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Aluminum food container lid used by a Hungarian Jewish family on the Kasztner train

Object | Accession Number: 2003.198.3

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    Aluminum food container lid used by a Hungarian Jewish family on the Kasztner train

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Metal food container lid used by Bela, Anna, and Judit Gondos when they were transported from Budapest, Hungary, to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on the Kasztner train in June 1944. The family often hiked at Svabhegy, a hill outside Budapest, and used the container with the now missing base for their picnics. Jews were increasingly persecuted by the Nazi-influenced Hungarian regime. Bela worked on 2 or 3 forced labor battalions until released in 1942 because he was a physician. On March 19, 1944, Germany invaded Hungary and the authorities prepared to deport all the Jews from Hungary to concentration camps. In mid-May, Bela heard about the Kasztner train, negotiated by Rezso Kasztner of the Relief and Rescue Committee, Hungarian Zionist Association, to get the German SS to take money to release Jews to neutral territory. Bela and his family were selected because of Bela’s Zionist ties. Kasztner failed to raise sufficient funds and the train was sent to Bergen-Belsen, arriving on July 8. After ransom money was raised by Jewish aid organizations, the prisoners were sent from Bergen-Belsen on December 7, 1944. Bela, Anna, and Judit emigrated to the United States in 1946.
    Date
    use:  approximately 1937-1946
    Geography
    use: Budapest (Hungary)
    use: Bergen-Belsen (Concentration camp); Belsen (Bergen, Celle, Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Judith Gondos Jacobs
    Contributor
    Subject: Bela Gondos
    Subject: Anna I. Gondos
    Subject: Judith G. Jacobs
    Biography
    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.
    Anna Ilona Havas was born on June 22, 1910, in Gurahont, Romania, to Jakab and Iren Bleuer Havas. She had a brother, Imre Laszlo, born on June 17, 1908, in Honcto. Her father Jakab was born in 1871 in Transylvania, Romania. He was a merchant and owned a brewery and bar in Bekes, Hungary. Her mother Iren was born in 1877 in Mezotur, Hungary. The family was Jewish but assimilated. Her brother Imre married Iren “Pircsi” Gruenwald. Anna was an interior designer. In 1934, Anna married Dr. Bela Gondos, a radiologist, born on November 25, 1903, in Erdobenye, Hungary. He was an active Zionist. The couple lived in Budapest where they had a daughter, Judit, on April 27, 1937. They had a prosperous life with several maids and lived in a large apartment. Anna and Judit spent the summers visiting Anna’s family in Bekes.

    Hungary was governed by a fascist regime, allied with Nazi Germany. From 1939, Jewish men were forced into the Hungarian labor service, which was put under army command in 1940. In approximately 1940, Anna’s brother Imre was conscripted into the labor service. In spring 1941, Hungary joined the German invasion of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Bela was drafted into forced labor two to three times in the early 1940’s. In 1942, he was in a labor battalion in Szentkiralyszabadja. While he was gone, the family had no income. Anna made leather goods to sell and they had to let go of their help. There were constant air raids and Anna and Judit had to go to a separate Jews only, less secure bomb shelter in the basement. Bela was released from the labor service and 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-Semitic restrictions were implemented immediately. On March 31, Star of David badges were required for Jews. Bela’s clinic was closed and Judit was no longer allowed to attend school. They had to turn over their valuables. They were only allowed to leave their apartment for 2 hours a day, but it was dangerous because the Gestapo would pick up Jews on the street. Bela left home to get news from the Jewish community center daily, 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 early summer 1944, Anna’s sister-in-law Pircsi was arrested and held in Sarvar.

    In mid-May, Bela was informed about a rescue train to Spain or Portugal that was being organized by a Zionist organization, the Relief and Rescue Committee. 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 of the Relief and Rescue Committee of the Hungarian Zionist Association in Budapest to get the German SS to allow a train of Jews to leave the country in exchange for money. Anna and her family reported to assembly camp in mid-June and waited for several days. Anna’s brother-in-law Sandor had been conscripted into forced labor, but his wife, Margalit Koves Gondos, and their daughter, Nomi, also went on the transport. They each carried a suitcase with them and brought their best clothes and shoes. On June 30, the train left in 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 were not physically harmed by the guards but were verbally abused. 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. There was roll call every morning. Their rations were meager and Bela and Anna both gave some of their portions to Judit. As the weather grew colder, their clothing and shoes began to wear out. On December 7, the prisoners were taken from the camp. They walked back to the train station and boarded a heated passenger train with sanitary facilities. They 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.

    Anna, Bela, and Judit learned that most of their family had perished in the Holocaust. Anna’s parents, Jakab and Iren, and her maternal aunt and uncle, Emil and Ilona Biro, were killed in in Auschwitz. Her brother, Imre, was killed in the Hungarian Labor Service. Her sister-in-law, Pircsi, survived Auschwitz but died of tuberculosis in Sweden in 1945. Bela’s entire family perished in Auschwitz, except for his brother Zoltan, who emigrated to the United States before the war. Although they had planned to go to Palestine, Bela and Anna decided to emigrate to the United States to be near Zoltan. Bela earned US medical certification and began a successful career as a doctor 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 daughter, Nomi. Judith married David Jacobs in 1957. The couple settled in Kansas City, Kansas, and had four children. Judith received several degrees, including a PhD in educational administration. Anna, age 75, died on December 20, 1985.
    Judit Gondos was born on April 27, 1937, in Budapest, Hungary, the only child of a Jewish couple, Bela and Anna Ilona Havas Gondos. Bela was born on November 25, 1903, in Erdobenye, Hungary, to an Orthodox Jewish family. He was an active Zionist and worked as a radiologist. Anna was born on June 22, 1910, in Gurahont, Romania, to an assimilated Jewish family. She was as an artist and interior designer. Bela and Anna married in 1934. They had a prosperous life with several maids and lived in a large apartment. Anna and Judit spent the summers visiting Anna’s family in Bekes.

    Hungary was governed by a fascist regime, allied with Nazi Germany, with antisemitic 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 invasions of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Bela was conscripted into forced labor two to three times. While he was gone, the family had no income. Judit's mother Anna made leather goods to sell. They had to let go of their help and experienced food shortages. There were constant air raids and Judit and Anna had to go to a Jews only, less secure bomb shelter in the basement. Bela was released from the labor service in 1942 because he was a physician. In September 1943, Judit began first grade at a Jewish day school. On March 19, 1944, Germany occupied Hungary. Anti-Semitic restrictions were implemented immediately. On March 31, Star of David badges were required for Jews older than six. The medical clinic where Bela worked was closed. Judit was no longer allowed to attend school. 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 pick up Jews on the street. Bela left home to get news from the Jewish community center daily, 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.

    In mid-May, Bela was informed about a rescue train to Spain or Portugal that was being organized by a Zionist organization, the Relief and Rescue Committee. 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 of the Relief and Rescue Committee of the Hungarian Zionist Association in Budapest to get the German SS to allow a train of Jews to leave the country in exchange for money. Judit and her family reported to assembly camp in mid-June and waited for several days. Judit’s paternal uncle Sandor had been conscripted into forced labor, but his wife, Margalit Koves Gondos, and their daughter, Nomi, also went on the transport. They each carried a suitcase with them and Judit carried her doll. 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, after walking several miles from the train to the camp. They were housed separately from the other inmates in the Hungarian camp and did not work. Judit stayed with her mother in the female barracks while Bela stayed in the male barracks. They were not physically harmed by the guards but were verbally abused. 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 had to stand outside every morning for hours for roll call. Their rations were meager and Bela and Anna both gave some of their portions to Judit. As the weather grew colder, Judit outgrew her clothing and shoes. 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.

    Judit and her parents learned that their entire family had perished in the Holocaust, except for Bela’s brother Zoltan, who had emigrated to the United States before the war. Although they had planned to go to Palestine, Bela and Anna decided to emigrate to the United States to be near Zoltan. Judit was sent to boarding school near Fribourg, which was very difficult for her. Bela and Anna moved to Zurich, where 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, the family moved to the Home for Intellectuals in Geneva, where Judit was tutored in English and math. 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, who had obtained US medical certification, resumed his medical career. They learned that Bela’s brother Sandor had survived the Hungarian Labor Service and emigrated to Palestine in 1947 with his wife, Margalit, and daughter, Nomi. Judith attended the University of Michigan and received a BA in education. On August 16, 1957, Judith married David Jacobs. The couple settled in Kansas City, Kansas and had four children. Judith received a MBA in finance and a PhD in educational administration from the University of Missouri- Kansas City. Anna, age 75, died on December 20, 1985. Bela, age 99, died on October 31, 2003.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Containers
    Category
    Metal containers
    Physical Description
    Large, rectangular, shiny aluminum container lid with rounded corners and a flat top with a metal plate where the handle, now missing, was attached. The deep lid curves slightly at the sides where 1 seam is separating. The bottom section is missing.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 3.375 inches (8.573 cm) | Width: 8.750 inches (22.225 cm) | Depth: 12.000 inches (30.48 cm)
    Materials
    overall : aluminum

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The container was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2011 by Dr. Bela Gondos and Dr. Judith Gondos Jacobs.
    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:
    2022-07-28 18:28:31
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn513769

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