Oradea had a thriving Jewish community before World War II and the thousands of families living and working here provided a dynamic and varied contribution to the life ofthe city. The events of the early 1940's brought that to an irrevocable halt.
We do not want all this information about people, events and environment to be lost. Our Family albums section allows us to assist those families who wish to use our pages to celebrate lives that were lost.
Hosting family pictures, documents and stories will also give everyone a greater insight into Jewish life in Oradea before the Holocaust. Over the next few years we will be posting here contributions that we have already received and we would encourage others attracted by the possibility of displaying their family effects/stories to contact us.
The Molnar family
The details of the Molnar family have kindly been provided by Judith Herve a survivor of the Holocaust from Oradea now resident in Paris.
Her father was Rezso Molnar who despite being decorated in the First World War was deported from Oradea and died in the Mauthausen–Gusen concentration camp at the age of 56. He is pictured below together with his sister Betti Steinbach and his niece Lajosné Lang.
Betti, on the left, was murdered by the Hungarian fascists in Budapest, but Lajosné survived and continued to live in Budapest until she died in the 1970s.
Judith's mother was Edit Leimdorfer, born in 1909. Both Judith and her mother were deported to Auschwitz, but both survived and returned to Oradea. Her mother is pictured below in 1943. She died in Paris in 1978.
Judith was educated at the Auspitz Jewish Elementary School in Oradea and below are the class pictures for the years 1933 t0 1936.
Madame Grosz was the class mistress and Judith is sitting to her right. To the right of Judith is Kati Sebestyen, one of her friends, who was to die in the 1944 deportation.
Judith is in the back row, fourth from the left. To her left, is her friend Lidi Turnovszky, another girl who died in the deportation as did Kati Beck who is third from the left on the second row.
This class of the 4th year was taught by Mr. Sebestyen, the Director of the school. Judith is to his left in the picture.
Judith's father also had another sister Regina Steinbach who is pictured below, togther with Judith.
Regina was deported with Judith in the cattle wagons from Oradea to Auschwitz. Regina decided to end her life before she arrived in Auschwitz. She was 65.
In 1943 Judith was able to relax in the country property of her friend Mari Laszlo (a cousin of Marta Elian, nee Steiner, who escaped from the Oradea ghetto as described in our section Escape from the ghetto.)
Mari survived the deportation to Auschwitz, but her parents and her brother died. she returned to Oradea, but subsequently left for the USA and died in Los Angeles in 2011. The boy in the picture is György Zaviszlag who died in the course of forced labour in the Ukraine.
Two other close relatives died in Auschwitz having been deported from Oradea.
Dr Mihaly Földes, was Judith's uncle and was a lawyer. Her grandmother was Madame Leimdorfer, née Paula Feldheim.
Judith met her husband to be, Lucien Hervé, shortly after World War II. He was destined to become “one of the undisputed masters of architectural photography of the 20th century”.
Archives Lucien Hervé, Paris - Photo Lucien Hervé
The Sonnenfeld Sisters
Due to the diligence and caring of subsequent generations of the Sonnenfeld family we are able to tell their story in this Family Album. It is unique as far as this section of our website is concerned in that it contains copies of the original letters sent from Oradea days before the ghetto was established.
Simon Sonnenfeld was a merchant selling clothes to aristocrats and he lived in Nagyvarad/Oradea in the middle of the 19th century. He had six children - four daughters, Antonia, Amalia, Szerena and Linka - and two sons, Zsigmond and Jozsef.
Simon with from the left Antonia, Amalia, Szerena and Linka
Jozsef Sonnenfeld married Roza Engel and they had two daughters, Vilma, called Vilukain the family (1886 - 1944) and Alice(1876 - 1944).
In the picture below, Roza is on the far right in the middle row, and Viluka, immediately behind Roza. The photo is thought to have been taken shortly before 1910.
Viluka, the younger sister by ten years lived in Nagyvarad/Oradea all her life. She married Jenő Barta and had two children, a son Pistuka who died in childhood and a daughter Erzsebet (Boske or Bessie).
Boske married Robert Zellers (later Sellers), and they left for England in 1938.
Alice married Miksa Stein, and they had a daughter, Annus (1898 - 1961), and two sons, Pal (1901-1943?) and Istvan (1904 - 1988).
Annus married Dezso Ungar. They lived in Szolnok and they had a daughter Marika and a son Gyurka. All the family survived WW2.
Pal died in Hungarian forced labour under unknown circumstances.
Istvan/Pista, with his wife Eva (nee Hammerschlag) left for Cairo, Egypt in 1938 where they remained until the end of the war. Their two daughters, Kitty and Jeanette, were born in 1942 and 1945 respectively. In 1946 the family emigrated to New York and in 1977 moved to London.
A few years before the German invasion of Hungary in March 1944, Alice, then widowed, moved to Nagyvarad/Oradea to be together with her sister, Viluka.
There they were trapped, as the conditions for Jews deteriorated.
In the PDF below are five eloquent letters that Alice and Viluka sent to their children between February and May 1944 (the same period as is covered by the Diary of Eva Heyman). They had to be very circumspect about their increasingly difficult circumstances as all letters were strictly censored. The two mothers knew that they were doomed and would never see their children again. The last letter of May 1944 was an especially loving and poignant farewell.
Both the Hungarian language originals and the English translations (kindly provided by Anna Kalmar) are shown.
Click on the image above to see the letters
Erdelyi (Englander) Family
We will be looking at the Erdelyi family as seen from the perspective of Erdelyi Stefan who was born on 19 July 1914 and who survived the Holocaust, unlike the rest of his family.
We start with a picture of the Englander family taken at around 1890, in Oradea, at the Fekete photo shop, from Pavel Street. It shows grandparents Englander Leopold and Nina, with their ten children.
Stefan's father, Jeno, is lying on the cushion at the front.
Standing, from left:
-Sandor Englander. He died in Tinca (where he is buried) a few days after finding out how part of his family had perished following deportation.
Sandor’s three grandchildren live now in the USA (Tiberiu Vilan), Bucharest (Alexander Englander) and Oradea (Peter Stern).
-Marton ( lived in Gyongyos)
-Bela was deported from Oradea and perished in Holocaust. Prior to that, as a bachelor, he lived in Battyanyi street, with his widowed sisters, Mariska and Ilon, and their daughters.
-Ignacz was deported from Oradea and perished in the Holocaust.
The younger brothers of Sandor changed their name to Erdelyi.
Sitting on chairs, from left:
-Gizella, died in childhood
-Janka survived the Budapest ghetto
-Nina Englander holding Andor, who was deported from Gyula with his family and perished in the Holocaust. His son had the same fate, his wife and daughter survived.
-Mariska, deported from Oradea with her daughter, both perished
Sitting on floor, from left:
-Erdelyi Jeno, Stefan’s father, deported in 1944 with his wife Anna, both perished
-Ilon. She was a WW1 war widow. She died before the deportation, her daughter Nusi was deported and perished.
Below are Stefan's grandparents Nina and Leopold Englander.
And their grave in the Velenta cemetery of Oradea.
Below is Stefan' mother, Anna (nee Laendler) taken in 1943. She was born in Oradea in 1882
She perished in Auschwitz in 1944.
Below is Stefan's father, Jeno who also perished in Auschwitz in 1944.
Jeno's name can be seen at the bottom of this document from the 1930s. He was one of the leading figures in the Boy's Orphanage.
An anniversary document from 1936 showing the commemoration of 20 years of existenceof the Boy's Orphanage. It also has a picture of the Neolog Rabbi, Dr Kecskemeti Lipot.
A commemorative plaque, including the name of Erdelyi Jeno which was in the Zion synagogue of Oradea and was one of the two plaques broken by subsequent vandalism.
Anna and Jeno pictured in 1914 in Oradea with their new born son Stefan.
Stefan graduated from the Commercial School in Oradea in 1932 and below is his graduation certificate.
A poster from 1932 showing all the graduates from the 1931-32 year together withthe pictures of the teachers. Stefan is second from the left at the top.
Stefan pictured in 1935.
Stefan went on to study textile production in Timisoara and his Certificate shows the areas in which he was assessed as competent.
Stefan pictured with his parents Anna and Jeno.
Below is a picture of Stefan's maternal grandmother, Janka Laendler, taken in 1940. She died in Auschwitz in 1944.
Having survived the War, Stefan returned to Oradea and married Eva Basch in 1946 (below is a copy of their marriage certificate). Subsequently Stefan and Eva moved to Melbourne, Australia, where Stefan died in 2004.
We are grateful to family members in Australia for allowing us access to these memories.
We are looking at the Steier family through the eyes of Holocaust survivor Laszlo Steier who was born on 11 March 1921 in Olteniei Street (Berkovits Ferenc Street at the time).
His father, Jozsef, used to work for one of the Ullman family as a trader in merchandiseand then for the Schon organisation. He attended the main market on Mondays and Fridays. On other days they would travel to other markets such as in Salonta or Sacuieni.
His father was helped in the markets by his mother Regina.
Laszlo had a brother, Tibor, who was a year younger than him and they are both pictured below with Tibor to the left.
He started his schooling at the local kindergarten which was at the corner of the former Lakatos Street and the class are pictured in 1927.
After kindergarten Laszlo went to the Jewish Orthodox School for boys and the picture below shows him included in the first year of gymnasium in 1932.
And in the fourth year class.
He began working as a trainee tailor for Daniel Fulop, who he describes as a very kind employer. The shop was on General Mosoiu Street (then Kapucinus Street) and he was joined there by Jozsef Schlesinger (who later worked for many years at Fabrica de Confectii Oradea).
He joined a Zionist group, Hanoar Hatzioni and is pictured below with other members.
In the picture from left to right at the top is Karcsi Stein, Joska Pollack, Pista Korosi, Laszlo Steier, Pista Gidali. At the bottom are Miki Ferenczi, Simcha Klein, Feri Katz, Laszlo Steiner and Feri Schreier. Schreier went on to be Mayor of Nahariya in Israel.
Once again he is pictured with his brother Tibor as the War approaches.
As a Jew, Laszlo was selected for forced labour, firstly in Baia Mare under the command of Reviczky Imre, who Laszlo describes as humane. But his forced labour lasted for two and a half years and ended in the Gunskirchen sub-camp of the notorious Mauthausen camp in Austria. The camp was liberated by the American 71st Infantry Division.
Laszlo had typhus and wanted to give up and die, but his colleague, Miki Ferenczi (pictured above in the Hanoar Hatzioni) would not let him and carried him on his back to a hospital in Linz where he recovered.
Laszlo is pictured below in recent times.
The Steiner family is considered through the eyes of Laszlo Steiner, a Holocaust survivor.
Laszlo was born in Oradea on 15 October 1920 and lived on the current Primariei Street(previously Teleki Street 44). His father was David Steiner who was born in Oradea in 1891 and is pictured below.
His mother was Gyongyi (nee Csilag) who was born in Kaba in 1894. They kept a kosher
household and went to the Teleki Street synagogue.
His mother's father was a shoe manufacturer. His father's father was Joszef Steiner,
who worked in the Moskovits distillery on Calea Clujului Street and is pictured below.
Laszlo had a younger brother Paul, who was born 3 years after him and they are both
pictured together as young boys.
Laszlo, attended the Jewish Orthodox gymnasium for boys and was in the same class as Laszlo Steier (see Steier family above) and can be seen as 7th from left in the first row in the first year picture.
Having left school he learned the skills of car repair, but then moved on to working at the Czitrom bakery on the street where he lived.
From the age of 12 he belonged to Hanoar Hatzioni. He can be seen in the pictureof the Hanoar Hatzioni group in the Steier family album above.
On his birthday in 1941 he received notice that he was required to join forced labour.First he served in Baia Mare (under the benevolent Colonel Reviczky) and then later on the railways and other works in various countries until the end of 1943.
In January 1944 he was taken prisoner by the Russians, together with some 3,000 Hungarian soldiers, but with little concession to being Jewish in forced labour.
From June 1944 he was detained in the Soviet Union at various locations for the next four years.
Below he is pictured in Donetsk, being at the back at the right. His friend from Oradea, Abraham Reich, is in the centre at the front. The picture that follows is from Odesa andincludes his friend, Tibor Ladner, from Oradea right at the back.
While he was away the whole of his family was deported from Oradea and perished. His brother Paul was beaten to death for forgetting to salute a man in uniform.
Laszlo Steiner pictured in 2013. We are grateful to him for allowing us to glimpse hisfamily history.
We are sad to report that Laszlo Steiner died on 17 March 2014.
Our reporter for the Schwartz family is Ronit Gelber, the great grand-daughter of Israel Schwartz who is pictured here:
Israel who was born in Czechoslovakia in 1902 came to Oradea as a young boy, he married Ilona Adler and they had three children Adel (1924) who later became a hairdresser, Erzsebet (1926) and Alexander (1928). Ilona died in 1935 and some time later Israel re-married Ella Helfman, a private teacher from Sibiu, and they are pictured together:
On the death of Ilona in 1935, son Alexander (Sandor) had been placed by Israel in the orphanage for Jewish children and he is pictured in the middle below:
And with others from the orphanage:
Israel was a taxi-driver attached to the Metropole hotel as the war commenced, but was forced to give it up when Jews were forbidden to buy fuel. He lived on Holdvilag Utca.
In 1938 Erzsebet and Adel were photographed together:
Adel was then pictured some years later, probably in 1943 or 1944:
In 1944 Israel, his wife Ella and their three children were all deported to Auschwitz andall perished except for Erzsebet who now lives in Israel and is pictured below:
Our informant for the Klein (and Breuer) family is Hedy Bohm (nee Klein) who figures largely on our page recalling the testimony of survivors. There you can see her on video eloquently telling her own story of survival after Auschwitz.
However, this section concentrates upon her family and we start with her father Ignatz Klein, who was born in Szent Job, marrying Erzsebet Breuer in 1924 or 1925:
In 1928 Hedy Klein was born and below she is seen with her parents:Her father Ignatz firstly trained in Oradea as an apprentice wood craftsman, but later qualified as a master furniture maker. They lived their early married years at Varady Zsigmond 8 and Ignatz had his shop firstly on Kapucinus utca and then on Harmas utca.
They moved home in 1938 to Teleki Street 44 where Hedy was to join her best friendHedi Neuman who lived at No 46 and below she is seen with Hedi:
Hedy attended the Jewish Orthodox Gymnasium from 1934 until March 1944 (when the school was closed shortly before the establishment of the ghetto). The Principal of the school was Mr Biro. Hedy's love of music and dance was inspired by Margit Braun, thepretty and elegant teacher of music and gymnastics.
Her dream was to become a teacher of dance or gymnastics herself and she is shown below performing at a Hanukkah celebration at the school:
The girls appearing from the right are Erzsok London, Hedy Klein, Rene Gantz, Eva Berger, Eva Benedek and an unidentified girl. It is thought that the parents of Erzsok managed the Jewishboys orphanage mentioned in the Schwartz family story.
Hedy's mother Erzsebet Breuer was descended from Joseph and Regina Breuer (thegreat-grandparents of Hedy): Joseph was born in 1836 in Tasnad in Transylvania and married Regina in Oradea in 1860. Regina was born in Biharia (Bihar then) in 1840. Regina gave birth to her son, David, in 1861.
David Breuer married Berta Tischler:
They had seven children, five girls and two boys.
Two of the girls lived in Oradea, Erzsebet, Hedy's mother, and her sister Ilus.
Erzsebet to the left was 21 at the time this picture was taken and her sister Ilus was 17. Another picture of the two sisters in later life is below. Taken between 1940 and 1942 it shows Ilus on the left.
To hear about Hedy's experiences in the Oradea ghetto, her experiences of Auschwitz and other camps, her return to Oradea and dealing with the loss of nearly all her close family please see her video.
On her journey to and from Auschwitz, to forced labour and eventually on a return to Oradea Hedy was accompanied by her cousins Eva and Kato. They are pictured above in June 1945, wearing their liberation dresses, whilst still in Germany.
Kato is, in 2013, living in Israel and in frequent touch with Hedy.
After her return to Oradea, she was taken in and cared for by her aunt Ilus and she tried to live a normal a life as possible.
In 1947 she married Imre Bohm.
In order to avoid the repressive communist regime they left Oradea and made their way to Canada, via Hungary and Czechoslovakia, arriving in 1948.
She has a daughter and a son and two grandchildren. Since becoming a widow she has worked tirelessly to take both her Holocaust story and her love of her adopted country into schools in Canada. Hers is a remarkable story.
This is a glimpse into the Liebermann family provided by Mariette the daughter of George Liebermann who was born June 4 1925 in Lunca, a village 85 kms from Oradea.Below we see George as a boy, firstly with his mother Margit (nee Kupferstein), with his football and with his mother and brother Istvan (Stefan).
George’s father Nandor (Ferdinand Jacob) is in the picture below, with wife Margit and the two boys.
The Liebermann family moved to Oradea when George was very young and lived atVadului Street No 10 (now Alexandru Vaida-Voievod). He attended the Zionsynagogue, although he confessed that as the family became more successful, theybecame less religiously attentive. George went to the Dr.Kecskemeti Lyceum, the High School for the Neolog Jews ofOradea. There, he was in the same class and became friends with Otto Honig the poetand another of his close friends was George Weisz.
George’s father, Nandor, was a forester and perhaps the photo below (where he is in the centre at the front) reflects that background.
Nandor’s parents (below) were Ignac & Rosa (nee Lempel) and they had five otherchildren. Ignac was an engineer and locomotive driver for the La Roche sawmill atTilgead.
George’s maternal grandmother was Margit Kupferstein George’s father was drafted into the Hungarian military as forced labour and their house was taken over by a Hungarian military family. In May 1944 all the Liebermann family were taken to the Oradea ghetto (apart fromGeorge’s father) and were subsequently deported to Auschwitz from the park in whichhe used to play football. In the crowded cattle truck to Auschwitz, George had thetrauma of observing a doctor inject his family with poison and then himself. Of those pictured, only George and his father survived the deportation. Nandor and George are pictured at the family commemorative grave George had been liberated by American troops from a camp near Munich in early 1945,having been transferred from Auschwitz to various forced labour camps. After his return to Oradea he trained as a doctor. He married Agnes Mark in 1948,had two children (Katherine and Gabriel) and moved around Romania practising medicine, before returning to Oradea in 1958. The three of them are picturedbelow in Oradea. Then in 1964 the family moved to Vienna and after one year to the United States. George and Agnes divorced. He later remarried Fabienne and had a daughter Mariette in 1973. George who died in 2012 in the United States is pictured above giving an interview in 1996.