Piroska Hamos

Piroska Hamos
Matyasfold, Budapest,
Interviewer: Eszter Andor
Date of Interview: April 2004

I visited Piroska Hamos not only in her own flat, but at her younger granddaughter's place, where she spends half of the week. She plays with her great-grandchildren a lot; she always manages to be on the same wavelength, even with the younger one, although there are almost ninety years between them. Although Piroska has difficulties getting around and is quite sick, she is mentally very fresh. She reads a great deal; as she says, she can't even fall asleep without reading, and she reads everything: whatever her grandchildren give her to read, even books which she dislikes as too modern for her tastes. She watches the news regularly and, by and large, follows politics even today. She likes nature programs and general knowledge quiz shows. During the interview, she enjoyed telling stories, and told them in great detail, and she has an incredibly good memory; she can remember every name, place and date, some of which are after a period of 80 years.

Family background
Growing up
Married life
During the war

Family background

Unfortunately, my Mother committed suicide, and she was not the only one in the family. Both my grandfather, grandfather and my uncle on mother's side committed suicide as well. Others from the And from the OblatOblath family, others committed suicide as well, but they were not such close relatives.

My grandfather was Gerson Oblath [1850-1910s]; he also committed suicide sometime around the second half of the 1910s. He was born in 1850, but I don't know where. I don't know whether he was from Ovar, or if he arrived there from somewhere else. He worked in a pub in Ovar. I suppose, he had his own pub, but I am not sure. He was a bearded old man. His beard was not that long, if I remember correctly. I only remember meeting him on one occasion. I must have been about five or six years old, it was in Balassagyarmat, and he had probably come to visit us. He had come from Ovar, and was on the way to Dregelypalank. His oldest son was on holiday in Dregelypalank, and he went there to visit, but he never came back. He was pulled out of the Danube in Szod. I have no idea if he is buried in a Jewish cemetery.

My grandmother's name was Antonia Kohn [1856-1950s]. I learned from documents, that she was born in Nagypeszek in 1856. As a child, I met her many times, because, after we moved to Budapest in 1920, we spent our Christmas, Easter and Summer Holidays in Balassagyarmat. Grandma used to live with my mother's twin sister. She lived with them until the end, first in Balassagyarmat, and later, when they moved to Budapest, then there, too. She was in Budapest during the war, but I don't know where. She must have been in the ghetto. She was old when she died- she was over 80, I know that. She had breathing problems, I remember; by that great age, she was lying down almost all the time. She is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Budapest.
My mother had many siblings. Ignac was the oldest one. We called Ignac Uncle Naci. After him came Ferenc. Then, there was my mom, Jozefin Oblath- within the family, she was known as Pepka- and her twin sister, Aunty Netka. It is interesting, that neither I, nor Aunty Netka's only remaining daughter, ever knew that they were twins. We only found it out completely by accident, based on the birth certificate from the Jewish community. They did look very similar, though. I don't know why they never talked about it. Sometimes I think to myself that it's not certain that they were twins, maybe they were only registered at the Jewish community at the same time, but they were a year apart. This is only an assumption, though. And then there were Jozsef and Miksa, whom we called Uncle Miska, and Aunty Linka. I have no idea when they were born. I don't even know whether they were born in Ovar, but yes, they probably were.
Uncle Naci lived in Budapest; he worked as a chief accountant for Nepszava, or something like that. He was a socialist. One of my mother-in-law's sisters, Aunty Lina became his wife. He had three sons. Uncle Naci became ill long before the war; he had heart problems. Aunty Lina must have been in the ghetto. But I don't know, because, at the time of the ghetto, I wasn't at home.
His eldest son, Andor [1901-1945] was born in 1901. He was a clerk, but I don't even know where, but he was already married. He must have gotten married around 1933 or 1934; their son, Peter, was born in 1935, and lives in Australia too. They used to live in Budapest, I think in Tuzolto Street, but by the time the house was built, they had moved to Matyasfold as well. There was an attic room there, the youngsters and the small boys lived up there. Andor died in 1945 of typhus, supposedly due to the typhus injection. When I arrived home, he was already dead.
His middle son, Jeno [1903-1930s] was born in 1903, and at the age of 33, he got blood poisoning, and there were no penicillin yet at that time, so it killed him. He finished high school; he was a clerk, but he was unemployed for a long time. And in 1930 or 1931, when they were building the house in Matyasfold he managed the construction work. He was unmarried and lived at home.
His youngest son, Pali still lives in Australia. Pali got married here, and his wife had some sort of a dressmaker's shop, and also a clothes shop. Pali worked at BESZKART. And then, something happened; she didn't pay the insurance, and she was supposed to pay some penalty, and I don't know how, but, she escaped from Hungary and left for Israel. Later, Pali went after her somehow, I think he could already go officially. He was a driver in Israel. This happened before the war. Later, they left Israel for Australia. I don't know exactly when it happened, but it was already after 1957, because my sister went there, and at that time Pali and his wife were still in Israel. In Australia, Pali didn't work anymore. He'll be 95 in 2003. His wife died a long time ago.
Ferenc had a grocery shop in Bela Bartok Road, but it was called Miklos Horthy [1] Road back then. Later he didn't work, and Miska took over the shop. Ferenc only had a wife, they didn't have children. When I came back from the deportation, they were already dead. I don't know what happened to them.
About Aunty Netka I know the most, because we spent every summer at their place. Her husband, Sandor Weinberger was a merchant. They lived in Balassagyarmat for a long time, and they owned a textile shop there: a draperers and haberdashery. Sometimes Aunty Netka was in the shop, if she had to help something, or because Uncle Sandor had to go somewhere, but mostly, her husband was there. It was not a big shop, they didn't have any employees.
In Balassagyarmat, they had their own house, but before that they lived in a rented flat. There were three rooms in the house: grandmother lived in one room, the parents in another one, and in the third one, the five children. When we went there in my childhood, this was how it was. They had a beautiful dining room, very nicely furnished; it had a really dark color, maybe even black, with a glass show-case. They didn't have a garden, just a little courtyard.
Aunty Netka had help, Mari. She was a many-skirted peasant woman. She cleaned the house, and did the laundry. But Aunty Netka cooked. I don't remember, where she lived in their old flat, but when they moved to their house, then in the back, there was a room, or maybe it was a room with a kitchen, and Mari lived there. She was with them for decades. Even, when they already lived in Budapest, she used to visit them frequently.
They were well-off, for a while. I think, they moved to Budapest because the shop went bankrupt. In Budapest they made men's shirts at home, Aunty Netka, and the two girls. Her husband dealt with the transportation and administration. When Aunty Netka and her family were already living in Budapest, I was already married, and had children, I got out of this close family circle, so I don't know so much about these things.
As far as I remember the husband of this aunty was a son of a rabbi. They kept a fully kosher household. I don't remember exactly when, but there were milky days, when there were only meals without any meat, I remember that much. For what occasion, I don't recall. And Esther's fasting, they kept everything. They were religious. They were not orthodox, although they are buried in the orthodox cemetery, so they didn't have payes.[Editor's note: thus they were orthodox, but not Hasid]. My mother's sister wore a wig. When they moved to Budapest in the 1930s, she didn't wear it anymore, because of her children. After the war, Aunty Netka didn't wear a wig anymore. She let her hair grow long, she had beautiful snow-white hair. When she went out, she wore a hat. Even with a wig she used to wear a hat.
Aunty Netka had five children: three girls and two boys. Her eldest daughter, Magda, was ten months younger than me, the youngest one, Agi, is 75 now, I think. We loved each other very much. Magda was a friend to both my sister and me. All five stayed alive after the war. Aunty Netka was in the ghetto, I believe. Her husband probably was too. When I came home, he had already died. Aunty Netka lived with her children. She died in 1965. She is buried in the orthodox cemetery, just the two of them, she and her husband, all the other relatives are already buried in the Israelite cemetery in Budapest, because her children were not at all religious, but let's say, even the children observed the high holidays.
Magda lived in America after the war, somewhere near Los Angeles. Her husband had relatives in America. In 1941, there was a world expo in America. Her husband was a jeweler, and he went to this world exhibition, and never came back. Their daughter was a year old when he left, and next time he saw the child was in 1946, because in 1943 or 1944, when they were supposed to leave Hungary with the last airplane, my cousin, Magda got scarlet-fever, and the airplane left without her. Their belongings were going to be shipped there and were already on the way to Lisbon, because they could go with a normal emigrant visa. She was in hiding here, in Budapest with her daughter. The eldest son of Aunty Netka, Gyuri, was a Zionist, if I remember correctly, he later became a communist. But he died at a very young age. The next one was Ella. After the war, she married a policeman. He was also a communist, I think, and a Zionist before the war. Lacika was the fourth child. He worked as a goldsmith, and later he was an international purchaser at Artex (gold and antiques.) He used to go abroad, and he also dealt with the national mint. I know it for sure, that he had some connection with the mint. Agi, the youngest one, used to be a teacher. She lives here in Budapest. Now she's retired.
Jozsef, or Joska, was a doctor. He graduated from university. Before the war, he was the local doctor for Szentendre and its neighborhood. He married a Goldberger girl. She was a very rich, but really ugly woman. He had two sons. They were younger than me. Uncle Joska didn't marry very young. His wife was also much older than me. They lived in Szentendre, in their own house. They had lots of nice pieces of furniture, pictures, they had everything. They were not show-off people. Let's just say his wife wasn't a very nice lady, and Uncle Joska was very busy -he had a big practice. They visited us once in Matyasfold; they had a very good time there, and we also visited them once. They were all deported; nobody from that family came back. After his wife, there were some houses we could have requested, but in the meantime they had been nationalized and renovated and we would have had to pay so much in exchange for the renovation, that nobody in the family could afford it. After the war, we were happy to be alive at all. One of the houses was turned into a maternity home after the war.
A hardly know anything about Uncle Miska. I don't even know, what sort of school he finished, I only know, that he took over Uncle Feri's shop. This was a small grocery shop, its name was Zsigmond Kertesz and co. grocery and spice shop, Zsigmond Kertesz was Aunty Linka's husband, who died at an early age. I don't think they had any employees. They sold cheese, cold cuts, and some spices. If I remember rightly, when you entered the shop, the counter was on the left hand side. But what sort of cash register they had – I don't remember at all. The shop had a back area; my uncle kept the cheese there. In 1929, they still had this shop, I used to go to the Trade High School in Miklos Horthy Road, not far from it. But I went to school in the morning, and when school was over, I went home. I only went to the shop a few times, maybe just once or twice. I think, they must have had it until about the middle of 1930s. Uncle Miska married very late, around 1940, and I think he must have married a well-off woman, because when he was already married, he wasn't in the shop anymore, but in their candy shop on Erzsebet Avenue, next to the Hirado cinema. And very late in life, he had a little boy. He committed suicide before the war, sometime around 1943 or ‘44. And then his wife stayed in the shop. She was from Kisvarda, she had many siblings, and her son, Jancsika stayed in Kisvarda, I think. He was deported from there, with his grandparents and his aunties. He was a little boy, He wasn't even at school yet, I think. And after the war Uncle Miska's wife left for Australia, and died there.
Aunty Linka lived in Budapest. They were also involved in the grocery shop. I don't know, if she had a share as well, but she was in the shop quite a lot. She married Zsigmond Kertesz, one of the brothers of my mother-in-law. I only saw her husband once, he died very early of tuberculosis. They had a daughter. Her husband's sister, Jeta, also became a widow very early, and she lived with them in Buda. She didn't work. She took care of Aunty Linka's daughter, and spoiled her, she didn't raise her very well. Aunty Linka was still alive at the outset of the war. During the war; she was in the ghetto with her daughter. She remarried, but by the time I came back from the deportation, both she and her husband were dead. She died during the war. Exactly how and when, I don't know. But she died in Budapest.
Their daughter is still alive, she is around 80 now. It was a mixed family, because their daughter married a Pole I think, and in 1943 or 1944 he was expelled from Hungary and sent to Russia, I don't know where. They were still here, when her husband died. But she came back after the war, with a child. We meet very rarely, at funerals, and occasions like that. We met quite recently, at the funeral of my sister-in-law, who died at the age of 101.
My grandfather on my father's side was Gabor Schultz [1841-1928]. He was born in 1841 in Szemered. He was a watchmaker and umbrella-repairer. He worked at home. He was a very tall bearded old man. He had a very long beard. I can't say anymore, whether he had payes, or it grew together with his beard. He wore a hat, but I don't know what he wore at home. He usually wore a suit. So, he dressed in an urban style.
I really can't tell you my grandmother's name. I can't even remember her first name. [Editor's note: Based on a document found among family papers, her name was Pepi Kohn, 1850-1928] Grandmother was a housewife. She was as short and shriveled as my grandfather was tall. I don't know how religious they were. I don't know if they went to synagogue. Grandmother didn't wear a wig, at least I can't remember her wearing one. They lived in poor conditions. I know that my dad used to send money to them. We didn't spend too much time with my grandparents. I don't know why, but we rarely visited them. We only went there, when we were there, in Balassagyarmat for holidays, but never other than that.
Grandfather was around ninety, when he died. I wasn't even 16, when grandfather died. Grandmother was a couple of years younger than he was, and there people told us that my grandfather fell over, and his lungs got inflamed when because of lying down, and he died, and a month later grandmother died. She couldn't even attend the funeral, she was sick.
Uncle Samu was the eldest one. He lived in Besztercebanya. I don't remember ever meeting him. I have no idea what his profession was. As far as I know, he had lots of children, but how many, I don't know. I knew one of them, his daughter, Malvin, who came to Budapest, and lived at my father's place, and even worked in the tailor's workshop for a while. After the war she emigrated to Israel. Uncle Samu was, I think, deported together with his family, when the Slovaks were deported.
His eldest sister was Aunty Milka, she is the one I know about, but he may have had more siblings. She lived in Budapest. Her husband was called Adolf Spitzer. He was a tradesman of some sort, I think. She had three daughters and a son, Miklos. We lived at their place, too, when we moved to Budapest in 1920. They lived in Adam Vay Street, on the fourth floor. It was a two-room-and-kitchen flat; it didn't have the modern conveniences. I don't know more, although we even lived there for a while. I met them later too, but not very often. During the war they were probably also in the ghetto. Aunty Milka died after the war. I don't even know, what happened to her. Miklos died in forced labor. One of her daughters, Janka, emigrated to Israel.
Dad's other elder sister was Aunty Giza; we lived at her place, too. Back then, it was called Szerecsen Street, now Ede Paulay Street, where they lived. They also had a two-room-and-kitchen, flat without modern conveniences, but I think they had a toilet inside. I remember, once I slept on my father's tailor's desk, I don't know, why it was there. Aunty Giza's husband, Gyula Spitzer was the brother of Uncle Adolf. Uncle Gyula was a hat maker. She had two daughters, Tera and Manci, and a son, Tibor. The two daughters of Aunty Giza left for Australia after the war. Her elder daughter died five years ago, at 91 years of age. Her younger daughter still lives there, she is about 90 now. The son died in forced labor. I know nothing about the others. Somehow, due to my early marriage, I kind of lost touch with my family, apart from my parents and their brothers and sisters.
Then, the next one was dad, and there was his younger brother, Ignac, who emigrated to America. He was a tailor too. When we lived in Balassagyarmat, they had a tailor's workshop together, which was a shop as well. He was married, and had a son. He had a Christian wife, Aunty Bozske. I heard something about him having to escape after the Commune [Hungarian Soviet Republic] [2], and this is why he left for America. I remember, it must have been just before my mom died, when they came there to say good-bye. It must have been around the End of 1919. We never wrote letters, I don't know why. I know, when we came back from the deportation, Etel [1913-2003] found out their address in America from someone in the family, and wrote to Ignac, and he sent a single package. They sent material for clothes, very nice material, a couple of meters, so, it was enough for the children, for my sister, and for me, for coats and dresses, and everything. But no letter was attached. And my sister wrote and thanked them for it, but there was no further reply. We heard from someone, that his son became a doctor, and they were very well off.
Dad, Armin Schultz [1888-1944] was born in 1888, in Balassagyarmat. Dad, I think, graduated from elementary school. He learnt his trade from some tailor in Balassagyarmat. He was a gentleman's tailor.

Growing up

Married life

During the war



[1] Horthy, Miklos (1868-1957)

Regent of Hungary from 1920 to 1944. Relying on the conservative plutocrats and the great landowners and Christian middle classes, he maintained a right-wing regime in interwar Hungary. In foreign policy he tried to attain the revision of the Trianon peace treaty - on the basis of which two thirds of Hungary's territory were seceded after WWI – which led to Hungary entering WWII as an ally of Germany and Italy. When the Germans occupied Hungary in March 1944, Horthy was forced to appoint as Prime Minister the former ambassador of Hungary in Berlin, who organized the deportations of Hungarian Jews. On 15th October 1944, Horthy announced on the radio that he would ask the Allied Powers for truce. The leader of the extreme right-wing fascist Arrow Cross Party, Ferenc Szalasi, supported by the German army, took over power. Horthy was detained in Germany and was later liberated by American troops. He moved to Portugal in 1949 and died there in 1957.

[2] Hungarian Soviet Republic

The first, short-lived, proletarian dictatorship in Hungary. On 21st March 1919 the Workers' Council of Budapest took over power from the bourgeois democratic government and declared the Hungarian Soviet Republic. The temporary constitution declared that the Republic was the state of the workers and peasants and it aimed at putting an end to their exploitation and establishing a socialist economic and social system. The communist government nationalized industrial and commercial enterprises, and socialized housing, transport, banking, medicine, cultural institutions, and large landholdings. In an effort to secure its rule the government used arbitrary violence. Almost 600 executions were ordered by revolutionary tribunals and the government also resorted to violence to expropriate grain from peasants. This violence and the regime's moves against the clergy also shocked many Hungarians. The Republic was defeated by the entry of Romanian troops, who broke through Hungarian lines on July 30, occupied and looted Budapest, and ousted Kun's Soviet Republic on August 1, 1919

[3] Middle school

This type of school was created in 1868. Originally it was intended to be a secondary school but as it was finally established, it did not give a secondary level education (graduation). Pupils attended it for four years after finishing elementary school. As opposed to classical secondary school, the emphasis in the middle school was on modern and practical subjects (e.g. modern living languages, accounting, economics). While the secondary school prepared children to enter the university, the middle school provided its graduates with the type of knowledge, which helped them find a job in offices, banks, as clerks, accountants, secretaries, or to manage their own business or shop.

[4] Anti-Jewish laws in Hungary

Following similar legislation in Nazi Germany, Hungary enacted three Jewish laws in 1938, 1939 and 1941. The first law restricted the number of Jews in industrial and commercial enterprises, banks and in certain occupations, such as legal, medical and engineering professions, and journalism to 20% of the total number. This law defined Jews on the basis of their religion, so those who converted before the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919, as well as those who fought in World War I, and their widows and orphans were exempted from the law. The second Jewish law introduced further restrictions, limiting the number of Jews in the above fields to 6%, prohibiting the employment of Jews completely in certain professions such as high school and university teaching, civil and municipal services, etc. It also forbade Jews to buy or sell land and so forth. This law already defined Jews on more racial grounds in that it regarded baptized children that had at least one non-converted Jewish parent as Jewish. The third Jewish law prohibited intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews, and defined anyone who had at least one Jewish grandparent as Jewish.

[5] Yellow star houses

The system of exclusively Jewish houses which acted as a form of hostage taking was introduced by the Hungarian authorities in June 1944 in Budapest. The authorities believed that if they concentrated all the Jews of Budapest in the ghetto, the Allies would not attack it, but if they placed such houses all over Budapest, especially near important public buildings it was a kind of guarantee. Jews were only allowed to leave such houses for two hours a day to buy supplies and such.

[6] Arrow Cross Party

The most extreme of the Hungarian fascist movements in the mid-1930s. The party consisted of several groups, though the name is now commonly associated with the faction organized by Ferenc Szalasi and Kalman Hubay in 1938. Following the Nazi pattern, the party promised not only the establishment of a fascist-type system including social reforms, but also the ‘solution of the Jewish question'. The party's uniform was consisted of a green shirt and a badge with a set of crossed arrows, a Hungarian version of the swastika, on it. On 15th October 1944, when Governor Horthy announced Hungary's withdrawal from the war, the Arrow Cross seized power with military help from the Germans. The Arrow Cross government ordered general mobilization and enforced a regime of terror which, though directed chiefly against the Jews, also inflicted heavy suffering upon the Hungarians. It was responsible for the deportation and death of tens of thousands of Jews. After the Soviet army liberated the whole of Hungary by early April 1945, Szalasi and his Arrow Cross ministers were brought to trial and executed.

[7] 19th March 1944

Hungary was occupied by the German forces on this day. Nazi Germany decided to take this step because it considered the reluctance of the Hungarian government to carry out the ‘final solution of the Jewish question' and deport the Jewish population of Hungary to concentration camps as evidence of Hungary's determination to join forces with the Western Allies. By the time of the German occupation, close to 63,000 Jews (8% of the Jewish population) had already fallen victim to the persecution. On the German side special responsibility for Jewish affairs was assigned to Edmund Veesenmayer, the newly appointed minister and Reich plenipotentiary, and to Otto Winkelmann, higher S.S. and police leader and Himmler's representative in Hungary.

[8] 23rd October 1956

Starting day of the Revolution of 1956 against Soviet rule and the communists in Hungary. The Revolution was started by the university students and the factory workers and then spread to all sectors of society. Moderate communist leader Imre Nagy was appointed as prime minister and he promised reform and democratization. The Soviet Union withdrew its troops which had been stationing in Hungary since the end of World War II, but they returned after Nagy's announcement that Hungary would pull out of the Warsaw Pact to pursue a policy of neutrality. The Soviet army put an end to the rising on 4th November and mass repression and arrests started. About 200,000 Hungarians fled from the country. Nagy, and a number of his supporters were executed. Until 1989, the fall of the communist regime, the Revolution of 1956 was officially considered a counter-revolution.

[9] Gero, Erno (1898-1980)

Politician and economist. After the fall of the Hungarian soviet republic in 1919 he emigrated until 1944. He took part in establishing the communist regime in Hungary and was head of various ministries. He was responsible, among other people, for the hardening of dictatorship after 1949. After the Revolution of 1956 in Hungary he went to the Soviet Union for several years.


Person Details

Piroska Hamos

Former Family Names
Year of birth
City of birth
Country name (at time of birth)
Before WW II
After WW II
Departmental head/manager in socialist firms


Liberated from
Death march
Near Pirna