Group portrait of the extended Gruenstein family.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 60347
Circa 1935 - 1949
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Czechoslovakia -- Family/Friends/Portraits
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Hannah & Nissan Lowinger
Group portrait of the extended Gruenstein family.
- Nissan Lowinger (born Nandor Löwinger) is the oldest son and second oldest child of Mozes Löwinger, born on February 28, 1891 in Sziget, Hungary and Martha Malka Jilovitz Löwinger, born on January 8, 1904 in Wylchowce, Hungary. Nandor was born on May 31, 1930 in Decs, Hungary. He had five siblings: Ewa Zahava (b. April 10, 1927), Magda Tova (b. November 24, 1931) Tibor Shimon (b. June 12, 1933), Martin Mordechai (b. January 25, 1935) and the youngest, Laszlo Yakov ( b. November 25, 1937). Mozes Löwinger was a cantor and a ritual animal slaughterer (shochet) for the village of Decs and the neighboring villages. The family led an orthodox way of life and all the boys had side-locks (peyes). As the anti-Jewish laws were introduced and the local ant-Semitism grew stronger, Mozes Löwinger withdrew his children from the local Hungarian schools and hired a private tutor. The children traveled to the nearby town of Szekszárd to take exams in the local Jewish school. In 1940 the Jews of Decs left the village and the Löwinger family moved to Hajdúböszörmény, town close to Debrecen and some 200 miles (371 kilometers) away from Decs. Ritual animal slaughter was not allowed by the Hungarian authorities anymore and Mozes Löwinger could make a living only as a cantor. In 1940 the Hungarian authorities established forced labor brigades for Jewish men, called Munkaszologálat. In 1942 Mozes Löwinger was mobilized into such a forced labor group. In May 1943 Nissan Löwinger celebrated his Bar Mitzvah and his father was able to return to Hajdúböszörmény to be with his son and the rest of the family. Nissan and other Jewish boys in town were forced to report to the police headquarters everyday and from there they were sent to help out to non-Jewish families whose fathers were serving in the Hungarian Army. Until March 1944 there were two functioning synagogues in town serving the 800 Jewish inhabitants. On March 19, 1944 Germany occupied Hungary and in April 1944 Jews were ordered to attach a yellow Star of David and soon after, they were forced into a ghetto. The ghetto included just two streets for more than 600 Jews. Two other Jewish families moved into the Löwinger apartment in the ghetto. During this time all valuables were confiscated from the Jews by the Hungarian gendarmes, very often with the use of brutal force. In early May 1944 the Jews residing in Hajdúböszörmény were ordered to pack their backpacks and were marched to the train station. In scorching heat the Jews were forced to Debrecen, some 20 kilometers away. Malka Löwinger with her 14-year-old son Nandor were reluctant to let the younger children ride the train, but relented under pressure. After two exhausting days of marching, they were reunited in the Debrecen ghetto. The Debrecen ghetto had two parts, known as the "large" and the "small" ghetto, which were divided by Hatvan Street. The Jews of the city were forced to build the wall of the ghetto, which stood 8.9 feet (2.7 m) high. On May 15 the ghetto was sealed.
Local Hungarian police guarded the ghetto, whereas the Jewish police were charged with keeping order within the walls and were ordered to hand over those Jews whom the authorities wished to interrogate about the hidden valuables. Each Jew was allocated 43 square feet (4 sq m) of space, which meant that most rooms contained at least one entire family and often more. On June 7, all traffic in and out of the ghetto was ended, including that of Jews leaving the ghetto for work. Two weeks later, on June 21, 1944, Hungarian gendarmes entered the ghetto and moved the Jews to the nearby Serly brickyards. There they joined the Jews from the neighboring communities of Balmazujvaros, Hajduboszormeny,Hajdudorog, Hajduhadhaz, Hajdunanas, Hajdusamson, Hajduszoboszlo,Teglas, and Vamospercs--altogether,13,084 Jews. At the brickyards, the Jews were stripped of their remaining valuables. The first two trains, with 6,841 relatively fortunate passengers, were sent to Strasshof, in Austria, where the deportees were dispersed and put to work in agricultural and other enterprises for Organisation Todt. Malka Löwinger and her six children were taken by a cattle train to Strasshof where a selection took place. Those whose arms were marked by a letter A were selected for labor and those marked with a letter X were selected for death. The whole Löwinger family was marked with X, but they overheard an advice given to someone else, to erase the marking and stand for selection again. They did exactly this and this time received letter A which granted them work in a cardboard factory in Oismühle forced labor camp in Niederdonau, Austria. Malka Löwinger and her two oldest daughetrs: Ewa and Magda worked in the factory producing the cardboard and Nandor worked in a factory producing the boxes. He and Russian slave laborers packed the boxes for shipment; after a few months the supervisor noticed that Nandor writes in beautiful script and moved him to addressing the boxes. All the prisoners: the Hungarian Jews as well as the Soviet laborers, suffered hunger and cold. Nandor used his talent to build cardboard toys and his younger brothers would exchange these in the nearby villages for food. After 10 months of miserable existence the Germans forced the Jewish prisoners into cattle cars and transferred them to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Theresienstadt concentration camp became a dumping ground in the last month of the war. Jewish prisoners were forced to march or they were brought by cattle trains and many died or were killed on the way.
On May 9, 1945 the Soviet Army liberated the camp and after about six weeks the Hungarian Jews were allowed to repatriate. They travelled to Hajdúböszörmény, via Budapest. Only about 150 Jews returned to town out of the pre-war population of more than 600. The institutions of the Jewish community were non existent. There were no religious services, no kosher food and no Jewish education. In September 1945 a few survivors of the Hungarian forced labor battalions returned home and reported on the fate of Mozes Löwinger. Apparently towards the end of 1944, Germans transferred him to the Mauthausen concentration camp and later to its sub-camp: Melk. Quartz GmbH a German company used forced labor for digging tunnels and production of ammunition. Mozes Löwinger was brought to the Mauthausen concentration camp on May 28, 1944 and died in the Melk concentration camp on September 6, 1944 at 9 PM. In Hajdúböszörmény the Löwinger family had to find ways to support seven people. Malka started to prepare kosher chicken and goose meat for sale and she baked challah bread for Shabbat. Nissan (Nandor) and Zahava (Ewa) were in charge of selling the produce and the family lived from the small profits. Nissan received the flour for baking as payment for his work in the mill, so the profit was somewhat higher. The children smuggled the poultry and the bread to Debrecen and even to Budapest. The Löwinger family waited for the opportunity to leave Hungary and immigrate to the Land of Israel. In December 1945 they travelled to Vienna and to the UNRRA and Joint DP camp in Aschau, Germany. The children attended ORT schools in the camp. In early April 1947 the four oldest Löwinger children: Eva (Zahava), Nandor (Nissan), Magda (Tova) and Tibor (Shimon) traveled to Marseille in preparation for an illegal immigration to Palestine ob board the ship Theodore Herzl. The ship with more than 1,800 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust arrived in the Haifa port on April 14, 1947, but the British Mandate authorities forcibly boarded the ship and two survivors were killed. The British authorities expelled all the immigrants to Cyprus, where they were detained in a camp until December 1947. At that point Nissan claimed that he is a year younger than he actually was and he was allowed to enter Palestine. Nissan and his three siblings settled in Kfar Ha’Roe, managed by Youth Aliyah. Malka Löwinger and her two youngest children: Martin (Mordechai) and Laszlo (Yakov) moved to the Bergen-Belsen DP camp and she took care of a group of forty Jewish orphans. On May 15, 1948, a day of establishment of the State of Israel, Malka, her children and the group of orphans arrived in Israel. Malka Löwinger was reunited with her children and settled in Kfar Ha’Roe. She was employed by the local religious school (yeshiva) and they all lived in a small apartment nearby. Nissan Löwinger was mobilized into the newly established Israel Defense Forces and participated in the War of Independence. He served in the IDF till 1950 and upon his release he started his art education in the Art Student League. Nissan (Nandor) Löwinger met Hanna (Agi), a Holocaust survivor from Michalovce, Czechoslovakia and they married on May 29, 1956. They have three children:
Noa (married to Avi Nachmias) born on June 22, 1960. She and her husband have three children: Ido, Roi and Maya. Moshe (married to Michal) born on May 29, 1963; they have four children: Tomer, Nitzan, Yuval and Shachar. Shiri, born on July 24, 1968; she died on November 7, 1997. Hanna and Nissan reside in Givatayim. Hanna is a retired English teacher and Nissan is an accomplished painter.
Hanna Loewinger (born Agnes Agi Brand) the only daughter of Moshe (Moric) Brand, (b. August 28, 1898) and Etel Gruenstein Brand (b. on November 7, 1904). Agi was born as on June 29, 1935 in Michalovce in Czechoslovakia and had two brothers: Richard, born in July 2, 1932 and Erich, born August 21, 1937. The Brand family owned a furniture factory in Michalovce. Moshe Brand managed the factory together with his three brothers: Hermann, Jeno and Lajos. The family was quite affluent and Hanna Agnes attended a Jewish kindergarten and later a Jewish elementary school. Maternal grandmother, Chani Levkovitch Grünstein, lived with her daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren. Michalovce or Nagymihály in Hungarian is located in NE Slovakia. In 1940 more than 4,000 Jews lived in town. On October 6, 1938 autonomy was proclaimed in Slovakia and on March 15, 1939 it became an independent state. In 1939 Jewish children in Michalovce were not permitted to attend public schools, but the Jewish community established schools for their children. As of May 19, 1941the Jews were required to wear a yellow armband, including the children. The same year the Slovak authorities closed down Jewish businesses and many Jewish men were seized for forced labor. In March 1942 the deportations to the death camps began. Many Slovak Jews decided to smuggle their children to Hungary, because it was known that that authorities did not expel small children. The furniture factory and planks storage which was owned by the four Brand brothers was confiscated and given by the Slovak authorities to a so-called guardian. This man, for substantial bribes, claimed that he needed the presence of the former owners to learn the business. This grace period enabled the family to secure false papers and to send their oldest son, Richard (Abraham Aaron) to a boarding school in Hungary. In the winter of 1943-1944 Agi was sent off to her paternal aunt, Ruzena Oravsky in Kosice. Her uncle, Albert, picked her up from an orphanage in Budapest and brought her home in Kosice. Rosanna, a 17-years-old relative, came to Michalovce to live with the Brand family. During the round-ups of Jews for deportation, she hid in the toilet and escaped through the small window to the plank storage. On March 19, 1944 Germany occupied Hungary and the Jewish families in Slovakia became frantic to bring their children back. A smuggler was dispatched by the Brand family to fetch Richard from his boarding school in Miskolc, but the principal did not agree to release the boy. Sadly, in May 1944, the whole school was deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, and Richard Brand was murdered on arrival. A different smuggler was sent to Kosice to bring Agi home. He arrived at the Oravsky family home, but her aunt refused to let her eight-year-old niece go. Agi’s cousin, Erwin, who was 16 at the time, took her for a walk and transferred her into the hands of the smuggler. The baby brother, Erich (Dov) was picked up by his grandmother Chani Grünstein and while the two were crossing the Hungarian Slovak border, they were discovered by the Germans and sent to their death. A few days after Moshe and Etel Brand received this message, they received two postcards, written by an unknown German woman, Martha Paucke. She described to the boy’s parents what a smart and wonderful boy he was and that he was getting better in the hospital where she was taking care of him. The bitter-sweet reunion with their only surviving child was emotional, but the grave situation required fast action. Equipped with false identification papers Moric, Etel, Agi Brand and cousin Rosanna moved to Nove Mesto. They rented a room and stayed there till the end of June 1944, at which time the owners decided that it was too dangerous to rent a room to hiding Jews. Agi and her family and five other Jews started to look for a safe haven in a nearby village, but on the way they were accosted by armed guards and parted way with the rest of the group. After a long night spent at the bank of the river, they reached a farm in the village of Kopanice. All members of the hiding Jewish family worked: Agi helped with feeding the cows and her mother and Rosanna helped with the household. After a few months they had to move again. The Hlinka guards discovered that Brand family was Jewish. They found a safe haven for short while and the Hlinka guard came again. They arrested them ant transferred them all to the Sered transit and forced labor camp. Etel Brand made sure to dispose of all her money in the toilet rather than give it to her executioners. In January 1945 Agi and her mother were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp and Moric Moshe Brand and Rosanna were deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In Theresienstadt Etel Brand got a job with a so-called prominent family and she was able to bring some more food for Agi. The nine-year-old Agi was constantly hungry and sickly as well. She underwent a tonsillectomy in the camp. Her mother protected her from the horrible reality as much as she could.
After the liberation of Theresienstadt in May 1945, Etel and Agi returned to their hometown of Michalovce and moved back into their house, which did not look or feel like their home, anymore. They found some family photographs and neighbors returned some pieces of furniture. Even valuables hidden in the double ceiling of the warehouse were still there. On June 29, 1945 Agi celebrated her 10th birthday when a strange man, looking like a skeleton approached and greeted her. She didn’t recognize her own father, who returned from Bergen-Belsen. Moric and his brothers restored their furniture factory and Agi returned to school. She became active in the religious Zionist youth organization, Bnei Akiba. Influenced by the movement’s ideology, Agi decided to immigrate to the Land of Israel, while her parents wanted to go to the United States, where Etel’s sisters lived. On March 21, 1949 Agi immigrated to Israel with Youth Aliyah and six months later her parents joined her. After a difficult period and despite the arduous economic conditions Moshe Brand opened a carpentry workshop in a container he brought with him from Czechoslovakia and the family moved to Netanya.
Hanna (Agi) met Nissan (Nandor) Löwinger, a Holocaust survivor from Decs, Hungary and they married on May 29, 1956. They have three children: Noa (married to Avi Nachmias) born on June 22, 1960. She and her husband have three children: Ido, Roi and Maya. Moshe (married to Michal) born on May 29, 1963; they have four children: Tomer, Nitzan, Yuval and Shachar. Shiri, born on July 24, 1968; she died on November 7, 1997.
Hanna and Nissan reside in Givatayim. Hanna is a retired English teacher and Nissan is an accomplished painter.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Hannah & Nissan LowingerSource Record ID: Collections: 2011.452.1
Record last modified: 2012-03-07 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1174899