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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


My time of youth

On the first Sabbath after my 13th birthday I was called up to the Thora and the congregation was invited to Kiddush 32). Thus my 33) Bar-Micvah Feast was celebrated.

My uncles on my mother’s side, Shlomo and Jacob came to visit us on the occasion and presented me watches. Uncle Jacob of Munkács whom I never saw before brought me a pocket watch, Uncle Shlomo of Debrecen a wristwatch. In those days, these presents were incredibly expensive. I was so excited that I wanted to show them to the whole world two prove that I have not only one watch, but two!
When my father returned from his business trip, I ran up to him to show him the watches I had received. My father said: “ Look here, these watches are very valuable and luxury items for you. As we are financially in a very tight spot at present, we ought to sell them.” My mother was strictly against it and demanded that my father returned my watches to me, but my father sold them all the same. I was very bitter about it, I was unable to forgive him for what he did and took a decision, to get a new watch one day, a watch no one can take away from me.
I had to leave school the same year. My father was called up to do auxiliary forced labor (“Munkaszolgálat”) instead of military service to which Jews became inadmissible in the anti-Semitic world of Horthy’s Hungary. I had to contribute to the family’s financial existence. My mother had two good reasons for wanting me to learn a manual trade. If I ever get to Israel it’ll come in handy if I have a practical trade and until then I could make myself financially useful to the family. She believed that the trade of a glazier can be learned relatively quickly. For this reason, she applied to Reb Doved Österreicher, who had a good name as a glazier and picture framer and asked him to take me on as his apprentice. As he agreed, we drew up a contract of apprenticeship. Reb Doved Österreicher a big man with a long red beard, belonged to Nyirbátor’s orthodox Jews, he wore a high round cap to go with his frock coat and had the reputation of an excellent workman and a Thora expert.

Being an apprentice, I had to help out Mrs. Österreicher around the house I had to chop her firewood, clean the floors etc. I disliked to do these chores. In addition, I did not hit it off with his wife. She was treating me like her servant and I could not bear the humiliation. Thus, I decided to put an end to the matter and refused to do the housework. I told the woman to employ a Shickse (a non-Jewish woman) as a maid and threatened her to make public her disgraceful behavior towards me within the entire community. Apparently my threats worked, as I was no longer obliged to go to work in their household.
Upon my taking up the apprenticeship, my Mother and Reb Doved had agreed that every last Friday of each month I should receive a sub. When the first payday came, I was quite excited by the prospect of my bringing home some money I had earned myself. I was very diligent on the Friday in question, I finished all the jobs I had to, I cleaned the shop and the pavement, and waited for the payout. A few minutes before 2pm, I presented myself in front of Reb Doved, sitting behind cashier’s desk. He asked me: “What are you awaiting for?” (We talked mostly in Yiddish.) I answered I was waiting for money. He yelled at me: “What kind of money are you talking about?” I made an involuntary movement of my body like a wounded animal and acted under an impulse. I got hold of a weight from the desk and hurled it with all my power against a very expensive porcelain service displayed on a shelf. Almost everything broke to bits. I caused considerable damage and escaped from the shop as quickly as I could.
Full of anxiety and shame to come home without money, I wandered aimlessly around the town. Finally I turned up at home with red eyes, after the Sabbath candles had already been lighted. My mother put my mind to rest. She pointed out to me that everything was prepared for the Sabbath and that we shall definitely not starve. She promised me to settle the matter on Sunday. On Sunday, I saw Reb Österreicher sitting with my mother in our house. Ghee brought along the money he ought to have paid for me. I burst between them and asked my mother to stop talking to him, as I had no intention to work for for him. But my mother had her ways. She managed to convince both Reb Dovid and myself as well.

Upon my starting to work for Reb Doved Österreicher, he had asked my name. I answered that I’m called Shlajme. Instead, he gave me the name Shamu which sounded more Hungarian. Of course, a protested against my new name. Every time he called for this Shamu, I pretended to be deaf. One day a Baroness turned up in the shop, accompanied by a number of maidservants. A carriage with a team of four horses was waiting in front of our shop. The Baroness brought along a large Goblin tapestry weave picture to be framed. To frame such a tapestry was tricky business. One had to take care that all lines run in the same direction. I was a specialist in this job. For this reason I ought to have looked at the tapestry and to adjust a frame accordingly. I have heard Red Doved calling “Shamu, Shamu!” I pretended to be deaf, as usual. When he noticed that I won’t answer, Reb Doved started to call me by my correct name Shlajme. Upon arriving to the boss, I asked him in front of the high-born lady: “Rev Duved, if you are not ashamed of wearing your beard, why shall I be ashamed of my name? If you are prepared to cut off your beard, I’ll be ready to be called Shamu instead of Shlajme.!” From that moment on he always called me by my proper name. (This is the reason why I gave the title “Shlajme” to my memories.)
Unfortunately, Reb Doved, his wife and his daughter had been murdered in Auschwitz.
I could not help a great deal in contributing to our family’s existence with the wages I earned at Österreicher’s shop. For this reason, I had to look out for some other sources of income.
I helped my mother on the evenings to boil washing soap she sold to the peasants. In addition we fattened geese, whose liver, a delicacy, was sold to Budapest traders. The meat we kept for ourselves, free of charge. I also found evening work at Klein, the locksmith. I fitted out shoes with iron nails and learnt a number of elementary blacksmith jobs too, such as sheet metal work and to repair water pumps. As I knew now how to repair pumps, sometimes I succeeded in getting private jobs as well.
My hardest work was servicing the Mikve. My father had asked me to do this job for him and to keep up this job for him until his return from the forced labor military service. I got up at the break of the dawn to prepare the Mikve for the members of the congregation who came very early to duck under the water before they took part in the Morning Service. I had to clean the dressing room and the bathing cells, to scrub and to rinse approx. 60 wooden stools, to heat the water for the baths, the heat the boiler serving the bathtubs, to start up the wastewater pumps and to fill up the water tank on the roof which supplied the bath tubs. The hardest task was to heat and to clean the oven, standing in the middle of the baths. For this purpose I had to fetch some firewood in a basket and to balance myself like a circus artist over a narrow wood gangway and then to clean the oven, to get rid of all the ashes and the soot. I also installed a hair-stylist’s corner and cut the customers’ hair on Fridays I soon learned to do quite well. I earned good money with all these activities.

32) Blessings said over wine (prior to Sabbath over bread as well)
33) “Bar Micvah” Son of Duty, a feast in the synagogue and at home when a Jewish youth has come to age for all religious aspects. “Bat Micvah” in liberal communities, a 12 years old “Daughter of Duty”


Shlomo Grabers Erinnerungen: Die Erfahrung des Todes


Jüdische Weisheit
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