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June 29, 2016 / 23 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Budapest’

Hungarian Lawyer Seeks Indictment against Nazi Hunter Efraim Zuroff

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

A Hungarian lawyer has urged authorities to charge Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff with making “false statements” against an alleged war criminal.

Attorney Futo Barnabas said Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, should be indicted for leveling false allegations against Laszlo Csatary, whom police arrested last month. Zuroff gave testimonies to Budapest prosecutors that Csatary had organized deportations of Hungarian Jews from Kosice in 1941 and 1944.

Prosecutors dismissed the 1941 charges last week as “unsubstantiated” but are still investigating those pertaining to 1944.

Citing the dismissal, Barnabas told the conservative newspaper Magyar Nemzet that “there are valid grounds to charge Zuroff with deliberately making a false accusation.” The offense, which is meant to discourage libelous complaints, carries a five-year prison sentence, according to Barnabas.

Contacted by JTA, Barnabas said in German that he would only agree to be interviewed in Hungarian.

A spokeswoman for the Budapest prosecutor’s office, Bettina Bagoly, is quoted as telling the Hungarian paper that she was not aware of any pending investigation against Zuroff.

In 1944, Csatary was a police officer in Kassa, now Kosice in Slovakia. He is accused of organizing transports of at least 15,000 Jews to the Ukraine.

Csatary fled to Canada in 1949 after a Czechoslovakian court sentenced him in absentia to death for war crimes. He returned to Budapest 15 years ago, after Ottawa annulled his Canadian citizenship.

Based on Zuroff’s research, The Sun newspaper of London reported on Csatary’s whereabouts in July. Budapest’s chief prosecutor said on July 17 that the research “contains no new evidence.” Csatary was nonetheless placed under house arrest the next day.

Last year, a Budapest court acquitted Zuroff of libel charges. Sandor Kepiro, then a suspected war criminal, sued Zuroff for voicing the suspicions. Kepiro was acquitted last year.

JTA

Agnes Keleti: The Foundation Stone Of Gymnastics In Israel

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

“I felt here that I was at home,” remarks Agnes Keleti about her arrival in Israel in 1957. An Israeli emissary had invited this leading Hungarian Jewish female athlete to participate in the fifth Maccabiah Games that year, and that’s when she discovered that Israel was “home.” Soon after arriving she decided to settle in the Jewish state and become an integral part of its life. Riding the high wave of athletic success – Agnes Keleti, the most successful Jewish female athlete in Olympic history with ten Olympic medals – decided to put aside fame and fortune and contribute her talent to her people.

She became a coach of the Israeli national gymnastics team and a physical education teacher at Tel Aviv University and at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sport, imparting her enormous knowledge and experience to admiring young gymnasts. She also purchased sporting and gymnastic equipment that had never been used before in Israel.

Born on January 9, 1921 in Budapest, Hungary, Aggie Klein began her gymnastics training when she was four at Budapest’s Jewish club and by the age of sixteen had won the first of her ten national titles. With the German invasion of Hungary in 1944 the talented teen’s training came to an abrupt halt. To survive World War II she bought the papers of a Christian girl and worked as a maid for a pro-Nazi family in a small Hungarian village.

During the battle for Budapest in the winter of 1944–1945, she did morning rounds to collect the bodies of those who had died the previous day and place them in a mass grave. Her mother and sister went into hiding and were saved by the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Her father, however, was sent to Auschwitz where, together with the rest of the Klein/Keleti family he was killed.

At the end of the war Agnes Keleti returned to her gymnastics career. Between 1947 and 1955 she was the dominant force on the national scene and was equally impressive in international competitions where she represented Hungary twenty-four times between 1947 and 1956.

At the World University Games of 1949 Agnes Keleti won a silver, a bronze and four gold medals! Three years later, at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games thirty-one year old Agnes won four medals — a gold, a silver and two bronze medals.

If her performance was remarkable in 1952, it was overshadowed by an even more formidable display of talent, determination and ability in the 1954 World Championship. She finished first on the uneven bars and the hand apparatus team, second in the combined team and third on the balance beam. This performance was still not the high point of her career, which came at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956: the thirty-five-year-old Agnes Keleti scored an astounding triumph, winning four gold and two silver medals.

The following year, Agnes came to Israel and a new chapter began in her life. Here she met and married Robert Biro, a fellow Hungarian physical education teacher, and, although by now in her forties, became a happy mother of two sons: Daniel, born in 1963, a university lecturer in finance, and Rafael, born a year later, a fashion designer. Mrs. Keleti Biro’s family joy was shared by her mother and sister who have also settled in Israel.

Recently, Agnes Keleti, dubbed “the most successful female athlete,”
celebrated her 91st birthday at her home in Herzliah where a former student described her as “the foundation stone of gymnastics in Israel.”

Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

The Train

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

He was having trouble getting up from the platform and into the cattle car. After all, he was only twelve years old and there was no ramp leading inside. An SS thug saw him “dawdling” in front of the car and aimed a boot at the boy’s posterior. The boy jumped out of the way just in time and the SS man fell to his face from the violence of his own kick.

Fearing the German would take his fury out on him, the boy scampered into the train. He hid himself from the Nazi inside a crowded, filthy car until the train pulled out of Budapest’s Nyugati station.

And thus began David Kohn’s participation in what many regard as the most dramatic and controversial train journey in history. For this was the train organized by Dr. Rudolf Kastner, head of the Hungarian Judenrat, on which 1,685 Jews rode to safety.

Kohn, today a well-known medical doctor and expert on geriatric health problems in Haifa, Israel, is one of the diminishing number of survivors from the Kastner train. And he may be the only one who kept and preserved a journal of that journey to freedom.

He was born in a small town in Czechoslovakia, in a region where many of the residents and most of the local Jews spoke Hungarian. After the destruction and division of Czechoslovakia in the wake of the Munich accord, the area passed to Hungarian rule.

The problem was that David’s father had been a patriot and had taken Czechoslovak citizenship, which was frowned upon by Hungarian authorities. The boy was quickly expelled from school there, supposedly because of the father’s citizenship but more likely because they were Jews.

The family moved into Hungary proper, looking for work and a place to live. Then Slovakia was detached from the Czech state by Germany, so for a while they moved back there. The father worked as a forestry manager, a public service job that kept the family safe as deportations of Slovakian Jews commenced.

In 1942 rumors reached them that they were on a list of Jews to be deported. The family stole across the border into Hungary. There they were hosted by relatives who managed to obtain forged residency papers for them.

By 1943 Hungarian Jews were being moved into “concentration” areas – not yet internment camps but rather buildings in which the Jews of a town would be segregated. David was staying with his uncle, a prominent Neolog rabbi, in Czegled, a town outside Budapest near what is today the city’s international airport. They were locked up in a single building, and later moved into the town’s synagogue. Then twenty-three of those in the building were selected to be sent to Budapest for internment. The rest were deported.

David and his uncle were among the twenty-three.

In Budapest they were marched down Andrassy Boulevard, the city’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue with its luxury stores, many owned by Jews at the time. They were taunted by Hungarian anti-Semitic youths along the way and eventually were held inside the Rumbach Street synagogue in the Jewish Quarter.

* * * * *

Rudolf Kastner was a pompous, arrogant and irritating person. He was born and raised in the largest city in Transylvania, the Hungarian-speaking territory now in Romania that has passed back and forth between Hungary and Romania due to the frivolities of war and politics. He rose to importance in the Hungarian Jewish community and had the reputation of being an aristocratic “fixer” with ties to the regime.

When war broke out, Hungary allied itself with Hitler’s Germany. Kastner served as a journalist and community leader, moving from Transylvania to Budapest. Later, as a head of the Hungarian Judenrat, he was able to move about freely throughout the war. His residence and offices stood on Vaci Avenue, three blocks from my office today at Central European University in Budapest, where I teach when I am not in Israel.

Kastner was renowned for hatching assorted schemes, some rather hair-brained, during the war years. He tried to recruit support from Jewish Agency leaders in Tel Aviv for negotiating different rescue schemes with the Nazis, including the notorious “Trucks for Jews” deal, which never came to fruition. In 1944 he met several times with Adolf Eichmann to negotiate the escape of Jews in exchange for bribes or ransom payments.

Steven Plaut

Budapest Police Question Rabbi for Outing Goy Shul President

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

A whistle-blowing Budapest rabbi was questioned by police for what has been described as misuse of sensitive private information stemming from a personal conflict within the Jewish community.

Rabbi Zoltan Radnoti this week was finger-printed, photographed, and interrogated at a local police station. The investigation stems from a case last year, in which Radnoti revealed that a high-level official in the Jewish community was not Jewish according to Jewish law, as his mother was Christian.

At the time, the man in question, identified publicly as E.O., was the president of a Budapest synagogue and a senior adviser to the leadership of Mazsihisz, the main Jewish umbrella organization.

As a result of Radnoti’s revelations, E.O. lost his position.

On Tuesday, Mazsihisz and Hungary’s chief rabbi issued statements pledging to support Radnoti, saying that the case was an internal Jewish affair and should not be dealt with by the police or civil court.

JTA

Raoul Wallenberg’s 100th Birthday: Iranian Participation, New Investigation

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

A celebration of the 100th birthday of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of over 20,000 Hungarian Jews in the final days of World War II, also marks the renewal of investigations into the events surrounding his death.

The event, which took place in the portrait hall of Budapest’s National Museum in Hungary, was attended by a slew of international representatives, including the wife of late Congressman Tom Lantons, who was saved by Wallenberg, and Holocaust survivor and Israeli Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled.  A surprise to attendees was the participation of Iranian Ambassador to Hungary Seyed Agha Banihashemi Saeed, who remained throughout the duration of the ceremony, including during a speech made by Peled.  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an open Holocaust denier and has made frequent calls for the destruction of Israel.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who was also in attendance, has asked experts to open a new probe into what happened to Wallenberg after his capture in 1945.

Wallenberg was personally responsible for the issuing of Swedish diplomatic papers to Hungarian Jews beginning in July 1944, as well as for establishing hiding places for Jews throughout Budapest.

Wallenberg was arrested by Russian officers on January 17, 1945.  He was never heard from again, and his whereabouts or circumstances of death were never established. He was 32 years old at the time of his disappearance.

The new investigation will be led by Hans Magnusson, who began his inquiry into Wallenberg’s whereabouts in the 1990s along with Russian experts.  At the time, the Russians said Wallenberg was probably killed on June 17, 1947 in Soviet custody.  At the time, the Soviets said Wallenberg died of a heart attack in prison.  However, some evidence and eye-witness reports suggest he may have survived beyond that date.

Moreover, two US researchers are now saying a recently discovered Swedish document shows that the KGB intervened to thwart Magnusson’s investigation of Wallenberg’s disappearance.

At the ceremony, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi admitted that Hungary played a role in the deaths of 600,000 Hungarian Jews, and reaffirmed Hungary’s current support for Israel.

The year of Wallenberg’s 100th birthday will include a Hungarian commemorative stamp, a national competition for high school students on Holocaust history, and an event honoring Hungarian non-Jewish “Righteous Among the Nations” at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.

Malkah Fleisher

My Machberes

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Fighting Home Foreclosures

Today’s weak economy affects almost everyone, including members of the observant community. Being unemployed, or just not earning enough, can cause uncomfortable predicaments, including that of not being able to pay one’s mortgage bills. Should enough months pass without one’s fiscal profile improving, the holder of the mortgage will move to foreclose on the underlying property.

This applies as well to homeowners who are current with their mortgages but in default on real estate property taxes. New York City auctions off default tax bills, many of which are purchased by banks with aggressive collection arms. Banks want to get paid. After a deluge of threatening notices, legal letters begin to appear. How one deals with those legal letters can determine eventual results.

In Brooklyn, many such situations end up in the courtroom of New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur M. Schack. Judge Schack is widely quoted in the national media on his handling of mortgage foreclosures. The New York Times noted in 2009 that he “tossed out 46 of the last 102 foreclosure motions that have come before him.”

Judge Schack feels that as a judge, his “job is to do justice.” legal papers presented to him must conform to legal requirements. He requires that the papers introduced in his Court must (a) prove there is a mortgage, (b) prove who owns the mortgage, and (c) prove the mortgage is in default. At times the actual owner of the mortgage is difficult to determine, especially after subsequent assignments.

Presently there are approximately 12,000 mortgage foreclosures in various stages of process in Brooklyn. Twenty-five percent of those cases are assigned to Judge Schack’s courtroom. Each case is unique. Some are adjudicated by modification, some are dismissed, and others are foreclosed.

Many judges across the country have followed his lead and have intensified their scrutiny of the paperwork being presented. As a result, more cases are dismissed. According to Judge Schack, there is no backlash. Banks are free to appeal. Favoring neither the big guy nor the little guy, he says his mission is to achieve justice – something that cannot be accomplished with faulty paperwork.

Justice Schack’s Background

Justice Schack is a Brooklyn native, a product of Brooklyn’s public schools and Brooklyn College, earning his law degree from New York Law School. He has served as counsel for the Major League Baseball Players Association and maintained a general law practice, primarily in the areas of tax and real estate law. Judge Schack is also active in community affairs. In addition to being closely affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, he has been a member of Community Board 10, serving in many capacities.

NYS Supreme Court Justice Arthur M. Shack

In 1998 Judge Schack was elected to New York City’s Civil Court for a 10-year term. In 2003 he was elected to the New York State Supreme Court. (In both elections, his candidacy was endorsed by The Jewish Press.) Impressively, more than 250 of his decisions were published by New York State Official Reports and the New York Law Journal. More than 50 of those decisions deal with foreclosure issues. In addition, he has been a guest speaker on foreclosure issues for the New York Judiciary, the Vermont Judiciary, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and major national business and financial media.

Greatly respected, he has been appointed an officer of the Brooklyn Bar Association and an executive of the New York City Association of Supreme Court Justices.

Judge Schack gives straightforward counsel, advising anyone in a difficult predicament to respond to all legal challenges. The courts will advise legal counseling, arbitration, compromises, settlements, and modification. All these possibilities are unavailable if the delinquent homeowner hides. The chances of holding on to one’s home are infinitely greater if one responds. The process, according to Judge Schack, can only help, and, of course, the sooner the better.

 

History Is Repeated In Hungary

The present Jewish population of Hungary is approximately 100,000, with most residing in Budapest. The first Jews settled in Hungary in the 11th century. The first record of an officially appointed rabbi for Buda, one of the three cities that eventually combined to become Budapest, was Rabbi Akiva ben Rabbi Menachem Hakohen zt”l in the 1400s. The first sefer to be published in Hungary was Minhagim Shel Kol Hamedina, in 1421, by Rabbi Rabbi Isaac Tirna, zt”l. This was before the printing press. The sefer was hand copied and circulated.

Chasam Sofer, zt"l

There were 45,000 Jews living in Budapest in 1869; 102,000 in 1890; 204,000 in 1910; and 205,000 in 1930. The Emancipation Act of 1868 granted the Jews equality before the law, and they were no longer excluded from owning property and holding public office.

Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum

Rising Above Aggravation (Part One)

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

For the past month I’ve been on the road, crossing continents and addressing Jewish communities wherever they are. I go from the airport to the local synagogue or some other venue where people gather.

Invariably I am asked, “Rebbetzin, how do you do it? People younger than you cannot keep up with such a schedule. Travel is so difficult. Don’t you find it exhausting?”

“Exhausting?” I answer, “it’s far beyond that. Travel nowadays has become a nerve-wracking nightmare.”

During these past weeks I have spoken in Brazil, Hungary and Eretz Yisrael. But allow me to describe to you just one small part of what I experienced. There are no longer any direct flights from New York to Budapest, so our travel agent suggested we go through Paris. We had quite a lot of luggage because from Budapest we were scheduled to fly directly to Eretz Yisrael, and the climate on these two continents is totally different. Hungary was bitterly cold and Israel was experiencing an unprecedented heat wave.

I must admit I usually run late. My schedule is so tight that it does not permit me to be early. In addition to packing, there is much to do before I depart, not the least of which is writing this column. So, as usual, we arrived at JFK just in the nick of time. We went through the endless security check, removing our jackets and shoes, etc. etc. and finally, when we arrived breathless at the gate, we discovered that our flight to Paris had been delayed two hours. We tried to explain to the agent that we had to make a connecting flight. “Don’t worry,” she assured us, “they know that. You’ll have plenty of time.”

Finally, we boarded the plane and it started to taxi down the runway, but suddenly, it came to a stop. “We are very sorry for any inconvenience,” came the polite announcement, “but due to the weather, there will be a further delay.” And with this, we were consigned to sit on the runway for another hour.

Would that be enough to aggravate you? Wait; that was just the beginning.

So what do I do to protect myself from stress? I tell myself, Baruch Hashem that I didn’t listen to those who said that I could depart on Thursday night rather than on Wednesday and still arrive in Budapest in time forShabbos. Baruch Hashem, I never forgot the teaching of my revered father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham Halevi Jungreis, zt”l, who was careful never to schedule any travel that would bring him to his destination on erev Shabbos.

“The Satan is on the road erev Shabbos,” he would say, “and places obstructions in one’s path.” So I smiled to myself and in my mind said, “Thank you, Tatie,” and that thought, in and of itself, was calming. B’ezrat Hashem, I would still arrive in Budapest in ample time to speak at the Shabbaton.

Finally we arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris – and of course missed our connecting flight. The airport is one of the biggest and most difficult to navigate in Europe, and we were sent from gate to gate, airline to airline, even to Malev, the Hungarian national airline, only to discover there was no longer a Malev desk. Not only were the distances between these gates enormous; the agents were, for the most part, discourteous and arrogant. We called our hosts in Budapest, Adrienn and Robie, who had visited our Hineni organization in New York and become totally inspired and committed. They were at the airport awaiting our arrival and worried as to what could have happened to us. They suggested we take a flight to Vienna where they would pick us up by car.

There were only two problems with that suggestion – our luggage, which was ticketed for Budapest, had yet to be located, and heavy snow was falling in Vienna as in most of Europe.

At another airline counter it was suggested we buy new tickets which would perhaps get us to Budapest on time. We called our travel agent in New York, but there was not much he could do. But before we could even consider purchasing new tickets, we were informed there were no seats available on that flight. The web of aggravation tightened around us. Another thought from my childhood gave me some comfort: “Let it all be a kapporah” (an atonement that would spare us from all other problems).

We finally arrived in Budapest at 1 a.m. – only to discover to our dismay that all our luggage was missing. We were directed to Lost and Found where the agent searched the computer and curtly informed us that she was very sorry but had no idea where our luggage might be.

“Is it still in Paris?” I asked hopefully.

“No,” she responded coldly.

“Then where is it?” I persisted.

“I already told you. It did not come up on the computer. I have no further information to give you!”

“When do you think you will know?” I asked again, and this time there was a definite touch of annoyance in her voice as she said, “If we find it, we will let you know.”

Bear in mind that while we were supposed to arrive in Budapest on Thursday morning, it was now erev Shabbos. I did not have a change of clothing or shoes (I always travel in sneakers). And worse, from Budapest we were scheduled to continue on to Eretz Yisrael, and all our clothing was missing. To console us, the agent offered us a little kit containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and a T-shirt.

As we left the airport, I once again asked, “When can we expect to get our luggage?”

Again, she repeated, “I cannot tell you. I will be searching, but so far the computer shows nothing.”

How could I go into Shabbos wearing these crumpled clothes? How could I speak before a large audience? Would you agree that this was surely enough to test anyone’s nerves?

Once again, I tried to muster my strength and to say to myself, “Kapporah.”Somehow it will all come out right. Is it not written that he who is on a mitzvah mission cannot fail? And surely, reaching out to our brethren who are on the brink of disappearing in the deep sea of assimilation is one of the greatest mitzvos.

On our way to the hotel we were told that while it had snowed the entire day and stopped on our arrival, heavy snow was forecast through Shabbos. Now I had a new concern. “Will we have an attendance?”

“Oh, Rebbetzin, don’t worry,” Adrienn assured me. “Everyone will come. Nothing will keep them away.”

Just the same, I couldn’t help but worry because I knew that, under the best of circumstances, in countries like Hungary Jewish awareness is so minimal you can consider yourself fortunate if 40-50 people show up.

We fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. In the morning, to our relief, we saw the sun trying to emerge and melt away the snow. We called to see if there was any news of our luggage. “No,” they told us, “we are still searching, but if we locate it [and the word “if” had an ominous ring] we’ll contact you.” At this point we had no choice but to resign ourselves to reality and try to clean and iron our clothes in honor of Shabbos.

When I arrived at the synagogue, I understood the meaning of kapporah. It all paid off. The shul was packed with countless secular young people – a rare sight in European countries where Judaism is disappearing. I very much wanted to address my audience in Hungarian, but while I speak Hungarian my vocabulary is limited since I was deported to the concentration camps at a young age.

I told our hosts I would make a few introductory remarks in Hungarian but would then continue in English, pause after every few paragraphs, and have a translator convey my thoughts. Miraculously, however, no sooner did I start speaking in Hungarian than Hashem gave me the words and I was actually able to dispense with the translator and speak freely.

The response was electrifying. Suddenly, the loss of luggage, the aggravation in Paris, the stress at Kennedy, all disappeared. Nothing was important except the Jewish light sparkling in their eyes. This blessing was repeated at the Shabbos seudah and again motzaei Shabbos when we had a huge gathering in one of Budapest’s theaters. Jews came from all over Hungary and the large hall quickly filled to capacity. We showed our film, “Triumph of the Spirit” which portrays my experiences during the years of the Holocaust. Amazingly, once again I was able to speak in Hungarian and dispense with the earphones that had been prepared for simultaneous translation.

Young and old, men and women – all were awakened. The pintele Yid in their souls became a flame from Sinai. Perhaps not since the Holocaust had there been such a gathering of Jews in Hungary. I’ve been receiving letters from our Hungarian brethren who are embarking on a life of Torah and mitzvos.

Would I do it again?

Of course. When you weigh the joy and berachah of seeing Jewish people who only yesterday were on the brink of spiritual death come to life again; when you see our Torah saturating their hearts, kindling their souls with commitment and faith, aggravation is replaced by spiritual joy, exhaustion by exhilaration and despondency by energy.

Would I do it again? Am I ready to undertake the next journey? Yes. It’s already set.

Am I tired? Of course. But the fulfillment in my heart is much more powerful than any exhaustion, and I believe this holds true for all of us. It’s all a matter of looking beyond the moment and seeing the greater picture of our life’s journey.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/rising-above-aggravation-2/2010/12/30/

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