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Jahaduth: Jüdische Religion
Jüd. Kalender
Forum Judaicum
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By Shlomo Graber
From Hungary to Israel through Auschwitz-Birkenau, Fünfteichen and Görlitz.
A Jewish family history from 1859 through 2001


The Talmud-Thora-School
(our Cheder)

Nyirbátor’s Talmud-Thora-School was famous in the entire district. For this reason we had many students coming from the outside. Similar to other schools, this school too was divided into classes that were distributed in the two-story building. The teachers came to Nyirbátor from the neighboring villages. The names of their places of origin were added to their own names. For example: Moses Schwarz of Vasvár, Mendel Weiss of Ecsed, and Rabbi Meshullam Friedmann of Megyes. Private teachers were also available: Mordechai Wächter and Shlomo Steinberger. The smallest kiddies started at the age of four to learn the Hebrew Alephbes (alphabet) They were taught by the melameds Itzkowitz and Moses Weiss.

When I arrived to Nyirbátor, I started to study with the melamed Moses Weiss. However, I was already able to read the book of prayers as my Grandfather Itzhak (Reb Itze) already taught me to read in Majdan. “Chumash” (the five books of Moses) I had to learn from the new melamed Reb Moses Schlosser, who joined us from Poland a short time ago. He was an exception among the melameds because he was dressed in a standard gent’s suit with a tie and he brought along his violin in order to teach us the traditional art to recite the Thora, by the accompaniment of a violin. We loved his kind of teaching and made good progress but the strict orthodox circles were not very impressed. They suspected the incursion of modern times among the holy walls of the Jewish Cheder. But they remained in the minority and Schlosser continued to play his violin.
The daily timetable was overfull. We had to get up at the break of the dawn. The school started at 8 am. After a two-hours lunchtime break, we continued our study until 8pm. In the darkness we lighted our way home with a lantern with a burning candle inside. One of the melameds tried to put our minds to rest with the words: “If you are attacked by a dog, repeat the Thora verse: “But no dog shall point his tongue against all Children of Israel!” The dog shall run away!”

Thursdays were the trials of the examinations that took place on Sabbath afternoons. I had to present myself to be tested by my father and my grandfather. Whenever I got stuck by father, I immediately received a box to my ears. The most worrying weekly section was “Vajechi” (Genesis 47, 28-50, 26). Here we had to recite the verses “But to me, when I came from Padan, died Rachel in the Land of Kanaan” (1 Moses 48,7 ff.) and “Shimeon and Levi, brothers” ( 1 Moses 49,5 ff.) by heart, complete with the appropriate melody, The intensive study of the Bible and the Talmud with the many sharp-witted discussions gave me an early training and helped me in my life.

The “Israelite Elementary People’s School”

In Nyirbátor, segregated schools existed for the individual religious communities, thus one Jewish school as well as a general comprehensive school for every one. Just when I enrolled in the 1st class of the Jewish school, a teachers’ change took place there. Mr. Ármin Szilvási came to an end of a long section of life and retired. He was the founder of this school and that of the Status Quo Congregation. When I saw a picture representing Elieser Ben Jehuda, the innovator of the Hebrew language, he immediately reminded me upon the teacher, Mr. Ármin Szilvási. A perfect similarity. Szilvási handed over the office to his daughter Miss Marishka (later called Mrs. Marishka Blau).

The seven schoolclasses had on four teachers. For this reason sets of two classes used one room. The teacher Marishka took the first class. Miss Idushka (later called Mrs. Idushka Leibowitz) took classes 2 and 3, Mr. Tihanyi classes 4 and 5 and the two highest classes, 6 and 7 were taken by the headmaster, Mr. Gondos called earlier on Gottlieb. Class 7. Was a novelty it did not start until that year.

Two remarkable incidents occurred during my school times. The first concerned Miss Idushka in the 4th class. I don’t recall the reason but I still remember the beating I got. She grabbed hold of me very hard and banged away hysterically at the top of my fingers with her ruler. I became hysterical as well for pain and in my efforts to escape from her iron grip, I kicked her in the stomach and jumped out at the school window. I left the rest to my mother to settle.

The second incident occurred at Mr. Tihanyi’s class, the 5th. We simply could not get on with each other. Tihanyi was a gifted painter and extremely painstaking. We had to copy down his sketches from the blackboard, without any additions. On one occasion, he drew some grape leaves we had to copy. I used my own initiative to add all kinds of details to make the drawing more realistic. Mr. Tihanyi passed the classroom and stopped at my place. He looked at my work, took my sheet, tore it up into shreds and demanded I begin again from the start. Stubbornly, I draw once again the same image. That was how the war continued between us. I drew the leaf, he tore it up. Who was the winner? Of course teacher Tihanyi. He did not want to allow me to enter Class 6. This was the reason why I left the Jewish School and went to the general comprehensive school where I was one of the few Jewish students they had.
The headmaster, Mr. Gondos who was originally called Gottlieb but changed his name by a deed poll to the typically Hungarian-sounding name Gondos, demonstrated Hungarian patriotism whenever he had a chance. Under his orders we had to sing every morning the Hungarian National Anthem. On Hungarian national holidays all students had to be present at the school yard where he related his wonderful stories about his service at the Hungarian Royal Navy under the great naval hero, counter admiral Miklós Horthy 31) during World War I.

On my return from the concentration camps to Nyirbátor, I heard that some other Jews, also survivors, asked the help of the Russians to have Mr. Gondos returned to town. Mr. Gondos was in hiding in Debrecen and did not dare to show his face. As it turned out later, he was a Capo in a German concentration camp and had treated there abominably the Jewish prisoners, among them even some members of his own congregation. An officer of the Red Army contacted the Russian Military Commendatory of Debrecen. They succeeded in arresting the man. They returned him to Nyirbátor where he was imprisoned. Some if his old students visited him in the prison and spat in his face through the small hatch of the prison door. The story has it that some people succeeded in gaining access to him and they beat him up. Gondos was transferred to Budapest and sentenced to two years imprisonment.

31) 1868-1967, Governor of Hungary, exiled by the Russians in 1945, who lived and died in Portugal


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