Furst Brothers BRATIA FÜRST
Childhood and Family
Mom and Dad
Of course, the story of our mom and dad is the most significant one.
Mom was an extraordinary beautiful woman. She was considered the beauty of her village, and many a man yearned to court her. Known as an educated young woman, she studied until the age of sixteen or seventeen, and knew two languages. In her youth she also played the piano, as it fit a Jewish girl from a decent home. Then, suddenly came the “gallant young man” from the big city, Artur Fürst.
We do not exactly know how they met. In 1929, after a year or a year and a half of acquaintanceship, our parents’ wedding took place in the Termia, Piešťany’s finest hotel. Luckily, we have a photograph taken on that event.
Right thereafter, mom joined dad in Bratislava. Her dowry was not too large, but by then dad already owned the warehouse and the company. The house was to be built later.
In 1931, Shmuel, their first child, was born. Being advised by a gynecologist, a member of the Frank family, who declared: “In hospitals’ maternity wards, there are great risks of being infected. I shall deliver the child at your home,” mom gave birth at home.
That happened in the era of great prosperity in Czechoslovakia. Excellent conditions for free trade, economic initiative, and cultural liberty prevailed. Unsurprisingly, the Jews regarded themselves part and parcel of the country, and did their best to make progress on the personal level, while contributing to a further development of the Czechoslovak economy and society.
Within that reality, dad’s business made a great leap forward. In addition to selling lumber and building material, dad and uncle Laci engaged in wholesaling timber, by buying full loads of trains, and selling them to retailers. That contributed to the well being of the family. At the time Shmuel was born, there was a telephone in the house, and an automobile in front of it. A cook, a maid, and a nanny were part of the household. As time went by, the standard of living went up, not only within the family, but also among the Jews in general.
Twenty-two months later, I was born and named Ďuro and Naftali. Mom and dad said to Shmuel: “Please vacate the baby carriage, as a new candidate came to take your place”.
Our early childhood was happy and worry-free. Going out of our “hotbed” was our only problem, especially when we had to walk long distances. At times, we walked two or three kilometers into the heart of Bratislava, instead of taking the ferryboat which crossed the Danube in five or six minutes. Crossing the bridge on a cold and windy day was not a great pleasure… Nevertheless, at that time, we lived like in a paradise.
We used to run around and play in the huge yard of the warehouse. We often went with our nanny to a large, beautiful ancient park, just around the corner of house. As our nanny was German, the German language was actually our mother tongue. Although we communicated with children in our neighborhood in Slovak, we learned that language only in school.
In addition to the games we used to play, we remember how dad taught us to swim in a lake near the river. We also used to go there for fishing. Dad was a very pedant person, and we respected him very much. When he wanted to call us to order, he did not have to make long educational speeches. One look into our eyes was enough, and we already knew that we passed the limits, and time has come to go to bed. Mom was a much softer person, and sometimes even covered up for our behavior.
There was a great deal of genuine love in our home. Mutual respect was part of our education.
Some deeds of mischief come to our mind. Once, Shmuel tried to throw a stone into a water reservoir, but hit my head instead. On another day, we went for a walk, wearing our best clothing. As we were crossing the street in front of our house, my foot got caught between the tram rails. All our efforts were in vain: we could neither pull back, nor go ahead. At the end, we had to cut the shoe, pull out the foot, and only then we were able to release the shoe. That was quite an experience! For Shmuel, the most exciting moments were the walks along the riverbanks.
Before the war, we often traveled to grandma and grandpa in Vrbové. That was a real paradise! Behind the house, there was a garden with fruits, vegetables, and a running creek.
Grandma and all our uncles and aunts used to pamper us. Whenever we climbed the bicycle, grandpa prayed to God: “Shma Israel!” but there was no strict discipline like at home. Our joy had no limits.
On attending school, here is Shmuel’s story:
I learned in a Slovak school for eighteen months only. I graduated first grade with distinction. I remember particularly that I was the only one in my class who knew how to read a watch. At that time, no one – neither the teachers, nor the pupils – owned a watch, and there was only one big click in school. The teacher used to tell me: “Now, you go there and tell us the time!” For me, that was quite an achievement – firstly, because that gave me an opportunity to exit the classroom, and secondly, it filled me with a great deal of pride. I also remember how my classmates laughed at my Slovak, which at that time was not yet rooted in my mind.
All in all, until 1938 we lived a tranquil life. We have not sensed the tempest, which would shortly sweep us away from happiness. For us, those were the only years of normal life, and they came to a sudden end. From that time on, nothing was normal. With Hitler in power, war broke out. It lasted for six years. After the war, communist regime took control of Czechoslovakia.