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Table covering with elaborate whitework embroidery and a crocheted border recovered by Kato Ritter from her neighbors

Object | Accession Number: 2010.442.6

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    Table covering with elaborate whitework embroidery and a crocheted border recovered by Kato Ritter from her neighbors

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Table covering returned to 20-year-old Kato Ritter by her Catholic neighbors, the Oppel family, in Vilmany, Hungary, in July 1945. Kato’s family gave the pillow sham to the Oppels to safeguard prior to their deportation during World War II (1939-1945). It was embroidered by Kato’s mother, Gizella Weissburg Ritter, in prewar Hungary. Nazi-controlled Germany occupied Hungary in March 1944, and one week later, 19-year-old Kato, her parents, David and Gizella, and her 17-year-old sister, Julianna, were deported from Vilmany to the Jewish ghetto in Košice, Czechoslovakia (now Košice, Slovakia). From there, they were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center, where everyone except Kato was gassed upon arrival. Kato was selected for forced labor, and sent to Peterswaldau concentration camp. The camp was liberated by the Soviet Army on May 8, 1945. That summer, Kato returned to Vilmany.
    Date
    recovered:  1945 July
    creation:  1910
    Geography
    creation: Vilmany (Hungary)
    recovery: Vilmany (Hungary)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Katie and George Frankfurter
    Contributor
    Subject: Katie Frankfurter
    Subject: George Frankfurter
    Artist: Gizella Ritter
    Biography
    Kato Ritter (later Katie, Ida Katie Frankfurter) was born on August 26, 1925, in Vilmany, Hungary, to David and Gizella Weissburg Ritter. David was born in 1898 in Novajidrany, Hungary, to Matlyas and Kati Ritter. Gizella was born in 1900 in Olaszliszka, Hungary, to Zigmund and Pearl Klein Weissburg. Kato had one brother, Matlyas, and two sisters, Lillian and Julianna, born in 1927. Matlyas and Lillian both died at a young age. David was injured during his military service in the Hungarian Army in World War I (1914-1918.) He was a farmer, and also owned several general goods, butcher, and grocery stores in Vilmany and nearby villages. Gizella assisted in managing the stores. The family occasionally had servants and distant relatives living in the household. Kato’s maternal and paternal grandparents were observant Jews, but Kato’s family was not religious, although they did observe the high holidays. The family spoke Hungarian at home, but both parents spoke German and her father also spoke Yiddish. When Kato was six, her mother taught her embroidery. Kato attended middle school, and later attended a gymnasium in Budapest, Hungary, where she lived with a maternal aunt and uncle, the Sekes. In 1938, the German-allied Hungarian government began enacting anti-Jewish legislation, and Kato’s family was required to pay rent for their farm land to the state. In 1941 or 1942, she returned to Vilmany because her parents wanted the family together.

    On March 19, 1944, German forces occupied Hungary. Shortly after, Hungarian soldiers went to each Jewish home in the village and made a list of inhabitants. A week later, Kato, her parents, her sister, and the 50 other Jewish residents of the village were gathered in the Catholic school. They were allowed to bring as many belongings as they could carry; Kato brought some food and a set of clothing. Kato was friends with a Catholic neighbor, Klara Oppel, and her family had agreed to safeguard some clothing and linens for the Ritters. Most of their money and valuables were confiscated by Hungarian soldiers. They were sent from the school to Kosice, Czechoslovakia, where they lived for a brief period in the home of a Jewish woman. Kato’s family and all the other Jews in Kosice soon were forced to move into a ghetto located in a brick factory near the town.

    About two weeks later, Kato, her parents, her sister, an aunt, and a young cousin were deported from the ghetto to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center. Her parents, her sister, her aunt, and her cousin were sent immediately to the gas chamber. SS guards selected Kato for forced labor. She was taken to a separate area where she was ordered to undress and her hair was cut short; she was allowed to keep only her shoes. She was given a prisoner’s uniform with the number, 36691. Kato was forced to write a letter to her maternal aunt and uncle in Budapest ensuring them that she was alive and well. She was placed in the same barrack as her former classmate, Manda Vermos. They slept with over 10 women to a bunk; their only food some bread and mush. During the morning roll call, the female inmates decided to put Kato in the front row because she was blonde, blue-eyed, and healthy looking. Shortly after, Kato was transferred with about 270 other women, including Manda, to Peterswaldau slave labor camp. The inmates were Polish, Czech, and Hungarian Jewish women. Kato was forced to work in a munitions factory on timing devices. She slept on a straw bed and food was scarce and she received a piece of black bread to last for five days. She once was beaten by a female SS guard after other inmates suggested that Kato looked like her. The camp was liberated by the Soviet Army on May 8, 1945.

    Kato spent several weeks traveling to Budapest to reach her maternal aunt, Anna Seke, and her cousin, Viola. They had been sent to the Budapest ghetto, but returned to their home in Budapest after the war. Her maternal uncle presumably perished. In summer 1945, Kato returned to her home in Vilmany, and retrieved some of the items her family had left with the Oppel family. She met Gyorgy Frankfurter, who had survived multiple forced labor battalions, in Vilmany in 1945 and they married in August 1947 in Miskolc, Hungary. The couple illegally crossed the Austria-Hungary border to Vienna because they were unable to receive passports from the Hungarian government. They then went to Feldafing displaced persons camp near Munich, Germany. With assistance from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, they emigrated to the United States in March 1951 on the USNS General Muir. Kato and Gyorgy Americanized their names to Ida Katie and George. They settled in West Hartford, Connecticut, and adopted two children. George died, age 93, on October 20, 2012.
    Gyorgy Frankfurter (later George, 1919-2012) was born on October 15, 1919, in Fony, Hungary, to Miksa and Rosa Weiss Frankfurter. Miksa was born in 1892 to Abraham and Hana Frankfurter. Rosa was born in 1901 in Fony to Samuel and Fanny(?) Weiss. Gyorgy had two brothers, Ference and Imre, and one sister, Ilona. Miksa was a sergeant in the Hungarian Army during World War I. When Gyorgy was two, Miksa decided to move his family from Fony to Gonc, Hungary. He was a merchant, and also managed an inn and a textile business. The family was poor, and Gyorgy’s paternal grandmother and a distant relative, Samuel Hertz, also lived in the household. The family regularly went to synagogue and Rosa kept a kosher home. They spoke Hungarian at home, but Gyorgy’s father also spoke Yiddish. Gyorgy went to a Catholic school for two years, but his parents wanted him to learn Hebrew and Yiddish, so they sent him to a yeshiva in Miskolc, Hungary. He completed his studies in 1938.

    By 1940, the German-allied Hungarian government had forbidden Jews to serve in the armed forces and established a forced labor service for all male Jews. On October 16, 1941, Gyorgy was drafted into the labor service and sent to Kosice, Czechoslovakia, for basic training. From late 1941 to early 1942, he was placed in a labor battalion under the command of Hungarian military officers that was deployed on the construction of railways and bridges in several villages in the Transylvania region of Romania. In March 1942, he received a seven day furlough to return to Gonc because the battalion had received notice that his mother, Rosa, was ill. Gyorgy came home to find that there had been some confusion because his paternal grandmother had been the one who was ill and recently passed away. He rejoined the battalion in Hungary and worked on constructing a small airfield. The brutal Hungarian guards frequently conducted beatings and hangings of the workers.

    In late 1942, Gyorgy’s battalion was sent on a seven hour train ride to Tasnad-Blaja, Romania, to cut stones to repair the roadways and later dig ditches for underground power cables. The workers wore civilian clothing. Gyorgy slept in a half-built barrack and food was scarce. He was able to write home and receive mail once per month. The kapos overseeing his company would punish workers by hanging them by their hands one to two feet off the ground. During this time, Gyorgy’s friend and fellow worker, Laszlo Grunberger, was taken to Budapest, Hungary. In 1943, Gyorgy was sent to work in Czechoslovakia, and then deployed with a new battalion to the Eastern Front in Poland. He assisted with the cavalry horses and carried ammunition to Hungarian soldiers on the front lines, and in winter, he was forced to clear snow from the roadways. The company moved from village to village as Soviet forces advanced west, and stayed in former Jewish homes.
    After the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944, Gyorgy received a postcard from his father, Miska, relating that his family was being sent to the ghetto in Kosice. In summer 1944, Gyorgy was assigned to dig defensive trenches and tank traps; he witnessed many casualties of his fellow workers. In late 1944, the battalion was sent to Budapest, and interned in the ghetto. Gyorgy reconnected with his friend, Laszlo, and joined his company sending heavy machinery to Germany. In December 1944, Laszlo was shot and hanged after a bookstore explosion. After this, Gyorgy hid in the factory where he had been working until a Hungarian officer he knew from his time in Transylvania allowed him to escape. He managed to get false protective papers from the Swiss consulate, which allowed him to live in the international ghetto in Budapest. Gyorgy hid in a bunker for about two weeks until Soviet forces liberated the area on January 16, 1945. He returned to Gonc.

    Gyorgy learned that his parents, Miksa and Rosa, and his younger brother, Imre, were deported from the Kosice ghetto to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where they were killed upon arrival. His sister, Ilona, was deported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died from typhus. His brother, Ference, was selected for forced labor and presumably perished. He met Kato Ritter, a survivor from the concentration camps, in Vilmany, Hungary, in 1945; they married in August 1947 in Miskolc, Hungary. The couple illegally crossed the Austria-Hungary border to Vienna because they were unable to receive passports from the Hungarian government. They then went to Feldafing displaced persons camp near Munich, Germany. With assistance from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, they emigrated to the United States in March 1951 on the USNS General Muir. Gyorgy and Kato Americanized their names to George and Ida Katie. They settled in West Hartford, Connecticut, and adopted two children. George died, age 93, on October 20, 2012.
    Gizella Weissburg was born in 1900 in Olaszliszka, Hungary, to Zigmund and Pearl Klein Weissburg. Her father was a Hebrew teacher. Gizella married David Ritter, born in 1898 in Novajidrany, Hungary, to Matlyas and Kati Ritter, and they settled in Vilmany, Hungary. They had one son, Matlyas, and three daughters, Kato, born on August 26, 1925, Julianna, born in 1927, and Lillian. Matlyas died from scarlet fever at a young age and Lillian died shortly after birth. David was an invalid from military service in the Hungarian army in World War I (1914-1918). He was a farmer, and also owned several general goods, butcher, and grocery stores in Vilmany and nearby villages. Gizella assisted in managing the stores. The family occasionally had servants and distant relatives living in the household. Both Gizella and David’s parents were observant Jews, but they were not religious, although they did observe the high holidays. The family spoke Hungarian at home, but both Gizella and David spoke German and David also spoke Yiddish. Gizella began teaching embroidery to her daughters, Kato and Julianna, when they were six years old. In 1938, the German-allied Hungarian government began enacting anti-Jewish legislation, and the family was required to pay rent for their farm land to the state.

    On March 19, 1944, German forces occupied Hungary. Shortly after, Hungarian soldiers went to each Jewish home in the village and made a list of inhabitants. A week later, Gizella, her husband, David, and their daughters, Kato and Julianna, and the 50 other Jewish residents of the village were gathered in the Catholic school. They were allowed to bring as many belongings as they could carry. Gizella’s daughter, Kato, was friends with a Catholic neighbor, Klara Oppel, and her family had agreed to safeguard some clothing and linens for the Ritters. Most of their money and valuables were confiscated by Hungarian soldiers. They were sent from the school to Kosice, Czechoslovakia, where they lived for a brief period in the home of a Jewish woman. The family and all the other Jews in Kosice soon were forced to move into a ghetto located in a brick factory near the town. About two weeks later, Gizella, her husband, their daughters, an aunt, and a niece were deported on the first cattle car transport from the ghetto to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center. Gizella, David, Julianna, the aunt, and the niece were sent immediately to the gas chamber. Kato survived Auschwitz-Birkenau and Peterswaldau slave labor camp, where she was an inmate from May 1944 until liberation on May 8, 1945.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Furnishings and Furniture
    Category
    Household linens
    Object Type
    Table coverings (aat)
    Genre/Form
    Needlework.
    Physical Description
    Square, white cotton table covering with a white scalloped crochet lace border sewn on with a fagoting stitch. In the center is a cloth diamond using drawn threa dwork with a double stitched border. At each point of the frame is a white satin stitched design of 2 chevrons on each side of a stepped square that resembles a flower. This design is repeated on 4 small tatted diamonds with finished borders in the corners. There are 2 breaks in the lace border and some stains throughout.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 16.000 inches (40.64 cm) | Width: 18.500 inches (46.99 cm)
    Materials
    overall : cotton, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The table covering was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2010 by George and Katie Frankfurter.
    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:
    2023-02-15 11:45:59
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn42614

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