January 27: International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Protection passports in the Júlia Vajda Collection

On January 27, we commemorate the Holocaust and its victims. Initiated by the UN in 2005, the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust this year revolves around the notions “home” and “belonging.” The experience of “how victims adjusted their ideas of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ as they faced the violent, antisemitic onslaught during the Holocaust, and what ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ meant to survivors in the immediate post-war years.”

Blinken OSA preserves a variety of archival documents related to 20th-century Jewish history, including the Holocaust; a list of fonds and their descriptions can be found on Yerusha, the European Jewish archival portal. One highlight among the collections compiled here is the Júlia Vajda Totalitarianism and Holocaust Interview Collection.

Besides more than 300 audio recordings of narrative interviews (developed by Fritz Schütze) and a growing number of transcripts, as well as family photos, protection passports, and other personal documents, the fond also comprises methodological background material. The documents thus present not only the historical experience captured in the interviews, but also the knowledge needed to carry out similar research. The interviews conducted as part of the research project led by Júlia Vajda can be divided into two main groups: interviews with Shoah survivors, and with witnesses. While full recordings and transcripts are available in the Research Room or online on request, the online catalog’s Finding Aids provides short summaries of each interview: short biographies of survivors and witnesses.

We selected two, to observe the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust:

“Gertrúd Léderer was born in Sopron in the first half of the 1930s. Her parents were Orthodox Jews who left Austria because of the escalating political tension and anti-Semitism. When they moved to Sopron, they found it difficult to integrate, as the father, for example, did not speak Hungarian. The interviewee had completed her primary schooling in a Jewish school, but was not allowed to continue her studies due to her origins.

The family was sent to the Sopron ghetto, where the then 11-year-old girl was assigned to work as water carrier. Before the deportations, thanks to her parents’ extensive network of contacts, they managed to arrange for Gertrúd to board the Kasztner train and escape the country. She did go to Budapest, but did not make it to the train, so she hid in the ghetto in Pest with the help of relatives in the capital, until the city was liberated in January 1945. Her parents stayed in Sopron and were deported to Bergen-Belsen, from where they returned home.

After the war, she completed a private high school, and moved to Budapest in the early 1950s to study history. After graduating from univesity, she worked as a cultural worker and librarian. Following retirement, she moved back to Sopron, where she founded the local Jewish community and became its president. As long as her health allowed, she actively organized the Jewish cultural life in Sopron. She was married twice and has one child.”

HU OSA 419-0-1 Júlia Vajda Interview Collection on Totalitarianism and the Holocaust: Interviews with Holocaust Survivors and Background Material, Gertrúd Léderer

“Éva Tutui was born in Gheorgheni (Gyergyószentmiklós) in 1924. She first studied at the Anglican mission school in Bucharest, and then at the Jewish high school in Cluj (Kolozsvár). She completed her secondary education in Budapest and graduated from high school in 1944.

During the Holocaust, she remained in Gheorgheni; her family was not deported thanks to her father’s merits in the First World War. In the summer of 1944, Éva and one of her brothers were unable to return home from Budapest, when the bridge at Szolnok was bombed. They stayed in the capital, obtained false papers, and took jobs in the Hungária Hostel. Her brother disappeared just before the liberation of the city. Éva managed to survive the siege of Budapest and returned home to Gheorgheni in the spring of 1945. The family’s surroundings gradually became hostile in the post-war years. Éva’s father reported several former local Arrow Cross leaders to the police, and as a result he received an increasing number of threats. On several occasions, he was falsely accused, and eventually fled from arrest to suicide.

Éva graduated from university in Cluj-Napoca between in 1949, and married a Romanian historian in Bucharest. They had two children in the 1950s. In Bucharest, she worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then for the Romanian Communist Party as a translator and librarian. In addition to her civilian job, she worked as a literary translator as long as her health allowed. It was her who uncovered the documents relating to Imre Nagy in the archives of the Romanian secret police, making notes for the 1956 Institute in Budapest.”

HU OSA 419-0-1 Júlia Vajda Interview Collection on Totalitarianism and the Holocaust: Interviews with Holocaust Survivors and Background Material, Éva Tutui