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[Pages 72-76]

A Part of Petri Street

by Wollner Imre

Translated by Susan Geroe

From the Korona Alley to the Small Marketplace, or from the small bread shop of Steiner's Bakery to Ignac Bruder's store, if you will, the even numbered houses of Petri Street were located in the downtown area of the city, and at the same time, they'd open to the outskirts of the town. Namely, the front of the houses faced the main street, while their backyards extended to the edge of town, all the way to the grain, poultry and cattle weekly marketplace, where the Nagyfold below Margitta started. During the two World Wars, in this sector, the houses changed very little and the street itself hardly at all. It remained dirty, muddy, and dusty, according to the changing seasons. There were three Christians homes here, and the building of the Molk Abbey, on the corner of the Small Marketplace; the rest were all Jewish homes with Jewish inhabitants. The first homes were built perhaps during the times of Joseph II, who allowed Jews to settle in the village.

The homes were built next to each other with backyards in the hindquarters, exception being the school with its long fence facing the street. The houses looked alike, only the placement of windows and doors differed and the decorations of their entryways. Most homes had a store in the front, facing the street. Rows of rural farm buildings were painting the far-reaching lots in the back. Some of the larger family homes also took in renters. The streets' residents were hardworking, honest, piously religious, and tireless when attending to the business of the community. They turned night into day to meet the needs of their families. They were vigilant in observing moral norms and thus served example to all the residents of the small town.

Their professions and assets differed. Some were landowners, like the Mozes Manns; vintners like the Laszlo Neufelds and Salamon Ehrenfelds; wholesale dealers like the Aron Glucks, Lajos Winklers, Sandor Horovitzs and Ignac Bruders. From among retail dealers we mentions the family of Miksa Kleinmann, Marton Gluck, the Lichtmans and Hellers; artisans and craftsmen – the Hardstein, Fischer, and Szmuk families. Jeno Veszik had a printing shop, while Uncle Grunfeld was a tobacconist.

There were people who lived in different areas of the city, but had a store, office, or workshop here. Such was the case of Kelinmann Mor's grocery store, Schwartz Bela's beauty salon, Winkler and Gombo's and Stern Geza's clothing stores, Lowy Mor and Berger Izidor's leather goods store, Mozes Karoly's tobacco shop, and the bazaar of the Mendelovits girls. From among the tailor shops, we note Leitmann Dezso's store, whose daughter, Olga, was possibly more beautiful than Simon Boske, the beauty queen. Many technical and commercial employees worked on Petri Street – among them, Weisz Ferenc, Lajos, and Sandor, Pollak Miklos, Sandor, and Istvan, Feldheim Bela, Rosenberg Karoly, Weisz Faizi and Karoly, Steiner Maisi, Grunfeld Joska, Rubin Miklos, and Ohlbaum Ilonka.

And how could one forget about the work of the Jewish mothers who lived here? If I say that each house was a cook shop, bakery, sewing shop, laundromat and animal feeding place, I am surely not exaggerating. The Jewish mother did all the chores of the household on her own. She milked the cow, shopped for food, carried water, cleaned, washed up the dishes, and worked a great deal more than her Christian counterpart. She participated in social work, visited the sick, and prepared for the Sabbath and other holidays with a sparkling clean house and splendor in the heart.

This segment of Petri Street was the heart of the local Jewish life, the stimulus and guide of the entire community. I am not mentioning everyone because from the distance of so many years, I have forgotten the names of some of our brothers. From among the many though, I'd like to talk only about three institutions. I note those that were a blessing for everyone. By name, I mention the seven-grade elementary school, the medical cabinet of Dr. Goldberger, and the “Koser”.

The elementary school consisted of four classrooms. The L shaped building was surrounded by open corridors. During recess, children were playing around the two barren mulberry trees. As you stepped from the street into the corridor, you saw the first and second graders' classrooms, where Miss Goldmann taught. Across from her were Mariska neni's third and fourth graders. At the turn, in the third room, Mor Rosenberg, the school principal was teaching the older kids. In the fourth room, Uncle Weisz was teaching Religion to the boys. Between the two World Wars, teaching went on in Romanian language, however, truth be told, even the teachers did not know Romanian. Uncle Weisz was translating into literary Yiddish the Hebrew text of the Chumash. They didn't learn writing correctly in either language, only in Hungarian.

Recalling the teachers' Romanian knowledge, I have to smile when I think of a few remarkable episodes. When the Principal asked Berger Gabi to talk about Stefan Cel Mare or Vlad Tepes, without hesitation, the latter started rattling the text of the “asre jajsve”, was never caught and what's more, always received a good grade. He tried to continue this successful method in the Oradea Orthodox Gymnazium, but there he was caught and soon dropped out.

Back to our elementary school, it was known that its students were better behaved than those of the surrounding areas. Our school engrained in us the knowledge and love of Judaism, and that of common fate. Those children who did not experience at home the Jewish life in its entirety, learned about it in school. The many diligent honest grown ups who came out from this little school, which hardly had any teaching equipment, where modernization did not reach, but where the teachers' love and innate pedagogical methods abounded, speak to the merits of this school. No plastic surgery can ever erase from the foreheads of the murderers Cain's stamp for having destroyed such excellent people.

Finally, I'd like to mention the names of some of the students with whom I attended the little school on Petri Street, whom I will recall with love until my last moments: Katz Cica, Vamos Lili, Weisz Fanny, Miklos Anci, Fried Anti, Weisz Jaszi, Rosenberg Fraicsu, Heller levy, Weisz Zoli, Berger Laci, Hold Nandi, Ehrenfeld Zoli and many others whose names I no longer remember.

Dr. Goldberger Emil's medical cabinet did not attend to health issues alone, but also to the daily social welfare of the people. Dr. Goldberger Emil served as doorman, secretary, receptionist, lab assistant, and anesthesiologist, all alone. Aside from this, he was also an excellent specialist in many branches of the medical science. He did not have a car, only a couple of fast horses and a good Hungarian coachman. There was no Jewish child in Margitta and its surroundings that has not been attended by him. He was also family doctor to many Christian families in the city and the district. Bone-chilling winter or hot summer, day and night, whenever called, he hurried to his patients without delay.

As district physician, they knew him everywhere. The farmers might have not known who the Prime Minister was, but they all knew Dr. Goldberger. He never asked for money from anyone, the column “debtor” was missing from his register. He always accepted his fee in a bit of shy, humble manner. In addition, he often paid from his own pocket for the medication of patients who were poor. There was one other blessed man among the district doctors whom I also knew - Dr. Martonfy from Simleul Silvaniei. He was a Hungarian man and an excellent doctor. Dr. Goldberger was always traveling, always working. We were always wondering when did he have time for his family. He was an observant Jew, who attended synagogue, then always hurried to his patients. During the Holocaust, the executioners did not spare him either, but he and his family survived. He died in 1954. His memory lives on in the heart of every person from Margitta.

The “Koser” was in itself a stand-alone institution in Margitta and the surrounding area. The “Koser” was all – a pub, café, hotel, and club. It was not only a place of relaxation and entertainment, but also of counseling and a source of help for those in need. All this was insured by Klein Jozsef and his three sons: Ferenc, Miklos, and Laszlo. Jews and Christians alike were guests here because service was warm and classy. It is true that in the café there was a certain amicable atmosphere between members of the different religious groups. One could openly collect funds for the Red Cause or the Zionist Cause, there was no informer lurking. Besides, the police did not bother the owners. It was there that the Jews complained about their grievances, and found understanding from the Christian clients, friends. When the Miron-led Iron Guard group from Abrany attempted to attack Jewish residents who lived in the vicinity of the train station – Jews and Christians shoulder-to-shoulder went from the “Koser” to defend them. And the Fascists retreated.

The “Koser” was beautiful, it was a great place to visit, enjoy the excellent cooking of dear old Mrs. Milhaly Berger and listen to Arany Laci sing the sad melody of “Belz, mein Stetele Belz” or the joyful one of “Hat a jid e babele”.

Then, the storm came and the “Koser” disappeared with its clients and owners. The Hungarians came in and the building was transformed into a movie theater to premiere the anti-Semitism instigating movie, “Jud Suss”, to the shame of the government and the people…

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