Photograph of prominent Jewish men interned at the Pest county Kistarcsa camp for political prisoners in 1944. The gentleman in the middle of the front row with a slight stoop is Leó Goldberger, the leading Hungarian textile manufacturer.
Until World War II, the Goldberger House on Arany János Street in downtown Budapest housed the company offices of Goldberger and Sons. Today, the Goldberger House is home to the Open Society Archives.
Story: Katalin ÖregKis, February 18, 2014, on the yellow-star house where she lived at Károly Boulevard 26 in Budapest's 5th district.
"On March 19, 1944, 'the Germans arrived,' they occupied Hungary, and we had to wear the yellow star.
In the book about the history of the Goldberger factory, Dr. Ödön Geszler writes about what happened to the Goldberger management: on March 19, 1944, the Gestapo took Leó Goldberger away on the very first day, and arrested the factory’s management. For us, this was disastrous, because while they ran the factory, they supported my mother financially.
'On September 18, 1944, the factory suffered another massive bomb attack, which caused huge explosions, and there were no attempts to reconstruct the building. The airplanes were trying to bomb the railway bridge over the Danube, but fell on the area which contained the Goldberger factory, the Bulgarian nursery garden, and the bay of the winter port.' (p. 164)
When the family had to move into a yellow-star house, my mother and aunt “hid” their valuables in a big chest in one of the Goldberger factory’s storerooms. This is how their valuables (silver goods, jewelry, fur coats and other things in the chest, but I don’t know what they were) were destroyed in the bombing and subsequent fire. (Our father, György Kis, worked in the Goldberger factory in Kelenföld as a textile engineer, as did my older brother András Kollin, as well as my aunt’s brother, and this is how the chest ended up at the mill, which burned down.) One more sad thing: Leó Goldberger was taken to Mauthausen where, after 14 months’ imprisonment, he died on May 5, 1945.
The family moved into the apartment of Kati Hoffman (Pesti grandmother’s sister and daughter) and her husband Jenő Stern. The various documents show that they (in total 12 people) probably moved into a mezzanine-floor, three-room apartment at Károly Boulevard 26. There were certainly others there too, because I remember lots and lots of people. There were huge arguments and fights between the adults who shouted at one another, my mother lost her temper and suddenly became angry and outspoken.
I wrote the following in 2006 for a community portal, and couldn’t improve it today.
“What does an eight-year-old girl know? What does she observe, and what does she feel about those events and atmosphere of Sunday October 15, 1944? Perhaps only that on this day, heaven opened up around us (“Finally! It’s over, we’re saved …” said the adults, beaming), and then, around 6 pm, we slid down into hell. It was a beautiful sunny day, we were in the yellow-star house at Károly Boulevard 26, three families crammed into one apartment. They sent us children to Erzsébet Square for a walk. I kicked the fall leaves about. It was good weather for a walk, but we were wearing the yellow star. My brother was two-and-a-half years old, with shiny, curly blond hair, and was running about with the others wearing a blue velvet suit. A soldier was watching us (it turned out later he was a German officer), and asked the adults with us (not our mother, someone else), how it was possible for this beautiful blond boy to be wearing a yellow star. I understood, because I’d already been learning German for three years. I don’t know who answered, or what. I just enjoyed the sunshine, kicking the leaves, and some unspoken feeling of liberation. Towards evening it clouded over, the wind was blowing the leaves around in a frightening fashion, the ones I’d kicked around so happily in the morning. Everyone was outside on the corridor, down in the courtyard a man was shouting, but I didn’t understand him. They entered the apartments and forced the adults, including those in our apartment, to go downstairs to the ground floor. An older lady I hardly knew took my younger brother and me by the hand and put us into a taxi, but I don’t know how this happened. It turned out later that it was my father’s brother’s Christian wife, Auntie Irma, who saved us, and look us to an apartment on Hajós Street. I was scared and crying, but Auntie Irma firmly told me to stop crying right away, to teach my brother his new name, and to say we were refugees from Transylvania. She was shaking with fear that the neighbors would find out what was going on. Although she was shaking, she was a hero, but still shaking (like many Hungarians were). I just cried, and I can’t say how terrible I felt. Only this hopeless, terrible fear and loneliness remain as memories, and some sort of anger towards our mother. As if she, poor thing, were responsible for us being taken away.
So I had to teach Ádám that his name was Ádám Fehér. It wasn’t easy. I remember a kitchen opening on to the outside corridor, but nothing else, not even Auntie Irma, although we should never forget the name of Irma, Mrs. Ferenc Kis. My mother reappeared in early November, having miraculously escaped from the ship factory using a copied rescue letter in someone else’s name. (There were lots of miracles at the time, and we really needed them, because only miracles could save us, those who had finally escaped.) Then one day Auntie Irma took us to Pozsonyi Road 23, which I now know today was the international ghetto. Both there, and in the “Hungarian” ghetto, lots of miracles happened. But I never had such a feeling of being abandoned as I did then, when we reunited with my mother.
What fate would have awaited our mother, if a miracle had not occurred?
My mother spent three-four days in the camp. A few people were rescued from the camp. (According to Braham, Wallenberg, Carl Lutz, and two or three doctors struggled to bring out a few hundred people.)
My mother often told the story, especially when she wanted me to believe in miracles. This happened quite a lot. There were lots of queues when they inspected the rescue letters. Anika got hold of a copy of a woman’s rescue letter in the camp. She was at the back of the queue, which was moving slowly. The neighboring queue was moving much faster because a uniformed policewoman was inspecting the rescue letters. They then moved some people over to the end of the policewoman’s queue, and this was how my mother became 3rd or 4th in line in the policewoman’s queue. The policewoman examined the rescue letter, looked at my mother, then back at the letter, then at my mother again, who held her gaze. She knew that the description in the letter didn’t fit her at all, but forced herself to keep looking at the policewoman. And the policewoman let her go. This is how the story ended; as for how she returned from the brick factory to the city center, and how she found us, I don’t really know."