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Brown leather work boots worn by a Hungarian Jewish man for forced labor and in hiding

Object | Accession Number: 2003.442.3 a-b

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    Brown leather work boots worn by a Hungarian Jewish man for forced labor and in hiding

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    Brief Narrative
    Leather work boots bought by Istvan Pick in Budapest, Hungary, in spring 1943 when he received a summons to report for forced labor. He wore them in two forced labor battalions, and when he went into hiding in Budapest. Istvan, his wife Margit, and their ten year old son Gyorgy lived in hiding in Budapest from November 1944-January 1945. Hungary was an ally of Nazi Germany and adopted similar anti-Jewish laws in the 1930s. Istvan, an engineer, lost his job in May 1939 because he was Jewish. He was conscripted into Hungarian labor battalions in 1940, 1943, and 1944. After German setbacks in the war against the Soviet Union in early 1943, Hungary sought a separate peace. In March 1944, Germany invaded Hungary. The next month, Hungarian authorities began round-ups of Hungarian Jews for deportation to concentration camps. That June, Gyorgy, his mother, and Malvina were forced to move to a designated Jews only yellow star building. Malvina's sister Gizella already lived in a designated building and they moved in with her. In November, Istvan escaped his labor battalion and went into hiding in Budapest at a textile factory on Csango Street where nearly 200 other Jews were also hiding. On November 22, he sent for Margit and Gyorgy. They packed a small suitcase and left without telling Malvina. The building was raided the next day, and Malvina, Gizella, and the other residents were taken to transit camps in the brickyards along the river. The building superintendent knew that the women had a brother, Bela, living in one of the safe houses in the international ghetto protected by the efforts of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Bela was able to get protective cards for Malvina and the others and they moved into the safe house. In December, the Jewish owner of the factory where Gyorgy and his family were hiding was betrayed to the Gestapo. The factory was raided December 2, but the police accepted bribes to not make arrests. On December 17, the Pick family went to the central ghetto to avoid capture. Budapest was under heavy bombardment and there was no electricity, gas, or water. Food was scarce because of the Soviet blockade. The Picks lived in the crowded basement with nearly 200 others. On January 18, 1945, Pest, where they lived was liberated by the Soviet Army; Buda was liberated on February 13. The family returned to their own apartment. They were reunited with Malvina, who returned from the international ghetto. Over 160 members of Gyorgy's extended family perished in the Holocaust. The family remained in Budapest. In 1956, Gyorgy became involved in the Hungarian Uprising against the Soviet controlled government and had to flee to Austria. He wore the boots during this flight from Hungary and his immigration to the United States in November-December 1956.
    received:  approximately 1943 March
    use:  1943 March-1956
    emigration:  1956 December
    use: forced labor; Cluj (Romania)
    use: in hiding; Budapest (Hungary)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of George Pick
    b. interior heel, stamped : 43
    Subject: George Pick
    Subject: Istvan Pick
    György (George Pick) was born March 28, 1934 in Budapest, Hungary. He was the only child of middle class Jewish parents. György’s father, Istvan, was an engineer responsible for producing hydraulic grape presses for wineries. His mother, Margit Pick (née Kornhauser), worked as a legal secretary. The Pick family could trace its history in the Austro-Hungarian Empire back 230 years, and György had many close relatives in the city.

    In the 1930s, Hungary’s authoritarian government pushed the country into close alignment with Nazi Germany. Hitler’s speeches were broadcast on the radio, and even though György could not understand German, he was disturbed by the anger he heard in the dictator’s voice. Hungary’s anti-Jewish laws were passed between 1938 and 1941. Modeled after Germany’s Nuremberg Laws they defined Jews in racial terms, excluded Jews from various professions, and severely restricted their participation in economic life. As a result, György parents lost their jobs.

    In 1940, Hungary officially allied itself with the Axis powers. György’s father was conscripted into a labor battalion and sent to the newly annexed territory of Ruthenia, where he was forced to build roads for the military. He was released after three months, but was reconscripted in 1943 and again in 1944. György attended school until March 1944, when German troops occupied Hungary.

    In mid-May 1944, the Hungarian authorities, in coordination with the German Security Police, began to systematically deport the Hungarian Jews. In less than two months, nearly 440,000 Jews were deported from Hungary. Most were deported to Auschwitz, but thousands were also sent to the border with Austria to be deployed at digging fortification trenches. By the end of July 1944, the only Jewish community left in Hungary was that of Budapest, the capital.

    In June, the Picks, along with other Jews in the capital, had to move into special buildings marked with yellow stars, and all of their belongings were confiscated. That October, the Hungarian fascists, known as the Arrow Cross Party, took power, and began to depart the remaining Jews to various concentration camps. György’s father was able to save the family from deportation by hiding them in a vacant building disguised as a uniform factory. A month later, they, along with the 160 to 170 Jews hiding there were discovered. György was placed in a Red Cross orphanage with 500 other children, but he soon escaped and returned to his family. He later learned that the children who had remained in the orphanage were killed. Two weeks after this incident, the Picks were sent to the Ghetto in Budapest. György and his family remained there during the final siege of the city which lasted from December through January.

    In January 1945, the Ghetto was liberated by Soviet troops. Approximately 130 of György’s relatives had been killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. After the war, György remained in Hungary, where he earned a degree in engineering. In 1956, he came to the United States as a refugee. He earned his Ph.D. in 1965, and then worked for the United States Navy as an aerospace engineer until his retirement in 1995. He and his wife, Leticia Flores Pick, live in Arlington, Virginia.
    Istvan Pick was born in 1901 to Jeno and Gizella Augenfeld Pick in Budapest, Hungary. His father was the director of a lumber company. Istvan had three younger siblings: one brother, Laszlo, and two sisters, Jolan and Erzsebet. Istvan became an engineer and traveled the country selling wine presses to wineries. In 1933, he married Margit Kornhauser, who was born to Samu and Malvina Spitzer Kornhauser on March 26, 1901, in Budapest. Margit had three brothers, Laszlo, Charles, and Karoly. She worked as a legal secretary for her uncle, Pal Kornhauser. Istvan and Margit’s only child, Gyorgy (George), was born on March 28, 1934, while they were living with Istvan’s parents. Once the couple moved to their own apartment, Malvina lived with them.
    In 1938, the Hungarian fascist regime enacted anti-Jewish laws similar to Germany’s Nuremberg laws, revoking rights Hungarian Jews had held for nearly 100 years. Istvan lost his job in May 1939 because he was Jewish. He paid the superintendent of their building, Gyorgy Dudek, to take out a business license in his name. Istvan and his business partners then set up a scrap metal business. In 1940, all able bodied Jewish males were required to perform forced labor service. In September, Istvan was conscripted into a labor battalion and sent to Raho, in Ruthenia, to build roads for three months. Gyorgy, Margit, and Malvina remained in their home in Budapest and Gyorgy attended the Jewish Boys' Orphanage School. In November 1940, Hungary joined the Axis Alliance, concerned about maintaining good relations with Nazi Germany. In spring 1941, they took part in Operation Barbarossa, Germany’s surprise attack on the Soviet Union. The labor battalions were placed under the control of the Hungarian Army and deployed for war related construction.iIn 1942, Margit’s aunt Ilona Halmos, with her husband Jeno and son Gabor fled Slovakia for Budapest. The Pick’s and other extended family helped hide them. In April 1943, Istvan was conscripted for a three month road construction project, this time in Cluj, in the region of Transylvania taken from Romania and given to Hungary in the German mediated Second Vienna Award in 1940.
    After the German defeat and subsequent retreat from Stalingrad in February 1943, Hungary sought a separate peace with the western allies. In March 1944, Germany invaded Hungary. Prior to this, Hungary had not ceded to German demands to deport its Jews to concentration camps. Jeno Halmos turned himself in and his wife and son fled back to Slovakia. In April, Hungarian authorities began rounding up all Jews outside of Budapest and gathering them in centralized locations. By April 5th, all Jews were required to wear yellow stars on their clothing. Margit’s uncle Pal was deported. Istvan’s labor battalion was sent to western Hungary to build anti-tank fortifications. In June, Gyorgy, his mother, and her mother Malvina were forced to move to a specially designated yellow star house for Jews. His grandmother’s sister, Gizella, already lived in one of these houses, and they moved in with her. During May and June, Budapest was a frequent target of allied bombing raids. In September, Istvan's labor battalion moved to Budapest. In early November, his commander warned the unit that they would be sent to Germany the following day. The men were given a 24-hour furlough and Istvan planned to go into hiding with a friend. His friend was caught, and never made it to their hiding place. Istvan had to find a new shelter. He sought the help of a former business associate, Gyorgy Gyekis, who sent him to a textile factory on Csango Street. The factory was ostensibly manufacturing uniforms for the Hungarian army, but in actuality, had ceased production. Approximately 65 Jews were hiding there when Istvan arrived. The factory was established by Imre Kormos (Kohn), a Hungarian Jew living on false papers, who had experience in the textile industry. Kormos operated four factories where 1100 Jews were hidden.
    On November 22, Istvan sent an urgent message to Margit and Gyorgy telling them to pack a few things, join him at the factory, and tell no one. They packed a small suitcase, saying nothing and leaving Malvina and Gizella behind. When they arrived at the factory, there were 170 Jews hiding there. Kormos, who had been hiding with Hungarian friends, was betrayed to the Gestapo. The informer also disclosed the locations of three of Kormos' four factories. On December 2, five armed members of the State Security Police raided the Csango Street factory. The Jews hiding evaded arrest by bribing the police to protect them instead of deporting them. People hiding in the other two factories were killed. Kormos was tortured for two days, but he did not disclose the location of his fourth factory. Kormos was sentenced to death, but escaped and survived the war. A few days after the raid, Gyorgy and 21 other children in the factory were transferred to a building under the protection of the Swiss Red Cross. The conditions there were terrible, so Gyorgy and a friend escaped and returned to the factory. Soon after their escape, there was an Arrow Cross raid on the Red Cross safe house, during which the children were rounded-up and shot on the banks of the Danube.
    The family remained at the factory until December 17, when two of the bribed policemen told people in the factory that it was soon to be raided. The policemen escorted whoever wanted to leave to the new central ghetto, and Istvan’s family went there. Istvan joined the ghetto police force to earn double rations. There were severe food shortages as the Soviets laid siege to the city. There was no gas, water, or electricity. Istvan patrolled the streets while Gyorgy and Margit hid in the basement of a building with 200 others. Pest was liberated by the Soviets on January 18, 1945, and Buda on February 13. Istvan’s family returned to their apartment. His mother-in-law, Malvina, returned from the International ghetto where she had been hiding. The war in Europe ended on May 7, 1945. Istvan’s sister Erzsebet Pick Rutkai was killed in 1944 on her way to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Sixty-three members of his extended family perished. Margit’s closest family members survived, but more than 90 members of her extended family perished in the Holocaust, including Pal Kornhauser and Jeno Halmos who were killed in 1944 at Auschwitz concentration camp. Istvan and his family remained in Budapest. Malvina, age 76, died in 1950. Gyorgy went on to study mechanical engineering. In March 1956, Istvan died at age 55.

    Physical Details

    Dress Accessories
    Object Type
    Boots (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    a. Well worn, right dark brown leather lace-up man's ankle high work boot with rounded toes and an open tab upper stitched flat to the vamp. The tongue extends and connects on both inner sides where it reinforces the lace holes. Two brown cloth shoelaces with plastic tips are inserted through the 7 sets of metal eyelets. The vamp is double stitched along the quarter and there is a looped backstrap. The interior is constructed with light brown leather; there is a thin piece of yellow foam along the heel. It has a short stacked heel. There is a piece of rope along the welt and the layered leather soles are attached with cobnails and stitched around the upper sole. The scuffed shoe is scratched and worn through at the toe cap, has a worn sole, a rolled outer heel, and a metal heel plate repair.
    b. Well worn, left dark brown leather lace-up man's ankle high work boot with rounded toes and an open tab upper stitched flat to the creased vamp. The tongue extends and connects on both inner sides where it reinforces the lace holes. Two brown cloth shoelaces with plastic tips are inserted through the 7 sets of metal eyelets. The vamp is double stitched along the quarter and there is a looped backstrap. The interior is constructed with light brown leather. It has a short stacked heel. There is a piece of rope along the welt and the layered leather soles are attached with cobnails and stitched around the upper sole. The size is stamped on the heel interior. The scuffed shoe is worn through at the toe cap and the sole is worn, with a rolled outer heel and a metal plate repair.
    a: Height: 11.250 inches (28.575 cm) | Width: 4.250 inches (10.795 cm) | Depth: 6.375 inches (16.192 cm)
    b: Height: 11.875 inches (30.163 cm) | Width: 4.500 inches (11.43 cm) | Depth: 6.500 inches (16.51 cm)
    a : leather, wood, metal, cloth, plastic
    b : leather, wood, metal, cloth, plastic

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The boots were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial in 2003 by George Pick, the son of Istvan Pick.
    Record last modified:
    2022-09-09 11:51:09
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