Thursday, October 12, 2006
The Klein of Jászberény
I am scanning the family photo album. Up there is my grandfather Gyula Klein in the Austro-Hungarian Army's uniform. The scan is from a color photocopy, the original was given to Tamas Kertesz, who works in the Swedish Uppsala University's Library and made a project on the Jaszbereny Jewish community before the war. He took our hometown as model of the Holocaust in Hungary. In the Jewish Cemetery of Jaszbereny there is a black memorial tablet with 530 names of the people who was killed in Auschwitz, among them many Klein. Tomi travelled all around the world collecting old pictures and stories, so we gave him most of ours, and he promised to send me a disk, which he never did. No doubt he has a more complete idea of the town's Jews than me. I always hated them because they were weak, they went to their deaths like sheep. And that was at the very end of the war, when you had to be an ignorant peasant to ignore the extermination of the Jews of Poland and they were not peasants. One logistics bureaucrat, Adolf Eichmann, organized their deportation and they all went with no resistance at all. My Grandfather was 54 then, a big healthy man with military experience. With medals for heroism in WWI. A rich businessman with international connections. It is difficult for me to even think about it.
The whole family went to the Jaszbereny ghetto, which was two blocks in the center of the town, and from there to the teglagyar - brick factory - in a town with good railway connections, according to Eichman's well planned logistics that allowed to deport half a million Jews to Auschwitz in six weeks. That in middle of a war that was ending. The Jaszbereny gendarmes didnt want to force local Jews to the ghetto so Gendarmes from other provinces were called in. They had to deliver their gold and silver and so on, and were given receipts. The Hungarian state returned me some of the monies as I am their only inheritor. They also compensated me for their real estate. What is now the center of Jaszbereny was owned by my Grandfather. I have the land registration, it is a 14 hectare "woodland".
In the brick factory regional collection center, my grandfather and family looked up and visited the Löwy family also interned there, all of them waiting for their shipping to the "East". My Grandfather wanted to meet my father´s fianceé´s family. My Mother told me this not long ago. Imminent death was not on their minds. A few days later they were deported in plumbed and sealed cattle wagons to Auschwitz, where they were assessinated by suffocation by cyanide gas, or starved and worked to death, and their bodies incinerated.
The other scan is of two old pictures (also from copies, originals in Sweden). My grandmother Anna neé Grünwald Klein, she was a strong woman who managed the family business. The nice man in uniform is Miklos Haasz, my Father's elder sister Manci's husband. They had one son, Gyuri Haasz, who was my grandfather's only grandchild, the picture below shows him at age 10, he was a violin prodigy. I just showed the picture to my mother who immediately recognized the piece of furniture behind him, it was the one we had in our apartment in Budapest, Almasy ter 8, 3rd floor. After the war, my parents - just married - had the choice of houses and furnitures left by those who did not came back. From many Jaszbereny families, no one returned.
My father had one elder brother, Joska, who is also pictured below with her fiancee. Joska was a good looking man but the girl seems to me rather plain. My father had another sister, Magda, married to a veterinarian, Dr Kertesz. Three years ago we toured Jaszbereny and visited an old Jewish woman, maybe the last living Jew in the town, a survivor of Auschwitz. She was a Kertesz, who were much intermarried into the Klein family. She told me how Magda died in Auschwitz. They were going to work in formation, and they had to pass railway rails when the train was coming. The German guards did not allow them to break formation and they had to continue ans she was among those caught by the train and killed. She was pregnant at the time. I did not want to hear her stories and left. She died last year. Tomi Kertesz, from Sweden, was a relative of hers and interrogated her for his documentation project. I never wanted to talk with survivors nor hear their horrible stories.
Here are some other scans. That skinny big-headed 10 y.o. child with the violin is the Magda Klein's only, Gyurika, killed on arrival at Auschwitz. My Father loved him that's why he treasured the picture and conserved it through innumerable escapes with a small bag and long wanderings.
The bald man is my Father, Laszlo Klein. I took this pic in Alvear, Argentina, in 1971 or 72, in front of my house, one of the best ones of the town. I was only 23 and already had two cars and a nice townhouse and big job, which in that place and that time, when very few people had cars and less nice chalets like me, was extra-ordinary. He looks contented but I was unfriendly towards him and had no patiente with him. I was an egoist, ungrateful son.
The baby is Judith neé Hoffman Liberman, my only first cousin, only daughter of my Mother's elder sister Rozsi. Her parents went to Melbourne, Australia, on the invitation of relatives (Itzig Abeles) who arrived in Australia after the war and made good. Judith's father, Hoffman Aladar, was from Papa, Hungary, and studied in Papa famous yeshive and kept the shabbat and kashrut even under the worst Communist repression. We were less strict. Judith made aliyah from Melbourne at age 18, married here Jossy Liberman and had three boys. When the boys grew up and Army time was approaching, Israel was - as always since ever - preparing for the next war, so she sold their nice house in herzliya and took them all to Australia. They all grew up tall to exceptionally beautiful and successful young men.
The young yet balding jewboy sitting surrounded by ancient, almost museum exhibit computers, that was me at age 21. My uncle Ivor (Andres) Szabo gave me as present for my graduation a ticket and 1,000 US$ - a lot of money then. A room at New York YMCA cost 7 dollars a night. In my extensive travels through North America (I had a three month free Greyhound ticket - I could travel anywhere without paying anything) I visited my cousin Gyuri Szabo´s friend in Houston, who had a perturbed wife and did not receive me nicely in her home. He was a scientist working in NASA´s moon program, so he took me in the lab. He showed me moon rocks and even let me take a small amount of moon dust. Something special in that winter 1972-1973. I never did anything with the dust, it looked like ordinary dust, and eventually ended in a Buenos Aires landfill. Later he visited Buenos Aires and I arranged for him to give a lecture at Buenos Aires University and some publicity.
Then, the last scan for today, shows Jozsef Klein, my father´s eldest brother, and his fiancee. He was shot into the river Danube in Budapest by Hungarian fascists, near the very end of the war and days before the liberation of Budapest by the Red Army. His name is in a memorial tablet in the place on the Danube's shore. Then there is that baby grinning with fancy maffiosi shoes and a ball in his fat hands, with a goodlooking woman standing behind. The baby is me and the woman is Anna, my personal nurse. She was to become a member of the Communist Party and Minister of Culture of Hungary. I have a vague memory of her warmness. We are in our house in 1948, it is quite rural environment.
The group picture was taken before the war in Jaszbereny, in 1933. It shows my Father (age 16) with his aunt Margit (the well dressed woman to the right) and her husband Imre Szabo (far right). The Szabo had emigrated in the twenties to Argentina and came back to a family visit in 1933 which was the year of the fourth World Jamboree in Godollo, Hungary. By then they were quite prosperous in Argentina, whch was a very rich country. Their tall, blond son Laci (Lucio in Argentina) is standing behind, he became a great swimmer and waterpolo player, and represented Argentina in the Helsinki Olympiads. The others are Joska, Manci and Magda, my Father's brother and sisters. They are standing in front of my Grandfather's house in Jaszbereny. It was one of the largest houses in the town, which was the rather small market town in a swampy and periodically flooded of the Jaszsag. May their memory be blessed.
A postnote: The first Jews started to settle in Jaszbereny around 1860-70. I think my Grandfather was already born in this town, but he and his wife had brothers and relatives in the North, in Kassa and nearby. Probably, then, they were what's called Galitzianers, who immigrated in mass to Hungary during the late 19th. century.