The first oral history project that combines old family pictures with the stories that go with them, Centropa has interviewed more than 1,350 elderly Jews living in Central and Eastern Europe. We are bringing Jewish history to life in ways which were never done before. We collect, record and present the life histories of aged people. Centropa has interviewed more than 220 elderly Jews living in Hungary. During our work we realized that our old people like to keep in touch, and regularly meet with us. That's why three years ago, together with our Vienna office we started to organize bimonthly meetings with our old people, called "Café Centropa". From time to time Centropa staff invites these people for a chat and a cup of coffee. The meetings of this year were supported by Claims Conference Foundation and respectively held in the Bálint Jewish Community Center, in the Golem Jewish Theater and in the Mazl Tov izraeli Restaurant in Budapest.
The staff of Centropa Budapest (Marcell Kenesei and Szilvia Czingel) led the meetings.
The first meeting was held on the 22th September 2015 in the Bálint Jewish Community Center. We invited young students and their history teachers from four Budapest secondary schools for a „free” chat with our Holocaust survivors. 20 Holocaust survivors participated at the event. Our goal was to bring closer two generations and through the personal communication open a new way of teaching 20th century history from a methodological aspect. Before the event every student got to read two our three biographies from our best and still very active survivors as homework. On the meeting they met them personally and starting from the biography they started talking with them in small groups. After the meeting we gave the students a questionnaire and asked them to express their impression.
For Centropa it is important, not to concentrate only on the horrors of the Holocaust but we would like to show the life that disappeared with the Shoah and also how it was possible to rebuild life and start again after the war for those who stayed here.
We wish to show Jews and non-Jews alike the richness and variety of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe and to help our readers get a glimpse of those aspects of everyday life, which are less accessible through other methods. Some students changed phone numbers and visited the olds at home yet. We are planning to organize a similar meeting again.
Another irregular meeting was held on the 4th of November 2015 in the Bálint Jewish Community Center. We invited for this meeting András Borgula director of Jewish theater company of Budapest. The Gólem Theatre – as the only professional Jewish theater company in Hungary – was founded in 2005 by András Borgula who has been being the artistic director since then. The troop has no permanent members, their goal is to work with the best actors and professionals in the Hungarian contemporary art scene.
Golem is first and foremost a theatre. Similarly to any other artist or artistic endeavour, it strives to make the world a better place. Second of all, it is Jewish. Life, death, love, hate, passion and revenge stride across the stage, all reflecting on a religion, a culture, a people, a worldview. Thirdly, it is in Budapest.
The last event took place on 11th December 2015 in the Mazl Tov izraeli Restaurant in the Jewish district of Budapest. There were 70 people at this special Hanukkah meeting. We invited also the teachers and students who participated in the Centropa teacher seminars before. We invited Hungarian Jewish actor József Székhelyi. He sang and read out the novels, and told some stories from her every day and artist life.
Before the performance we started with the lighting of Hanukkah candles. Certainly Hanukkah donuts could not miss from the festive table. The teachers, the students and holocaust survivors had a very nice open discussion in the framework of a dinner.
The meetings were really very successful as you can see from pictures (see above).