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Henry Kalmus papers

Document | Accession Number: 2014.517.1

The Henry Kalmus papers consist chiefly of correspondence received by Kalmus from Vilmos Forgács, and from other friends and professional colleagues that he knew from his time in Budapest, when he worked as an engineer at Orion Radio (Hungarian Tungsten Lamp Works). Most of the correspondence dates from 1938 - 1948, beginning in the year that Kalmus left Hungary to immigrate to the United States. Initial letters inquire after Kalmus’ life abroad as well as report on day to day events in Budapest. In a few letters, references are made to attempts to emigrate from Hungary, both on the efforts of the letter writers and reporting on others who were successful in their attempts to leave. Most of the letters stop between 1941 and 1946. Most of the post-war correspondence concerns efforts to rebuild the business of Orion Radio in Budapest, including attempts to solicit Kalmus’ help in obtaining components for radios and turntables that were available in the West, but not in Hungary. Other correspondence from this period reports on the experiences of Kalmus’ friends during the war years, as well as descriptions of difficult living conditions in post-war Budapest, including requests for Kalmus to ship parcels of food to Hungary.

The most extensive correspondence, however, came from the Forgács family, and in particular from Kalmus’ close friend and professional partner Vilmos Forgács. Roughly half of the collection consists of correspondence from the family, including pre-war discussions of the attempts of Vilmos Forgács to obtain a job and a visa for Australia or Canada, descriptions of his business trips in other European countries, and news from acquaintances. Often included are letters from Vilmos’ wife, Hertha, and their two sons, Gabor and Palkó, the latter of whom often included caricatures and sketches on his letters or enclosed with them. The first letters from the family following the war were sent in January 1946, after they had received their first contact from Kalmus since 1941. In the letter of January 1, Vilmos described conditions in post-war Budapest, their ruined home with its library, and in one paragraph, he alludes to working with Raoul Wallenberg, noting that for the better part of a year they worked day and night without pause, as “every second brought a new, and possibly worse, situations, which made it necessary to come up with spontaneous ideas and to carry them out immediately.” Forgács noted that his ability to work in this manner led Wallenberg to call him “his genius,” but noted that in the end, the approximately 600 co-workers managed to save tens of thousands of people. In a separate letter, Gabor Forgács also notes his good luck in escaping from forced labor brigades, and how he was able to assist his father in his work with Wallenberg, although he narrowly escaped capture and execution by the Arrow Cross during this time (the director of Orion Radio, Hugo Wohl, also worked with Wallenberg, but does not refer to this in his post-war correspondence). In another letter from January 1946, Hertha Forgács describes general post-war conditions, including her work for the past eight months with orphans in Budapest, the fates of various friends and their families, and the general hardship of that period, noting that “in general we have become sadder people. One goes through everything, is lucky, remains alive, despite deportation (Willy), Gestapo (Palko and I), death and persecution--and still one asks ‘why?’ ‘was it worth it?’” Following the initial postwar letters, however, most of the correspondence deals with business matters on the part of Vilmos, and reports from Gabor about his university studies in Zürich, among other matters.

inclusive:  1938-1978
bulk:  1938-1948
1 box
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Angela Kalmus
Record last modified: 2023-02-24 13:42:57
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