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[Page 25]

Before the Deportations

by A. E.

Translated by Moshe Shavit


We have mentioned our preference for personal reminiscences that reflect a true situation at any given time in our community. In that context, it seems appropriate here to quote the meaningful event recorded by Rabbi Shelomo Dov Ostreicher in the preface to his edition of 'Nahlat Yoel Zeev' (p.l7).

"I could not forget the event that took place on the last Passover Eve in our Rabbi's life in 5704 (7 April 1944), when Hungary was already being trampled under the Nazi-German boot, when the skies over Hungarian Jewry grew covered with black clouds, when the holocaust loomed ahead and, day by day, new cruel edicts against the Jews were being added. On that Pesach Eve an old Jew passed away and our Rabbi, of blessed memory, found it proper to eulogize him, though no eulogy is delivered in the month of Nissan, particularly not on the Eve of Pesach. Our Rabbi considered it a temporary need and a necessity due to the then depressed situation… In his funeral oratory the Rabbi said 'How blessed is this Jew to be worthy of a Jewish burial now when, much to our distress, many of our brethren are not so privileged'. All the participants burst into terrible weeping. Our Rabbi seemed to feel the terrible tragedy awaiting him and his brethren in Hungary. This happened less than two months before the deportations and the holocaust in which he and his people were killed in Auschwitz and that without having a Jewish burial".

(The study of the above mentioned wonderful publication, 'Nahlat Yoel Zeev', is warmly recommended with reference to the outstanding personality and the deeds of our revered Rabbi in the Preface (pp. 14-20); it also includes an account of one of the manifestations of bravery and self-sacrifice in order to save Jewish lives in Budapest on the part of one of our sons, Asher Anshel (Atyu) Ehrman, of blessed memory (p.24).



[Pages 26-27]

Post-Holocaust Helmec

by A. E.

Translated by Moshe Shavit


This is a reflection on the post-holocaust period of Helmec and the Bodrog district, on the feelings and the attitudes of the population now living without the Jewish community, their Jewish fellow-citizens of yesterday.

What is the feeling of any inhabitant of that area, emptied, abandoned by its Jewish population? They lived together for many generations and left behind a distinguished history of great achievements in the general life and in Jewish life in particular. Jewish communal and private properties, possessions and assets were plundered and taken over by their Gentile fellow citizens, "they have killed and taken possession, too". Gentiles did little, if anything at all, to save their Jewish neighbors and friends when they could have done so and many willingly assisted the Hungaro-Nazi hordes in carrying out their satanic plans. How do they live with the memory of their inhuman behavior and their indifference in the face of those barbaric acts perpetrated against their fellow inhabitants?

No instance of restitution, reparation or official expression of remorse is recorded by the local authorities or by any communal institution. Individual expressions of shame or sympathy, even if sincere, are hardly acceptable if not accompanied by appropriate deeds. I was sadly disappointed to find a very clear indication of the state of mind of that now 'Judenrein' population in a highly competent, official publication, which was brought to my attention.

This commemorative publication, an illustrated history of Helmec, was printed in 1969, specially commissioned by the Helmec municipal authority, on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the foundation of Helmec. It includes detailed articles on all aspects of life, historic, cultural, religious, economic, and others. On the history, spanning a century and a half, of the Jewish community which, as already mentioned, formed a quarter of the then population of Helmec, on its important contribution in all aspects of life, its active engagement in commerce and industry, in all professions and public affairs, nothing. We find only the following lines devoted to its existence in the said publication, here faithfully translated from the Hungarian (p.22):


1838 A Jewish congregation was formed. A synagogue and bath was built.
1941 Jews bound for conscription were recruited into work companies
1944 The Jewish population of our town (970 souls) were transferred to the Satoraljaujhely ghetto and later to concentration camps
1945 Of the 970 Jews hardly 100 have returned


That is the factual information reported in the 152 pages of this commemorative publication, without a single word of compassion or regret. There is no indication about the terrible fate of those young Jews recruited into the notorious so-called work-companies, no mention of the extermination in the death camps of their Jewish fellow citizens in whose deportation they had been instrumental; nothing on the whereabouts of those close on 100 Jews who supposedly returned to Helmec. Why did Jews prefer not to remain (return to?) in their birthplace? Were they undesirable, perhaps burdensome to people with a bad conscience? Or were some, maybe, afraid that an unexpected survivor might claim his property in which others had already settled comfortably?

Just one more observation. In spite of the fact that this book was published under the communist regime, on the attached, detailed map of Helmec (reprinted in our book), the churches. Catholic and Protestant are entered and described in detail; but somehow, not even as a gesture of identification with the fate of the Jewish community, our Synagogue was omitted and ignored. This, although abandoned and in disgrace, it is still standing.

Well, that is the Helmec of today and that is the attitude of its population, many of them our past close neighbors and even friends, and that after the holocaust, whatever guilt or shame some of them may feel in their hearts as individuals.



[Pages 28-29]

The Second Generation Holocaust Survivors Message

by D. S.

Translated by A. E. and Moshe Shavit

We find it appropriate to bring (translated from the Hebrew) the moving message delivered at the Memorial Meeting by Dr. David Schwarz, on behalf of the second-generation Holocaust survivors (the Hebrew text is printed elsewhere in our book)

Our Dear and honored friends,

We the descendants, the second generation, carry in our minds the impressions of our parents, survivors snatched from the inferno. Some of those impressions are common to all of us, others are special to each.

The memory of the Holocaust meets us from birth. We were born to young parents whose parents never returned from there.

Not only their parents, sometimes their brothers and sisters and other dear ones. They are our grandfathers and grandmothers, uncles, aunts and cousins, whom we never met. We carry their names, sometimes more than one of them. We are a memorial lamp for their souls.

The memory of the Holocaust hits us again as small children. The numbers tattooed on our parents arms, a terrible "souvenir" that expresses all. We do not grasp where it came from and why it cannot be removed.

Our parents shielding our sensitive hearts explain at most that bad people did it, adding nothing more. Yet another layer is added to a picture we cannot discern its image.

The years go by, we grow somewhat; at times father or mother wake at night as from some nightmarish dream. Only when we grow older do we understand, by the way, that those were live visions from another world that returned to them.

Life in the home continues; the parents do not allow the happenings of the past to become an obstacle, for them or for us. Here and there, accidentally, we notice tears gathering in the eyes of our mothers, remembering their dear ones, forever young and beautiful. Those tears are immediately wiped of, so as, Heaven forbid, to not cause us pain

We grow up and put together parts of information, sometimes heard or seen from our parents. Our parents are the bridge that connects us to the roots of our families that are lost.

In our consciousness a vague and at the same time a sharp picture is formed about our existence. It becomes clear to us that we might never have been born for the expectation that our parents might, God forbid, never have returned. Their worry for us became evident.

We are children of parents who lost everything. They see in us the purpose of their life, the reason for their existence. Our parents accompany us in life with boundless love, happy for our successes, great or small, proud and supportive in all our ways, they need nothing but our very existence in the world.

We are the offspring of the distinguished communities of Kiralyhelmec and district, of honorable and cultured families, versed in the Torah and respectful.

Our parents are made from some ancient substance of which there is no more. Some came on aliyah before the holocaust. Most of them who survived alone in a world that stood idly by when they saw the blood, took strength from hidden sources and came to this land, became its builders, served in the underground and in the defense forces, some reaching high ranks. They took part in production and education, bore children and brought them up honorably.

Is there a greater heroism or greater victory of man's spirit than this?

Our parents who overcame the worst of evils, bestowed upon us strengths, and planted in us faith and courage to struggle and to succeed wherever we turn. We are proud to have merited being their children.

We promise that the memory of the martyrs of the community-your dear ones, is our memory, a memory that will remain engraved on the tablets of our hearts and the hearts of our offspring forever.

May it be His will that we remain together for many good and happy years.




[Pages 30-33]

The Bodrog District under Hungarian Rule

The three following stories by the late Yitzhak (Yenõ) Feuereisen, formerly from Lelesz, describe the true situation of the discrimination and the mistreatment that prevailed against the Jews during those terrible pre-deportation years.


[Pages 30-31]

Accusations as a Consequence of Hymns

by F. Y. Y.

Translated by Moshe Shavit


On November 6, 1938, Hungary's irredentist dream of recovering much of the territory taken from it by the post-World War I Treaty of Trianon came true.

Kiralyhelmec and its environs were returned to the homeland. The celebrations in the Gentile community's bars were joyful, loud, and enthusiastic. Not so in the circles of the local Jewish congregation, and especially after they tasted the tough enforcement of the anti-Jewish laws.

A few weeks after the change one of the Ehrman daughters, Magda, celebrated her marriage. Amongst the guest was my friend from Kassa, a relative of the bride. My friend sent a message asking that I see him while he was in town for the wedding party. It was the beginning of winter, the dusk fell early and when I arrived at the wedding site the only place we could talk without disruption was the yard.

Suddenly the joyous sounds of a wedding were overcome by loud cries of gendarmes wearing cock-feathered hats and holding bayonet-tipped rifles. They ordered all male participants in the wedding, including the groom, to line up in the yard. Smiling, I asked one of them if we, who were not inside the hall, are also included in this order. Instead of answering he forcefully put the two of us at the head of the line.

Gendarmes waving bayonet-tipped rifles lined the town's main street as we were escorted to an office in the town hall. Nobody involved had any acceptable explanation for these events. After a long nerve wracking wait, suddenly the office's door flung open and a gendarme grabbed the nearest person by his beard and pulled him up calling “Jew, come!” Those present desperately looked each other because the person so brutally taken was none other then the honorable Stern, owner of the coffee-factory in Ungvar.

A few moment's later cries of pain were heard from the next room. Our stupor could not be expressed as the gendarme appeared again taking the next person standing near the door. This scene repeated itself in every quarter of an hour, until about half past eleven, when I was finally through the crowd and at the door. Consequently, I got into the hands of the gendarme who took me to the interrogation room. Present were the Head of the local gendarmerie, a gendarme recording the interrogation, a local policeman and a plainclothes person, who I think was in the secret service.

The Head of the gendarmerie asked for my name. His reacted to my answer as if he had been snake-bitten, with anger in his eyes. As an expression to his extreme disposition he told me to repeat my name. To fulfill his requirement I, smiling, started to spell my name, as, according to my past experience, its spelling might be unfamiliar to him. I was wrong. Hearing my name he cried out with obvious signs of surprise: “So it was you who was the right-hand of the Czech registrar, it was with you he swept clean his behind.” I'll return later to explain the background of his remark.

I was waiting impatiently to hear the reason of taking me into custody. The big question was asked: “Which hymn was chanted at the wedding, the Czech, the Slovak or the Hungarian one?” I had a very simple answer to this question. “I don't know, I was not invited, I did not participate in the wedding, I only met my friend in the yard”. The head of the gendarmerie exchanged some glances with the plainclothes man, who answered with a positive nod of his head, as a consequence he ordered the local policeman to take me home and to assure that I do not meet the detainees' relatives who were desperately waiting on the street. After arriving home, I waited until the policeman returned to his duties. As soon as I reached the street, tense women still wearing their festive dresses surrounded me. From them I learned that I was the first released without being beaten. The others' interrogation, which was salted with beatings, continued until dawn.

I mentioned above the remark of the head of the gendarmerie during my interrogation, according to which I was the right-hand of the Czech registrar. I finished high school in May 1938. There was still four months or more to the beginning of my studies in the University. I wanted to profit from this period of time. That brought me to the local public registration office, where two more employees worked, too. In the middle of August the Czech administration decided upon a general draft. In the villages near the Hungarian border the Czech army waited readily for the outcome of the Munchen negotiations. The days of anticipation increased the hopes of all of the over-the-border population.

In one of these days of the tense ambiance the local commander of the Czech army paid a visit to our registrar's offices. After the greetings he asked who, amongst us speak the Czech or the Slovak language. As both the local judge and the two employees pointed me out, he turned to me and said that one of the local citizens put on the front of his house a Hungarian flag. He demanded that the townspeople be told that if once again this happens, he will bombard the locality. I translated his ultimatum into Hungarian. I have to note that both employees spoke a perfect Slovakian.

On the day of the transfer of authorities I was fired. Later I understood that a complaint was deposited with the commander of the Hungarian army. According to this charge I gave the order for the bombardment of the town.

Luckily the best family of the locality, the family of the engineer Antalo'cy, hosted this commander. He was informed about the charges against me. With stupefaction he inquired about these charges. After hearing the briefing of a commander he expressed his consternation and lengthily expressed the relationship between his family and the citizens of the locality. There was no social interaction between them. His children met with my sisters partly in our house and partly in their castle alternately.

The engineer Antalo'cy observed our non-orthodox education. He emphasized our mother's national orientation, which was proved beyond any doubt by the fact that her sons studied in Hungarian high school. And so could Antalo'cy achieve that no proceeding was started against me.

My sister Aliz rewarded Antalo'cy's unforgettable deed, when at the beginning of 1945 the Czech administration raised charges against all those, who during the war committed crimes against humanity. Antalo'cy was among the accused. Our Aliz, as a witness of the defense, succeeded to remove all charges against him.



[Page 32]

Firewood Action

by F. Y. Y.

Translated by Moshe Shavit


We could feel the persecution of Jews caused by the formal decrees instituted a few days after the Hungarian army arrived. Under the Czech rule the citizens of the region lived in an acceptable economic condition. But the political changes multiplied the difficulties of life. The enthusiasm of the population turned to anxiety and despair. This change of the common spirit had economic consequences. A sharp rises in prices caused a change in the previous form of the society.

For most of the citizens the price of the firewood, used to heat the houses became an unsolvable problem. This is how the so-called Firewood Action came about. According to the Action, citizens of the region could claim a certain amount of wood in the prices that were valid under the Czech rule. There were long queues in front of the distribution office including, of course, Jews.

While waiting in line I was astonished to see that the Jews leave the office very silent and bow their heads. I did not understand the reason of this despair until I, myself got in front of the acting clerk. After he filled out the receipt for the amount I asked for, he inquired about my name. After I answered his quest, he asked me in an indignant voice why I have not warned him that he was sitting in front of a Jew. “You have not asked, so I did not considered to declare me being a Jew.” Apparently my outfit confused him. As the receipt was already made he could not cancel it.

I think this is how I was the only Jew in Kiralyhelmec who partook in the seldom-present generosity of the Hungarian regime.



[Page 33]

Catholic Clerical Conscience

by F. Y. Y.

Translated by Moshe Shavit


I spent my childhood years in Lelesz, the town in which I was born. Next to us lived the Korcsma'ros family. The head of the family was a wealthier then average peasant. But his four sons could not enjoy the privileges of the wealth. Shame and fear because their mother's behavior made them withdrawn. They had almost no contact with other children of their age. The mother, in her perpetual drinking delirium, managed her life without any friends.

Pista, one of the sons, escaping this sad scene spent most of his free time with us. Our mother spent many hours with this child. As a result of her loving treatment he started to visit the school regularly and doing accurately his homework. As a result of his success, our mother made a bizarre decision. She conducted long discussions with this boy's father in order to ensure that he will be sent to high school. After finishing it he registered in a Catholic clergy seminary. Most of the days when there were no studies, he spent in our house. He became a regular visitor at our festive Friday evening table. He and our father held many theological discussions.

Pista became a cleric. The parson Me'cs La'szlo', who was a famous poet, also participated in the festivities after his ordainment. The young priest, in his inaugural speech, warmly appreciated our mother's contribution to his education. Our mother was seated next to Me'cs La'szlo'. Shortly after his ordainment he was appointed as a community priest.

In Slovenszko, the deportation of young women and girls to the Auschwitz death-camp started in 1942. The authorities looked for our sister Nelly too, she being a young woman. Together with her son she had to hide to avoid deportation.

By secret ways she let us know her awful situation and asked us to obtain for her a certificate of a priest, according to which she converted to Christianity back in 1938. At the beginning of the deportation, the Slovaks accepted Christian certificates. As this request arrived to us, I was at home for a short vacation from my forced work duties.

Mother asked me to call Korcsma'ros Pista and to explain him that this is a question of life and death. His short, one-sentence answer was: “I can't do this, as my Catholic conscience prevents me to do it.” What did we feel hearing this answer, especially as our mother's effort, which gave a meaning to his life? Is this the way for Christian priests to express God's command to love those who suffer! Should cases like this be a reminder to the coming generations, especially for those youngsters with liberal principles?



[Page 34]

Memorial Gathering at Satoraljaujhely
(Address by its Mayor)

by A. E.

Translated by Moshe Shavit


Memorial Gathering at Satoraljaujhely The following is a brief summary of the shortened original Hungarian text enclosed, listing important chronological events which were mentioned in the memorial address by the Mayor of Satoraljaujhely, Lacsko Karoly, on the occasion of the fiftieth year since the deportation of the Jews from the ghetto of his town and the Zemplen area, including the Helmec and the Bodrog district, in May-June 1944:

About 11,000 Jews, men, women and children from the area, of whom 5,000 were local Jews, were deported from the Satoraljaujhely ghetto.

The German occupation of Hungary took place on March 11, 1944. Severe restrictions were immediately imposed on the Jewish population; among others, the wearing of the yellow star, arrests and the establishment of a Jewish council in the ghetto.

On April 15th, the ghetto, placed in the most neglected part of the town, was fenced in and guarded by the gendarmes.

In the early morning of May 16th, 1944, the gendarmes entered the ghetto, threw the people into the street and herded them into the Synagogue; 3,500 men, women and children were put there and, that same afternoon, were packed into wagons of a train that moved north.

On May 27th, towards evening, another 3,5000 inmates were gathered and transported north; it was said that they were being taken to work in factories.

The area of the ghetto was now considerably reduced. The houses of prayer and the miqwe were no longer within the bounds of the ghetto; services were held in private places.

The remaining inmates in the now reduced ghetto area were informed, on Thursday, June 1st, that on the following Saturday morning, June 3rd, they would all have to gather in Arpad street, from where they would betaken to work camps. Due to some resistance offered by the people, they were forced into the street, pushed and herded into waiting wagons. The delayed trains arrived in Auschwitz on Monday, June 5th. This was the last transport.

Thus, in the words of the mayor, 300 years of coexistence with the Jewish community came to an end



[Page 35]

Kiralyhelmec in the Magyar Zsido Lexion, 1929

Translated by Moshe Shavit

The following information on Helmec is reprinted in Hungarian from the above reliable lexicon.
Most of the details were already recorded in different parts of our book.

Kira'lyhelmec, (Kralovsky Chlumec, Cs.-Sz) municipality, population: 2725. The congregation of Kira'lhelmec – according to the vital records – was established in 1801. Its founders were: A'braha'm Keller, Da'vid Rubin Nachum Keller, Mo'r Steinfest and Mo'r Zinner merchants. The congregation choose Mordecha'j Wajd as its first Rabbi, who led the religious life until his death in 1875. When the congregation grew a bit in strength, in 1850, it built a synagogue, which was financed by the congregation's members. In 1888 La'za'r O:szterreicher built a learning center for the congregation, in 1890 a Yisheva came to existence, frequented by 40 students and in 1890 the congregation established its parochial primary school ( “Talmud Torah”) which has 60 students each year. Additionally the congregation also has a burial society (“Chevrah Kadishah”).

The annual budget of the congregation is 10000 cz. Korona, a part of which is dedicated to social and philanthropic ends. This congregation's vital records' district includes Bely, Lelesz, Kisdobsa, Bacska, Battyan, Csenge, Bodrogmezo”, Szinye'r, Kis- and Nagyta'rka'ny, Ve'ke Nagy- and Kisge're's and Perpenyik.

There are 400 persons in 148 families, 120 taxpayers. Occupation: 2 farmers, 3 teachers, 35 merchants, 6 lawyers, 4 physicians, 15 craftsmen, 8 clerks, 2 contractors, 25 of free occupation, 10 living on public support, 10 others. Amongst the members of the congregation Emil Fuchs has a bigger – 200 acres – farm. 67 people from this congregation participated in the (first) world war, 6 of them fell. Today the congregation's leaders are: Rabbi Vilmos Glattstein, Jo'zsef Friedmann, Chairman and Adolf Klein, Treasurer.


kra063.jpg [15 KB]
A Street in the Old Part of Helmec



[Page 36-39]

Data On Helmec And Leslesz

Translated by Moshe Shavit


294

The Main Congregation of Kiralyhelmec. Zemple'n county.

An orthodox organization. Total people: 858. Number of tax-payers: 178.

Chairman: Jo'zsef Katz. His status: wood-merchant.

Vital records are recorded by Rabbi Vilmos Glattstein (chief Rabbi).

Rabbi: Jakab Friedrich (deputy Rabbi).

Number of employees: 6.

School:

“Talmud To'ra” (parochial elementary school). Number of teachers: ? Number of students: ?

Autonomous congregational institutions:

  1. “Chevra Kadischa” (burial society). Members=? Assets=7388.00 Liabilities=0.00 Total=0.00
  2. “Talmud Tora Association” Members=? Assets= 2343.55 Liabilities=0.00 Total=0.00
Endowments:
Valuable assets:
National tax on assets of the congregation's members and its base: 2527.00, 2328003.00

National tax on income of the congregation's members and its base: 7092.00, 214396.00

Expenses:

  Final Statement Budget Forecast
Sum Total Sum Total
 
2 Own schools' expenses  

2386.00

 

[3600.00]

  Religious teachings

2386.00

 

3600.00

 
 
3 For own institutions  

346.00

 

348.00

  Poorhouse 144.00   0.00  
  Beth Hamidrash
(= religious school)
202.00   0.00  
 
5 Ritual expenses  

6081.98

 

7252.00

 
6 Charities  

21912.11

 

25720.00

  Local

21912.11

 

25720.00

 
 
7 Personnel expenses  

12392.80

 

15930.00

  Managing personnel 5857.80   7020.00  
  Ritual personnel 6535.00   8910.00  
 
8 Miscellaneous  

1934.75

 

6350.00

 
  Total Expenses  

45953.64

 

59200.00


Income:

  Final Statement Budget Forecast
Sum Total Sum Total
 
1 From Taxes  

46964.61

 

57000.00

  Regular taxes 14584.00   26000.00  
  Additional taxes 18412.51   23000.00  
  Deferred taxes 3840.90   0.00  
  Duty taxes 10127.20   8000.00  
 
5 Ritual income  

1945.38

 

1250.00

 
7 Miscellaneous  

3207.82

 

950.00

 
  Total Income  

52117.81

 

59200.00




339

The sub-congregation of Lelesz

An orthodox organization. Total people: 134. Number of tax-payers: ?.

Curator: Mo'r Lefkovits. His status: farmer.

Vital records are recorded by Rabbi Vilmos Glattstein (chief Rabbi of Kiralyhelmec).

Rabbi: none.

Number of employees: 2. Employees: Religion teacher, butcher.

Valuable assets:

National tax on assets of the congregation's members and its base: 14.00, 0.00

National tax on income of the congregation's members and its base: 314.40, 0.00

Expenses:

  Final Statement Budget Forecast
Sum Total Sum Total
 
2 Own schools' expenses  

[2160.00]

 

[2160.00]

  Religious teachings

2160.00

 

2160.00

 
 
5 Ritual expenses  

1200.00

 

1200.00

 
8 Miscellaneous  

[200.00]

 

[200.00]

  Participation in the Chief-Rabbi's salary

200.00

 

200.00

 
 
  Total Expenses  

[3560.00]

 

[3560.00]


Income:

  Final Statement Budget Forecast
  Sum Total Sum Total
 
2 Income from own school  

[2160.00]

 

[2160.00]

  Religious teaching

2160.00

 

2160.00

 
 
5 Ritual income  

1200.00

 

1200.00

 
7 Miscellaneous  

[200.00]

 

[200.00]

  Participation in the Chief-Rabbi's salary

200.00

 

200.00

 
 
  Total Income  

3560.00

 

3560.00



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