Klux Klan. I found the inhabitants of Montgomery to be incredibly bigoted and racist.”

“Our Elysian life changed radically after December 7th, the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour and brought USA into the war. Off came our suits and on went our blue uniforms. The training that had been illegal under ‘international rules,’ now became legal. We were no longer ‘civilians’ training to be pilots. The Americans were now our comrades in arms.”

After completing his training in the US, Al was transferred to Trenton Ontario and Estevan Saskatchewan where it was determined that a problem with depth perception ended his pilot’s designation and forced him to become an Observer (navigator).

“When I arrived in Winnipeg on July 1942, I was welcomed with a heat wave. … I put up in a rough, cheap hotel quite close to Winnipeg City Centre, Public Library, and there I met my future wife, Miss Frances (Tanty) Cronin. Tanty was an incredibly beautiful girl and I was completely enchanted.”

Albert and Tanty Cox, my future Father-in-law and Mother-in-law, Montreal, 1942 © Les Sichermann

“I graduated as an Observer on April 2nd, 1943, and was presented with my Observer Wings by the Commanding Officer with the famous Billy Bishop in attendance, who treated us to a pep talk. After the ceremony, Billy Bishop gave an exhibition of stunt flying over the base.”  

19 March 1944

Germany occupies Hungary and the Hungarian government orders the deportation of all Jews. My mother and her sisters are gathered from the surrounding regions of Győr into a ghetto of 5 000 people and transported to Auschwitz in cattle cars.

My Grandmother, Malvin Stern (Adler) 1880-1944, and my Aunt, Irene Szalay (Adler), both from Győr © Les Sichermann

Once more, I am not aware of my father’s circumstances; of his physical separation from his first wife and daughter or the reasons for his survival. By the time mass deportation ceased in June 1944, just about all Jews in the countryside had gone. The final roundup of Jews in Budapest continued well into 1945, in spite of the inevitable liberation of Europe. Germany surrenders May 7, 1945.               

My father returned to his hometown, Csorna, Hungary, having somehow survived, only to learn that his wife and daughter had perished in Auschwitz.

In the meantime, my future mother and her two sisters survived Auschwitz and the “Death March.” They eventually made their way back to their home town and tried to pick up a semblance of their previous lives.

My father marries my mother who is from the neighbouring city of Győr.

I was born in 1948. We then move to Budapest and can visualize my first recollection of events as an only child in a happy household. Family members who survived the death camps joined us in Budapest. I can recall visiting my aunt, uncle, and cousin in Győr during summer holidays. I was immune to the impact my parents must have endured during the war years of 1939-1945. Post-war realities of bombed out buildings and bread lines were still evident under the Communist regime, who exacted a punishing legacy for Hungary’s participation in the war with Germany.

September 11-30, 1943

“My son Dennis was born in St Boniface Hospital on August 31st, 1943. Now I held him in my arms for the first time.”

Albert and Tanty Cox, 1943 © Les Sichermann

“When I said goodbye to Tanty at the end of September, the future was very much in doubt.  At that time there was no sign of any quick end of the war and the odds were that it would be years before Tanty and I would meet again. I’m pretty ‘hard’ but I cried when we parted.”

“We eventually arrived in New York City — but we had no time for sightseeing. We found ourselves on that great luxury liner—Queen Mary. We were but a small part of a large army of servicemen, mainly Americans… The trip this time took us fivedays. The Queen Mary travelled across the Atlantic at great speed without a single escort… the destroyer’s engines were not powerful enough to give the destroyers sufficient speed capabilities. We were relieved when we sighted the coastline of Ireland, and later Scotland…I was back in my homeland after a two-year absence.”

March 14, 1944 

Other postings and stops included Algiers, Catalina Sicily, Oran, Foggia and Zara Yugoslavia.

“We became a part of the D-Day Dodgers. We arrived in Naples March 15th, 1944, and Mount Vesuvius welcomed us with one of the rare eruptions… We joined our comrades in 608 RAF Squadron and our role was to protect convoys, report weather conditions near the Mediterranean, carry out armed reconnaissance and take photographs for the army.”

“The greatest danger to our lives, especially at night, was the American fighter plane whose ‘aircraft recognition’ was appalling and the American pilots on a number of occasions shot down Hudsons when they believed they were attacking Junker 88’s.

Albert Cox with his training squadron in front of a Hudson, Debert Nova Scotia 1943 © Les Sichermann

“In the period after I had finished my pilot training, I survived over 200 takeoffs and landings in a 34-month period. I was fortunate.”

From 1946 to the summer of 1955

“We lived in Leicester.  During the period we added three more offspring to our family; Kathleen, Dale (Tony) and Shannon…In June 1955 Tanty and I went by train to London where we were interviewed for a teaching position in Saskatchewan Canada. I accepted the offer of a one-roomed school near Craik and so began another challenging chapter in our lives.”

1956 Revolution

We had become somewhat settled in our home in Budapest in spite of post war austerities, as a result of Russia’s political and economic stranglehold on the country. I began grade two in September when all hell broke loose in Hungary’s attempted withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. Russia responded by sending in the Red Army to quell the uprising, resulting in several thousand dead.

My parents decided that they have had enough of the uncertainties that lay ahead and determined to leave the country before the borders became permanently sealed. My mother and I joined my cousin’s family in Győr. Under the cover of darkness, we assembled at the border with other refugees and began our walk across farmers’ fields, each family carrying a single suitcase with all their worldly possessions. My father and other aunt would later join us with legal documents at our destination. We headed toward lights on the horizon and were met by Russian soldiers waiting at the Austrian border. They had to be bribed with alcoholic beverages to let us through.

We came under the auspices of the Austrian Red Cross. Our first stop was in Strasburg’s refugee camp then made our way to Paris where we stayed with a cousin for six months, while waiting for a country to accept us. My cousin and I were enrolled at a private school just outside of Paris until Canada came through, giving us landed immigrant status.

On May 15, 1957, we landed in Edmonton then made our way to Saskatoon where we were assisted with accommodations and employment. My father and aunt joined us by way of Israel. Unfortunately, my mother passed away from breast cancer soon, leaving my 58-year-old father to look after me. Our family had a six-year stint in Montreal only to return to Saskatoon when opportunities turned up and our grasp of the English language had improved. It took my family about ten years of adjustment to be gainfully employed.

What happened to my father? When my father married my mother after the war, he was 20 years older. Upon me returning to Saskatoon to live with my aunt and uncle in 1963, my father remained in Montreal and died in 1968. By then, I was 19 years old. He had a very difficult time adjusting to Canadian life due to his age, but was an active member of the Montreal Jewish Community. He had gone to the hospital for a minor operation and never recovered due to some unknown complication. I only visited him during summer holidays. Unfortunately, I never really got to know him well. Most of what I know about the holocaust I learned from one of my surviving aunts that lived in Saskatoon. While my relatives were alive, I really had no interest in my past until much later.

Much later, I had a chance to visit Hungary (Budapest in 1971) on my way home, from a year spent in Israel on a kibbutz. (My second visit took place about 5 years ago also to Budapest, where I assisted the Red Cross in escorting an elderly gentleman from Saskatoon to see his long-lost daughter.)

Canada, 1955

“My first school in Saskatchewan was the one room school of Holmesdale, situated about 7 miles from Craik. We lived in the tiniest of teacherages with no electricity and no indoor toilets. Tanty and I and the four children slept in the single small bedroom… I bought my first car ever and drove to Saskatoon a number of times… My salary for that school year was $2 800 and that was supplemented by $9.00 per month for my janitorial services. I cleaned the school and looked after the furnaces. I was teaching children to read in the same room as I was teaching the grade 10 subjects to 16- and 17-year-olds. It was an excellent educational experience for it gave me a look at the whole wide panorama of education in Saskatchewan.”          

Canada, 1956-1964

Other teaching positions included a stop in Woodrow from 1956-1964 and Saskatoon from 1966-1986, followed by retirement. Albert served as an administrator on various boards such as President of Saskatoon Teachers Association, Commissionaire of Saskatoon Minor Soccer Association and President of the Nutana Legion. He was involved in provincial politics with The New Democratic Party and a guest lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan. He and his wife Tanty, also helped to raise four wonderful children.

My life from 1974

The year 1974 turned out to be momentous. Upon completion of my education, I received employment at the University of Saskatchewan in the Department of Agriculture. I was also active in the sport of soccer, playing for a team sponsored by the Saskatoon Nutana Legion. I can clearly recall the first time my team visited the Nutana Legion; listening to a booming voice with a Middle English accent, emanating from the lounge, I recognized Alf Bibby, our manager, sitting with the owner of that voice. Alf’s wife and a young lady were also at the same table. Alf introduced Albert Cox, the president of the Nutana Legion and his daughter, Kathy. Albert immediately brought us a round of drinks and the rest is history.

Family Photo (left) Tanty, Albert, Kathy, Les; (right) Les, Kathy and nephew in the middle at our wedding, Saskatoon Saskatchewan, 1975 © Les Sichermann

When I married Kathy in 1975, I was warmly welcomed into her family, having few surviving members left from my family side. It was truly a gratifying experience being part of a group of people that accepted me without prejudice. We have been married now for 48 years.

After my employment with the university, I was hired by the Saskatoon Police Service and retired after 24 years. Presently, I drive a school bus to keep busy.

I have 2 children and 4 grandchildren. I am an active member of my Jewish community and serve on its board.

Time and time again, I come to realize that my good fortune was a result of decisions made by my parents in leaving their homeland and taking a chance that life in another country such as Canada would provide greater freedoms and opportunities. As refugees, without knowledge of their destination or expectations of the life that would await them, one can only imagine the fears and uncertainty they must have felt in making this monumental undertaking.

I also owe a great deal of gratitude to Albert Cox who risked his life as an airman with the Allies, hastening the defeat of Germany and the liberation of the Nazi death camps. I also am grateful for the decision he and his wife made in choosing Canada their home as well having a daughter who has become my lifetime partner.

Les and Kathy Sicherman 2023 © Les Sichermann

Finally, I thank Canada for accepting us unconditionally as refugees in our hour of desperation, but fear for the people of Europe, owing to dictators such as Stalin, Hitler, Putin and the like, that have supplanted democratic rule, creating historical refugee disasters. I am fearful of seeing Hungarian PM Orbán copying Putin’s style of ruling the country and shocked by his close ties with the dictator.

I think that I have led a full and fortunate life.

By Les Sichermann, Canada

Győr and Jewry

The history of the Jewish community of Győr in school education, through personal interviews – Part Two

Introduction to the Győr IWalk

Written by Ildikó Mesterházi, Ambassador of the Zachor Foundation and the USC Shoah Foundation in Győr

Students using IWalk in Győr © Ildikó Mesterházi

April 16, the day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust in Hungary, is approaching. By the end of March, the renewed “Walk in the Jewish Quarter of Győr” will be available to help commemorate the event. On this occasion, I would like to introduce you to the IWalk educational programme.

The IWalk program is a digital education program of the University of Southern California (USC) Shoa Foundation, implemented in Hungary by the Zachor Foundation. The program offers local history walks through a free phone app. The phone application allows you to learn about the history of the Jewish community of a given settlement, either independently or with a guide, through a local history walk.

The information is supported by site-specific digital/multimedia resources; these are short (a few minutes) excerpts of video interviews from the USC Shoa Foundation’s Visual History Archive. During the walk through Győr, we will learn about the personal recollections of Lenke Askergren, Leslie Borsa, Ibolya Keller Krausz, Gabriella Polgár and Edith Tupy. In addition to the interview extracts, there are also resources to help the learning process related to each stop of the walk. The Győr walk includes maps, photos, posters and newspaper clippings.

The Győr IWalk brings the history of Győr’s Jews closer to us through active learning by visiting parts of Győr-Sziget and Újváros. The walk takes us through the peaceful and tranquil 1920s, and then through the period of exclusion, looting and deportation.

The walk takes us through ten stations in five locations.

  1. Híd utca, the entrance to Bercsényi Park – the settlement of the Jewish community, a period of peaceful coexistence between Jews and non-Jews
  2. the park behind the synagogue – the time of settlement of the Jewish community, the period of assimilation
  3. Synagogue courtyard – building of the synagogue and the school
  4. Emil Róth memorial plaque – the role of the Rabbi and the concept of Zionism
  5. The Memorial to Child Victims – disenfranchisement, discrimination
  6. Home for old and poor Jews (Menház) – the power of the community, the German occupation
  7. Kohn’s Oil Factory Industrial Memorial – the role of the Jews in the industrialisation of the city, the period of looting
  8. Bishop János Simor Square – ghettoisation, exclusion
  9. Former Catholic girls’ school and convent – relocation to the barracks camp, silent bystanders
  10. Győr-Sziget Israelite Cemetery – Vilmos Apor, Memorial to the Martyrs
Stops on the walk map (1 – 10) © Google maps

The walk is a guided discovery and reflection. The process is prepared by providing the necessary background information about the place and then students gather information from a variety of sources. Knowledge construction is done collectively through discussions, so it is very important to ask questions related to the sites and video interviews, and to give students the opportunity to reflect on what they have heard. Reflection can take place during or after the walk in a classroom setting. The phone app also allows us as teachers to monitor individual student responses. In this case, we need to be familiar with the IWitness interface, which I will write about in more detail next time.

The IWalk app is free for anyone to use, and walks can even be done virtually.

The process to download the app is as follows:

  • IWalk is available under the name USC Shoah Foundation and can be downloaded for free on Google Play and the App Store. Look for this logo:
  • Once downloaded, the interface will display the available countries.
  • In our case, we have to look for Hungary, then Győr.
  • In the footsteps of the Jews of Győr, you can find a walk through Győr, with the dome of the Neolog synagogue in the picture. (In Hungarian only.)
  • The walk can be downloaded and will be offered by the app. The reason to download is that you don’t need an internet connection on the spot.
  • The interface asks if the answers should be sent to the teacher. You should tick no here, in which case the download will start.

The walk can be viewed virtually from home, giving you the opportunity to learn about the life and history of the community through personal stories.


Zachor training programs


Family Story

My parents met over cigarette rations

The life of a physician-lawyer, Sándor Ullmann – Part Two

This is the continuation of Sándor’s life story, this time written by his daughter, Margie Ullmann-Weil, from the moment when Sándor arrived in Canada. Let us recall the first part of Sándor’s story while he lived still in Hungary in the darkest times of the 20th century published on our website under the title “A classmate had the foresight to provide him with a Nazi hat and Arrow Cross shirt”.

Read this exiting second part on how Sándor built up his personal and professional life overseas from zero.

P. Krausz

Margie’s recollections

My daughter, Savannah Weil, wrote a biography about my father based on her online research and from listening to taped interviews of him. Her biography covers his life in Hungary. I will attempt to provide information about his career and accomplishments, but more importantly, share information about the personal side of this most remarkable man.

He always wanted to be a physician. Instead, he started at the University of Pécs, Faculty of Law because it was the only university that would admit him during a time that Jews were banned from advanced study in Hungary. While there, he sat in on medical school classes. After the war he was finally able to go to medical school and moved from the University of Budapest to the University of Graz in Austria and finally to the University of Munich in Germany, where he completed his medical residency. He received his Diploma in Medicine at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München in September 1950.

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München today, ©

My parents met over cigarette rations. After the war Sándor and my mother, Irene (Irén in Hungarian) Steinberger, were both working at the Jewish Hospital in Budapest, he as a doctor and she as a nurse. My mother smoked cigarettes, he did not. Her roommate mentioned that Sándor Ullmann was not using his cigarette rations and so she knocked on his door.

Irene and Sándor, 1948, © Margie Ullmann-Weil

They quickly fell in love and got married on October 5, 1948. As a side note, Sándor later became a cigarette smoker.

Invitation Irene’s and Sándor’s wedding, 1948, © Margie Ullmann-Weil

As you may recall from Savannah’s story, my father came from Győr. Irene was born in Fábiánháza (a village in NE Hungary close to the Hungaria-Romanian border), Hungary on February 19, 1927.

A lonely stone that remained from the Jewish cemetery in Fábiánháza, ©

She was sent to Auschwitz on June 14,1944 when she was 17. In August 1944, she was moved to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp / Parschnitz work camp.

Parschnitz, located NE of Prague, was part of a complex of forced-labor camps established in the Sudetenland to supply workers for textile plants in Trautenau (Trutnov) near the Czech-Polish border. The women prisoners worked at the Hasse and Welzel textile plants manufacturing uniforms and gas mask parts for the Wehrmacht.

Gross-Rosen concentration camp entrance today, © War Traveller

She was liberated from Gross-Rosen on May 8, 1945. In July 1945, she moved to Budapest and trained as a nurse. The only member of her immediate family to survive was her brother, Pinchas.

After the war Pinchas moved to Israel. There he changed his family name from Steinberger (which in German means someone from the stone mountain) to Avni (which means stone in Hebrew). Because of the change in name, it took my parents several years to find and reconnect with Irene’s brother.

In 1949 my parents were smuggled out of Hungary to escape the Communist Regime. They arrived in Austria and lived in Vienna for a month, and then relocated to Graz. In May 1950, they moved to Munich where my father completed his medical residency. My parents traveled from Ludwigsburg to Bremen Germany on March 15, 1951 then left Bremen by boat for Canada on March 27, 1951.

Irene’s Canadian passport, by mid-1950s, © Margie Ullmann-Weil

They crossed the Atlantic on the SS Stewart Bruce.  When my father filled out the immigration paperwork for Canada, he entered Sandor for his middle name (as he had no middle name), and listed Alexander as his first name. The English-speaking customs officials did not realize that Sandor and Alexander were, in fact, the same name.  From that point forward his legal name was Alexander Sandor Ullmann.

He arrived in Canada without speaking a word of English. He needed to pass the Canadian Medical Board exams, so he immediately began to memorize the English dictionary. It was quite helpful that he had a photographic memory. He set up his medical practice in Windsor Ontario.

Sándor with his son, Stewart Bruce, around 1953, © Margie Ullmann-Weil

My parents were living in my father’s medical office space when my brother was born in November 1951. They named him Stewart Bruce, after the ship that brought them to Canada. I was born in 1953. I was named after my paternal grandmother, Margit Gescheit Ullmann.  (The Gescheits were a large family from Salgótarján in the northern part of Hungary). Shortly after my birth, my parents bought their first home.

Judaism and supporting the State of Israel were of first and foremost importance in my parents’ lives. My mother was very active in selling Israeli Bonds. They traveled several times to Israel to spend time with Irene’ brother, Pinchas, who had settled in Karkur. They also spent time with Gescheit family members who had settled in Givat Ada. Throughout his life Sándor stayed committed to supporting Israel and ensuring survival of a Jewish homeland.

Life seemed quite promising. My parents developed close friendships. My father’s medical practice was successful. They did not have much money but they had fun and they traveled some. I have vivid memories of my parents sitting with friends and playing cards, often with Magyar Kártya (Hungarian cards). Sadly, my mother was diagnosed with granulocytic leukemia and died a few years later in 1959 at the age of 34 years.

Irene, my mother, 1958, © Margie Ullmann-Weil

After Irene’s death Sándor began to commute over the US-Canadian border to Detroit Michigan to pursue his dream of specializing in Pathology. During this time, he also maintained his medical practice in Windsor, Canada.

He met a woman through mutual friends in Montreal. Hanica Cohen was a Holocaust survivor from Romania. In 1962, they were married in the home of Sándor’s paternal aunt, Sari Ullmann Unger (Frigyes’ sister). Sándor adopted Hanica’s daughter, Sabrina, and raised her as his own. 

We spent many holidays together with Sari and her family. It is where I learned to speak a little bit of Hungarian and enjoy the smells and tastes of delicious Hungarian food. One of Sándor’s favorite foods was chicken paprikás with nokedli (paprika chicken with noodles). He shared with us that his mother always made him chicken paprikás on his birthday. He also loved Hungarian poppyseed rolls (mákos beigli) and we enjoyed them on a regular basis.

Sándor, my father, around 1970, © Margie Ullmann-Weil

When Sándor finished his medical residency in Pathology, he accepted a job at a hospital in New York City. After only a year in New York, he made the decision to return to Michigan because he felt that it was a better place to raise children and because he had a large extended community of friends (both Hungarian and Jewish friends) there.

Hanica died in 1978. In January 1980 he married Faye Schrage Kleiff and helped to raise her two children, Marcy and Steven.

Crittenton Hospital today, ©

He had a long and satisfying career working as the Chief of Pathology at Crittenton Hospital in Rochester Michigan. He continued to work there until his death from chronic lymphocytic leukemia in October 1994 at age of 69 years. 

Sándor at Crittenton Hospital, Michigan, photo with an appraisal note, 1985, © Margie Ullmann-Weil

Sándor was extraordinarily generous in so many ways. When he opened his medical practice in Windsor, he made special arrangements with the owner of a restaurant across the street from his office to provide food to anyone who said I am Dr Ullmann’s patient and he told me to come here to eat. Long after he stopped seeing patients in the office, he continued to make house calls to neighbors and friends when they were sick. He was ever present and supportive for his two paternal aunts – Ella who lived in Israel and Sari who lived in Toronto Canada. The same was true for him maternal aunt, “Pici” (Olga Gescheit) Sunshine, who lived in New York. He co-signed loans for his employees and helped some of them pay off their tuition. When people wanted to thank him, he would say “please pay it forward and help out someone else when you can”.

Throughout his life Sándor loved to study, to learn and to teach. While in medical school he supported himself by tutoring students in Latin. At Crittenton Hospital he taught a weekly class for the doctors to help them know how to better diagnose different types of cancers. The hospital named the medical library after my father. He developed a program for new immigrant physicians to teach them English and help prepare them to take the Medical Board Exams in English. At Wayne State University he taught pathology to medical students. At his synagogue he taught beginning reading classes for adults learning Hebrew. He enjoyed preparing to be the Torah reader on Shabbat when asked.

He spoke many languages and loved exploring the origin of words. He always kept a dictionary nearby and was delighted when he would learn a new word. He loved getting to know people and he had a talent for learning much about a person’s life story, even in brief meetings.

He was a master Bridge player and he loved symphonic music. He loved helping people. He believed strongly in God and talked about his special relationship with God. He saw the goodness in people, and he was a great optimist.

In the addition to all these extraordinary accomplishments and traits, and ways that my father impacted the world, perhaps his greatest accomplishment was as a father. He lived the Jewish Value of “Tikkum Olam”, repairing the world, through his actions and examples. He was devoted, generous, understanding, and compassionate with his kids. His legacy endures in the lives and work of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Sándor with his daughter, Margie, 1993, © Margie Ullmann-Weil

It doesn’t surprise me that Sándor set up a student scholarship at the Révai High School in Győr which once he had also attended. He talked about what it was like to be a student in the school where his father taught, and how it made him strive to be the best in hope of earning his father’s praise. Advice he shared with his children from when we were quite young is that a person could lose all possessions, but that no one could ever take away someone’s education.

Family Story

Dr István Bakonyi’s Wanderings, Part III

The misadventures of a Medical Doctor from Győr in the final days of World War 2

In the first part, you learned why and how the diary is born, and in the second, you read about how German and Hungarian military units cannot resist the Russian advance, how bombs are falling during the Christmas holidays, how a good pair of boots is worth its weight in gold and how a doctor can help those in trouble anywhere and anytime.

Let’s continue. We are still in 1944, but the last two entries in this chapter were written in January 1945.

Tuesday, 26 December

In the morning, we have a serious discussion about how to proceed, because the luggage is very heavy on foot. It’s true that we are relieved, because apparently while we were rolling barrels of petrol in Felcsút, our luggage was searched and the more valuable things were gone. Jancsi Freiberger was most seriously concerned because he had jewellery, that was gone now. In my medical bag the alcohol was missing, all the bandages, injections and 100 gr Wetol disappeared. As a result, the bag was almost completely empty, but miraculously syringes, pincers etc. were not missing.

Censorship stamp on a letter, Source: HDKE

We discovered these losses only this morning. In view of the large number of Russian reinforcements, all of which were heading towards Bicske, we were already thinking of going back, when we saw a large caravan with 2 wagons, also heading towards Székesfehérvár. As it turned out, they were in a similar situation like we were and so we quickly joined them. We were able to put our backpacks on the wagon and were able to continue our journey. At around 4 pm we arrived in Baracska, where we managed to find accommodation and stayed overnight.

Alcsút – Baracska, Google maps

Wednesday, 27 December

The next morning, we continued our journey and soon reached the Budapest-Székesfehérvár road full of marching people, where some members of our party broke off because they were on their way to Ercsi. We continued on the Balaton route and we were stopped only once by the Russian for a “robot” (Russian word for physical work). After half an hour we were released from the robot. Around 2 pm we arrived at the road junction to Adony and here we unfortunately had to be separated because the waggons arrived home, meaning that they did not continue the route with us to Székesfehérvár.

Baracska – Velence Lake, Google maps

So, we continued our way along Lake Velence, passing abandoned cottages, until we found one with a stove and a bed. Here we spent the night. Tomatoes were found in the pantry, so we even had a delicious hot tomato soup and soon fell asleep.

Thursday, 28 December

Unfortunately, we had to pick up our backpacks again in the morning and sadly trudged on. The weather was not good either, the mildness had been replaced by severe cold and we almost had to hurry. We had hardly walked for half an hour before we spotted ox-carts ahead of us.

We immediately charged on and soon caught up with them and of course loaded our packs on the carts. It turned out that some of the ox-carts had come from the village Tab, where they carried ammunition for the Russians and were now on their way home. Three of the unknown forced labourers on the carts were from Tab, they would certainly get home soon through Székesfehérvár, where we were also heading.

Hungarian soldiers on the front, Source:

The people of Tab are urging us to go with them, but we are sticking to our original plan. My feet are really suffering from the constant pressure of the short shoes, but I can’t sit still because of the cold, and I’m just trudging along. As we get closer to Székesfehérvár, the sound of shelling gets closer and closer and the three of us put our heads together worried about the hours ahead of us. We have just come from one front-line and are now running into another.

We ask the Russian soldiers how far the front-line is, but either they don’t know or they don’t want to tell us, and they just say “daleko”, far away. Finally, one says 15-20 km, that’s something solid but not very reassuring.

Finally, we arrive in Székesfehérvár at 2 p.m., and after saying good-bye to the people of Tab and the ox-carts which have done such a good service, we decide to look immediately for the town-hall to find the Headquarters, both to get a certificate, or some sort of a document, and to offer our services to the citizens of Székesfehérvár.

Velence Lake – Székesfehérvár, Google maps

Still about 100 m away from the Headquarters, a Russian patrol intercepted us and took us to the G.P.U. (Soviet political police agency) to identify ourselves. After half an hour of waiting we are brought in front of a Russian captain, we confirm who we are with the help of an interpreter and we are released but no document of any kind is given.

We continued our way to the town-hall where we hope to obtain some sort of a document …, but the situation is not so simple. After a long wait, I speak to the mayor, as a senior citizen, who tells me that the Russian authorities do not want to issue any documents and that we need a certificate in Hungarian and Cyrillic. As doctors, we are not really needed, but he advises us to talk to Dr Berzsenyi, the director of the hospital, he may be able to employ us.

The situation is not at all promising, meanwhile it is completely dark and we decide to spend the night in the basement of the town-hall, in the police station room. We make a pretty good bed out of mattresses and lay our tired, tormented bodies to rest.

Forced labourers in Hungary, Source: – Braham

The next day morning we went to the city general hospital to speak to Dr Berzsenyi, but he was not to be found. Instead, we met a forced labour doctor there, whose explanations led us to give up waiting. We got back to the city, where we thought the Communist Party would give us a certificate. The Communist Party was in a frenzy and they couldn’t give us any certificate since the Cyrillic text and stamp were not ready and we would have to wait a few days. 

In the Party Office I meet Dr Pál (Pali) Alpár, who graduated under me in Pécs, and he offers, if nothing else, to take us to the military hospital installed in farm stables, where he will provide us with accommodation and some food. Considering that we have no other choice at the moment, we accept the offered solution and move into the basement of the said military hospital, where we will find a place to stay in rather miserable conditions.

The conditions in Székesfehérvár are not very rosy, the front line is about 9-10 km away from the city, the shelling is almost regular, day after day in the evening hours, so we spend all our time in the basement.

Székesfehérvár 1945, Source:

… We received the desired identity card at the beginning of January, although it does not have the Russian stamp on it, but it looks good and as time has proved, it was worth waiting for.

Charap and Freiberger are of the opinion that they will take advantage of the invitation from the village Tab and go there. It is beyond Siófok, so they are further from the front line. I, for my part, in the naive belief that Győr will soon be under Russian occupation, do not want to move, and Laci Harmat, who has now turned up also from Győr is with me in this view. Laci Harmat works in a Russian bakery and supplies us with bread, which we desperately need because it is hard to get.

The incoming news is all the more positive. The Russians possibly make reconnaissances directly in the vicinity of the town and Pali Alpár and the forced labourers there leaved on Saturday for Pest on 6 January, which they expect to fall soon. In any case, they do not want to stay in Székesfehérvár because the situation is very uncertain.

The three of us, and I separately with Laci Harmat, have a lot of discussions and decide to leave on Monday, 8 January. Freiberger and Charap aim for Tab. The two of us will take the Balaton Road to Pest. Laci Harmat has friends in Martonvásár, we will find out the situation there and then decide where to go. In the meantime, we learn from the British radio that the Germans have launched an offensive along the Pest-Vienna Road. A German attack has reached all the way to the Bicske area…

The front is getting closer and closer, the shelling is constant and we are really worried. On Sunday morning, 7 January, while cleaning up, Laci Harmat drops in and brings the alarming news that the Russians are evacuating the civilian population in the upper part of Székesfehérvár and they are very much in a retreat. We don’t think much about it, but vote to leave immediately, and so we part ways.

Freiberger and Charap are leaving for Tab, the two of us are heading for Pest after a tender farewell. We set off, thoroughly packed, and sure enough, we see … loaded Russian vehicles, ready to go, transporting wounded Russians, partly in Red Cross cars, partly in buses.

At the crossroads, a woman joins us, heading for Dömsöd, and we set off on the slippery road to the highway. We change our luggage at a 4-km interval and soon arrive in Pákozd, where we rest, eat, and are even requested to see a sick person. Then we continue our journey in heavy snow. After a few kilometres of walking, we manage to hop on a Russian truck carrying vine that takes us all the way to Velence. …

Székesfehérvár – Pákozd – Velence – Adony, Google maps

Meanwhile, a Russian car comes along and the driver asks us where Dunapentele is via Adony. I explain the route with the help of a map I have on me, the Russian is impatient and tells us to go with him as guides. The car tempts us, … so we get in. In pouring snow we arrived in Adony, where, having given instructions to the Russian, we disembarked and looked for overnight accommodation.

Master carpenter Béla Stanczel and his family made us very welcome. They immediately put us up in the front room, where there were 2 beds and 1 bedclothes, … we cleaned up and settled in. By the time all this was done … a Russian pilot captain and an interpreter came to say that he was sleeping here too. We agreed that he would sleep in one of the beds, Laci and I would sleep in the other one, and we would put the sofa in the other room. We had dinner with the housekeepers and soon went to bed. The bed is quite hard, two of us sleep in it, uncomfortable, but we woke up rested.

Our hosts offered us breakfast and were very kind, their postal address is Béla Stanczel, Adony, Magyar u. 306. All what they had, they shared with us, they didn’t ask who we were, what we were.

Monday, 8 January (1945 !)

In the morning we set off to the Danube to cross to the other side. The boaters crossing the Danube were taking good advantage of the boom and took people across for Pengo 50-100 each. There is no other choice, you have to pay.

We arrive in Dömsöd at around 3 pm, where we get very disappointed. The lady who came with us was the wife of a mill owner, … but there was nobody at home, the miller’s house had totally been stripped, only the bare walls remained, even the doors and windows were missing. The two of us looked for a place to sleep and managed to find a farmhouse, but in much more miserable conditions than the day before.

Adony – Dömsöd, Google maps

Tuesday, 9 January

We set off towards Pest in the bitter cold, but luckily, barely leaving the village, we manage to climb on a carriage and that takes us a distance of about 12 km. This gives us a great advantage and we stop at a farmhouse 8 km before Taksony, have breakfast and for the first time we drink tea without sugar. Later on, I will get very much used to this way of drinking tea, because unfortunately we don’t have access to sugar anywhere.

The cold has eased a little, but it started snowing again and we set off in a heavy snowfall. A 2-hours journey is covered in 3 and a half hours, because the snowfall has turned into a blizzard. We arrive in Taksony in a strong headwind and heavy snowfall.

Dömsöd – Taksony, Google maps

Already on the way, we decided to stay in a decent place, because we really needed a complete rest and we wanted to do some serious cleaning. The shoes I’m wearing are soaked through and my feet are soaking wet. We get very good accommodation at Gáspár Kresz, good hot foot baths, a thorough wash and a rest in a well-heated kitchen.

I find out that there is no doctor in Taksony and I am immediately called upon. People in Taksony beg me to stay there, but I am tempted to get closer to Győr and my wife, so I don’t give in to their demands. After a good dinner, we wake the next day thoroughly rested, but the police are here for me to go to headquarters immediately.

At the headquarters, I am checked, at first, they think I am of German origin after my mother’s name, but after I have managed to explain this, the captain declares that he will take me on as a conscript doctor. Taksony is a Swabian village and the male population of the village is recruited from 18 to 45 years while the female population from 18 to 30. So, I am forced to do 2 days of conscription, during this time Laci gets a good rest. I also have a few patients, thus money and food. The conscripts are taken by car through Hatvan. I ask the captain to allow me to get on the car to get to Hatvan, but the captain does not agree, a sad experience.

(Photos are for illustration only.)

End of Part III.

And don’t miss the fourth, in which you’ll meet drunken Russian soldiers, again skinning our heroes, who are then summoned by the Russian police, subsequently they help the Russians in their search for wine, while they move closer to Pest.

Győr and Jewry

Once upon a time, there was a scout troop …

Jewish scouts at Révai High School – MEMOIRES NEVER PUBLISHED BEFORE

To the best of our knowledge, this document has never been published in any form, either on the World Wide Web or in print. It has been hidden in manuscript for over 20 years. We owe this little sensation to Margit Erdély, whose compilation about her grandfather, Dr. Ernő Erdély, the former Chief Commander of the Győr Fire Brigade, was published earlier on this site ( Ernő Erdély’s son Miklós, Margit’s father, was a member of this scout troop as a student at Révai and significantly contributed with his memories to writing this story.

This post is longer than average, but I didn’t see any reason to shorten or split the original manuscript. I have selected the photographs from various sources for illustrative purposes.

Thanks go to Margit Erdély for preserving this treasure and contributing to its publication, to Daniel Jaquet for putting the manuscript on the computer and to Judit Somló for the most indispensable corrections to the text.

Peter Krausz

The story of the László Szőgyi Scout Troop 479 in Győr, 1932-1940

Compiled by László Székely, Scout Officer, using the Yearbooks of the Royal Hungarian Révai Miklós High School (later Révai Miklós High School) of Győr and the recollections of László Szende and Miklós Erdély, 2001

Born in England at the beginning of the century and having arrived in Hungary before the First World War, scouting developed in the 1920s into a significant movement of youth, and especially of schoolchildren. This was demonstrated, among other things, by the 1926 County Scout Camp in Megyer, which was attended by 6 000 scouts representing the country’s scout troops. With its uniforms, excursions and camps, the scout movement became very attractive for the students of the Révai Miklós High School. The school’s scout troop Turul, which was formed before the First World War, had 60-70 scout members out of 340-350 students around 1930.

At that time, Győr, with a population of around 50 000, had a significant Jewish population almost 6 000. A considerable number of these citizens were merchants and intellectuals, and their sons were sent to the Révai Miklós High School (they had little choice: apart from the Benedictine Gymnasium, this was the only option for boys in the city to go into trade or higher education). These Jewish students also wanted to become scouts, but partly the Christian nature of a scout troop as such (and with it the majority of Hungarian scouting) and partly their different religious requirements (the Sabbath and the meal regulations) did not allow this. Thus, the need to form a separate Jewish scout troop arose in the early 1930s.

In 1931, there had been already 8 Jewish scout troops among the 589 scout troops in the country, and by 1934 (including the Győr troop!) their number increased to 12, meaning that elsewhere the same thinking was being followed as in Győr.

After such a precedent, in the first half of 1932 the (neologue) Israelite religion teacher of the school, József Ullmann, started to organise the scout troop. The Győr Israelite Community became the supporting body, while the troop recruited its members exclusively from the Jewish students of the Révai High School.

The Royal Hungarian Révai Miklós High School in the1920s,

The troop was officially formed in the autumn of 1932, at the beginning of the school year, with 33 members, who prepared for the recruit probation with great zeal under the leadership of Scoutmaster József Ullmann and Assistant Officer István Klein.

The Yearbook of the Catholic High School of the Order of St. Benedict in Győr, with the name of József Ullmann, Israelite religion teacher, Győr, 1934,

József Ullmann was primarily a religion teacher, he taught religion to students of the Israelite faith in several secondary schools in Győr. His profession, coupled with his purist personality, had a great impact on his work as a Scoutmaster. Parents were happy to allow their high school boys to become scouts because they knew their adolescent children were in good hands as a supplement to parental and school education. As a result, within two years, 70-80% of the school’s Jewish students were members of the troop.

The troop took the name of László Szőgyi, a teacher of the high school who died as a war hero in the WW1, and received the number 479 from the Hungarian Scout Association: thus the full name of the troop became László Szőgyi Scout Troop No. 479.

László Szőgyi’s name in the list of former teachers of the High School (Révai),

László Szőgyi joined the Győr Main Real School in 1910 and was a teacher at the school until 1915, after a one-year break (1911-12). He also enjoyed engaging with his students outside the classroom, for example, in the summer of 1914 he and three of his students rowed on the Danube from Ulm to Győr. In 1915 he was called up as a soldier and died at the front. His name is on a memorial plaque in the school lobby, unveiled in 1925, along with that of four of his colleagues and 55 former students.

In respect of the number 479, the scouts of the troop had a battle cry that went like this

“479! (whispered) – 479!!! (in the middle voice) – 479!!!!! (at full voice)”.

The debut of the team took place on March 8, 1933, whereby Pál Seller, national Scout Inspector, Gergely Bencsik, the Co-president of the Székesfehérvár Scout District (also a teacher of the school and the commander of the Turul team) and Dr János Erdős, the Chairman of the team’s organizing committee, were really impressed by the good work the team had done so far. As a result of the inspection, the troop was certified by the Hungarian Scout Association on 14 June 1933 and was inaugurated by District Co-President Gergely Bencsik on 19 June at a nice ceremony.

The troop held its first camp in Balatonlído (sic!) from 16 July to 30 July 1933. It was attended by 34 scouts. The camping was made possible by the generous support and dedication of Dr Ernő Erdély, School Board President.

The participating 34 scouts represent practically the whole troop – even in the following years the whole troop always camped together. This is remarkable, because e.g. in the Turul troop only 50-60% of the members were also campers. Obviously, this was only possible thanks to the parents, as well as wealthy (merchant) members of the community, who also provided substantial support to the troop, e.g. by paying for the camping costs of poorer scouts. The city of Győr also contributed to the costs with a 50 Pengo camping grant (at that time the cost of a scout camping was around 5-10 Pengo).

Dr Ernő Erdély, School Board President, was the Chief Commander of the Győr fire brigade. His son attended the second grade in this school year and he was of course a member of the scout troop.

This summer, the 4th Jamboree, the great meeting of the world’s scouts, was held in Gödöllő, Hungary. The recently formed, novice troop could not, of course, attend, but it nevertheless went on a one-day trip to the huge event, which attracted 30 000 Scouts, at the beginning of August.

Cover of the meeting’s photo album,

This visit was a wonderful experience for the Scouts of the newly formed troop, and the boys’ reports of their impressions gave a great boost to the recruitment of new members.

Scout fever, Gödöllő, 1933, Múlt-kor történelmi magazin

From the autumn of 1933, the Jewish Community of Győr, supported by generous external financial contributions, provided the troop with a scout “home” and equipment ideally tailored to the scouting goals.

Boy scouts on the train, Gödöllő, 1933,, Fortepan

The Israelite Women’s Association also bought scout uniforms for the needy scouts, contributing to the uniform image of the troop.

In the school year 1933-34, the troop continued to grow and by the end of the year the troop had 50 scouts and 9 recruits under the leadership of two officers (Commander József Ullman and Frigyes Ullmann) and three assistant officers (István Klein, Imre Herzberger, Ervin Freiberger).

On September 10, 1933, the troop unveiled the troop flag donated by Dr Jánosné Erdős (wife of the chairman of the organizing committee) in the presence of a large distinguished audience. The inaugural speech was given by Dr János Erdős, President of the Organising Committee. A speech was delivered also by Dr Henrik Kallós, President of the Jewish Community, about the team’s namesake, László Szőgyi, who died a hero’s death (in WW1). The scout flag of the troop with the inscription “Ancient faith and integrity for the homeland” was blessed by Chief Rabbi Dr Mór Schwarz.

The good performance of the troop was recognised by letting it send six patrols to the national competition of the Hungarian Scout Association. The best result was achieved by the patrol “Hawks”. Three patrol leaders (Tibor Holzer, Zoltán Kállai, Pál Weiler) could participate in the 13th (national) training camp for patrol leaders in Hárshegyi Scout Park (Budapest).

Girl scouts, Gödöllő 1933,, Fortepan

The 1934 Big Camp was held from 9 to 24 July in Fonyód-Béla-telep with the participation of 51 scouts.

65 years later, László Szende, who was in the second year of high school at the time, remembers the camp as follows:

It was a real pleasure to camp on the shores of Lake Balaton. The murmur of the water almost echoed in the tents and accompanied our dreams.

Of course, this great experience also had its drawbacks, because when a storm raced across the lake, it didn’t spare the camp. The tent canvas was stretched to the point of being torn to pieces, and some of the more fragile parts of the tent fell on the occupants. It had to be rebuilt with the help of the most storm-resistant members of the team.

A great event was the flag-raising ceremony with a horn call at the opening of the camp, and the ceremonial lowering of the flag to music at the closing. Between these two occasions, the flag was flying in an imposing way.

In the mornings, a line-up and the issuing of orders in front of the flag followed a horn call, and in the evenings, the retreat to the tents was accompanied by music. All this made the sunrise and sunset more colourful.

Of course, those who were reprimanded in any way by the commanding officer during the morning call – for their objectionable behaviour the previous day – were not taken in by the cheerful colours, but rather by ‘other’ feelings and thoughts.

In general, a mischievous cheerfulness ruled the camp. Just to give a few examples …

… our friend N., who was fast asleep and disturbed his tent-mates with his snoring, was ‘rewarded’ by the others by having black shoe-paste smeared on his nose, forehead, face and many other parts of his body. On awakening, the tent dwellers were greatly amused at the spectacle. The most amusing thing was that, at first, our friend N., unaware of what had happened to him, laughed with the others. Then, when he realised what had been done to him, he withdrew, blushing and embarrassed, to “wash away the shame of what the centuries had smeared on him”.

… another nice experience was that when we found out that our friend J. was sleeping the sleep of the righteous in the night watch. A not quite appropriate piece of rubber was found somewhere and stuck in his open mouth until he woke up. He saw the joke and removed the “piece”, i.e. spat it out.

… the boat trip to Badacsony with a crew of about 3 men happened to be a nice adventure. First, we walked around the mountain and thereafter we “climbed” it (a low mountain). The route led up past some very spectacular press houses and vineyards, with the Kisfaludy house visible at the end. There was an amazing view down to Lake Balaton, walking down to the harbour and then crossing the water to the campsite was of course much easier. It was a really romantic day out.

An old photo of the Kisfaludy House in Badacsony, Magyar Nemzeti Digitális Archívum

In the school year 1934/35, the enrolment ceremony was held on 25 March 1935 in the presence of a large and distinguished audience. The inaugural address was given by Dr Károly Barna, Chief Government Councillor and President of the National Grand Committee of the Hungarian Jewish Scouts. The Hungarian Scout Association awarded the troop with two commemorative medals (for the raids and the obstacle race) acknowledging their good work this year. The 14th National Patrol Leader Training Camp, held in the spring in Hárshegyi Scout Park, was attended by Patrol Leaders Pál Kőnig and Miklós Erdély. The troop consisted of 6 officers (Scoutmaster József Ullmann, Commander, Officer Frigyes Ullmann, Assistant Officers István Klein, Imre Herzberger, Ervin Freiberger and István Silbermann) and 58 Scouts at the end of the school year.

From 8 to 20 July 1935 the troop camped in Sopron at the Tómalom. The generous support of the Jewish Community, the Women’s Association and the Holy Association made it possible for all the scouts to take part in the camping, which was refreshing for body and soul. After 65 years, little was known about the camp. Recalling his memories, Miklós Erdély, a former camper, said that …

… the boys had visited Vienna under the guidance of Scoutmaster Frigyes Ullmann, where the scouts had been warmly welcomed. They visited the most important sights of the city, but he also recalled that they saw soldiers in helmets everywhere. Federal Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, who had introduced a fascist-style dictatorship, was assassinated by Austrian National Socialists in a failed coup in June 1934. A year later, in his opinion, there were riots because of the anniversary.

On 1 September, a boat launching ceremony was held. The 5 new boats of the troop were inaugurated by Dr Pál Vidor, Scoutmaster. This was a great opportunity for the troop to make adventures on the water, which, in Győr, given the rivers in and around the city, was a great opportunity. The scout troops operating here were able to take advantage of this situation very easily, as there was a separate scout boathouse on the banks of the Rába river.

The troop commander was pleased to note in his report in the yearbook of the Révai High School that the young scout troop was making progress year-by-year. He also wrote that they were striving to achieve the goal that scouting would help the boys in developing their spiritual and intellectual gifts and talents, which God had instilled in them.

On February 9, 1936, a scout enrolment ceremony was held again, at which Chief Rabbi Dr Emil Róth delivered the enrolment address. On this occasion, 5 new recruits took their vows and 32 Scouts made their pledges.

Dr Emil Róth, Rabbi, 1930s, Gyor Jewish Website

During the “good deed week”, the team collected two cartloads of in-kind donations and P100.15 cash for the needy. The donations were delivered to the city’s Social Welfare Department for distribution.

The Hungarian Scout Association rewarded the troop with a commemorative plaque of 500 good points rating for their good work during the year.

The size of the troop also continued to grow: this year, 52 Scouts and 32 Cub Scouts led by 6 officers were actively involved.

In 1936, the summer camp for the scouts was held in Kőszeg, but there was also a separate camp for the Cub Scouts in Vaspuszta, on the estate of Ignác Bruck, the Community President. In addition to the two camps, the troop’s rover patrol also attended a three-week boating camp at Lake Balaton.

Unfortunately, nothing more has been found out about these camps, even their exact dates, duration and number of participants have been forgotten over the decades. In any case, the fact that they were able to organise three camps in one summer reflects very favourably on the zeal of the leaders and the financial situation of the team.

A successful summer was followed by a very good year of scouting. According to the report the scouts participated in all national scouting events of the Hungarian Scout Association. During the “good deed week”, the usual 2 cartloads of donations was collected again this year, but the amount of financial donations almost doubled reaching 185.09 Pengo. The Hungarian Scout Association honoured the troop with an even greater award, 600 good points on the usual commemorative plaque.

László Szende (then in 5th grade) recalled that he was a member of the Seagull Patrol at that time. The leader of the patrol – son of the above-mentioned Dr. Ernő Erdély, Chief Commander of the Győr Fire Brigade and Chairman of the School Board – was Miklós Erdély. Dönci (this was his scout nickname), as a firefighter offspring, was extremely attracted to the fire brigade (he became a fire brigade officer after the war). From the point of view of the Seagull Patrol, this was interesting because …

… the patrol had a “fire discipline”,

… several times, its members would participate in a light drill of the firefighters in the yard of the fire fighter station (e.g. rolling out hoses, assembling, etc.),

… the scouts went often skating on the rink of the Skating Club next to the fire fighter station, managed by the fire brigade,

… in the spring and autumn, they played football and did athletics on the skating rink, which had been converted for the purpose.

Such programmes were accessible not only the Seagull patrol but other patrols could also participate in similar sports activities.

In his memoirs, László Szende also writes that besides the practical work, they also received theoretical training in the patrol (troop), talked in detail about the 10 Scout Laws (after 65 years he still remembered five of them verbatim!) and other requirements of the scout trials. But they also did special tests, he recalled, for example, taking the cook’s special test and the observation special test – and the badge related to these tests to wear on his arm.

In the summer of 1937, the camp was held at Síkfőkút, near Eger.

László Szende was also at this camp (he didn’t go to many camps because he had to help in his father’s grocery store in the summer), and this is how he recalled it long after the event:

Síkfőkőkút is located in the western part of the Bükk Mountains, an extremely beautiful area, an almost wilderness setting.

The hilly, mountainous woodland with its hills was perfect for a game of a ‘war’ with numbers fixed on our hats. We threw ourselves into this game with great passion. The numbers “shouted off” by the warriors in their hiding places were resounding. The number of survivors grew thinner and thinner and the number of “corpses” gradually increased, and at the end the winners returned to the camp site with a triumphant battle cry. I’m not boasting, but the game I remember was won by our patrol – the Seagulls.

Síkfőkút today,

The night watch was an exciting moment of the camping experience. The sound of the horn woke the boys at midnight. They woke up from their sleep, dressed as quickly as possible and lined up around the troop flag at the command of their patrol leader. The commander informed us that our posted observers had reported that an enemy formation was preparing to attack our camp.

The patrols surrounded the camp and waited for the enemy. However, after about half an hour on watch, the commander called off the alert because the observers reported that the enemy, having learned of our vigilance, had abandoned the attack. It was disappointing not to be able to fight and defend our camp, but comforting not to have to spend more than an hour of the night without sleep.

Among my experiences was an unpleasant one, namely the following:

There was a very beautiful meadow below our camp, which was often used as a football pitch. We used to play football matches there in free time. During one of these games, I got into a big fight with one of the assistant officers, whom I called an idiot in the heat of the game. Naturally, I got the short end of the stick. The affair turned into an interrogation and detention. The most painful thing for me, however, was that during the previous days of the camp I had been hoping to compete for the proud title of “best camper”, but this “malheur” put an end to that beautiful hope.

On one occasion, a small part of the campers went on a trip from Síkfőkőkút to Eger. Eger is situated between the Mátra and the Bükk mountains and is the capital of Heves county. It is very rich in monuments and historical sights. We visited the ruins of the fortress, famous for the heroic battle of Captain István Dobó against the Turks. We also visited the minaret from whose balcony the muezzin called the Turks to prayer in the name of Allah. The high tower offers a beautiful view of the city.

The view of Eger, 1940,

We saw the house of Géza Gárdonyi, the great writer of Eger, where he wrote his famous work “The Stars of Eger”, and we visited his grave. In addition, we also passed by several other historical sights and monuments. We returned to the camp tired, but with very nice experiences.

As the years went by, the Révai yearbook became thinner and thinner, and the reports in it about the scouts became shorter and shorter. This was particularly true of the report of the Jewish scout troop, which in 1937-38 was only a few lines long and contained hardly any meaningful information. From the following year onwards, any search for the report is futile; even about the Turul scout troop only a few lines could be included in these wartime yearbooks…).

In the 1937-38 school year, the troop participated in all the federal rallies and this year again it collected donations in kind for 2 carts and 152,90 Pengo in cash. In the spring and fall – every year, including this year – several day trips were organized to excursion sites near Győr.

László Szende remembered these trips in this way:

In addition to the big summer camps, we organised short trips in spring and autumn.

Our favourite and most frequent excursion target was Kiskút by the Iparcsatorna (an Industry Canal built for the factories around). This was mainly a patrol trip, but there were also troop trips, which were usually organised in conjunction with the summer outing of Révai in June. One of the favourite programmes at the camp show was ‘Mufti, the Wonder Spider’. Mufti, member of our troop, had the special ability to recite every text from the National Anthem to Toldi backwards and forwards. We had great fun with the improvised backwards recitation of texts invented by our mates from other patrols, that he was doing as if he were reading from a book. That’s why we called him “Mufti, the Wonder Spider”. Another friend of ours was a “counting wonder” who did similar tricks with numbers as Mufti did with words. He divided and multiplied everything and anything. It was a great experience for us.

The Industry Canal in Győr, 2017, Photo: dr. Honvári János,

Another of our favourite excursion spots was „Püspök erdő” (the “Bishop’s Forest”), up the banks of the Moson Danube, which was the scene of exciting number wars and obstacle races.

Püspökerdő beyond the Moson Danube, 2018,

Several times during our scouting period, we visited Kismegyer, the scene of the Battle of Napoleon. Here we saw the monument erected to commemorate the battle.

Memorial in Kismegyeri in the 1950s,

The team also made boat trips north and south on the Moson Danube, as well as on the Rába and other rivers in the area.

Once (we have not been able to find out which year) a major undertaking was undertaken: it was our participation in the North-East Hungary Cycling Tour.

Months in advance, preparations were underway. The girls embroidered flags on the bikes and the parents – especially the mothers – were worried sick about their touring sons. The route was Budapest-Eger-Miskolc-Debrecen and back, with lots of fun and some not so fun.

The trip started with excitement, because one of our mates had such an unfortunate fall in the horseshoe bend in Gödöllő that he was injured and his bike was badly damaged. But we helped to fix everything and continued on our way.

We arrived at the camp of the Jewish team in Miskolc late on Friday evening (which was already part of Sabbath), so we were stigmatized by the camp rabbi as “blaspheming God”.

Well, in the end everything went very well and nicely. Lillafüred and later the Nagyerdő in Debrecen, but also many other beautiful places we saw on the way, were a great experience for the participants. It is true that we had originally planned the tour to be even longer, but we did not have enough time and energy for more.

The mothers were the happiest that we shortened the trip, still an unforgettable experience.

As the Jewish question in Hungary became more acute, the Scouts withdrew from the more “fashionable” campsites of the previous years (Balaton, Sopron, Kőszeg, Eger) to “modest” camping facilities. This meant summer camping on the estates of Jewish landowners or landlords in the Győr area, who, understanding the changing times, were willing to provide the troop with a campsite.

Thus, in the summer of 1938, the group was given a campsite on their property in Fúd near Nagyszentjános by the Vajda brothers, who were farmers there.

I have a photograph of the gate of this camp in the background with the inscription “479th Szőgyi László Scout Troop Győr” that I received from László Szende with the following lines of recollections:

I had been courting the little girl at the front of the picture for only a year; she has been my wife since 1946 for 53 years. When she came to visit me in the camp, neither of us had expected our lives to take such a turn. Unfortunately, this turn of life has been full of sad events. The deportation of our parents, family members, many of our fellow scouts and ourselves. After our return home, severely shattered but fortunately alive, we did what we were wisest to do: we got married.

It is interesting that our brother scout, Pali Grüngold – later Gábor – who is in the background of the picture, my best friend and my assistant patrol leader in the Seagulls, and the little girl he loved, were in a similar situation and acted in the same way as we did. Another of our teammates – the aforementioned Dönci Erdély – followed the same path. I think we were good examples of the perseverance and persistence of the Scouts. Examples that are rare in life.

I remember one nicer “story” from the puszta of Fúd: we had a fellow scout, Pollák, whom, who knows why, everyone liked to poke and prod. One day, we thought he was in the tent and someone shouted “let’s punch Pollák!” That’s all we needed, we rushed into the tent: pulling and pulling until the tent collapsed. We waited to see Pollák’s terrified face as he climbed out.

But our face became terrified, because on climbing out it turned out that someone had mixed up the person entering the tent who was not Pollák, but our extremely strict assistant officer: Uncle Gyuri Klausz. The trouble broke out, of course, followed by an order for questioning, and severe reprisals. Well, that too is one of the fond memories of the camp. In later years, when we met Gyuri Klausz, who had become a good friend, we would recollect old times and have a good time.

Sadly, neither Gyuri nor Pali Pollák are alive anymore.

As Hungary became more and more entangled in the fascist world, the Jewish troops’ options had narrowed to the point where they could only camp on one of the nearby Jewish estates. The last camp of the group was held in the summer of 1939, at Hodálypuszta near Ménfőcsanak. János Krausz, a tenant farmer on the estate, was kind enough to approve the camp.

The following letter is addressed to István Vértes, a former scout member of the troop, who understood the times, sensed the coming storm and was the first, or at least among the first, to emigrate to Israel.

Hodálypuszta Camp, 29 June 1939


Dear Brother Scout,

We think of you with great affection in our Hodálypuszta Grand Camp where we have just held our cosy campfire in memory of you, in your honour. At the beautiful melody of Hatika Oath, every brother scout remembered you.

Our Scout regards to you, Commander József Ullmann (+ 17 signatures)

The letter is typical of the situation which, in the late 1930s and the first half of the 1940s, brought tragedy to Jewry, and of course to the Scout movement.

It is probable that the songs sung at the campfire mentioned in the letter were the ones learnt by those who stayed behind from their brother scouts who had emigrated to Israel, and which were often sung in difficult times. Here are two of them (which László Szende recalled, who unfortunately did not tell us the tune):

(Only in Hungarian)

A Jordánon suttog a szél
A Jordán regéket mesél.
És sejtelmes hangját
Oly messzire viszi a szél.
Elviszi messzire, távoli földekre,
A zsidó szívekbe.


A Kineret tó partján
Egy kicsinyke kis sziklán
Ül egy fekete bachur
És magában így beszél:
Tízet szerettem
És kilencet feledtem,
De azt az egyet elfeledni
Nem tudom soha.

Little is known about the years 1939-40. László Szekeres, a scout leader who graduated from the high school in 1939 took his scouts on several excursions even in the spring of 1940. But there was no camp in 1940 anymore.

The impact of the laws on Jews and the parallel state pressure was growing in general as well as on the Hungarian Scout Association. There was the choice: either to dissolve the whole association (all 600 scout troops) or to expel the 2,000 Jewish scouts, who were then grouped in 14 troops. In the interest of the others, the latter was decided upon and, according to the decision of the General Assembly held in December 1940, Jewish Scouting in Hungary was dissolved. This, of course, also meant the end of Scout Troop László Szőgyi No. 479.

But what happened to the scouts?

Many scouts followed Pista Vértes – together with his parents, of course. They emigrated to the most diverse countries of the world, from Israel, through North and South America, to Australia and even other places.

Some – like László Szende, Miklós Erdély and many others – stayed at home and were put into forced labour camps and were later deported. Those who were lucky managed to escape alive, but these were just a few. The majority, however, like their parents, and most of their families, were victims of the concentration camps.

Those who survived started a new life after the war and remembered for the rest of their lives that …

… “once there was a Jewish scout troop in Győr, which helped many boys to have a beautiful childhood, a character-building and an eventful youth.” (Words by László Szende)

Finally, here-below some of scout songs (recollections of László Szende):

(Only in Hungarian)

Megjött már a fecskemadár, fészket rakott nálunk.
Hívogat már a napsugár, nagytáborba vágyunk.
Virág nyílik a hegyoldalon, nincs szebb annál semmi:
Harsog a kürtszó, cserkész pajtás, táborba kell menni.


Este van, este, szép csendes este, ragyognak ránk a csillagok.
Nem zúg a szellő a sátrak mellett, jó anyám csak Rád gondolok.
Aggódó, könnyes két szemedre, mosolygó szép tekintetedre.
Te jársz eszembe jó anyám, téged szeretlek igazán.


Száraz tónak nedves partján döglött béka kuruttyol.
Hallgatja egy süket ember, ki a vízben lubickol.
Sej, haj, denevér, bennünk van a kutyavér.
Sej, haj, denevér, bennünk van a kutyavér.


I have finished writing and I am sad to say that this collection of memories is shorter than I would have liked. The sources I have found have really been very limited and there are hardly any witnesses to remember 50 years later. Here, I would like to thank the generous accounts of two former scouts who were still alive when the data collection began. Without them this story could not have been written.

The question may arise: why did I, as a Catholic by religion, write the history of the Jewish scout troop in Győr?

I was a scout only after the war – for less than two years – and in 1990, as a teacher at the Révai High School, I reorganised the school’s Turul Scout Troop No. 42. In these two capacities, I come across the László Szőgyi Scout Troop. It caught my interest, because from my pre-war childhood years I remember with fondness the Jews who lived in our town: our doctor, our dentist, as well as my father’s friends, business partners and employees. I felt that, even though this story is not dedicated to them, I owed this piece of writing also to their memory.

It was a great pleasure for me to be able to commemorate the László Szőgyi Scout Troop in Győr.

László Székely
Scout Officer
Győr, 2001

Győr and Jewry

The history of the Jews of Győr in school education, through personal interviews

Written by Ildikó Mesterházi, Ambassador of the Zachor Foundation and the USC Shoah Foundation in Győr

If you are lucky enough to talk to your parents or grandparents about your childhood, it can be a life-changing experience. It is important for all of us to learn as much as possible about our ancestors through personal stories. This is no different when we are dealing with history. In school education, too, oral history, personal storytelling, which gives an individual perspective on a historical event, is becoming increasingly important. I myself often use this tool when teaching 20th century history.

I am a teacher at the János Richter Music Secondary School and its affiliated school, the Béla Bartók Singing and Music Primary School. The primary school is located in Győr-Sziget. When we deal with city history as a part of Hungarian history and then more narrowly with the history of the place where we live in, it is inevitable to learn about the history of the Jews of Győr, whether it is the construction of the factories in Győr-Sziget, the prosperous peaceful times (editor’s note: the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries), or the time of the Great Disaster. This is also the case for secondary school students, who visit the synagogue on numerous occasions for school events. For them, too, it is essential to learn about the life and history of the community that built and used this wonderful building.

My graduation in 2015 from the training course for professors called “Video Interviews for the 21st Century Education” run by the Zachor Foundation for Social Remembrance and the Southern California University (USC) Shoah Foundation was a tremendous boost in my educational work, as it opened up a whole new perspective for me on the use of personal life stories in classroom teaching.

The Zachor Foundation, a partner of the Shoah Foundation, is a non-governmental educational organisation that develops teaching materials, educational programmes and teacher training based on the life stories of Holocaust survivors.

In recent years, I have participated in several training courses, developed and tested teaching materials, and created IWalk, a local history walk combined with video-interviews on the history of Győr’s Jewish community. Based on video interviews, my students and I created artworks for an art competition. Two classes of secondary school students have also been prepared for a visit to Auschwitz using interviews and teaching materials from the IWitness online educational platform.

The Rescuer by András Kleininger, a former student of the Bartók Primary School, prepared in 2017, when András was in 7th grade, for the Zachor Foundation’s competition “Art as an Interpreter of the Unutterable”; photo received from Ildikó Mesterházi

It was a great honour for me to join, as Ambassador of Győr, the Ambassador Programme of the Zachor Foundation and the USC Shoah Foundation, which started in September 2022.

As an Ambassador, I see it as my task to promote the activities of the two foundations as widely as possible, by organising programmes that bring the personal stories revealed in the video interviews closer to teachers, students and in many cases “ordinary people”, thus helping to combat racism, intolerance, anti-Semitism and prejudice, and to overcome the trauma of the Holocaust.

Among the programmes being organised, I would like to bring to your attention an art exhibition visiting Győr in April 2023 and the Győr Walk, renewed in the IWalk app, which will pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust in Hungary on the occasion of Holocaust Remembrance Day. I will write about both programmes in more detail and with more precise dates next time.

Győr, 24 February 2023

You can read more about the work of the Foundations:

  • “Useful courses for teachers’ continuous training” by Mónika Mezei can be found here
  • Zachor and Shoah foundations are described here
  • Search through personal interviews here

Family Story

Uncle Gyula

Remembering Gyula Perl

Early years

Uncle Gyula, by his full name Gyula Perl was born in Győr in 1881. In 1909, he changed his name to Gyula Pál. And when he lived in Denmark to Julius Pal.

Actually, one of his brothers married the sister of my grandmother and what is more, his other brother married my grandmother’s cousin. This is why it crossed my mind to remember him and share the life story of this remarkable person with you.

The graves of Berta and David Perl at the Jewish Cemetery in Győr-Sziget, 2000s, received from Esther Bánki

His parents were called David Perl (1839-1909) and Berta Perl (1857-1907) came from Vágújhely (Slovakia). His father, David Perl, was a merchant and later a carrier. His company was called “Perl Dávid és Társa”. They are buried in the Jewish cemetery in Győr. Gyula had four siblings: Arnold (1878-1945), Otto (1879-1944), Elza (1893-?), Ignatz (?-?) and Alajos (1888-1889).

Horse-driven wagon of the Perl Dávid és Társa Co., official carrier of the Hungarian State Railways in Győr – ©

Gyula Perl attended the Benedictine Grammar School in Győr. Among his schoolmates we see Frigyes Riesz, later the internationally renowned mathematician. Gyula Perl remained in contact with him later on. He was a talented student getting the best marks in nearly all subjects. After finishing the Grammar School in 1900, he continued his studies at the Budapest University where he got his degree in 1908. He went on studying at universities of Göttingen, Munich and possibly Paris.

Benedictine church and Grammar School on Széchenyi square in Győr, 1920-30, Photo: Glück József, © Dr. Kovács Pál Könyvtár, Győr

From 1908–1918 he was a teacher at the high school of Székelyudvarhely (now Romania). The famous Hungarian writer, Dezső Szabó, teacher in Székelyudvarhely at the time, described him in his autobiographical novel as an intelligent, educated, and erudite person, but maybe too ambitious. (Dezső Szabó: Az elsodort falu (The village swept away); novel, 1919) Besides teaching he conducted an intensive research work under the guidance of Frigyes Riesz, who was then professor at the University of Kolozsvár (now Romania). Between 1912 and 1915 Gyula Pál published nine papers in leading periodicals. In 1916, he got his doctorate from Kolozsvár University under Riesz.

Perl tried to get a job in a university town offering good conditions for research. His applications for jobs at high schools in Budapest and Pozsony (Bratislava, Slovakia today) were turned down, but at the end of WW1, in 1918 or 1919, he managed to get a job in Pozsony. During the WW1 he served in the Hungarian army as a volunteer officer on the Italian front. He was wounded and perhaps a bullet remained in his back for ever which made sitting difficult for him and badly affected his temper. He received a Hungarian army medal in 1922.


He participated in the revolutionary movement in Hungary in 1918-1919. But it was possibly not the main reason of his emigration to Denmark. He simply lost his job as a consequence of Pozsony becoming part of the newly created Czechoslovakia.

Fortunately, Harald Bohr, mathematician (brother of the Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr, Danish physicist), whom Perl met probably in Göttingen earlier, invited Perl to go to Copenhagen.

Skt. Jørgens Gymnasium, around 1990, © Frederiksberg Stadsarkiv

He started teaching as a temporary staff member at the Skt. Jørgens Gymnasium (Grammar School), where Børge Jessen, who later became a leading figure in the field of mathematics in Denmark, had been one of his students.

In the meantime, Julius Pal seemingly became a mediator in relations between Hungarian and Danish scientists through the Bohr brothers and Jessen.

Postcard from Gyula Perl to his nephew, Ödön Bánki, 30 June 1926; Ödön Bánki (1903-1978) was a medical student in Munich between 1925-1927, received from Esther Bánki

In 1925, Pal joined the Polyteknisk Læreanstalt (Institute of Polytechnics) where he worked until his death. Beside his main job there, he undertook temporary part time jobs, too.

He started at Polyteknisk as a teaching assistant in 1925, and he continued as a lecturer as from 1926. His professional path culminated by the King of Denmark nominating him to associate professor in 1929. As a precondition, he was granted Danish citizenship in 1928. He taught mainly analysis and wrote a bulky and excellent textbook on the subject published in 1931 and rewritten in 1941.

Polyteknisk Læreanstalt, date unknown, ©

From 1932 on, Pal was the teaching assistant of H. Bohr at the university. In addition, he was the first librarian of the institute. Unfortunately, in 1938 he had to leave the university because of his bad personal contacts with H. Bohr, B. Jessen and other professors.

I, my dear nephew, long for home every day and it is a special day for me if only a letter comes from home. I believe that [in this respect] your fate is easier than mine; because I was already 40 years old when I left my home country and at this age transplantation is difficult.

I do not long even for my siblings as much as I long after your father. My dear friend Zoltán [Dr. Zoltán Bánki (1873-1934), Ödön’s father] has virtually forgotten me, but I think of him every day and I would like to talk to him about all kinds of things and be reassured that there are people whose character and noblesse cannot subdued and destroyed. (Letter from Gyula Pal to Ödön Bánki, after July 1932)

By this time in Denmark, he changed his name Pal Gyula to Julius Pal loosing also an accent mark in his family name. It should be noted, however, that he kept Pal Gyula as signature in all his letters and felt home sick for a long time. He could visit Hungary only twice. First in 1931, with his family spending several months in Győr at his brother’s wherefrom he probably visited his sister Elsa Fisher, later Pollak, who lived in Vienna. He went for a second visit to Hungary alone in 1935.  

Telegram from Copenhagen from Gyula, Alma and Birgit Pal to Ödön Bánki to congratulate him on his doctor’s degree, received from Esther Bánki

In 1921, Pal married Alma Christine Bissen (1889-1962), the daughter of the Danish painter Rudolf Bissen. (Alma Christine Bissen was first married with the Swedish/Danish sculptor Gerhard Henning (1880-1967) between 1914 and 1918.) Their only child, Ilona Birgit Pal, was born in 1922. 

I myself am almost always ill and my life is not worth much, except for the fact that I can still look after my wife and child better than if they had to make a living on the widow’s pension (which is rather low). (Letter from Gyula Pal to Ödön Bánki, 1932)

Indeed, Pal had to work hard to care for his wife and daughter by teaching in a foreign country in a foreign language. He complained about it in a letter to Frigyes Riesz.

Gyula Pal at the teacher’s desk, Wikipedia

But he kept contact with is hometown Győr. The ceramist Margit Kovács (1902-1977) studied at a porcelain factory in Copenhagen in 1932 and lived for some weeks at Pal’s house. Her father, Sándor Kovács (1871-1912) was actually his friend. In addition, Ödön Bánki and Margit Kovács knew each other from childhood in Győr, their mothers having been friends. (Interesting to note that Alma Bissen Pal worked for 15 years in the porcelain industry and had probably contacts that helped Margit Kovács in her studies.)

From left to right Olga Bánki (my grandmother), Gyula Perl, Frida Polgár (standing), unknown and Viktor Polgár, 1930s (?), received from Esther Bánki

Pal was frequently ill. In spite of this he participated in the resistance during Nazi occupation. His bad state of health became even worse when he got the news after the war about the death of his relatives in Hungary. This surely contributed to his early death in a Copenhagen hospital on September 6, 1946.

Of his close relatives only his sister-in-law Ilona Perl and her son Jancsi survived in Budapest as well as his nephew Peter Thomas Fischer (changed to Fisher in the US) by immigrating to the US in 1938. What happened to his sister Elsa, Peter Thomas Fischer’s mother, is unclear. Nothing is known about the life of Ignatz Perl either.

Written by Esther Bánki, The Netherlands, Gyula Perl’s second niece

May the editor (P. Krausz) quote here a short email he received from Esther Bánki while exchanging on Esther’s writing on his Uncle Gyula:

“Dear Peter Krausz,

My Hungarian is not so good, that’s why I’m writing to you in English. The idea of the meeting in 2024 is really great! Thank you so much! I will definitely send this information to more of my family members. 

My great-grandmother was Lidia Perl. She married Mór Reichenfeld, who was a grain merchant. They had 7 children, but 5 of them died young.

Only my grandfather Zoltán (1873-1934) and his sister Lenke (1875-1944) became adults. Zoltán Reichenfeld, born in Győr, changed his name to Bánki. He was a gynaecologist by profession in Győr. My grandmother’s name was Olga Árpási (former Goldschmied).

They had two children, Ödön and Zsuzsanna (1912-1944). Ödön Bánki (1903-1978), my father, was born in Győr too. He studied in Würzburg and München due to the Numerus Clausus Law in Hungary. He was also a medical doctor. In 1928, he emigrated to The Netherlands and survived there. Here he had 8 children. My aunt was an architect. (I wrote an article about her, translated into Hungarian). She married Dr. István Pál (Sterk). My grandmother and aunt were deported from Győr to Auschwitz and killed there. István Sterk survived in a labour camp. But died of cancer in 1953. His daughter Eszter Sterk (born 1953) lives in Austria now. 

In Hungary, I have only a few relatives, all descendants of Adolf König from Györ and I have contact with the descendants of the brothers and sisters of my great-grandmother Lidia Perl. They live in Hungary, Israël, the U.S., Serbia and Australia (Eva Quittner’s family).

Kind regards,

Esther Bánki (born in 1964)

August 2021”

Sources of Gyula Perl’s biography written by Esther Bánki:

An article, Pál Gyula – Julius Pal (1881-1946) the Hungarian – Danish mathematician by László Filep and Sigurd Elkjaer, 2001, was an important source for this biography

Gyula Pál – Wikipedia
Pál Gyula – Julius Pal (1881-1946), the Hungarian – EuDML

Julius Pal (1881-1946), the Hungarian – Danish mathematician

Julius Pal (1881-1946), the Hungarian – Danish mathematician

Julius Pal (1881-1946), the Hungarian – Danish mathematician

With the exception of the photos from Esther Bánki and the image of Gyula Perl, all images are simple illustrations.

Family Story

A classmate had the foresight to provide him with a Nazi hat and Arrow Cross shirt

The life of a lawyer-physician, Sándor Alexander Ullmann – Part One

Here-below is a document written by Sándor “Alexander” Ullmann’s grand-daughter, Savannah Weil, when she was 21 years of age about her grandfather’s life in Hungary. 

According to information received from her mother, i.e. Sándor’s daughter, Savannah has always had a great passion for continuing the research on the Ullmann-Gescheit family tree that her grandfather began to work on in the early 1990s. Much of the information in this biography came from taped interviews of her grandfather. 

Savannah’s story on her grandfather starts from the age he took up his studies at the University of Pécs. Let us add an important detail which is that Sándor attended the Győr High School Miklós Révai and passed his maturity exams at this institution.

We received the continuation of Sándor’s life story from his daughter, Margie Ullmann-Weil, from the moment when Sándor had arrived in Canada. We shall publish this document as the 2nd part of Sándor Ullmann’ life story.

But now, let us see the biography of Sándor Alexander Ullmann as noted by her grand-daughter. I have received Sándor’s photos from his family. The rest of the pictures stem from other sources and they are included only for illustrative purposes.

Peter Krausz

The Nazi regime of Germany occupied Hungary on March 19th, 1944. Sándor was 19 years old, in his first year at the University of Pécs, studying law and medicine. When he heard the announcement on the radio, he knew immediately that as a young Jewish man, he must return home to Győr, although he had no idea for how long. The next day, Sándor went to his university to bid farewell to his classmates and teachers, and then boarded a train for Győr. Sándor notes that one classmate had the foresight to provide him with a Nazi hat and Arrow Cross shirt so as to be able to travel freely. As a young Hungarian Jewish boy, Sándor had always experienced anti-Semitism, but never to the extent that occurred during World War II.

Pécs Cathedral in 1943, © Fortepan

Sándor “Alexander” Ullmann was born to Frigyes Ullmann and Margit Gescheit on January 28, 1925 in Salgotarján, Hungary. Frigyes was a teacher although he had been unable to find work since he returned from Siberia as a prisoner of war in 1923. Under Miklós Horthy, Regent of Hungary, it was becoming progressively more difficult for Jews to find work in the government and civil service. At age 6, Sándor moved to Győr with his parents and younger brother, Dezső. Sándor excelled in school and soon became a tutor by age 15, assisting classmates in Latin, German, and French.

City view of Salgótarján in the 1930s, ©

Horthy established the first anti-Jewish laws in 1938, marking a significant turning point in Sándor’s life. While Sándor did not observe any overt discrimination against Jews following the introduction of these laws, he did experience first-hand the reluctance of universities to accept Jewish students. In 1942, Sándor won a statewide contest for Hungarian students for his mastery of the Latin language, earning him full tuition at any university of his choice. Unfortunately, the only university to accept him was the Faculty of Law at the University of Pécs. Sándor was adamant that he would attend the University because the government owed him a free education.

Upon arriving, Sándor experienced great anti-Semitism from his classmates and was often physically attacked by them. To make the best of the situation and prove the anti-Semites wrong, Sándor surprised classmates and teachers alike by maintaining a course load in medical and law courses in parallel.

University of Pécs, 1920-30, ©

When Sándor returned home to Győr on March 20, 1944, he had no idea how long he would stay there but understood that his life in Hungary would be changing. At 19 years old, Sándor was drafted into the munkaszolgálat, the Hungarian Labor Service, around April of 1944. This was a system of forced labor for Hungarian Jews between the ages of twenty and forty-eight. Units were assigned to mining, construction, clearing minefields, building military fortifications, and digging trenches. Sándor recalls the day that he boarded the train for Pécs to take up the forced service, looking back to see his father and mother for the last time.

Once he arrived in Pécs, Sándor was sent to do hard physical labor in a nearby camp. Later on, Sándor was relocated to various camps and expected to carry out numerous jobs during his period in the Labor Service, one task being to clean up a local ghetto after it had been liquidated. Sándor had never seen a ghetto before and his only knowledge of Nazi persecution came from the short period of time when his father was sent to a labor camp. This was a surreal experience for Sándor as he walked through an empty ghetto and sifted through the objects that characterize one’s life. It was his responsibility to sort various belongings of the faceless Jews that once lived there so that the Nazis could pillage the valuable items. As a boy who was largely sheltered from the poor conditions that many Jews experienced during the Holocaust, Sándor was disoriented by his experiences.

Another of Sándor’s duties in the labor service was to mine manganese in the town of Úrkút (north of Lake Balaton). This task lasted longer than many other jobs but also left a significant impression on him. A typical day at the mine involved working for eight hours, five to six days a week. While the wakeup call was at 5:00am, Sándor habitually arose fifteen minutes early in order to pray, wash at the faucets outside the barracks and get dressed. Breakfast consisted of ersatz (a coffee alternative) and bread. While there were no fences around this particular camp, there was nowhere to escape to as the barracks were at the top of a mountain.

Last mine cart in Úrkút, ©

Sándor recalls celebrating his 20th birthday in the mines, reflecting on his life and his future. Because he wanted to have a celebration by himself, Sándor stayed in the mine at the end of the day and celebrated alone for sixteen hours, until the next shift started. Because the guards were unreliable in the camp, no one noticed that he was missing at the end of the workday. Sándor spent the time reciting poetry in different languages and singing Hungarian songs. He spent time planning out the rest of his life and came to the conclusion that he wanted to complete his free education in Hungary specializing in medicine, then would start a new life somewhere else. Sándor had no doubt that he would survive the war and knew that because of the war, he would never live in Hungary again. Sándor recalls his 20th birthday celebration as a joyous time when he was able to introspect and engage in meaningful activities.

Sándor’s time at the mine ended when the guards attempted to drown all of the Jews by shutting off the electricity for the elevators and flooding the mines. The mine was 2,000-3,000 feet underground but the guards did not realize that there were ladders available in case of emergency. Every single Jew escaped from the mine because the guards did not wait behind to ensure that everyone had died. Due to the isolated location, the Jews were soon recaptured and moved to a new camp.

Example of a Swedish passport provided by Raoul Wallenberg in 1944-45, which may have meant life, ©

Sándor was one of the privileged Hungarian Jews to receive a false Swedish passport but unfortunately was unable to make use of it. Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish citizen who had studied in America, was recruited by the U.S. War Refugee Board to travel to Hungary in July 1944 as a Swedish diplomat with the goal of assisting Jews in any way possible. A friend who worked with Raoul Wallenberg mailed the passport to Sándor’s home without knowing whether he was alive and the package was successfully delivered to Sándor at the labor camp. A friendly commanding officer at the labor camp offered to bring Sándor to the border when he learned of the Swedish passport but an opportunity never arose for this plan to be carried out.

Holocaust memorial in Mosonmagyaróvár, ©

Sándor transited the labor camp in Mosonmagyarovár when the Jews received orders of a forced march to the Austrian border at the end of March in 1945. The Jews had been marching for four days when the Russians found them. It was important for Sándor to wear his tallit when he was liberated, a sign of perseverance and commitment to Judaism. Although the Jews were pleased that the Russians had arrived, they were also frustrated that the Russians treated the Jews almost as badly as the Germans or Hungarians. Sándor recalls that a Russian soldier stole his watch and threatened to shoot the Jews if they did not have any more possessions.

After Sándor was liberated from the labor service, he returned to Pécs since Győr had not yet been liberated. Once there, he immediately registered for his second semester at the medical school. Four or five weeks later, Sándor woke up in the hospital due to typhus, without having any memory of how he arrived there. He learned that someone found him lying in the street and took all of his belongings, including his clothes. Once Sándor regained his health, he travelled back to Győr to look for his family but only stayed for twenty-four hours because it was too difficult for him to be there. By 1945, Sándor was finishing his second year of medical school at the age of twenty. After graduation, Sándor moved to Budapest, where he slept on a park bench and worked at a Jewish hospital opened by medical students. Sometime later, doctors took over the duty but Sándor continued to work there along with seven other medical students.

Sándor working with the microscope in Budapest, 1947, © Ullmann Family

Around September of 1945, Sandor discovered the fate of his family. His mother, father, uncle, and brother were all deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. His mother, Margit Ullmann, was sent to the gas chamber immediately upon arrival. His brother, Dezső Ullmann, worked in “Canada” (the prisoner term referring to sending inmates to the gas chamber and organizing their belongings) and committed suicide by walking into the electric fence because he could not handle the stress.

Entrance to Auschwitz, © Wikimedia Commons (German Federal Archives)
US Personnel caring for ill patients in a typhus ward, Dachau, 1945, © US Holocaust Memorial Museum,

Sándor’s father, Frigyes Ullmann, and uncle, József Ullmann, were transported to Dachau in July of 1944. József had died three weeks before Dachau was liberated whereas Frigyes died one day after the camp’s liberation.

Sándor still in Hungary, 1947 © Ullmann Family

Sándor escaped to Austria in 1949, later he moved to Munich, West-Germany, where he completed his medical residency in 1950. He immigrated to Canada on March 27, 1951.

Epilogue of Savannah

I was surprised to learn that when asked why it is important for Sándor to share his story, he could not see the benefit in documenting his experiences. From a personal point of view, this has been an emotional and meaningful opportunity for me as many of my relatives have passed away and my family is quickly losing any ability to learn about our heritage. It is very important for me to learn about my ancestors and this project has reinvigorated my efforts to build a family tree. As a senior project in high school, I was able to build a family tree that goes back ten generations, but as the internet becomes more comprehensive and more records are digitized, I have been able to fill in many holes and elaborate on many details. I wish I could speak with him now to tell him that this opportunity has been powerful and moving and that I will remember what I have learned about his life and his perseverance and optimistic attitude during the war.

Savannah, Sándor’s granddaughter, the author of the present notes, and her mother, Margie, Sándor’s daughter

This has been a meaningful undertaking for me as Sándor, my grandfather, died in 1994 when I was 6 years old. I never had an opportunity to ask my grandfather about his experiences during the war and later his experiences traveling to Michigan via Canada. While it has been difficult to hear a tape recording of his experiences and know that I am unable to ask him questions or initiate a dialogue, I have nonetheless enjoyed the opportunity. Sándor’s story is unlike anything I have come across in my twenty-one years of existence and yet it is amazing to me that we still have many common characteristics as emerging adults.

Sándor mentions on numerous occasions that he often reflected on his life and considered plans for his future. While this is a large part of my life, as I prepare for graduation in a mere few days, it is astonishing to me that while he was in the middle of a war, working in a labor camp under inadequate conditions, he would still take time to plan his future. I think this speaks to the maturity level and state-of-mind of most eighteen-to-twenty-two-year-olds as they reach a point in their life when they are ready to become more independent and create long-term goals. As I struggle to transform my passions into career choices, I admire my grandfather for his determination to get an education regardless of the many obstacles and to use his intellect to help other people.

Savannah Weil

Savannah wrote this when she was 21 years old. She is now 34. She has her graduate degree in Social Work and lives in Philadelphia.

As mentioned in the introduction, we had received the continuation of Sándor’s life story from his daughter, Margie Ullmann-Weil, from the moment when Sándor had arrived in Canada. We shall publish this document as the 2nd part of Sándor Ullmann’ life story.

Family Story Uncategorized

Dr István Bakonyi’s Wanderings, Part II

The misadventures of a Medical Doctor from Győr in the final days of World War 2

In Part I you learnt why and how the diary was written, and that the roads were constantly under attack by Russian planes and the German army, especially supply columns and mechanised units, were pouring back, with many tanks, some of them damaged.

Let us continue. The year is now 1944.

Saturday, 23 December

“The farm and the highway are so congested that it almost offers the opportunity for a plane attack, and it won’t be missed. Russian planes are attacking in low flying with terrible machine gunning, impacts in our immediate vicinity. We get some machine gun fire, but no major hits in the village. Some houses burnt and set on fire, the room in the farm …, the cow shed in Vázsony – the cows have been let out and are now wandering in the

Óbarok, Mohos, Google maps

I move off, but I only get as far as Mohos, another attack, I am forced to retreat and then go back. … By the afternoon the air activity has quietened down, it is true that there are only occasional vehicles on the highway and I decide to go back up, bring down all the bandages and petrol so that we have lighting, because the electricity had gone out days before, so unfortunately, we can’t use the radio.

The way up wasn’t very pleasant either, but I got everything fixed. In the barracks I met one man, Leon, who was at home as a telephone operator. He had aged at least 10 years in 2 days – company commander and guards are nowhere. I gave Leon 2 blankets at least to keep him warm and recommended him to go to the shelter, where I was soon forced to follow him as a terrible cannon thunder began.

Red Army units in action, Source: Origo

The pre-dinner duel between the German long barrels and the Russian batteries. In the shelter, 2-3 women prayed in Hungarian and German, while grenades flew overhead with wild whistling. Fortunately, nothing lasts forever, so this too was quietened… On the road, to complete my happiness, as I passed the cornfield, planes came, and I thought it better to lie low in the trenches… By the time I reached the middle of the lucerne, they were coming back, but it was already very dark and fortunately they were not firing … But I … when I heard the roar of the machines, I made a run in the wide-open country that would have done any champion credit, until I reached the big pit, where I recovered a little. I then pushed on at a strong pace to reach the Friedreichs’ cellar, where it is much safer after all, or so we think. When I got to them I am told I looked a bit shaken! … By nightfall we settled back in the post office room, but at 11 o’clock there was such a wild shoot-out that we hurried back to the cellar. By the time we got downstairs it was quiet, with only occasional shots from the enemy to signal their wakefulness …

Sunday, December 24

At 5 o’clock in the morning we are woken up by the news that the Russians are already in Vázsony. This news proved to be a fake, but we didn’t go to bed again and waited for what was to come. We saw Hungarian soldiers partly unarmed and un-equipped on the road beside the house going towards Zsámbék, then some German tanks passed by, and by half past eight there were no more Hungarian or German soldiers on the road or in the village.

A strange, frozen silence has replaced the constant noise of the previous days, there is little sound of cannon fire, the people of Vázsony say that the Germans had loaded up during the night, and had taken their long-barrelled guns and towed away their damaged tanks.

Considering that it is morning and I am hungry, it is also quiet, I advocate some food, but I see that the appetite of the cellar people is very weak and only Charap is with me … In the meantime, we are trying to put some order in the cellar, so that at least we can move around. The idiots are ejected, but they only give in to violence, despite the total silence. In the noise of battle, they are so afraid that they cannot be lured out.

Around half past ten the first Russian troops appear, but they only pass through and do not stay with us. More and more Russian troops are pouring in, some of them marching towards Zsámbék and some towards Németháza, but the village and the Friedriechs are getting some of them. In Friedriech’s apartment there are also 10 or so Russian soldiers, while in the post office building there are 4 officers … and they ask for lunch at 2 p.m., so we start to prepare it.

In between, more Russian soldiers come, eat what they can find, but they don’t hurt anybody. A Russian lieutenant likes my wristwatch, so I have to exchange it, I get a woman’s wristwatch instead, which doesn’t work … It seems that this exchange, which took place in the kitchen, was surprised by a Russian soldier who relieved me of my money and the wristwatch I had received. This is war!

Then a man runs barefoot out of the barn, his boots pulled off, and Charap is equally freed from his watch. Despite all the protestations that we are doctors and need the watch, nothing works. “Davaj, davaj” says the Russian, and it must be given to him.

They left around 3 p.m. Leaving a terrible mess behind them, they took nothing but food, and the cupboard doors, although open, were damaged by the visit. Then a detachment of Russian soldiers took Jancsi Freiberger’s medical bag from the post room…

The sound of battle is getting further and further away, and we are calmly picking up the things scattered around the flat, thank God, we have got over that too. The joy proved to be very premature, for by evening the German batteries in the distance began to fire on the village, and it was shot in and shot out. One shell hit the church tower, which caught fire and fell down the next morning when the wooden structure was burnt out. …

Monday, December 25

Christmas Monday, the first day of Christmas.

We almost completely forgot it was a holiday and only remembered it in the quieter hours of the morning. … after 10 o’clock the air activity started again and we received air raids to the south, this time for a change the Germans were machine gunning the village. I was bandaging a wounded Hungarian soldier in the house near the highway, … the poor fellow must have been dead since then – he had a nasty big gap wound on the left side and his right elbow was shot away too. We tried to keep to the corner of the room to avoid any trouble. … I started towards our safer-looking basement apartment. On the way, of course, there was another wave, and I ran into the cellar, flattening myself against the wall.

Meanwhile, the noise of fighting can be heard nearer or further away, but the arriving news is not very encouraging. The Germans are very close and we are trying to think what to do. …

We decide that as soon as the situation is clear, we will move on and leave the Friedreichs to their fate. So far, we have represented the family and we have negotiated with the Russians if necessary. By 3 p.m. there was a lull in the firing and no cannonading, but small arms fire could be heard in the immediate vicinity. The incoming news was that the Germans were back in Vázsony, Russians were hardly to be seen, and the Russians who had appeared here and there were all moving towards Bicske. The situation is very uncomfortable, we don’t want to fall into German hands again under any circumstances, so we have to go.

We take only a side bag, but the Russians at the mine office laugh at us for our concerns, … so we decide to go back for the rest of our belongings. Just in time, as a woman with a broken leg has been brought in, we put it in a splint and after another emotional goodbye, we set off. We head for Székesfehérvár. First stop Felcsút, where we intend to spend the night at the Tessényi’s. We set off well packed and tried to get over the railway embankment as quickly as possible, … in the meantime Freiberg’s Red Cross badge was torn off by a Russian, but no other trouble happened.

Near the oil depot we were joined by a young Russian soldier who took a great fancy to my boots and I was forced to part with them, but again in exchange. The only fault was that the boots I received were too tight and I could not walk in them. With great difficulty we got to nearby Felcsút, where a guard checked on us. While we waited there, I exchanged the tight boots for Jancsi Freiberger’s half-boots, which were slightly too large but wearable. After the exchange, the guard led us to the headquarters, where we left all our belongings and were driven off to roll petrol drums.

Óbarok – Felcsút – Alcsút, Google maps

When we were done, we were let go without further ado, told to move on. Of course, they did not give us any papers. On arriving in Felcsút, we found out that we could not sleep at Dr Tessényi’s because the Tessényi family were not at home and their flat and surgery had been completely looted. Since we couldn’t find a place to sleep in Felcsút, because there were so many Russian soldiers everywhere, we continued on to Alcsút, where we arrived in the dark. We had no special adventures on the way, except exchanging gloves with a Russian soldier, but at least here I got gloves that were usable, even if worse than mine. In Alcsút we managed to find accommodation with a retired printer who welcomed us and even protected us at night from the Russians who were trying to enter.

The end of the second part.

Don’t miss the third part, which will tell you that medical supplies, medicine and good shoes are a great treasure at the front. Who cares about dry gunpowder!

Featured image: In a forced labour camp, Fortepan

Győr and Jewry

Who was Vilmos Apor?

The bishop and Jews in Győr

I reproduce these few lines from the Hungarian version of Wikipedia.

Why is that? Because Vilmos Apor was the only Hungarian Catholic prelate who, not without risk, openly stood up for the Jews in the most difficult times of the 1940s.

He was born in Segesvár in 1892 and died in Győr in 1945 as Bishop of Győr.

Scion of a prominent Transylvanian aristocratic family. He studied at the Jesuits. Enrolled in the seminary of the diocese of Győr, graduated from the University of Innsbruck. He was ordained a priest in 1915.

Vilmos Apor around 1930, Wikipedia

He began his ministry in Gyula as an assistant pastor and teacher, then as a parish priest. At the age of 26, he gained great prestige when, after a hostage-taking operation by Romanian soldiers, he and several others negotiated the release of the captured citizens of Gyula with the Romanian queen.

He focused on the social responsibility of the Church and ran a children’s charity kitchen. He set up several communities, visited prisoners, helped the poor and the sick, renovated churches and founded a Catholic newspaper. In 1919, when the Hungarian Council Republic abolished religious education in state schools, he succeeded in getting this measure revoked by mobilising parents in Gyula.

In 1941, at the age of 49, he was consecrated Bishop of Győr. At the beginning of 1941, the Cardinal appointed him president of the Hungarian Holy Cross Association, a body which was concerned with the cause of Jewish converts to Christianity throughout the country.

On 26 August 1943, Catholic public figures of the time gathered in the Bishop’s Palace in Győr to discuss the possibilities of Christian politics, in opposition to the cursus politics of the time.

„And whoever denies Christianity’s fundamental law of love and claims that there are people and groups and races to be hated and proclaims that people should be tortured, whether they be Negroes or Jews, no matter how much he may boast that he is a Christian, is like a pagan and a public sinner.” – Bishop Vilmos Apor’s sermon on Pentecost Sunday 1944 (excerpt)

After the German occupation and the takeover by the Arrow Cross, he stood up for the persecuted, regardless of their denomination or ethnicity. He strongly criticised and scourged the established order, personally defending the vulnerable against the German and Arrow Cross leaders (1945).

However, his protests, petitions and telegrams on behalf of the Jews remained ineffective. Some of those who approached him were hidden or sent on to Nuncio Angelo Rotta, who issued thousands of letters of protection, or to his sister, Gizella Apor, head of the Hungarian Red Cross. He also helped the civilian population of the city, working with the monastery leaders to house many refugees, especially after the bombing of Győr in April 1944.

On 28 March 1945, the siege of Győr began. The city was also shelled by the retreating Germans and the cathedral was hit. The Bishop took in all the refugees, and hundreds of people found shelter in the cellars of the Bishop’s Castle.

On 30 March, after refusing to extradite the women who had fled to his residence, a Soviet soldier mortally wounded him in a scuffle, and on 2 April, he died of his wounds.

Tomb of Vilmos Apor in Győr, Wikipedia

He was temporarily buried in the Carmelite church in Győr. His reburial took place in 1986, when he was laid to rest in the Héderváry Chapel of the Győr Cathedral.

In 1997 he was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

Vilmos Apor’s lifesaving activities in 1944-45 and his actions to save the Hungarian Jewish community in Győr and nationwide are well known. In the 1980s, he was nominated for the title of Righteous Among the Nations, an honor awarded by the Israeli Yad Vashem Institute.

Several serious Hungarian sources mention that Vilmos Aport was honoured with this title. Reading these materials, I myself was under the same misapprehension. However, I recently learned from the Yad Vashem Institute that the title has not been awarded. The Institute informs me that they are of course aware of the bishop’s activities in saving human lives, but since no testimonies or authentic documents have been submitted so far, they have not been able to award him the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum at night, architect: Moshe Safdie,

Our readers are invited to contact us if anyone knows any specific details about Bishop Vilmos Apor’s concrete steps to save Jewish lives. If there were any testimony or irrefutable documentation that the Bishop provided concrete protection or assistance to even one Jewish person during the Holocaust, it would be a great step forward in the matter of granting him the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

„He who saves one life saves the whole world.” – the Talmud

Peter Krausz

Family Story Uncategorized

Dr István Bakonyi’s Wanderings, Part I

The misadventures of a Medical Doctor from Győr in the final days of World War 2

The document, entitled ” Dad’s Diary “, was preserved by Hugi Bakonyi (real name Irén), the daughter of Dr. Bakonyi of Győr, who died recently.  It came to me through Hugi’s daughter and friends. I subsequently discovered that the description had previously appeared on the World Wide Web under the care of Archivnet.  

I publish the diary on our website in six parts, with only minor omissions, each marked with three dots. I do not change the text, except to correct minor punctuation errors and to break paragraphs and longer sentences for ease of reading.

The diary begins on 19 March 1945 in Penc, exactly one year after the German invasion. It was there that Dr Bakonyi decided to write his notes in a diary. This is made clear in the entry of 8 March 1945, towards the end of the diary. The whole story begins on 12 December 1944 (the date of his wife’s last visit). There is some inconsistency in the dating here and there, but it is really not disturbing.

The photographs shown here are not part of the diary, but are for illustrative purposes only. The Google maps presented in today’s format may help a little with geographic orientation.

While editing the diary on our website, I think of my father, Károly Krausz (1903-1983), who, like Dr Bakonyi, tried to break away from his company of forced labourers (muszosok) in the final days of the war, but unlike Dr. Bakonyi, unfortunately, he did not go in the right direction, fell into the hands of ill-willed Russian soldiers and ended up in a prisoner of war camp in Russia. After many long months only, his journey led him back to Győr, where he had ‘no home any more’.

Péter Krausz

So, the diary:

The first page of the diary, Source:

“I write these lines, in which I record the story of my wanderings, with the purpose of recalling things years hence, so that my dear Wife, who is far from me, may, if fate would have it, be informed of my progress while the diary lasts. I therefore ask anyone who may have the diary in their hands to send it to my Wife at the following address: Irén Kőműves, Győr, Erzsébet liget u. 16.A.

Postcard from the labour camp, Source: HDKE

Penc, 19 March 1945

For a long time now, I have been thinking of putting down on paper the events that have happened to me since 12 December 1944, when my wife left Óbarok. Since that time, I have received no sign of her, I hope she has returned home safely. …

The situation is becoming more and more tense, distant flashes are seen in the evenings, the people of the neighbourhood are aware that some villages have already come under Russian authority. During the day, there is almost a constant air raid, but fortunately our barracks camp is not bombed, the company is assigned to road repairs.

… every day I go down to Óbarok and try to learn something new and positive. We three doctors decided that under no circumstances would we go any further, but that if our companies were ordered to move, we would quietly fall behind. In the meantime, events are developing rapidly, a lieutenant and his entourage are moving into our infirmary room, in charge of road repair work, and they are beginning to wagon the more valuable mechanical parts of the mine. … according to leaked reports, the German lieutenant, in view of the threatening proximity of the front, has been constantly urging the departure of the companies in the direction of Komárom since the 18th.

This is, of course, impossible, because on the one hand the roads are taken by the retreating units, and on the other hand our men are so poorly dressed that about ¼ of them are permanently in barracks and do not even go out to work. The roads are under constant attack by Russian planes and, I notice, the company commanders do not want to depart either. The roads are constantly being flooded by German troops, especially supply columns and mechanised units, with many tanks, some of them damaged. A good one pulls 2 or 3 bad ones.

Muszosok at rest, Surce: HDKE

Meanwhile, along the road to Óbarok, 4 German twin anti-aircraft guns had nestled in the fields and were firing at the passing Russian planes, which of course returned fire and now the machine-gunning was almost constant in our immediate vicinity and the shelling could be heard closer and closer.

On the 19th the squadron is no longer going out to repair the roads, because the workplace 6 km away from us is already under heavy threat, the Russians are in the immediate vicinity. The men are permanently in the mine shelters, they don’t even come home to eat properly.

I am normally in the nearby shelter, but we don’t get attacked. In the meantime, I go down to the post office every day and I think it happened on the 18th that I was in the middle of the lucerne when 2 Russian planes came and I came under machine gun fire. I vowed that in future I would cross that part of the field on the run.

The same planes dropped some bombs along the road through Újbarok, with no loss of life. The German Oberleutnant is increasingly urging us to leave and will accept no excuses, but it is impossible to leave for the reasons mentioned above, and it is also impossible to assemble the company, because they are hiding in fear of air raids, and they do not sleep at home at night, but hide in shelters and cellars.

… I slept at home until 20 December, but it was very uncomfortable, my things were falling off the shelf above the sink from the constant shaking, and so I decided to move in with the boys. On Thursday, I completely repacked and brought my belongings and instalments to Óbarok, where we stored them in the Friedreichs’ basement. … the kitchen was no longer working, as our cooks had also seen fit to seek a safer place, in view of the constant air activity. …

On the way to Óbarok, I was stopped twice by the camp gendarmes, but fortunately they did not ask for any writing and were satisfied with my saying that I was a doctor and going to a safer place. On Thursday night I slept at Freiberger and Charap’s, but the situation there was as threatening as at my place and we decided to follow the example of the Friedreichs and spend the time in the cellar. On Friday morning I went up to the company, but there I found complete confusion… Boriska was cooking something in the officers’ kitchen, I said goodbye to her too – I haven’t seen her since, and after picking up a few more odds and ends I went down to Óbarok.

Muszosok and Hungarian Watchdogs, Source:

We’ve been in the cellar almost all day, there’s an endless stream of people retreating down the highway, sometimes planes come and we don’t know what kind, but it’s good to take shelter because they can let go a few machine gun rounds very easily. The farm is also full of German and Hungarian cars, not a very pleasant proximity. The Russian planes are being fired at a great deal but to no effect, meanwhile German long-barrel cannons seem to have been set up around Vázsony puszta and are firing from there in the direction of Felcsút, from where the Russians return fire, the in and out shots are very similar and we are left to guess what the banging was all about.

Our cellar is not very safe, but it is better than nothing, the overcrowding is enormous. …

Óbarok, Vázsony puszta, Google maps

The meals are completely rhapsodic, the lunch is of course interrupted by a plane attack on the highway … The German tanks are firing heavily, one tank has positioned itself between the 2 houses and is firing from there, so at close range. The Russian pilot returns again, and he does not regret the shelling, which has an effect, because the windows of the servants’ house are all smashed.

SS in Transdanubia, Source:

Another tank is parked in front of the church, but its operator seems to have had enough of the war, because he doesn’t fire a single shot and leaves on Friday. Also gone were the twin machine guns set up on the lucernes, … which we were very glad about because they were a constant nuisance. By nightfall, it had quietened down a bit, so Charap, Freiberger and I decided to sleep in the post office room, where we could feel comfortable and at least stretch out. …”

The end of the first part.

Don’t miss the second part, which will tell you that running is a shame but useful, and that the Russians are coming.

Győr and Jewry

Rowing Club in Győr is Looking for the Relatives of World War I Heroes

Almost every second victim was Jewish

Oszkár Papp, president of Győri AC, recently told the online version of the Győr daily Kisalföld (1):

“I believe that without an appreciation of the past, sports cannot have a future. Rowers have always followed this ars poetica

… rowing in Győr is now 145 years old, /our club/ is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, still active in the country …”

The monument of Győri AC in honour of the heroic dead of the First World War, with its president Oszkár Papp

“Few people know … that behind the swimming pool there is a stone memorial erected by our ancestors to the rowers who died heroically in the First World War. I don’t really know its history … In 2018 and this year … we commemorated the athletes who died more than a hundred years ago,” said Oszkár Papp, who would like to organise a meeting for the living family members of the rowers who died in the war.

Boaters and bathers on the open beach of the Moson branch of the Danube in Győr, photo by József Glück (2)

“We are probably talking about grandchildren and great-grandchildren who might like to get to know each other and the past of rowing in Győr, as this is what their families have in common. … a meeting like this … would be a decent way to remember those who have been part of our club’s glorious past,” said the club president.

The names on the sports club’s memorial are: foreman Dr. József Kellner, foreman László Szőgyi, secretary dr. Rezső Reichenfeld, Gyula Csillag, János Czigler, Gyula Gold, János Gunyhó, Antal Gyulai, Lajos Harmat, Dezső Haut, Lajos Holló, Elek Karsay, Imre Keszey, Lőrincz Meixner, Antal Németh, Nándor Rosenkrantz, Emil Róth, dr. Imre Sághy, Lipót Schnabel, József Szaltzer, Tádé Turcsek, Róbert Wottitz.

Relatives can contact the club on its Facebook page (Győri Atlétikai Club – Rowing Department) or by e-mail at

So far, the news from Kisalföld newspaper.

I look at the sad memorial of the Győr Atlétikai Club and the names listed on it.

I am involuntarily reminded of the imposing memorial wall at the entrance to the Győr Synagogue, also erected to remember the First World War, and the list of the names engraved on it of the nearly ninety Jewish soldiers who died in the same war.

Since I think there is a similarity between the names engraved on one monument and the other, I have a more thorough look at the two lists.

First World War memorial in the Győr Synagogue

My intuition has been confirmed. Many of the names on the memorial of the sports club can also be found on the World War I memorial in the Győr synagogue: Dr. József Kellner, László Szőgyi, Gyula Csillag, Gyula Gold, Antal Gyulai, Lajos Harmat, Nándor Rosenkrantz and Róbert Wottitz. József Szaltzer, another heroic rower, probably corresponds to József Saltzer on the synagogue memorial.

Thus, among the 22 Győr AC soldiers killed, nine were of Jewish origin. Forty percent, almost every second victim.

Skiffs, tour boats, boats – rowing has always been popular in Győr, photo by József Glück (2)

Seeing this, I wrote to the president of Győri AC, indicating my “discovery” and mentioning the 2024 World Meeting in Győr of descendants of holocaust survivors, which could help to discover the family background of the former rowers, as initiated by the sports club.

I wrote to the club two weeks ago, still waiting for a reply… Should I write again? Or should I not embarrass anyone? I will be back with more news if ever I have the answer.

Péter Krausz


  • Kisalföld daily, Győr
  • Dr Kovács Pál Library: József Glück photo collection
Győr and Jewry

Nof HaGalil – Győr’s twin city

An Israeli town with an Indian Synagogue

View of Galilee

According to Wikipedia (1), Nof HaGalil (Hebrew: נוֹף הַגָּלִיל‎, lit. View of Galilee; Arabic: نوف هچليل‎), formerly called Nazareth Illit is a city in the Northern District of Israel with a population of more than 40 000. Founded in 1957, it was planned as a Jewish town overlooking the Arab city of Nazareth and the Jezreel Valley. Its name was changed to “Nof HaGalil” in 2019.

View of the Jezreel Valley from Nof HaGalil (© 1)

The establishment of Nazareth Illit was initiated in the early 1950s. There were economic and security reasons for developing a town in this region.

A parcel of 1 200 dunams of land, about half formerly within the municipal boundaries of Nazareth, was allocated to developments for public purposes in 1954, relying on a law permitting such expropriations. Protests against this action reached the Supreme Court of Israel, which in 1955 accepted (HCJ 30/55) the government’s word that the sole purpose of the land was to erect government facilities. However, only 109 dunams were used for that purpose and planning for residential areas continued. The first dwellings were completed in September 1956 and residents moved in later that year.

Nof HaGalil City Hall (© 1)

In 2014, the ethnic and religious composition of the city population was 64.4% Jewish and other non-Arabic, the rest Arabic. In the 1990s, Nazareth Illit was the fastest developing city in the country as to its population. Newcomers included immigrants from the former Soviet Union and South America including young couples.

The city’s population has been dwindling ever since, due to its deteriorating commercial and industrial basis. Thus, a large portion of the younger population has left altering the city’s demographic structure.

The Strauss-Elite chocolate factory, the most important employer in the city with over 600 workers (© 1)

In 2010, the city had 12 elementary schools and two high schools, one for religious studies and another one for engineering.

Nof HaGalil municipality strives to maintain the city’s parks and the surrounding Churchill Forest donated by the UK Jewish community in memory of Winston Churchill.

View on Nof HaGalil (© 1)

Hapoel Nof HaGalil is the city’s major football club. Basketball and table tennis are also popular local sports.

Nof HaGalil is twinned with San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina; Leverkusen, Germany; Klagenfurt, Austria; Győr, Hungary; Chernivtsi, Ukraine; Saint-Étienne, France; Alba Iulia, Romania and Kikinda, Serbia.

Meeting in Győr

A delegation from Nof HaGalil visited Győr in September 2022. Mayor Ronen Plot met Győr Mayor Dr. Csaba András Dézsi. (2) The Israeli delegation spent three days in Győr. The two Mayors discussed the functioning of the Győr city administration, the strengthening and development of their relationship as well as the refugee situation.

Two Mayors meet (© 2)

“We have similar problems and the solutions may also be similar. The aim of the visit was to build and revitalise cultural, sporting and other links” – said Dr. Csaba András Dézsi.

The two delegations in Győr (© 2)

According to Mayor Plot “we can talk seriously about cooperation between the two cities and have agreed to prepare an operational plan for this purpose, that will include the intensification of exchanges in the area of sport and culture”.

The Israeli delegation met Tibor Villányi, President of the Győr Jewish Community.

View on Nof HaGalil (© 1)

Indian community in Nof HaGalil

In November this year, a new synagogue was inaugurated in Nof HaGalil, an Indian synagogue, as the Eliayahu-Hanavi shrine was built by a community of Jewish immigrants from the Bnei Menashe tribe in India. This community believes that its members are descendants from one of the ten lost Jewish tribes that were taken as slaves from the northern kingdom of Israel to the Assyrian Empire around 721 BC. However, it is highly likely that they are a group of tribes that adopted Judaism in the 1950s.

Indian Synagogue in Nof HaGalil (© 3)


Győr and Jewry

József Glück, the photographer of the old Győr

Pictorial sociography of Győr

This article is a tribute to the photographer József Glück, who with great diligence and skill captured for posterity the many sites of Győr in the first third of the 20th century. His local patriotism has left an invaluable reminder of the rapidly industrialising city of 100 years ago, including the historic and contemporary buildings of the time. For those interested in the city of Győr at that time, the Glück images offer a unique glimpse of what the city looked like a century ago. His pictures are second to none.

József Glück (1887-1944)

The visual representation of the residents of the city of Győr was, however, of outstanding importance for the socially sensitive Glück, beyond the sight and the capture of the buildings: we can see the simple workers of the time, people walking in the streets, children who appear in many places, bathers in the Kis-Duna or the Cziráky open-air swimming pool, the rowing world, which was already inseparable from the cityscape, and so on. Glück has created a veritable pictorial sociography of Győr of a century ago.

City Hall, the symbol of the city even 100 years ago

The following paragraphs of this post are taken in their entirety and verbatim from the work of Maria Nagy (1).

Industrial Vocational Training Institute No 401, the former industrial apprentice school, with the dome of the Synagogue in the background
Dunakapu Square, sign on the right: Berger Pálinka

Glück was born on 11 November 1887 in Székesfehérvár, where he completed his schooling and learned photography. After years of practice he moved to Győr, where he continued his work. In 1898, he opened his studio at 13 Deák Ferenc Street (today Aradi Vértanúk útja).

In Munich he developed and enriched his photographic knowledge, and here he passed his master’s examination in 1909.

Danube section, great rowing life
Swimming pool, in the background the Cziráky obelisk, erected in memory of Count Béla Cziráky (1852-1911), the decades-old president of the Rába Regulating Society

With his camera, which was still very rudimentary and heavy at the time, he was constantly wandering around the city, capturing the life of the streets and squares. From the beginning of the century until the outbreak of the Second World War, he photographed almost without exception the construction works and monuments in the city.

Danube bridge, the predecessor of the riveted bridge in Révfalu, which is still standing. This wooden bridge was painted by Egon Schiele as a guest of Ágoston Léderer, the founder of the wagon factory, and entitled “Bridge of the Goat’s Feet”
Teleki utca, Glück’s signature bottom right

It is thanks to chance and the saving efforts of a few enthusiastic citizens of Győr that most of József Glück’s photographs have been preserved for posterity. Today, the Rómer Flóris Museum of Art and History holds his 24×30 cm glass negatives and several positive enlargements, while the Dr. Kovács Pál Library and Community Space houses 145 of his photographs.

Rozália House, Kazinczy Street 21, built in 1703, named after Saint Rosalia of Palermo, patron saint of plague sufferers
Széchenyi Square, the main square of the baroque town
Virág-köz, opposite József Österreicher’s shop

He came home with honours from almost all the photography exhibitions of his time. From 1926 he was the chairman of the National Association of Hungarian Photographers, and from 1935 the chairman of the Economic Committee of the Győr Industrial Association, as a member of the board of the photography department.

Carmelite church and monastery, another fine example of Győr Baroque

He was an active and respected participant not only in the photographic profession but also in the public life of the city. He held positions in the Győr Singing and Music Society, the Firemen’s Association and the Ambulance Association, among others. He was also active in the School Committee of the Neolog Israelite Community of Győr.

He considered it particularly important that the students of the Israelite elementary school in Kossuth Street receive a modern education and enlightened upbringing.

The Synagogue
The area around the Synagogue, seen from the rear wing of the former Nádor boarding restaurant and café, where the Industrial Apprentice School was opened in 1932
Nádor courtyard, main facade of the Nádor boarding restaurant and café with atrium
Detail of Kossuth Lajos Street opposite the Synagogue

For decades, he was a member of the city’s Law Commission. He was expelled in 1939 because of his Jewish origins. In 1940, he was elected to the supervisory board of the city’s Chamber of Industry, and later, as anti-Semitism intensified, he was deprived of his citizen’s rights.

József Glück and Janka Singer, inscription: “To our dear good son, 1937 III. 3”

His studio was closed down on 1 May 1942. In May 1944, he was forced into the ghetto with his family, and on 11 or 14 June 1944, he and his wife (Janka Singer) were deported to Auschwitz. He never returned from there and probably died in Auschwitz in June 1944 – the exact date is not known. One of his descendants, his son, is known to have lived in Israel: he visited Győr in 1990 and attended the opening of his father’s exhibition.

The images shown are from the collection of the Dr. Kovács Pál Library and Community Space, Győr, with the permission of the institution. (2)


(1) Győri Szalon

(2) Dr. Kovács Pál Library and Community Space, Győr

Győr and Jewry

Iván Szenes, the king of hits

But how is he related to Győr?

Featured image: Anton H, Pexels

In August, the tragic story of Hanna Szenes was performed on an open-air stage in the courtyard of the Lajos Vajda Museum in Szentendre, created by Ágnes Réka Tóth and Kristóf Widder using the young poet’s verses, diary and memories, with music by Sándor Födő. The role of Hanna was played in a very convincing way by Eszter Bíró, who resembles her so much. (1)

Hanna and Eszter (2)

It was a real experience, despite the fact that the performance took place not on stage planks, which usually set the rhythm, but on the bare ground of the museum courtyard, which absorbed every step, almost without any echo or any noise. Can this be interpreted as meaning that Hanna’s fate and memory will one day be forgotten in such an echoless way?

We hope not. Eszter Bíró and her companions may also have undertaken to stage Hanna for this purpose. We also know that Hanna, who was brutally and senselessly murdered by the Arrow Cross, is revered in Israel as a national hero, which is a real guarantee that her memory will survive. This should be the case in Hungary too, and not only in Jewish circles.

In connection with the performance, I remembered that a public square in Győr bears the name of Hanna’s second cousin. Szenes Iván Park.

Szenes Iván Park in Győr (3)

How is it possible? For Iván was born in Budapest in 1924 and died there in 2010.

Searching the web, it didn’t take much effort to see how Iván Szenes, a very popular non Győr native, was connected to the city.

Let’s see the artist first. It is almost impossible to list the main spheres of Szenes’ artistic activity.

According to Wikipedia (3), Iván Szenes is a Hungarian writer, songwriter, playwright and composer. According to statistics from 2000, he is the most performed author in Hungary, with more than 400 theatre premieres to his credit. He was honoured with the Distinguished Artist Award.

Iván Szenes in 1973 (4)

His father, Andor Szenes (1899-1935), was also a writer.

After WW2, Iván worked as a journalist and as a dramaturg, as well as artistic director of theatres, while writing his songs one after the other.  

And here comes the Győr connection: between 1961 and 1979, Iván Szenes was the dramaturg of the Kisfaludy Theatre in Győr.

He has an amazing list of hits. All well-known songs, performed by the most famous Hungarian pop singers and outstanding actors of the 20th century. People of my generation might be heartbroken at the memory of these songs. Just a few examples of the greatest hits, mentioning the original performer of each song:

  • Nehéz a boldogságtól búcsút venni – Group Apostol
  • Isten véled édes Piroskám, Nemcsak a húszéveseké a világ – László Aradszky
  • Jöjjön ki Óbudára – Tivadar Bilicsi
  • Az a jamaicai trombitás – Gyula Bodrogi with Ági Voith
  • Kicsi, gyere velem rózsát szedni – Zsuzsa Cserháti
  • Kicsit szomorkás a hangulatom máma – Iván Darvas
  • Melletted nincsenek hétköznapok – Violetta Ferrari
  • Mindenkinek van egy álma – Teri Harangozó
  • Próbálj meg lazítani – Géza Hofi
  • Álltam a hídon – Katalin Karády
  • Annyi ember él a földön, Kislány a zongoránál, Nem vagyok teljesen őrült – János Koós
  • Bocsánat, hogyha kérdem – György Korda
  • Úgy szeretném meghálálni, A régi ház körül, Találkozás egy régi szerelemmel – Kati Kovács
  • Álltam a hídon – Olivér Lantos
  • Mások vittek rossz utakra engem – Imre Ráday
  • Szeretni bolondulásig – Pál Szécsi
  • Orchideák – Klári Tolnay and Antal Páger
  • Engem nem lehet elfelejteni – Hédi Váradi Tölcsért csinálok a kezemből – Sarolta Zalatnay

You can get emotional, you can hum the catchy tune and you can complain. Whatever the case, according to Wikipedia, Iván Szenes is the most prolific Hungarian hitmaker of all time. And probably one of the most successful too.

The old Master (5)

After the artist’s death, his daughter Andrea Szenes established the Iván Szenes Art Prize.

His popularity in Győr is unbroken. The park named after him bears witness to this. This July, the Iván Szenes Memorial Evening and Family Day was organised in Győr for the eighth time.

The poster of the Memorial Evening in 2022 (6)

Even in death, Ivan’s popularity may help to preserve Hanna’s memory.

Compiled by Krausz Péter


(1) HANNA – szabadesés több szólamban, Szentendrei Teátrum The play will be shown in Budapest in the automn.

(2) Színház online

(3) Google maps

(4) Wikipedia


(6) Kisalföld


A new book – Gábor T. Szántó

Essays and studies

Gábor T. Szántó’s 2022 volume is entitled “The Lawless Guard – Essays and Studies on the Forms of Modern Jewish Literature” (Scolar Publishing, 2022).

The book cover

To quote the Bookline book review:

Gábor T. Szántó approaches the sensitive issues of modern Jewish literature with the need for understanding and self-understanding, whether he analyses domestic or foreign authors. If his subject calls for it, he traces the works back to the tradition of revelation, rabbinic thought, the experience of exile, the desire for identification, the success and the shattered hopes of integration, to the trauma of the Holocaust and the dictatorship, while drawing on the international literature on the subject, he brings together the European, American and Israeli experiences.

Questions of social history and social psychology are raised in relation to the analysed works, as is psychoanalytic thinking.

Szántó, as in his novels, which have been published in many languages, or in his narrative, essays and studies, which are the basis of the world-famous movie 1945, approaches history, literature and the experience of Diaspora Jewry from a new and unique perspective.

T. Gábor Szántó’s writings concern Eliette Abécassis, S. J. Agnon, Isaac Babel, Milán Füst, Allen Grossman, Ágnes Gergely, Franz Kafka, Imre Kertész, Lev Lunc, Károly Pap, Miklós Radnóti, Philip Roth, J. D. Salinger, as well as his own works.

On the author

Gábor T. Szántó was born in Budapest in 1966, graduated from the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of ELTE in 1990, and studied Aesthetics and Judaesthetics at the Faculty of Humanities.

He began his literary career with poetry and short prose. His volume of short stories entitled Betrayal was published in 1997, his novel East Station, terminus in 2002, and his collection of short stories entitled Santa Claus of the camp in 2004. Her poetry collection The Taste of Freedom was published in 2010, his novel The Three of Eden in 2012, his novel Kafka’s Cats in 2014, his collection of short stories 1945 and Other Stories in 2017, and his novel Symphony of Europe in Autumn 2019.

His writings have been translated into several languages.

The writer on the March of Life, 16 April 2017 © „Az Élet Menete” Alapítvány

Since 1991, he has been editor-in-chief of the Jewish political and cultural magazine Szombat.

In the 2000s, he translated American Jewish and Yiddish poets into Hungarian and taught modern Jewish literature at universities and free universities.

Ferenc Török, film director, shot the feature film 1945 from the screenplay of his short story Homecoming.

Featured image


Their destiny – our history

Student contest kick-off

Featured image: © Buro millenial, Pexels

The Foundation for the commemoration of the 80th sad anniversary of the Holocaust has launched a student competition to raise interest among local young people in the past of the Jewish community in and around Győr. A deeper understanding of this shared past will ensure a more tolerant, open, united and stronger future for the city.

Their history too © Fox, Pexels

The contest is open to teams of three students from ten invited high-schools in Győr, Pannonhalma and Csorna. Their work is supported by history teachers of the schools. The project kick-off meeting took place in mid-September 2022 and was attended by teachers from the schools concerned, who were briefed by experts with a high level of knowledge of the subject matter.

According to Péter Krausz, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Roots in Győr Foundation, “the student contest is one of the most important parts of the preparations for the commemoration of the anniversary. It is closely linked to the World Reunion of the descendants of concentration camp survivors planned in Győr for July 2024. It is also an example of the multigenerational and inclusive nature of the Reunion. We aim to make the work of the participants as widely known as possible. A good way to do this will be to present all the results of the contest to all the students and, of course, to the jury. In addition, the winning team will present their research results at a commemorative conference in the framework of the World Reunion. The best artworks will be exhibited. We will also ensure the online publication of the research reports and artworks.”

Roots to branches © P. Krausz

The “Jewish Roots in Győr Foundation” was established in the second half of 2021. It was registered in January 2022. Its main task is the preparation of a dignified commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Holocaust and the implementation of related projects.

See also: Szombat and Győri Szalon and Győr+

Győr and Jewry

Győr moves to Pest

An exhibition on the history of the Jewish community in Győr among the plans of HDKE Páva Street

Featured image: Szombat

The Budapest Holocaust Memorial Centre (HDKE) is preparing an exhibition on the history of Győr’s Jews, which will open in 2023.

The Holocaust Memorial Centre and the Páva Street Synagogue © Szombat

There will be an opportunity, among other things, to process and exhibit family histories from Győr. If you want to take advantage of this opportunity, please contact Tünde Csendes, a PhD student at the Jewish Theological Seminary – University of Jewish Studies (OR-ZSE), Budapest, whose extensive research on the history of Jewish Győr will be used by the HDKE. Please write to: cstundegyor@gyorjews

The former home for elderly and poor (Menház), details here, © P. Krausz

It is well known that for several years now the former Jewish Menház in Győr has been hosting an exhibition on the history of local Jewry, created by the Győr Jewish Community, which deals equally with Jewish customs and traditions.

The planned Budapest exhibition will also include new elements. For example, it will also touch upon the activities of Jewish landowners in the Győr area before the holocaust and it will present the everyday life of their families.

It is also planned to move the temporary exhibition of the Budapest Memorial Centre to Győr at a later date.

The Holocaust Memorial Centre is a public institution, which opened its doors on 16 April 2004 with its first exhibition, the Auschwitz Album, as a result of the renovation of the Páva Street Synagogue and the construction of a new building complex.

The Wall of Remembrance of the Victims, now with around 180,000 names, reflects the silhouette of the Synagogue and memorial columns © P. Krausz

Six columns in the inner courtyard commemorate the more than 500,000 Hungarian and 6 million European victims.

The name of Győr on the wall of the Jewish communities in Hungary annihilated in 1944 © P. Krausz

Family Story

Not a Real Enemy

The True Story of a Hungarian Jewish Man’s Fight for Freedom

A book by Robert J Wolf MD

Featured image: The cover page of the book to be launched on 12 October 2022, Amazon, (549 pages)


Robert J Wolf is the author of a biography about his father’s amazing story of living as a Jewish man in Hungary when the Nazis, and later the communists, seized power. Growing up in affluence, Győr, Hungary, young Ervin Wolf was forced into a labor camp, unaware that his parents were deported to Auschwitz where they were soon killed. In “Not a Real Enemy: The True Story of a Hungarian Jewish Man’s Fight for Freedom,” Ervin relies on his wits and good fortune to escape the Nazis not once, but twice. Once freed, however, he finds life under communism so unbearable he must make the most daring of all escapes in the dead of a winter’s night. “Not a Real Enemy” is the true story of one of the most unknown chapters in the Holocaust, following the transformation of a young man as he confronts antisemitism, cruelty, kindness, despair, and hope in his journey toward freedom.

Three excerpts from the book are reproduced here.

The cover page of the book to be launched on 12 October 2022, Amazon

Excerpt One

Their recruiting station was in Komárom, a town in Hungary bordering Slovakia and approximately 64 kilometers from Győr, the place of their departure. Ervin’s home. What would be expected of them when they reached Komárom was anybody’s guess. No one really knew the fate of the young Jewish men drafted into the Auxiliary Labor Service, one only knew that Jews were not permitted to join the German-allied Hungarian military. Instead, they were conscripted into forced labor and sent, unarmed and poorly equipped, to Ukraine and the most remote regions of Hungary, their parents left with no knowledge of what their children were enduring, other than the occasional letters that arrived, no doubt opened and reviewed by government agents.

These parents would do their best to read between the lines to guess at what their sons were really made to do, how they were really doing. They knew only that the work was hard, the conditions brutal, the boys hungry. They knew some labored in the harsh cold, cutting trees and carrying the heavy logs back and forth all day, all night. Some dug graves and buried bodies. So many bodies. Some were forced to cross the mine fields, human mine detectors. So far, none had returned home to tell what really happened.

Dr. Joseph and Kamilla Wolf, photo taken during WWI, © Robert J Wolf

Ervin, the only child of Dr. Joseph and Kamilla Wolf, had never known labor of any kind, much less hard labor. He had, if anything, been coddled by his parents, spoiled with every toy and sweet and privilege a child of wealth might enjoy. True, his father could be a stern disciplinarian and Ervin knew too well the whack of a stick or the sting of a belt for misbehaving or worse, for being late. But his father was neither cruel nor cold, and Ervin never doubted for a moment the love both his parents felt for him. If anything, he understood his father’s discipline was less a correction of Ervin than it was a correction of himself, for Joseph’s own childhood had been a punishing one, one he had devoted his life to undoing…

Excerpt Two

Joseph listened to the click of the door as his wife and son walked into the cold, desolate street for what he feared might be their last walk together. He shaved and dressed, carefully buttoning his collar and adjusting his silk tie, as he did every morning, before slipping on one of his tailored, monogrammed suits, now beginning to fray. Though he continued to see his patients, many could no longer pay and, as a Jew, his access to supplies was limited. But his mind was not on his dwindling resources this morning. All he could think about was the danger his son was heading toward, and the danger that was coming closer to their home with each new day.

Joseph had known few years without danger, and never took for granted the prosperous life he had established. Born in the city of Alba Julia, then the capital of the Eastern Hungarian Province in Transylvania, he had grown up the middle of six children from a well-to-do family in one of the region’s oldest Jewish settlements. Being Jewish at that time, and in that place, was a marker of belonging. Virtually every family he knew was Jewish, and to be Jewish was as respected in the Kingdom as to be Christian. He was as much a Jew as he was Hungarian, as he was a boy, which is to say, the normal state of things, unchanging, unremarkable….

Excerpt Three


Ervin turned from the train’s window to see a tall young man in uniform, no older than himself, glaring at him, his hand outstretched for his identification papers. Ervin obediently presented them and, once satisfied that they had the right Jew on board, the man turned to the next young man seated on the train and repeated his demand.

It was a packed train and Ervin was thankful he’d even gotten a seat. It seemed as if everyone was shouting and shoving, and while the train itself moved slowly, it lurched and stopped so often and so abruptly on its journey that every few minutes the passengers were thrown back and forth like dominoes knocking the others down. Ervin felt nauseous from the jerky movement, but he was in no hurry to reach their destination. Once there, his life would change in ways he couldn’t imagine. Until then, he tried to lighten the mood by joking with his friends. They all felt that strange sensation of dread and delight. Dread at what was up ahead, delight at being together for the adventure.

Nearly two hours later, the morning light now bright, the train pulled into the station in Komárom.

Just as they’d been pushed and shoved into the train, they were pushed and shoved out of it, where Hungarian gendarmes were swarming. These were the csendőrség— easily identified by the large rooster feathers affixed to their bowler hats. Though reputed to be well trained enforcers of the law, they were as known for their cruelty as their skill.

Ervin’s heart raced, but the csendőrs merely handed them off to a few soldiers waiting to escort the young men to their destiny. It was in that instant that Ervin realized he had lost his humanity in the eyes of these uniformed soldiers. No longer was he even looked down upon as a Jew. He was, in that moment and into the unforeseeable future, an animal to be herded and put into service.

A jolt of terror shot through him as the realization hit him and he was flooded with fear. But he knew better than to let them see his fear, for if they did, he was certain they would maximize the terrifying effect they had on him. Instead, he stood taller, shoulders back (not an easy task, given the weight of his backpack that once again pulled on his spine), and chin high. He compelled his face to reveal nothing of his inner thoughts and emotions. If they were determined to view him as nothing, then his survival would depend upon maintaining that illusion. He would do nothing to attract their attention, while expressing only respect for those he least respected.

How much he’d aged in that short train ride, when just two hours before, he had been a boy walking with his mother…

Why this title of the book?

“Not a Real Enemy” is how the communist bureaucrats described Ervin in his dossier, in the office at his medical center, where he had the guts to have a look at his secret file the night before his final escape after the revolution.

Protagonists of the book

Ervin’s parents, Dr. Joseph and Kamilla Wolf, a couple from Győr, perished in Auschwitz at 50 years old, 1944, the grandparents that the author never met.

After working as a doctor on a military ship during WWI, he became a practicing and respected dentist until forbidden to practice, and ultimately taken away.

There is quite a bit about them and their hometown in the biography.

Dr. Ervin and Judit Wolf, January 15, 1953, at their wedding © Robert J Wolf

The author’s parents, Dr. Ervin and Judit Wolf were married January 15, 1953 in Budapest, Hungary. Her Uncle Laci Benedek, a surgeon and chief of the local hospital, was arrested following the nuptials, imprisoned, and tortured for 13 months by the Soviets for sponsoring an illegal Jewish marital ceremony. Laci emigrated to Sweden, where he was a successful surgeon!

Ervin and Judit (the author’s dad and mom) were frontliners during the Hungarian Revolution, 1956, as he assisted with the trauma surgery in addition to his responsibilities as an OB/GYN, and she ran the blood bank. They soon after escaped the country, ended up in the Detroit area in the USA, and he went on to deliver over 10,000 babies! 

About the author

Robert Wolf, M.D., was born in Detroit and grew up in a nearby suburb as the only child of Ervin and Judit Wolf, Jewish immigrants from Hungary. He obtained a B.S. in Biology and Psychology from Tufts University in 1984, attended the University of Michigan Medical School until 1988, completed his residency at Brown University/Rhode Island Hospital, following up with a fellowship at Yale University in neuroradiology in 1994. He has authored and co-authored several published scientific papers. With 31 years of experience in Diagnostic Radiology, he is now semiretired. His parents’ adventurous life inspired Robert to document and share their stories.

Robert J. Wolf, MD, Neuroradiologist, Author

Link to book presale:

Family Story Győr and Jewry

Survival or certain death

The train swap: Strasshof – Auschwitz

Featured image: With yellow star on the Révfalu bridge (1)

Since our childhood, people of my generation (70+) in Győr have known the story of the fateful swap of trains between Auschwitz and Strasshof, or some of its fragments. Even among friends of my parents, survivors met who had travelled on the trains they considered later ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’ as in the story told here.

People forced into the ghetto on the “Double” Bridge (Kettős híd) over the Rába, (2)

Yet again, I was shocked by László Zöldi’s recent article on the net entitled “The walking pawns” (3).

I quote from it the excerpt that so seriously affects the Győr deportees:

“In May 1984, the Washington correspondent of Magyar Nemzet, János Avar and I visited Professor Braham in his New York office. The renowned Holocaust scholar made up the name Randolph L. Braham from his Transylvanian name, Adolf Ábrahám, in America. He spent an hour with us. We had been chatting for about half an hour when I mentioned a documentary film made in Hungary, in which the inhabitants of the Győr ghetto are escorted by gendarmes to the cattle cars. I saw smiling faces in the procession and was wondering what they were happy about.

Randolph L. Braham (1922-2018) (4)

The professor became agitated and apologised for leaving us alone, but he would look into something. He returned an hour later. I summarise the results of the interview in Élet és Irodalom (a Hungarian weekly called Life and Literature) of 15 June 1984. Professor Braham linked the Győr waggon loading scene to the so-called Joel Brand action. He as one of the leaders of Hungarian Jewry visited SS-Obersturmbannführer Eichmann, who supervised the deportations from Budapest with a small unit and offered him 12,000 lorries for the life of the Hungarian Jews.

The German lieutenant-colonel took note of the unusual offer, and while Brand was trying to persuade the anti-Nazi Allied powers to make the exchange, he “blockaded” 30,000 Jews. The nearest ghetto to the Austrian province of the German Reich (where agricultural labour was needed – editor’s note) was the Győr ghetto. So ‘the walking pawns’ from here were meant to go to work in agriculture. The crowded train set off northwards in the direction of Érsekújvár, then turned eastwards instead of westwards. The train commander, SS-Scharführer (sergeant) Kassel, noticed the mistake and called his boss, who told him: `Once you’re there, take them on to Auschwitz, I’ll send other ones to Austria.’ (3)

Almost four decades have passed since the interview was published. Researchers have become more nuanced in their interpretation of the 1944 story, but the essence has hardly changed. As Professor Braham put it in 1984: ’It’s a tragic joke of fate that thousands of Jews from Szeged and Debrecen survived at the cost of the deaths of the Jews of Győr.’” (3)

So far, the quote.

News about the establishment of the Győr Ghetto in a local publication, May 1944, (5)

During our exchange of letters, László Zöldi authorised our website to republish his article, but also drew our attention to his last lines, which indicateed that researchers were lately divided on what had actually happened in 1944.

Looking at some of the sources, it seems to me that, despite the contradictions discovered, the story is true, or could very easily have been true, because in those terrible times anything and its contrary could happen, so fateful were the unpredictable, irrationally insane and evil decisions by murderers and oppressors of the time carrying in all circumstances very grave consequences. 

Joel Brand (1906-1964) (6)

Of course, “from a more distant point of view”, considering the total number of victims, it „did not really count” in the tragedy of rural Jewry in Hungary as to deportees from a given gendarmerie district were sent to Auschwitz or to a “more lenient” concentration camp like Strasshof, while, of course, the train destination sealed individual fates.

Perhaps if some of the deportees from Győr had been sent to the Strasshof distribution camp in Austria, near Vienna to the north-east, they would have had a better chance of survival. But who knows: 21,000 Hungarian Jews were transported by Eichmann to Strasshof, often entire families. The ‘idyll’, however, did not last long. After the harvest of 1944, some of the slaves held here were sent to the notorious Bergen-Belsen, others to Mauthausen and Theresienstadt towards the end of the war. A total of 2,000 Hungarian Jews, i.e. 10 % of those deported, were liberated by the Red Army in Strasshof (7).

Memorial plaques in the pyramid of the Győr-Sziget cemetery © P. Krausz

In the meeting with the Hungarian journalists, Professor Braham linked the Strasshof alternative to Joel Brand‘s action. Brand had indeed played a key role in the chaotic negotiations with Eichmann on the trucks-for-lives deal, and after Eichmann’s apparent approval, he tried unsuccessfully to convince the Allied representatives of this rescue operation. (6)

Braham, Randolph L.: The Politics of Genocide, cover page of the Hungarain edition (8)

Nevertheless, in his own work “The Politics of Genocide: the Holocaust in Hungary” (2nd expanded and revised edition – Budapest: Belvárosi Kvk., 1997), the Professor refers to the event, which he calls “‘Setting aside’ for Strasshof”, as a result of the negotiations between Eichmann and Rudolf Kasztner. It was in the framework of this agreement that some of the deportees from the Szeged district were transferred to Austria. Here we quote Professor Braham directly:

“Kasztner expected the first shipment of Jews to come from Győr and Komárom, areas where deportations of Jews were in full swing. Although this plan appears to have been approved by Eichmann, all transports from Gendarmerie District II and III, including of course those from Győr and Komárom, were routinely diverted to Auschwitz, probably due to the clumsiness of one of the SS-Scharführers in charge of the transports. The Scharführer in charge of the Győr transport only noticed that the train number was not in the register when the transport had already arrived at the Slovakian border; he called Eichmann and asked for instructions. Eichmann, who was more concerned with ‘completing the plan’ than with moral duty, apparently instructed the Scharführer that if the transport was already at the Slovakian border, it should go on to Auschwitz. He decided to ‘compensate’ Kasztner with a transport from another part of Hungary”. (10)

Same story, different names.

Rudolf Kasztner (1906-1957) during a radio broadcast in Israel (9)

Another twist: some researchers say the story is false, or even untrue, though in the upside-down world of 1944 it could have even been true.

Tímea Berkes, in her 1995 thesis (supervisor: László Karsai, a well-known historian), writes: “Braham adopts the story of the ‘train swap’ from Kasztner’s report; this is not tenable, since on the day of the agreement with the Germans the second deportation train had already left Győr.” (11)

So the train change never happened?

It did or it didn’t, as I said, it didn’t reduce the actual suffering, the number of victims and those subjected to persecution.

At this point, let me remind you of the Franco-Belgian-Dutch-Romanian film ‘The Life Train’, written and directed by Radu Mihaileanu from Romania.

Poster of the film “Life Train” (12)

“One night in 1941, Shlomo, the village fool, returns home with earth-shattering news: the Nazis are deporting all the Jews of the neighbouring villages to an unknown destination. Their village is next on the list. The council of elders, led by the rabbi, meets that evening to discuss how to save the community. After endless bickering, the best idea only pops out of Shlomo’s head at dawn: organise their own mock deportation. They pretend to be victims, train mechanics, Nazi officers and soldiers. The enthusiastic inhabitants tailor Nazi uniforms, buy a scrapped rusty locomotive, call their Swiss relative home to learn German from him, fabricate false documents and cobble together the train wagon by wagon. And one fine day, like Noah’s Ark, the train sets off with all the villagers on board.” (12)

And what is the end of the smile-inducing and yet terribly upsetting story told in the movie?

“… and there we see Shlomo in his striped cap and prison garb, standing behind barbed wire telling a story. How? What we have seen and heard of the miraculous rescue, could it be just a fairy tale?” (13)

In fact, to quote relevant words of János Arany, Hungarian poet of the 19th century, “no fairy tale is this, child”.

Peter Krausz

The gate of the Holocaust pyramid in the Győr-Sziget cemetery © P. Krausz


(1) Régi Győr a); (2) Régi Győr b); (3) Újnépszabadság, Médianapló, Zöldi László has been teaching media history in various higher education institutions for 30 years; 4) Mazsihisz; (5) Baross (6) Neokohn; (7) Wikipedia a); (8) Braham, Randolph L.: A népirtás politikája …; (9) Wikipedia b); (10) Braham, Randolph L; (11) The “Final Solution” in Győr-Sopron-Pozsony County, Diploma thesis by Tímea Berkes, supervisor: László Karsai, Szeged, 1995 (pdf); (12) Életvonat a); (13) Életvonat b)

Family Story

The Jewish Botond of Győr: Dezső Winkler

Legendary vehicle designer at the Rába factory

Who was Dezső Winkler?

He was born in Tét near Győr on 11 July 1901 and died in Budapest on 7 October 1985. He was a mechanical engineer.

His butcher father died early, leaving his mother alone with their three children. At the age of ten, he was already working in the machine factory in Győr to supplement the family budget. It was then that he decided to become an engineer. However, because of the numerus clausus, he went to the technical university in Brno, where he studied in German. After his studies, he returned to Győr and made a name for himself in the 1930s as a designer of several excellent commercial vehicles. He was involved in the design of the Rába tractor under licence from Krupp and the Austro Super bus, which was of Fiat origin, and later helped to launch MAN diesel engine production.

The handover of Rába LHo buses destined for the capital in Győr, on Szent István út; Dunántúli Hírlap, 11 February 1928; Source: (1)

His most famous creation was the four-wheel drive off-road vehicle Botond, which proved to be more reliable than other German vehicles of similar function. It was powered by two rear axles, and thousands were produced in both right- and left-hand drive series.

Dezső Winkler, 1901-1985

He was lucky to be able to create something like that, because it made him indispensable. Imre Pattantyús-Ábrahám, director of the Rába wagon and machine factory in Győr, tried to save the factory’s technical intellectuals of Jewish origin, including many of his closest colleagues, after the German occupation.

Winkler and his wife as well as their infant son were already being herded into the wagons when the partial escape came. Dezső Winkler continued to work at the factory until February 1945, during which time he was deported by the Arrow Cross in 1944 to Sopronkőhida, where he escaped and was later arrested again. He managed to escape again in the vicinity of Munich.

The Botond all-terrain vehicle

Winkler designed the most successful Hungarian all-terrain vehicle ever built, the Botond, designed for the Royal Hungarian Army, which also took an active part in war action.

Dezső Winkler behind the wheel of Botond, Source: (3)

The three-axle off-roader had independent double wishbone suspension on all wheels, a pair of wheel-rollers mounted on the front bumper and a winch, and spare wheels with bearings on both sides to aid off-road driving.

Botond in action; Source: (2)

Dezső Winkler recalled the development: ‘I myself took part in the test drive of the prototypes. The car worked flawlessly in all respects… After the Berlin Motor Show, looking over my notes and sketches I had made so far, it seemed that the pending issues could be clarified. Thus, in order to increase traction power, a high ratio rear axle drive should be designed and the vehicle should be configured for a low unladen weight. And to increase off-road capabilities, it is necessary to maximise the deflection of the driven wheels with independent suspension and, if necessary, to provide a short-term rolling support for the front of the carriage or on the chassis between the axles. …”

His life after the war

After the war he played a major role in the re-launch of the Hungarian Wagon and Machine Works. He headed its automotive department until 1948, and then was in charge of the Central Vehicle Design Office of the Heavy Industry Centre (NIK) until 1950.

Tableau at the Dreamers of Dreams Exhibition, Millenáris, Budapest, July 2022; © Péter Krausz

In 1951 he received the Kossuth Prize for the development of buses, trucks, tractors and engines. He became head of department at the Vehicle Development Institute (JÁFI), which he founded, and finally, before his retirement in 1968, director and CEO of the successor, the Automotive Research Institute (AUTÓKUT).

He represented the Hungarian automotive industry as a member of the respective UN Group of Experts.

The Byzantine myth of Botond in the Képes Krónika (1358); Source: (6)

So, who was Botond?

According to a Hungarian legend, Botond fell with Lehel in 955 at the battle of Augsburg against the German king Otto I. Another Hungarian legend, reminiscent of the biblical story of David, tells of Botond breaking down the gates of Byzantium with his mace and defeating the Greek giant with his bare hands in 958. The name of the military vehicle built in Győr certainly refers not to the loser, but to the victorious Botond.


On the initiative of Dezső Winkler’s son, István, a memorial plaque in honour of his father was placed on 14 September 2022 on the wall of the house at 26c Városmajor Street in Buda, where the family spent many happy years.

István Winkler delivering his inaugural speech
© P. Krausz
The plaque © P. Krausz
Family photo beneath the memorial plaque © Krausz P.


  2.; 21st March 2013, szerző: pera
Győr and Jewry

Once upon a time there was the Csillag Sanatorium

Founded by Dr. József Csillag

Dr. József Csillag, the founder and chief physician of the former Csillag Sanatorium, which has been almost forgotten, was born in Győr on 28 October 1887. His father was Géza Csillag (1850?-1944?) and his mother Gizella Goldberger (1859-1927). He attended the Jewish elementary school and graduated from the Hungarian Royal State High School in Győr in 1907.

The Csillag Sanatorium at 20 Árpád Street in Győr, from the collection of the Evangelical Deaconess Motherhouse in Győr

He graduated from the Royal Hungarian University of Budapest in 1912 then gained experience abroad, in Berlin and Vienna between 1913 and 1914.

In the First World War he served as a military doctor with the 10th Artillery Regiment for 39 months and was discharged with the rank of colonel. He was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Franz Joseph, the Gold Cross of the Crown, two Signum Laudis and the Charles Cross of the Order of the Garter.

From 1917 he worked in the surgical department of the Rókus Hospital in Budapest as a surgeon, gynaecologist, laryngologist and urologist.

From the beginning of 1920 he lived again in Győr where he married Józsa Korein (Jozefin) (1901-1944). They had four children.

News about the opening of the Sanatorium, Dunántúli Hírlap, 17 January 1924

Dr. József Csillag opened his Csillag Sanatorium in Győr, at 20 Árpád út, which he then run as the Director-General Chief Physician. The Sanatorium made it possible for patients from the counties and towns of Upper Transdanubia not to have to be taken to Budapest for continuous medical and nursing care, and to have access to complex health care in Győr more quickly and cheaply.

Opening speech by Dr. József Csillag
Dunántúli Hírlap, 17 January 1924

At the time of opening, the sanatorium could accommodate 14 inpatients and had single and double rooms for accompanying persons. The operating theatre was equipped with roof lighting for surgical and gynaecological procedures and was equipped with the most sophisticated equipment and instruments of the time. The X-ray department and laboratory were also equipped to European standards. Even the doctors who visited the institute were surprised by the mechanical marvels of the body straightening room. Patients with all but contagious diseases were treated.

Advertising the Sanatorium, Pápai Hírlap, 2 June 1925

Initially, patients were cared for by Red Cross nurses led by a head nurse, later joined by Lutheran deaconesses. The working relationship between the Chief Physician and the deaconesses was characterised by mutual respect.

Nurses’ room in the Sanatorium, from the collection of the Evangelical Deaconess Motherhouse in Győr

Dr. József Csillag’s wife was in charge of catering in the Sanatorium. Their son Antal, who himself became a surgeon, also took part in the work (after the war he worked for decades at the János Hospital in Budapest).

The Csillag family lived in the Sanatorium. When treating a serious patient during the night required the expertise of the Chief Physician, deaconess Lenke Zsohár was obliged to wake the doctor.

Lenke Zsohár (1908-2011), for many years the diaconal operating nurse of the Sanatorium, from the collection of the Evangelical Diaconess Motherhouse in Győr

The Sanatorium employed excellent doctors. One of the medical staff was József Csillag’s brother-in-law, Dr. Sándor Korein (1899-1989), Senior Physician in internal medicine, who also served as the general consultant. He also acted as a volunteer doctor at the Home for the Poor and the Elderly Singles.

Bedside care in the Csillag Sanatorium, from the collection of the Evangelical Deaconess Motherhouse in Győr

According to recollections, Dr Gyula Corradi (1905-1980), a specialist in infant and paediatrics, was also involved in the work of the Sanatorium.

Dr. József Csillag (fourth from left) before surgery, from the collection of the Evangelical Deaconess Motherhouse in Győr

Dr. Csillag’s statement, made at the opening of the Sanatorium, that his institution was not only available to a narrow group of people, but to the whole of Győr society, is confirmed by newspaper cuts of the time.

Treatment of accident victims in the Csillag Sanatorium, Győri Hírlap, 2 May 1934, detail

Dr. József Csillag also worked as a doctor for the rowing team of the Győr Gymnastics Club. He was a member of the German Surgical Society and was invited to their events until 1942.

An article by Dr. József Csillag, published in the Medical Weekly, 14 March 1926, detail
He also actively participated in international meetings of sanatoria, Budapesti Hírlap, 18 September 1936, detail

He was a member of the School Board of the Győr Jewish Community in the 1930s, and of the Győr Committee of Judicial Affairs as a virilist until 8 January 1942. His membership ended by order of the Minister of the Interior.

Dr. Csillag’s declaration following the discriminatory orders of the Hungarian authorities, from the collection of documents entitled The History of the Jews of Győr with special reference to the Holocaust

The work of the Sanatorium continued, and in 1943 the cellar was declared an air-raid shelter. During the first bombing raid on Győr, the doctors and nurses of the Sanatorium worked almost non-stop.

At the end of May 1944, the Csillag Sanatorium closed its doors and Dr. Csillag together with his family was forced to the ghetto of Győrsziget. On Sunday, 11 June, they were herded into a cattle car with the first group of Győr Jews (except for his eldest son, who was then serving as a forced labourer). After a few days the train arrived with them at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The closed Sanatorium was officially declared “Jew-free” by the Councillor of the Mayor’s Office, István Horváth.

A “proposal” for the confiscation of the building “to benefit the Hungarian race”, published in the Győr Nemzeti Hírlap in the month following Dr. Csillag’s deportation, 9 July 1944, excerpt

The building of the Csillag Sanatorium has also been claimed by the Evangelical Diaconal Motherhouse for further health work, and a petition for this purpose has been submitted to the Ministry of the Interior. The Government Commissioner for Medical Workers allocated the Sanatorium’s medical equipment and facilities to the Motherhouse.

The Sanatorium was hit by a bomb (first damaged on 2 July 1944), the roof was smashed and the windows were broken. The building now attracted the attention of thieves. After a while, the loss of equipment was noticed by the Treasury, which sold off the remaining items without delay. In two days, everything was dismantled.

A few months later, at the end of March 1945, the city of Győr was liberated, and the first Jewish forced labourers and some of the Auschwitz deportees returned in April. Former Sanatorium owner , Dr. József Csillag, also survived the concentration camp and returned to his hometown. He found refuge in Győrsziget (!).

Three of the older children in his family survived the Holocaust, his youngest son and his wife were however killed in Auschwitz.

Dr. József Csillag’s weakened body was unable to overcome the lung disease he developed in the concentration camp, and he died a year after deportation on 11 June 1945, aged 58.

The gravestone of Dr. József Csillag and his murdered family members in the Győrsziget Israelite cemetery, © Vargáné, Blága Borbála

The former Csillag Sanatorium is now an apartment building.

The Sanatorium building in 2017 © Vargáné, Blága Borbála

A marble plaque is the only reminder of the legendary institute.

A humble plaque on the façade of the former Csillag Sanatorium
© Borbál Vargáné Blága

The exlusive source of this report: a communication by Vargáné, Blága Borbála. See sources she used here. The study was published by Győri Szalon in the online cultural Magazine dr. Kovács Pál Könyvtár és Közösségi Tér .

English translation by

Our website ( invites readers to write to us if they know any descendants of Dr. József Csillag who are probably living in Budapest today (email, phone number requested), because we would like to contact them.

Family Stories

Dr. Ernő Erdély, a true multi-talented man