Wilhelm Steiner holds his baby daughter Reline.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 63220
- Bratislava, [Slovakia] Czechoslovakia
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Czechoslovakia -- Family/Friends/Portraits
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of David Steiner
Wilhelm Steiner holds his baby daughter Reline.
- David Zigmund Steiner was the son of Wilhelm Zeev Steiner (b. Nov. 1, 1878, Bratislava) and Josy Jameson (b. June 25, 1884, London). He was born on June 24, 1926 in Bratislava and had one sister (Renee) Reline (b. 1922) in Bratislava. Wilhelm Steiner, originally from the small Moravian town Kojetin, had nine siblings. The family was Orthodox but had liberal tendencies. David's father belonged to the local Free Masons; he spoke Latin with the local priests and German at home. He ran the family Antiquariat Book store which had been founded by his great grandfather Zigmund Steiner and was very well known. The family was well-off and owned several properties. They lived in the house that was connected to the bookstore and also owed a summer home bought by David's grandparents known as the "Garden." David attended the Neolog elementary school and then began the German Gymnasium where 300 Jews studied. He also studied Jewish subjects privately and participated in the Bnei Akiva Zionist youth movement.
On April 18, 1939 the independent Slovak government issued sweeping antisemitic legislation limiting the number of Jews in certain professions, though they also granted individual exemptions. On April 25, 1940 the Aryanization law was enacted providing for the liquidation of Jewish enterprises or their transfer to non Jewish owners. Jewish students were expelled from certain educational institutions.
In 1939 at the age of 17 Reline Steiner acquired a certificate to immigrate to Palestine. She understood the gravity of the situation and hoped to leave Europe. Her father was not enthusiastic about the idea and preferred for her to go to England. Reline returned to Bratislava surrendering her certificate for Palestine. However, she never obtained a British work visa. In February and March 1942 deportations to Poland began, and all Jewish persons between 16 and 30 had to register. Reline tried to get a job as a seamstress in order to obtain a work permit from the Central Economy Bureau declaring that her work was essential. Such permits usually spared one from deportation. The request was denied. Reline managed to move to German Christian neighbors who were friends of the family. She took all of her clothes, books and belongings. However, at the end of March the registered young people were called up ostensibly for labor assignments somewhere in the Reich. Reline claimed she was not afraid of hard work, and she realized if she did not appear at the deportation site her parents might be called up. She was sent to the Patronka collection camp which was run by the Hlinka Guard and then deported to Auschwitz/Birkenau where she was murdered.
The rest of the family remained in their own apartment, andWilhelm was able to work almost until 1942. David's three uncles also worked in the book store as well as 4-5 Jewish employees. The store was confiscated and given to Ludo Mistric Ondrejov, a well-known Slovak author. Initially he told the family that they could continue working; their work was a necessity for all concerned. The store received Aryanization papers claiming that Mistrik-Ondrejov was the official owner, and the Central Economy Bureau issued work permits for the Jewish employees. The new owner only appeared once or twice a month to collect money from the business. At some point the family lost their ownership of the "Garden;" the Slovak State split it into three parts and sold it to three separate buyers. On June 12 1942, when deportation of Slovak Jews was in full swing, Ludo Mistsrik-Ondrejoy declared that he did not need the Jews Max, Josef, David Sigmund and Wilhelm Steiner in his bookstore: .
David's uncles managed to obtain work illegally on one of the building sites in Bratislava. One unlce who was a construction engineer helped David get work carrying concrete for a government building department. David and his mother were given protected status. In June 1942 they were called in by the authorities and told that they would be picked up in three hours. They packed their belongings and went into hiding with Christians in Bratislava for a week. David managed to continue working and moved in with another Jew until August 1942. One day, David went to visit an uncle who was a lawyer with protective papers; the concierge of the house saw him and called the police. They held him in the police station for three days and interrogated him regarding his parents' whereabouts which he did not know. After three days he was sent to the central place for the deportation of Jews but was released due to his protection papers. He found his parents who were hiding in a bunker on the outskirts of the city together with 40 people. They remained there for about two and a half months. David returned and worked again in construction from November 1942 to 1944. In 1943 David was working in an old Jewish cemetery which was being dismantled to make way for a tramway tunnel. With the permission of the authorities the remains of the old cemetery were moved to the new Orthodox cemetery further from the city center. Though 80% of Slovak Jews had already perished, the government gave permission to relocate the old Jewish cemetery, including the grave of the famous rabbi, Chatam Sofer.
David's father, Wilhelm Steiner found temporary work cataloging books that the Slovak State intended to sell abroad. In 1944 David and his parents returned to hiding in a cold wet and damp bunker with surrounded by rats. Conditions were abominable but they survived the war; Wilhelm was the only one of his nine siblings to survive. After the war, Wilhelm Steiner tried to reclaim the family property. He died in 1948 in Bratislava shortly after the property issues had been resolved in favor of the family. David immigrated to Israel to join some cousins who had immigrated previously. He brought with him the Torah Scroll that had belonged to his great grandfather and that now is kept in a synagogue in the Old City. In 1991 Selma Steiner was able to reopen the Steiner bookshop in Bratislava. David was director in Jerusalem of a children's home and researched the Holocaust in Slovakia. He married a survivor from Transnistria and had four children and eight grandchildren.
(Sources: Genya Markon interview with donor May 2010 and "Between the Old and the New: The History of the Bookseller Family Steiner in Pressburg" by Martin Trancik, 1995
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: David Steiner
Record last modified: 2011-03-01 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1173817