- Two photographs relating to the Steiner family in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (Slovakia) during the time period surrounding the Holocaust.
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of David Steiner
- Collection Creator
- David Steiner
David Sigmund Steiner was born on June 24, 1926, in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (Slovakia) to Wilhelm Zeev and Josy Jameson Steiner. He had one sister Reline, born in 1922. Josy was born on June 25, 1884, in London, England, and had a sister Sara. Wilhelm was born on November 1, 1878, to Hermann and Selma Steiner in Bratislava, then called Pressburg. He had nine siblings, including Gustav, Josef, Max, Nelly, Siegfried, and Josephine. His father ran an antiquariat bookstore which had been founded by David’s great-grandfather Zigmund in 1847. It was a cultural center for the town and carried both Jewish religious works and world literature.
Josy and Wilhelm married on May 8, 1921. The family was Orthodox but followed the teachings of Samson Hirsch that emphasized the importance of a religious and secular life. Wilhelm was a Freemason who could converse in Latin with the local priests. The family spoke German at home. They lived in a house connected to the bookstore, were well-off, and owned several properties, including a summer home, the Garden, bought by David's grandparents. David attended the Neolog elementary school and then began the German Gymnasium with 300 other Jewish students. He had private lessons in Hebrew and Jewish history and participated in the Bnei Akiva Zionist youth movement.
With the Munich Pact of September 29-30, 1938, western powers agreed to Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. The Czech democratic government resigned and the country dissolved. A Fascist dictatorship led by Jozef Tiso, closely allied with Nazi Germany, took control of Slovakia. On April 18, 1939, they passed antisemitic legislation limiting the number of Jews in certain professions. That June, David celebrated his bar mitzvah.
On April 25, 1940, an Aryanization law was enacted: Jews were no longer allowed to own businesses and Jewish students were expelled from public schools. David’s 17 year old sister was in Prague and she acquired a certificate to immigrate to Palestine. Their father thought that she should go to England and Reline returned to Bratislava, surrendered her certificate, but never obtained a British work visa.
In March 1942, the government agreed to deport Slovak Jews to German controlled concentration camps. All Jewish persons between 16 and 30 had to register and Slovak police began gathering Jews in detention camps. Reline tried to get a job as a seamstress and her would-be employer requested a work permit to declare her work essential. Such permits usually spared one from deportation, but the request was denied. At the end of March, all the registered Jews were ordered to report for labor assignments in the German Reich. Reline told her family that she was not afraid of hard work, and reported. She was sent to the Patronka collection camp which was run by the Hlinka Guard and then deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.
Until 1942, Wilhelm was able to keep the bookstore, which also employed David’s three uncles and four or five Jewish employees. Then the store was confiscated and given to Ludo Mistric Ondrejov, a well-known Slovak author. Initially, he told the family that they could continue working as essential employees. The store received its Aryanization papers with Ondrejov as the owner, and the Central Economy Bureau issued work permits for the Jewish employees. The new owner appeared only once or twice a month to collect money. The family also lost their property; the Garden was split into three parts and sold to three separate buyers. On June 12, 1942, when there were mass deportations, Ondrejoy declared that he did not need the Jews Max, Josef, David, Sigmund, and Wilhelm Steiner in his bookstore.
At this time, the family was still in their own apartment. David's uncles obtained work illegally on building sites. In June 1942, one uncle, who was a construction engineer, helped sixteen year old David get work carrying concrete for a government building department. This job gave David and his parents protected status permits. Later that month, they were called in by the authorities and told that they would be picked up in three hours. They packed their belongings and went into hiding with Christian friends in Bratislava for a week. David continued working and moved in with a Jewish friend until August. One day, he went to visit an uncle who was a lawyer with protected status and was seen by the concierge who called the police. He was arrested and interrogated about his parents' whereabouts, which he did not know. After three days, he was sent to the main deportation center for Jews, where he was released due to his protection papers. He found his parents hiding in a bunker on the city outskirts with a group of 40 people. They remained there for about two and a half months. In November, David returned to construction work. One of his jobs in 1943 was to dismantle an old Jewish cemetery to make way for a tramway tunnel. The authorities permitted the transfer of the remains to the new Orthodox cemetery further from the city center.
David's father found temporary work cataloging books that the Slovak state intended to sell abroad. He and David had false papers in the names Stefan and Jan Dudas. In 1944, David and his parents returned to hiding in a cold wet bunker filled with rats. At some point, his mother passed away. Bratislava was liberated by Soviet troops on April 4, 1945.
Wilhelm was the only one of his nine siblings to survive. They learned that Reline had been murdered in Auschwitz. Wilhelm died in 1948. David emigrated to Israel where he had cousins. He settled in Jerusalem and became the director of a children's home. He married a survivor from Transnistria and had four children. In 1991, Selma Steiner reopened the Steiner bookshop in Bratislava.
- System of Arrangement
- The collection is arranged as a single series.
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
- Geographic Name
- Bratislava (Slovakia)
- Holder of Originals
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- Donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2010 by David Steiner.
- Record last modified:
- 2022-07-28 17:51:17
- This page:
Also in David Steiner family collection
The collection consists of two prewar photographs and a 1948-1949 Hebrew calendar book relating to the experiences of David Steiner and his family in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (Slovakia), where he survived in hiding during the Holocaust.
1948/49 Hebrew calendar owned by 22 year old David Steiner the year he emigrated from postwar Czechoslovakia to Israel. It is a calendar book that contains information on Jewish holidays and observances, as well as prayers. It is chiefly in Hebrew, but there are sections in Czech, including several advertisements for local businesses in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (Slovakia). Until 1942, David helped his father run the family antiquarian bookstore, a local institution for nearly 100 years. That year, the Fascist Slovak government agreed to deport its Jews to German concentration camps. The business was taken away from the family because they were Jewish. A few months later, there was a mass deportation and family retained as workers were denounced as unnecessary. David and his parents, Wilhelm and Josy, went into hiding in abandoned buildings. David and Wilhelm obtained false identities and got temporary jobs. Josy became ill and died. The city was liberated by the Soviets on April 4, 1945. David's sister, Reline, age 20, had been deported in early 1942 and killed in Auschwitz. His father was the only one of his nine siblings to survive. David emigrated to Israel after Wilhelm's death in 1948.