Furst Brothers BRATIA FÜRST
Introduction by Naftali
At the time of his birth, Shmuel’s name was Peter Fürst. In Czechoslovakia, Hebrew names were given to a child as part of Jewish tradition, but it was not commonly used in everyday life. Peter’s Hebrew name was Shmuel-Yitzhak.
After the war, when we joined the “Hashomer Hatzair” movement, it was absolutely clear that we will go on aliya to Eretz Israel. At that time, it was inconceivable that anybody would make aliya with a foreign name. Every member of the Bratislava branch of the movement had to choose a Hebrew name. If he or she had such a name given at birth, that’s okay. I other cases, they had to adopt a new Hebrew name. Moreover, we in the movement decided that as of a certain date, every time one calls a friend by his or her non-Hebrew name, he should contribute the amount of one crown to the peer-group’s common fund. We ardently stood by that decision, and after several months we had a lot of money in our cash-box. As time went by, there were no more doubts, and upon our arrival in Israel it was more than obvious that my brother’s one and only name was Shmuel.
My former name was Juraj (nickname: Ďuro) Fürst. The name Naftali was derived from grandpa Isidor’s father.
Within both families – mom’s Blum family and dad’s Fürst family – we were the first grandchildren. Of course, grandchildren within every family are viewed as the most gifted and beautiful ones, but in our case there were no doubts, as we really were very handsome boys. There was no reason for the entire family not to be crazy about us.
The happy days of our childhood – Shmuel’s seven years, and six years of mine – did not last long.
Already at the beginning of 1938, we were among the few to be persecuted. Although our family was quite well to do, we did have the capability to adjust to changing conditions. We learned that from our parents, as we moved from a nice private house to a one-room apartment, where all the cleaning and laundry had to be done by ourselves. The passages we experienced thereafter taught us to work, be wise and sophisticated up to a certain degree, and at the same time keep any indication of shrewdness within its limits and refrain from being too visible. We were educated to be human beings. Dad was a proud man, and he would never let anyone humiliate him. In his self-image, he kept his dignity even when he was beaten.
Dad was a secular man. Our household had no kosher kitchen, but our family was Jewish in its very substance. Dad never hid that. Even when a proposal was made to our parents to change our last name into a Slovak one, and convert to Christianity, they rejected the idea outright. Our parents’ immanent pride and strength inspired us even in our early childhood – we were only six and eight years of age when we were dragged into the stormy current.
In 1938, before the war began, we were forced out of our house, which our dad built with his own hands only a few years before. Upon our leave, he took an ace and tore down parts of our property, even those that were built into the walls. Doing that to his own handiwork he loved so much was not a simple deed. Dad said: “They are driving me out of my house, but they are not going to smash our spirit!”
At that time, we were probably not fully aware of all the details, but we did comprehend the emotions and their implications.
We begin our family’s story with our grandparents. It has been said, that Naftali resembles the Blum Family, and Shmuel bears a resemblance to the Fürst family.
We shall share our memories and experiences in Vrbové, a village near the town of Piešťany in Slovakia, which we visited not long ago. Our relative, Itamar, joined Naftali and his family upon their visit.