Wedding portrait of Pal Breuer and Elizabeth Hacker.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 67847
1931 October 25
- Papa, [Veszprem] Hungary
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Hungary -- Religious Life/Weddings
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Eli Breuer
Wedding portrait of Pal Breuer and Elizabeth Hacker.
- Eli (Lajos) Breuer is the son of Pál (Paul, b. 26 May 1903) and Elizabeth Hacker (b. 5 June 1906). He was born in Szombathely, Hungary on August 15, 1932 but grew up in Pápa. Lajos has one younger brother, Stephen William (István Vilmos), born November 11, 1937. His father Pál could not study in Hungary because of the quota on Jewish admissions to university. He therefore went to the University of Vienna where he received his PhD in chemistry. Afterwards, he opened a small factory in Pápa, which manufactured detergents and various other household chemicals. The family were traditional Jews and active Zionists, along with a minority of the Jews of Pápa, as far back as the 1920s. Eli attended the Orthodox elementary school (the only Jewish school in Pápa) from 1938-1942. From 1942 until the spring of 1944, he studied in the Lutheran high school,Pápai Reformatus Kollegium. In the early 1940s Eli's father had to transfer ownership of his factory to a non-Jew, but he continued to run it. He was drafted twice in the early 1940s into the Labor Service for a few months each time building fortifications near the western border of Hungary. Despite this, his life was not particularly difficult, and occasionally he was able to visit the family at home for short periods of leave. He wore his own clothes, although he was required to wear an army cap and a yellow armband. Once, after he was discharged from the service, he invited friends from the labor brigade to Pápa and even organized a hike with them and the family.
On 19 March 1944, the German occupied Hungary, and shortly afterwards, in April or May 1944, Eli's father was drafted again into the Labor Service. Eli, his mother, and brother, as well as his maternal grandmother had to move with the approximately 2600 Jews of Pápa into the ghetto. Eli's father maintained contact by mail and visited them once in the ghetto. That was the last time that Eli saw his father. At the end of June, Jews had to evacuate the ghetto, and gendarmes escorted the whole community to a large artificial fertilizer factory near the railroad tracks. They formed a long procession of people of all ages carrying their belongings. To manage, everyone put on several layers of clothing, including heavy winter wear, in the heat of summer. All of the Jews of Pápa plus an additional 300 from surrounding villages were placed in a huge shed for a few days, awaiting their fate.
Gyula Breuer, the older brother of Pál, was one of five men on the Council of the Jewish community. On 4 July 1944, when the time came to transport the Jews from Pápa to Auschwitz, the SS commander approached Gyula with a list he received from Budapest. The officer asked him if his name was Pál Breuer. Gyula replied "no, it is my brother's name." The SS commander asked "where is he (Pál)?" Gyula replied that Pál was away in Labor Service. Then the SS man asked about Pál's family and proceeded to separate out the whole Breuer family, including Eli, his mother, brother and grandmother (Berta Hacker) and aunt and uncle, Flora and Gyula Breuer. Altogether 51 people were taken and sent to Budapest on a special railroad car, ending up in a camp at 46 Kolumbus Street. (The Zionist organization in Hungary supplied the list on which this selection was based.) This camp was located in a courtyard of the Institute for the Blind and Deaf-Mutes of the Budapest Jewish Community (Kasztner's train left from her during the night between June 30 and July 1). In addition to the Pápa Jews, several hundred Jews from numerous other towns in Hungary were also assembled there. In August, when the political situation in Hungary seemed to be easing for the Jews with the prospect of the end of the war, the family and others moved out of the Kolumbus street camp to a yellow-starred building in the city, where they rented a room. On 15 October, there was a coup in Hungary. The fascist Arrow Cross organization under the leadership of Ferenc Szalasi, seized the government in order to prevent it from making a separate peace agreement with the Russians. With this coup, the Arrow Cross unleashed a reign of terror in Budapest. Jews were rounded up from the yellow starred houses and taken away to labor brigades. Others were sent towards Germany on death marches, and still others were shot on the banks of the Danube. Eli's uncle, Gyula, was also taken away to such a forced labor unit. The family decided that it would be safer to return to the Komubus Street camp, which was guarded by the SS then to risk the terror of the Arrow Cross. One day Eli's uncle appeared, having escaped from the labor unit. At the beginning of December 1944, the camp on Kolumbus Street was evacuated. All those who could walk, were sent to a nearby sports arena (the KISOK football field). Grandmother Berta and other old people were ordered to remain at Kolumbus Street. At the football field the people were told to line up in a large rectangle facing the center to listen to new orders. At one point, men and women of ages 18-40 were ordered to step forward. Eli's mother (who was then 38) was getting ready to step out when Aunt Flora said: "don't be silly, put on a headscarf and stand in a stooped position, so you will look older." She did and stayed with the family, very likely saving her life. Those who were selected were sent on a death march westwards to Germany. The others who remained were led to the Budapest ghetto, where they were dispersed into the various buildings.
On 18 January 1945, the Budapest ghetto was liberated by the Russians. Eli's mother managed to walk from the Budapest ghetto, in the city center, to the Kolumbus Street camp to look for her 75 year old mother and found her in a very weak condition. The next day, she and Eli carried her in a pushcart back to the apartment. A few days before Eli's grandmother died, she saw one of her sons, Zoltan Hacker, who showed up unexpectedly at their door in striped prisoner's clothes, returning from Auschwitz. In the summer of 1945, Eli and the family learned that Pal had been in Ohrdruf and Buchenwald and died there on January 26, 1945. After liberation, Eli went back to school in the Budapest Jewish gymnasium. He joined the Gordonia Maccabi Hatzair Zionist Movement in Budapest. Eli emigrated Hungary illegally and came to Israel in 1949 as a part of 40-50 youngsters who went to Kvutzat Geva in Emek Yezrael. In 1950, he was drafted to the army for two years, and after discharge he attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to study chemistry. In 1950 his mother and brother attempted to leave Hungary, also illegally. They were caught after crossing the border and Elizabeth Breuer was imprisoned for six months in Slovakia. She then returned to Hungary and was sentenced to an additional one and one half years in prison, where she worked on a construction site. The government confiscated all of her property, including her home. His brother was sent at first to a cousin in Bratislava and then returned to Pápa to his uncle and aunt, Gyula and Flora Breuer. After Eli's mother was released from prison, she went to work in small manufacturing company. His brother escaped Hungary in November 1956 and came to England where he studied at the university and later becoming a university lecturer in chemistry. In 1957, Eli's mother immigrated to Israel and remarried in 1963. She died in 1978. Eli Breuer is Professor Emeritus of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has four sons and nine grandchildren.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Eli Breuer
Record last modified: 2008-09-09 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1167024