Furst Brothers BRATIA FÜRST
Childhood and Family
The Blum Family
Grandpa Blum’s name was Isidor (Israel), and grandma’s was Janette. Both were born in the nineteenth century in Vrbové, and there they stayed for the rest of their lives. They had a huge house with a large yard and a fountain in the garden. Chickens and geese were running around the yard, and we children loved to stay there.
Their source of income was an embroidery shop, where they sold colorful folkloric blouses and scarves.
Grandpa was one of the few exporters of needlework produced in the village. He probably was the only one who engaged in exporting embroidery with folkloric motifs. Between the two world wars, such business was very unusual.
He also was a great philanthropist, and his family was quite well to do. In his times, supporting Jews upon their arrival in a village, as well as upon their leave, was very common. Grandpa was always looking for an opportunity to support the poor.
Grandma Janette was the dominant person in the family.
Five children were born to them. The firstborn was Miši who later emigrated to the United States. Rudi lived in Slovakia, and intermittently in Egypt as well. Next were the twins, Lili and Anička, and our mom, Margit. The story of each of these brothers and sisters will be told below.
Most of Vrbové’s inhabitants were Jews. In the village, there was a magnificent synagogue, with a famous Rabbi – Rabbi Reich, of whom we know that he made aliya and lived in Jerusalem. The synagogue was the focal point of the Jewish community. Grandpa was a devout believer. Every morning at four o’clock he walked to the synagogue to study the Scriptures.
We children came very often to Vrbové, and on every Sabbath and holiday we used to go with grandpa to the synagogue. We fondly remember that pleasant and exciting experience.
The Blum family combined Jewish tradition with modern life. Grandma and grandpa were very open-minded, and offered their children wide channels of education.
In the winter of 1939, on his way from the synagogue, grandpa slipped on the icy road. He fell and broke his leg. Bedridden, he got pneumonia, a disease that caused his death. It has been said in our family that he was lucky enough to pass away before the Holocaust, and not live to witness its horrors.
His graveyard in Vrbové is reasonably preserved. Most of our family had already visited his burial ground.
By now, there are almost no Jews in Vrbové. Until a few years ago, Dr. Braun, a dentist, still lived there. When we met him, he did remember our parents. We also met our nanny who took care of us when we were small children. She also remembered us, and even recognized Naftali, after fifty years…
Nothing was left from our grandparents’ house. On its ground, housing projects were built, and the whole area had completely changed. In fact, the only remnants of our family are the graves, and the synagogue is the only commemoration to the local Jewish community. As years went by, the synagogue became a warehouse for all kinds of goods.
In 1938, when Austria was annexed to Germany, general mobilization of the Czechoslovak army took place. Our dad was called for duty, and we moved, together with mom, to Vrbové. Our ties with the family have strengthened more than ever, and we were pampered by all, especially uncle Miši, a humorous and funny man who very much loved playing with us.
Uncle Miši owned a cosmetics workshop, located in the rear part of the house. He married Lili Werner, and they both moved in 1938 to the United States. Before leaving Czechoslovakia, they came to us for a farewell visit. We escorted them to the port of Bratislava, their point of departure. In New York, aunt Lili gave birth to their daughter, Janette, named after her grandmother. Janette married Neil Olshan, and they have three sons. Aunt Lili became ill and passed away in 1981. Uncle Miši died in 1992, at a ripe old age of ninety-two.
In our generation, no one was left of the Blum family, except of Janette, who lives in the United States, and us. In the past, it was a large family, and by now the name Blum has no more continuity.
Miši’s younger brother, Rudi, a banker, was considered the most learned member of the family. In 1935, the “Generali” company sent him to Egypt. He was assigned to found the company’s branch in Cairo. In Vrbové, he left behind his love, a woman married to the veterinary of the region. While still in Vrbové, uncle Rudi used to take me with him to their place, “to see the horses and cows”. Actually, I served as an excellent cover for his visits…
Uncle Rudi felt that he could not live without her, and returned in 1939 to Vrbové, to our great sorrow. Until 1944, he managed to stay in the village and its surroundings. In that year, he joined the partisans in the mountains, together with his lover’s family. (Our dad was also a partisan in that area.) At he end, they were captured and taken to the Sered camp.
Being already “veterans” in the camp, we attempted to get them out of the barrack of deportees. Even by now, we feel that we might have saved him, but he resolutely refused to leave the barrack. He was about forty years old upon his deportation to the death camps. We do not know where he died.
His girlfriend’s son, Dodo, studied in Switzerland the trade of hotel keeping. After the war, Naftali located him in Las Vegas, and corresponds with him ever since. Dodo is now about seventy years old.
Lili and Anička Blum were identical twins. Like all the Blum children, they attended school in Vrbové. As they grew up, a man called Arpad Weis, a wealthy merchant of agricultural machinery who was also born in Vrbové, courted aunt Lili, but she turned down all his attempts. Then he began courting Lili’s twin sister, Anička. The outcome was their marriage. They lived together very happily. However, aunt Anička was frail and ailing. On the day our mom – her sister – visited her at her sickbed, Anička died in her sister’s arms. She was laid to rest in 1944 in Piešťany.
Uncle Arpad was of great help to us during our stay in the Sered camp. He managed to stay out of it, and move around freely. He supported us financially or by bribing the camp commander, who in return let our mom leave the camp every once in a while. Arpad stayed in Slovakia throughout the whole wartime. In the meantime, aunt Lili’s husband was deported to Poland, and she remained with her daughter, Evička. In 1945, when her husband did not return from the camps, aunt Lili and uncle Arpad got married. They lived at 39 Šererová Street in Piešťany. In 1949, they moved to Australia.
In 1987, uncle Arpad passed away. He was more than eighty years old. Evička died suddenly in 1980, at the age of forty. Her son, Eugene, lives in Melbourne, and Sally, her daughter, lives in London. From time to time, we communicate with each other. Aunt Lili lives in a home for aged people in Australia. She can no longer communicate with others, and her memory has been failing. We shall return to aunt Lili and uncle Arpad in one of the next chapters.