"WORKERS! The Jew democracies are targeting you with their bombs! Wake up! See clearly! Join our ranks for the victory of National Socialism, for the Hungarist state!
Arrow Cross Party
Story: L. Hoffmann, February 18, 2014, on the yellow-star house where his family lived at Király Street 54 in Budapest's 6th district.
"The owner of Király Street 54 was my grandfather, Emil Weisz, who lived with his family on the side facing the street, in a five-room second-floor apartment. At that time, the family consisted of Emil Weisz (aged 75), his wife (born Teréz Bielitz, aged 62), and their three grown-up children (Leonore, aged 29; Edith Marie, aged 28; and Franz Karl, aged 26).
The majority of the house residents were Jewish, who were obliged to wear the yellow star from April 5, 1944 (directive no. 1240/1944. M. E.). Like 2,680 other houses in Budapest, the house was classified as a “yellow-star house” according to the Budapest mayoral decree 523.928/1944. XXI. Residents who were classified as non-Jewish had to move out, and their places were taken by Jewish families forced out from other houses, as well as the re-annexed territories, primarily Transylvania. Four members of our family (the ageing parents and two daughters) had to squeeze into one room of our apartment, and the four remaining rooms were designated as residences for four other Jewish families, and all five families were to jointly use the kitchen and bathroom.
My mother, Edith, secured a place in the house where a Communist group led by Zoltán Schönherz could meet, most of whose members were Jewish anti-Fascists. The group met regularly in my grandparents’ apartment. The group failed: on July 6, 1942, Schönherz was arrested and tortured by the Horthy police interrogators, confronted with my mother and other group members, but Schönherz did not break or betray his colleagues. The VKF (staff leader) special court arrested all 13 members of the group, Schönherz was sentenced to death, and on October 9, he was executed in the courtyard of the Margit Boulevard penitentiary. My mother was sentenced to 8 months’ internment which she spent in Nagykanizsa (but that’s another story...).
The youngest son, Franz Karl, went to Switzerland before the war, where he studied chemical engineering at Zurich university. He escaped the war, and only spent a few months in a Swiss prison for anti-Fascist, left-wing activities. (In 1950, however, he was executed under a show trial, and later rehabilitated, but that’s another story ...).
On October 15, governor Miklós Horthy announced his proclamation on the radio: Hungary was attempting to leave the war. At first, people believed that the war was over in Hungary, but the two girls in our family (Lili and Edith) were afraid that the German occupiers would obstruct Hungary’s attempt to leave the war, and that even greater trouble was in store for people, especially the Jews. This is why they cut the yellow stars off their coats, and went out onto the street (which then counted as a capital offense), and went to Lili’s husband, László Virág, a dentist on forced labor service, at his surgery on Szervita Square, while the two elderly parents, Emil and Terus, remained in the apartment at Király Street 54. The two sisters’ concerns very quickly proved to be true, when the Germans helped Ferenc Szálasi’s Arrow Cross military putsch to take power. The two sisters hid every night in the dentist’s surgery at Szervita Square, which today is a parking garage. In exchange for the family’s jewelry, the concierge Mihály Tóth risked his life to give them food, but again this is another story ...
The concierge at Király Street 54 was Mrs. Hartmann, a German in a house mostly inhabited by Jews, and who was a committed Arrow Cross informer. She lived on the ground floor opposite the front gate and made a note of who arrived or left and when, who had visitors, and so on. My mother and her sister decided that they would help their parents escape from Király Street 54 which, given their age, the ban on Jews going out onto the street, and Mrs. Hartmann, was not straightforward. The sisters’ younger brother, Franz Karl, had a Budapest doctor friend who helped them to escape. One evening, an ambulance parked in front of the house, and nurses took my grandfather on a stretcher downstairs and into the ambulance, accompanied by my grandmother. Mrs. Hartmann rushed out onto the street and started shouting that they couldn’t take my grandfather away, since he wasn’t even ill, and in any case, Jews were under a curfew. But the ambulance doctor, who was also Jewish, was adamant. Mrs. Hartmann finally allowed them to take my grandfather “to hospital,” but would not agree to letting my grandmother accompany him. Finally the ambulance doctor said that “she’ll be back in the morning, she’s just accompanying him now.” The ambulance took my grandparents straight to Szervita Square where, by something like a miracle, they survived the Arrow Cross raids and were eventually liberated (but this is another eventful story...). When the Russian soldiers arrived in the basement and found the Jews hiding there, they took out a knife and cut the yellow stars from their coats, and gave food to my liberated relations.
Back to Király Street, during the Arrow Cross terror... After my grandparents’ departure, all the Jews in the house were driven into the courtyard and force-marched to some holding place (probably on Csepel island), where they were put onto wagons and taken to a German death camp. I’ve heard it said about the Ruttkai couple who lived in the ground-floor corner apartment, that because the ageing husband was ill, one of his legs wouldn’t support him and so he wasn’t taken into forced labor. When they drove the Jews into the courtyard and he couldn’t go with the others, the Arrow Cross beat him to death in front of the other residents with a rifle butt.
After the Liberation, a few Jews returned to the house, including my maternal grandparents who had come out of hiding. Because of the British and American carpet bombing, my grandparents had to renovate the house, and took out a loan for this from the state. After the house was renovated, but before nationalization, my grandfather managed to sell the house to an optimistic buyer at a very low price. Having paid back the state from the buying price, they had enough left over for two eiderdowns... this is how much the family property was sold for. My grandmother died in 1945, she didn’t want to live any more, and refused to take her medicine. My grandfather lived another five years, and died a few months after his son was executed, although luckily he did not know that his son was the victim of a show trial. The family only learned of this in 1956. Of the Jews who returned to the house, two were mentally disturbed, a man (Mr. Sugár on the second floor) and a woman (Piroska Garas on the third floor). The house managed to dodge the revolutionary period too, but again, that would be another story."