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Bela Gondos family papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 1989.202.3

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    Bela Gondos family papers

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    The Bela Gondos family papers consist of biographical materials, refugee and emigration papers, and writings documenting Bela, Anna, and Judith Gondos of Budapest and their journey aboard the rescue train organized by Rezső Kasztner, internment at Bergen-Belsen, transfer to Switzerland, and immigration to the United States.
    Biographical materials include birth and marriage certificates, identification papers, citizenship documents, education and professional records, foreign worker and air raid worker certificates, and inoculation records documenting Bela, Anna, and Judith Gondos and Bela’s training and career as a physician. This series also includes an authorization signed by Dr. Polgar in Bergen-Belsen allowing Bela Gondos to receive wood for shoe soles.
    Photographs depict the Gondos family, their friends, and Anna Gondos’ parents, Jakab and Iren Havas.
    Refugee and emigration papers include attestations and travel papers documenting the Gondos family’s status as refugees in Switzerland and their departure via Genoa for the United States.
    Writings consists of lectures presented by Bela Gondos to the Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase, Maryland, between 1989 and 1995 on topics including the Holocaust and Jewish communities in Hungary, the Kasztner train, and Jewish passivity, organization, or resistance in the face of the Holocaust.
    inclusive:  1921-1995
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Bela Gondos and Judith Gondos Jacobs
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Judith Gondos Jacobs
    Collection Creator
    Bela Gondos
    Bela Gondos was born on November 25, 1903, in Erdobenye, Hungary, to an Orthodox Jewish couple, Mor and Roza Feuerlicht Goldman. Bela had four siblings: Ilona (1899-1944), Zelma (1901-1944), Sandor Shmuel (1905-1999), and Zoltan (1908-2005). His mother Roza was born in 1880 in Tenke, Romania. His father Mor was a school teacher and complied with the practice of changing the family name to Hungarian in 1904. In 1913, Bela attended a Catholic high school in Satoraljaujhely. He experienced anti-Semitism, which created an interest in Zionism. In 1921, Bela moved to Budapest for medical school. He joined a Zionist student organization. He graduated from medical school in 1926 and had a position as a radiologist. In 1934, Bela married Anna Ilona Havas, who was born on June 22, 1910, in Gurahont, Romania, to an assimilated Jewish family. She was an artist and interior designer. The couple had a daughter, Judit, on April 27, 1937. They had a prosperous life with several maids and lived in a large apartment.

    Hungary was governed by a fascist regime, allied with Nazi Germany, with antisemitic racial laws modeled on the Nuremberg Laws. From 1939, Jewish men were forced into the Hungarian labor service, which was put under army command in 1940. In spring 1941, Hungary joined the German invasion of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Bela was conscripted into forced labor two to three times in the early 1940s. In 1942, he was in a labor battalion in Szentkiralyszabadja and then was released from labor service because he had a notice that, as a physician, he must report to the bunker of the Hungarian regent. Bela returned to his practice but had fewer patients because non-Jewish patients would not see a Jewish doctor. On March 19, 1944, Germany occupied Hungary. Anti-Jewish restrictions were implemented immediately. On March 31, Star of David badges were required for Jews. Bela’s clinic was shut, Judit was no longer allowed to attend school, and they had to turn over their valuables. They could leave their apartment for only 2 hours a day, but it was dangerous because the Gestapo would take Jews from the street. Bela left home daily to get news from the Jewish community center, although Anna did not want him to go. In April 1944, their apartment building was designated a yellow star Jewish house and several relatives came to live with them. Bela and Anna discussed sending Judit away to Anna’s parents in Bekes, or hiding her with a Christian neighbor, but Anna insisted on keeping her with them.

    In mid-May, Bela was informed about a rescue train to Spain or Portugal that was being organized by the Relief and Rescue Committee of the Hungarian Zionist Association in Budapest. Because of Bela’s participation in the Zionist movement, the Committee selected Bela and his family to leave on the Kasztner rescue train. The transport was a plan negotiated by Rezso Kasztner to get the German SS to allow a train of Jews to leave the country in exchange for money. Bela and his family reported to assembly camp in mid-June and waited for several days. Bela’s brother Sandor was a forced laborer, but his wife, Margalit Koves Gondos, and their daughter, Nomi, were on the transport. On June 30, the train left Budapest with 1686 passengers. They traveled on a cattle car with no sanitary facilities and were not given any food or water. Kasztner was not able to raise sufficient funds, so the transport was sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. They went to Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, then stopped briefly in Linz, Austria. There was an air raid and the German guards made them stand exposed on the train platform until it was over.

    On July 8, they arrived in Bergen-Belsen. They were housed separately from the other inmates in the Hungarian camp and did not work. They wore their own clothing, but had to display a Jewish badge. The prisoners were permitted to have religious services and observed the High Holidays. They were not physically harmed by the guards but were verbally abused. Their rations were meager and Bela and Anna both gave some of their portions to Judit. Bela functioned informally as the camp physician and had some medical equipment with him, including a stethoscope and an injection and sterilization kit. Among his regular patients was an artist Istvan (Steven) Irsai. Bela diagnosed him with starvation and prescribed an extra ration of bread, filled through their informal camp organization. As the weather grew colder, their clothing and shoes began to wear out. On December 7, the prisoners were taken from the camp and walked to the train station. They boarded a heated passenger train with sanitary facilities and were sent to a collection center in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Jewish aid organizations had raised enough money to ransom the prisoners. After a few days, they were taken to Caux sur Montreux and lived in a resort hotel. The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945.

    Bela, Anna, and Judit learned that most of their family had perished in the Holocaust. Bela’s mother, Rosa, his sister Ilona Rechnitz and her daughter Lidia, his sister Zelma, her husband Lajos Adler, and their children: Andor, Peter, Tamas, and his maternal aunt Sarolta Feuerlicht had all been killed in Auschwitz in 1944. Bela’s brother Sandor was taken by the Hungarian Labor Service and was presumed dead. His brother Zoltan, who had emigrated to the United States before the war, was his only surviving relative. Anna’s entire family also perished. Although they had planned to go to Palestine, Bela and Anna decided to emigrate to the United States to be near Zoltan and applied for visas. Bela and Anna sent Judit to boarding school near Fribourg and moved to Zurich. Bela worked as a volunteer radiologist at the university while Anna cleaned vegetables and peeled potatoes at the Canton hospital to support the family. In summer 1946, they moved to the Home for Intellectuals in Geneva with Judit. On October 21, they sailed from Genoa on the SS Matthew O’Brien, arriving in Gulfport, Mississippi in November. They joined Bela’s brother Zoltan in Falls Church, Virginia. Bela earned his US medical certification and began a successful career as a physician and professor. They learned that Bela’s brother Sandor had survived the Hungarian labor service and emigrated to Palestine in 1947 with his wife Margalit and their daughter Nomi. Judith married David Jacobs in 1957. The couple settled in Kansas City, Kansas and had four children. Judith earned several degrees, including a PhD in educational administration. Bela’s wife, Anna, died on December 20, 1985, at age 75. Bela, age 99, died on October 31, 2003.

    Physical Details

    1 box
    1 oversize folder
    System of Arrangement
    The Bela Gondos papers are arranged as four series: I. Biographical materials, 1921-1947, II. Photographs, 1929-1943, III. Refugee and emigration papers, 1945-1946, IV. Writings, 1989-1995

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Bela Gondos and Judith Jacobs Gondos donated the Bela Gondos family papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1989, 1995, 2006, and 2010. Accessions previously cataloged as 1995.A.0168, 2006.43.1, 2006.160, 2006.161, 2006.162.1, 2006.195, 2006.198, and 2010.241.1 have been incorporated into this collection.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this collection has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Primary Number
    Record last modified:
    2023-04-11 09:23:55
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