Saturday, December 4, 2010

EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: Hungarian Government Makes Second Payment to Survivor

UPDATE: December 05, 2010

After 66 years the Hungarian government may have completed their business with my mother. The second payment of $600 for my murdered grandfather was received in a wire transfer. The Hungarians made this token payment, adding up with the other payment (for my grandmother) of approximately $1200 US dollars (minus transfer wire fees, notary public fees, postage) in their admission of guilt for conspiring and collaborating with Nazi Germany in the dejewification of Hungary in 1944 which resulted in what can only be described as the catastrophe.

My mother has recently been asked to join a class action lawsuit against the Hungarian MAV railway company. Read below for the rest of the story and stay tuned to this blog for updates.

UPDATE: September 24, 2010

The Hungarian government has made an international wire transfer into my mother's bank account. Apparently this token amount of $600 at long last acknowledges that Hungary collaborated with the German Nazis during World War II in the deportation and murder of Regina Festinger, my grandmother. They sent one more affidavit to be signed for another $600 for my grandfather, Menashe (Jonas) Festinger who was also murdered. They wouldn't pay for other of my relatives because we couldn't come up with birth certificates and/or documentation.

The Jewish social worker, working in concert with the International Claims Conference, and the local San Francisco Hungarian consulate has been helpful in translating and sending documents for us. I didn't want the money, but as a family, we decided to go ahead and let the Hungarians face the music, since the token cash payments are the only evidence that they have owned up to this most hideous conspiracy that they participated in. My mother's birthday is coming up, she will be 87, and she needs some things.

Read below, to catch up on the details of this real-life drama.

August 4, 2010: Hungarian government devalues Jewish lives
Four years after filing a claim against Hungary on my mother's behalf for its responsibility in collaborating with the German Nazis in the deportation and murder of Jonas and Regina Festinger, my grandparents, and my Aunt Cece  (just three of Hungary's 565,000 slaughtered Jewish victims during the Holocaust) the joke is on us. The decision came in the mail. It sat on my desk for five months until today, when I met with my mother's Hungarian speaking social worker, for Jewish Holocaust survivors with the Jewish Family Service. She counsels us regarding my mother's restitution pension from the Claims Conference: The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. We had some things to discuss, and almost as an afterthought, I pulled out the two registered letters from Hungary.

You see, I had given up, thrown in the towel, and just said to myself, "Forget about it!" I was sick of being jerked around with the paperwork, registered mail fees, begging Hungarian online acquaintances for translation help, begging Yad Vashem's New York office for help (to no avail) in finding birth certificates, and the whole subject. I mean, where do you draw the line in finding money and how do you comprehend the Hungarian government putting a price tag of $1,800 on the heads of murdered dead relatives?

So, today, you can imagine my shock as the social worker said, This Hungarian word means, "Award." But how much? It seems to be a paltry $600 each, not $1,800 for the grandparents that have stared at me from a painting on the wall most of my life. The death of my Aunt Cece and her family was denied, because except for anecdotal evidence and photographs, there was simply no proof that she had existed, let alone gassed and burned. The photo, to the right, is Ceci Festinger, a portrait from Sighet.

The social worker was surprised. Out of all the applicants, about eight Hungarian elderly survivors in all that live in our immediate area, none of them had heard anything back from the Hungarian government. A few of them had died since that June day in 2006 when we all gathered in Berkeley to sign the papers. My paperwork was very good. After all, I have written a book on the subject. All of my archival documents and photos came in handy.

The Hungarian government has devalued the lives of my beloved family, who I never got to meet. In doing so, they have devalued my life. How much of my life is defined by these people who perished for the 'crime of being Jewish?' They were denied due process, stripped of everything, and humiliated to the very last breath that they took. I can't begin to describe how I feel at this moment. But it's not about me, right? It's about them.
The collaborationist Hungarian government, who dejewified Hungary in 1944.


  1. This is gutting, I can't imagine how it makes you and your family feel Naomi :( No amount of money can replace the lives taken, but a simple acknowledgement of wrongdoing do would go so far in healing open wounds.

  2. Thank you Fiona. You have hit the nail exactly on the head.

  3. Hello Naomi, It is doubtful that you might remember me from days gone by. But I have come to remember you based on facebook suggestions as to common "friends"
    It seems that you have accomplished much and been a successful advocate of remembrance of the experience of your family in terms of the holocaust. I have not read your book, but will make it a must read. We should not forget the atrocities of manking against our fellows. It persist to this day, and unless there springs forth a renewed effort based on a new creed which emphasizes our common humanity as opposed to our
    tribalistic instincts, it is likely history will repeat itself. best wishes to you in all you may do and in all you have accomplished in raising the level of understanding. Craig Rosso