Brust family papers
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Eva Brust Cooper
Consists of photographs and documents related to the experiences of the Brust family of Budapest, Hungary, before, during, and after the Holocaust. Includes family photographs, identity papers, postcards, inventories of household goods, and immigration paperwork. Also includes material related to members of the Vogel and Schwarcz families.
- Document Creator
- Eva B. Cooper
Eva Brust was born on March 18, 1934, in Budapest, Hungary, the only child of Elek and Livia (Lilly) Schwarcz Brust. Elek was born on December 15, 1899, to Bela and Roza Orova Brust in Budapest. Lilly was born on January 23, 1912, to Adolf (b. 1880) and Serena (1892-1942) Deutsch Schwarcz, and had a younger brother, Laszlo (Leslie (1919-1990.) Adolf had a prosperous watchmaking business, with a partner named Vogel. Both Eva’s grandparents and parents were university educated, upper class, and assimilated. Elek and Lilly married on June 4, 1933. Elek owned a wholesale paper company and was a prominent member of the Jewish community. The family lived in a large apartment in Pest, with a chauffeur, cook, maid, and governess. They attended the Dohány Street Synagogue. She was part of a large, close, extended family, who gathered on all holidays. Eva went to public school, where she received lessons in Judaism, as religion was a required subject. She also had tutors for English and French.
In spring 1939, Eva’s maternal grandparents visited the World’s Fair in America, and stayed in New York, where they reestablished their watch business. Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, beginning World War II. In 1941, Eva’s father Elek was sent to a Hungarian forced labor camp. After several months, Lilly obtained his release using papers acquired on the black market. That spring, the Hungarian Army joined in Germany’s surprise attack on the Soviet Union. In August, Eva’s maternal uncle Leslie left to join his parents in New York. In 1943, Elek was again drafted into forced labor service, now under the control of the Hungarian Army. Lilly helped run the business while her husband was away and often found ways to send Elek packages of warm clothing. Other than her father’s absences, Eva’s life was not seriously disrupted.
In March 1944, Elek was released from forced labor service. March 18 was Eva’s 10th birthday. During her party, they heard marching and looked out the window and saw German troops occupying Budapest. This was when Eva’s world fell apart. Jews were segregated and required to live in designated yellow star buildings. Elek used his connections to have their building declared a Jewish building, and they were able to stay in their home. They had to live in one room, but were able to have the other rooms occupied by family friends. As an only child, Eva enjoyed having other children in the apartment. A little later, when Eva went to play as usual with another friend in the building, her friend told her that she could not play with her because she was Jewish, though neither girl really understood why. Eva could no longer attend school and they could only shop during certain hours. They had to let the servants go, as Jews could not employ others. On April 6, Jews had to begin wearing Star of David badges on their left upper shoulder, so they could be easily recognized as Jews. Eva would go outside with a friend and gather old cigarette stubs, repackage the tobacco, and sell them to help the family, in their way, as they were aware no one was working. Eva’s parents tried to shield her, but she heard the whispers and rumors and felt a growing sense of doom. She knew large trains of people were being sent to camps. And by late summer, she often saw trucks picking up people in the streets.
Her father went out frequently to the Jewish Community Center and was well informed about changing events. Eva and her mother attended a Catholic Church and completed the steps needed for conversion papers. Lilly and Eva, who had blue eyes, did not look Jewish, but her father did, so her mother did most of the talking on the family’s behalf. On October 17, 1944, there was a coup by the fascist Arrow Cross Party. Eva’s parents obtained protective passes for the family from the Swedish consulate, initialed by Raoul Wallenberg. They left their home one night, taking no suitcases, but wearing multiple layers of clothes. Eva took her favorite pillow and her long braids were cut in case of lice. They stayed one night with Gentile friends and then moved around, hiding in various locations. They went to a Swedish safe house, but it was very crowded and her parents thought they would be safer elsewhere. They then went to an apartment building they had owned and stayed in the basement, and then in a vacant apartment. The building manager brought them food when he could. The city was under constant bombardment. By December 1944, Budapest was under siege by Soviet forces, and there was no electricity, gas, or water, and food was scarce. As the Red Army closed in, the family decided to get out of the city and walked to the countryside. Once, they were arrested and lined up with a group to be shot, but a bomb fell and the soldiers, either German or Russian, ran away. They stayed with a friend and then mainly on farms.
They were in Erd when Budapest was liberated by the Soviets on February 13, 1945. They returned home. Many belongings had been stolen, but the building was livable. Elek restarted his business and Eva returned to school. Most of Lilly’s extended family perished, many killed in Auschwitz. As Soviet control over Hungary tightened, they decided to leave Budapest and applied for visitor’s visas. In April 1947, they left from London, travelling first class on the Cunard liner, Mauretania. They departed on May 21 for New York, where they settled near her maternal grandfather. Her maternal uncle Leslie met the boat. He had served in the US Army, landing in France during the D-Day invasion in June 1944. Elek went to work in his father-in-law’s watch business. In 1955, Eva married Elihu Turgell and had a daughter in 1957. Eva was a teacher, and received a Master’s degree in special education. She later married Leslie Cooper. Elek, 58, died in 1957. Her mother Lilly, 89, now Lilly Gach, after her 1983 remarriage, passed away in November 2001.
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- Eva Brust Cooper donated her family's collection to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2014.
- Additional Accession Number
- Conditions on Access
- No restrictions on access
- Conditions on Use
- Restrictions on use. Donor retains copyright.
Record last modified: 2018-11-04 13:16:36
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