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Cantor’s black tufted hat worn by a Hungarian rabbi

Object | Accession Number: 1990.245.7

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    Cantor’s black tufted hat worn by a Hungarian rabbi

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    Brief Narrative
    Cantor’s hat worn during services by Rabbi Ferenc Hevesi, who served as co-chief rabbi of Hungary between 1943 and 1946. The cantor (hazan or chazzan) is the synagogue’s professional prayer leader. Ferenc joined the Dohany Street synagogue as a rabbi when he moved with his wife, Magda, and daughter, Eva, to Budapest in 1930. When his father, Rabbi Simon Hevesi, died in 1943, Ferenc succeeded him as co-chief rabbi of Hungary. Hungary was allied with Germany, but when the Hungarian government began seeking a ceasefire with the Allies, the German army occupied Hungary on March 19, 1944. Afterward, Ferenc and his family were forced out of their apartment into one shared with other families. A curfew was imposed on Jews and Ferenc could only hold services at the synagogue if it did not conflict with the curfew. As chief rabbi, Ferenc was constantly harassed by the Germans, and pressured to become part of the Judenrat, which he refused. When the radically antisemitic, German-backed Arrow Cross Party took control of the government on October 15, Ferenc and his family went into hiding. The section of the city they were in was liberated by the Soviet army on January 16, 1945. Ferenc became a chaplain for the Hungarian army, and returned to his former rabbinical duties. In the fall of 1946, Ferenc traveled to England and the United States, where he Anglicized his name to Francis. He gave speeches on behalf of the Hungarian Jewry, and presided over his daughter’s religious wedding ceremony in New York City. They stayed in the US, where Francis became rabbi for a succession of congregations in Georgia and Hawaii.
    use:  after 1922-before 1952
    use: Budapest (Hungary)
    use: New York (N.Y.)
    use: Honolulu (Hawaii)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Eva Ehrlich
    Subject: Ferenc Hevesi
    Ferenc Hevesi (1898-1952) was born in Lugos, Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania) to Simon (1868-1943) and Janka Hevesi (nee Brody, 1864-1945). He had four siblings: Jenő (later Eugene, 1895-1983), Géza (1897-?), Imre (1904-1998), and Nóra (later Kürschner). Simon was the town’s rabbi until 1905, when the family moved to Budapest.

    Ferenc entered the National Rabbinical Training Institute in 1912. Following his graduation in 1922, Ferenc worked as a rabbi in the city of Székesfehérvár, Hungary. On November 2, 1922, he married Magda Rottenstein (1906-1977), and their daughter, Eva (1924-2009), was born two years later. In 1930, the family returned to Budapest, where they shared a large apartment with Ferenc’s parents. Simon was the chief rabbi of Hungary, and Ferenc worked under his father at the Dohany Street synagogue. The combined household was very traditional, and they observed all of the holidays and ate exclusively kosher. They had a close extended family, and they regularly met at Simon and Janka’s home for meals. Antisemitism was rampant in Budapest, and despite the risk for persecution, Ferenc remained an outspoken opponent of Fascism. During a Friday night service in 1932, a shooter came into the synagogue; Ferenc was able to disarm the man.

    Around 1933 or 1934, Ferenc, Magda, and Eva moved into their own apartment. In June 1938, Ferenc’s brother, Jenő, who was a diplomat, changed his name to Eugene and immigrated to the United States with his wife and young son. During the 1930s, both Ferenc and Simon visited the US, but never considered leaving Hungary permanently. Ferenc was offered a job at a synagogue in New York City, but did not want to abandon his congregation and turned it down.

    Things became worse for the Jewish population as Hungary began instituting anti-Jewish policies modeled after German laws in 1938, and then joined the Axis alliance in November 1940. The family was able to keep abreast of the war by illegally listening to Allied radio broadcasts. In 1943, Simon died; Ferenc and a colleague succeeded him as co-chief rabbis of Hungary.

    Following Hungarian attempts to sign an armistice with the Allies, the German army occupied Hungary on March 19, 1944 and Adolf Eichmann arrived in Budapest to personally oversee the occupation. Two weeks later, the occupation authorities decreed that all Jews six years and older were required to wear a yellow Star of David. Eva could no longer attend school, curfews were slowly imposed, and food became scarce. Ferenc’s family’s valuables were confiscated, and they were removed from their apartment and forced into one they had to share with another family. The family was forced to relocate again, into a single room apartment crowded with 20 people. Ferenc was permitted to continue holding services at the synagogue, unless it conflicted with curfew. As chief rabbi, Ferenc was constantly harassed by the Germans, and was taken to Eichmann’s headquarters numerous times. Ferenc also refused their pressure to become part of the Judenrat. Eva and Magda purchased two sets of false papers in case they needed to escape, but did not obtain any for Ferenc, as he was too well-known to be able to use them.

    On October 15, the radically antisemitic, German-backed Arrow Cross Party seized power of the Hungarian government. Ferenc was at the community center when Nazi and Arrow Cross soldiers arrived to arrest him. With the help of the gatekeeper, Ferenc managed to slip out and the family went into hiding. Ferenc went to the home of a Gentile cousin of Magda’s, while family friends helped Eva and Magda secure rented lodgings. Out of fear of discovery, Eva and Magda moved every few days, aided by members of the underground resistance. In November, a closed Jewish ghetto was created in the area around her father’s Dohany Street synagogue. Ferenc’s brother and sister-in-law were forced into the ghetto, but were able to escape. Ferenc was thrown out of their relative’s home in December, and he went to the sanatorium where his mother was being treated, which was owned by an American doctor. A rabbi in the Judenrat alerted the authorities, but the doctor helped Ferenc escape again, and he hid in a shed until he was taken into an apartment owned by a retired army colonel. Eva and Magda eventually went to the same apartment building, and were placed in the basement with a group of Gentiles hiding from the air raids They remained there until their section of the city, including the ghetto, was liberated by the Soviet army on January 16, 1945. The remainder of the city was liberated the following month.

    When they came out from hiding, Ferenc and his family were able to find Magda’s parents, Moritz and Erna Rottenstein, who had survived in a Jewish hospital. Erna was very ill, and died a short time later. Ferenc’s mother had been in the same sanatorium where he had hidden, but starved to death after the nurse who was caring for her began stealing her food. When Ferenc returned to the synagogue, they found huge piles of unidentifiable Jewish corpses, frozen by the winter temperatures. Ferenc presided over a mass service and burial. Long lines soon formed for individual burials.

    Near the end of February, Ferenc’s family returned to their apartment, only to find it had been emptied of all their belongings by the building janitor. After he was caught, the janitor was able to get their belongings back. Ferenc became a chaplain for the Hungarian army, and returned to his former rabbinical duties. The American military mission arrived in Budapest, and Eva met a Hungarian-American soldier, Adrian Heller. They got married on October 8, 1946, and Eva immigrated with him to the United States.

    In the fall of 1946, Ferenc traveled to England and the United States, where he Anglicized his name to Francis. He was sponsored by the American Joint Distribution Committee, and gave speeches on behalf of the Hungarian Jewry. On February 2, 1947, Francis presided over Eva’s religious wedding ceremony in New York City. Magda was also granted permission to travel to attend the wedding. Before Francis and Magda could return to Budapest, they were warned that Francis was being accused of a crime and that he should stay in the US.

    Francis was offered a job leading a congregation in Dalton, Georgia. Eva joined her parents there when she got divorced in 1949. They later moved to Washington, D.C., where Eva met Bernard Ehrlich, who she married in 1950. Francis was offered a job at a yet-to-be-formed department at Georgetown University, and in the meantime took a temporary position at a congregation in Hawaii, where he unexpectedly died in 1952. Magda lived with Eva and Bernard until her death in 1977, and they raised three girls.

    Physical Details

    Dress Accessories
    Object Type
    Hats (lcsh)
    Ceremonial objects.
    Physical Description
    Black velvet peaked hat with a large black thread tuft sewn to the pointed top. It has five side panels with curved tops that meet at the point and are reinforced with stiff cardboard. The hat folds vertically along the panels. It is lined with black cloth, with a brown leather head band, now stained and detaching, hand sewn to the lower edge with black thread.
    overall: Height: 8.125 inches (20.638 cm) | Width: 6.000 inches (15.24 cm) | Depth: 1.625 inches (4.128 cm)
    overall : velvet, cloth, cardboard, leather, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The hat was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1990 by Eva Ehrlich, the daughter of Ferencz Hevesi.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2024-06-18 15:34:08
    This page:

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