Jewish survivors of the Holocaust
Simms, Elizabeth (1 of 5) Holocaust Survivors Centre Interviews
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2005-11-26, 2005-12-21, 2006-01-11
Is part of (Collection)
Holocaust Survivors Centre Interviews
interviewee's home, London
Simms, Elizabeth, 1922- (speaker, female)
Feather, Jill (speaker, female)
Part 1: Family Background: Parents Hungarian. Father’s name: Antal Gyorgy Berczi d.o.b. 6/5/1884; Mother’s name was Maria Fodor. Originally father’s family name was Steiner. Mother born Goldberger. her date of birth was 18/2/1892. Elizabeth had an older brother. Charles d.o.b.1917. Mother came from a medical background. Father’s family were not practising Jews, mother’s family were aware of main Jewish festivals. Lived in an apartment on third floor. Moved to Buda in 1932 when Elizabeth was 10 Apartment had four rooms and they had a governess. She was an Austrian, in reality a nanny. Father was a merchant - needlework and embroidery - later on ready made knitwear and sold knitting wool. Well established family business. Exported all over Europe. Father came from a family of six children. Mother didn’t work, came down to shop just to be seen. But middle class didn’t work. Before she married she tried to study in secret but her father found out and books were taken away from her. Arranged but happy marriage. Mother had previously had a love affair, in the romantic sense of the word – she had fallen in love with an actor but it was stopped. Twenty one when she married. She died at aged 92 in 1984. Father died when he was sixty. Six when she started school. They didn’t speak Hungarian until she went to school. They spoke German at home. Referred to governess as her second mother. She stayed with them and died at the same age as her father. Brother was two when she came. Didn’t know her grandparents but of course knew her aunts and uncles. Told stories of relationships between her grandparents which she heard from her mother. Schooling: found school very strange particularly as she couldn’t understand what they were saying to her as she only spoke Hungarian – it was considered a very progressive private school and they travelled by tram. Spent two years at that school and then she was moved to a school which was nearer – not as good but had the advantage of being more convenient. She and her brother went to different schools – he went to an all boys’ school. Talked about their middle class background – how her mother was not allowed to do anything in the home – they had a cook and a chambermaid and she referred to her father as an aristocrat. They converted to Catholicism, even though they were almost totally non observant Jews. She had gone to Jewish instruction until about the age of 13. A great many Hungarians converted to Catholicism because of the threat from the Nazis. (1935). She also had to change schools. By 1940 she had finished school. When they converted to Catholicism they had to be baptised. Described the ceremony. She explained the meaning of the phrase ‘cradle catholic’. She had planned to go to university after she finished school. That was difficult even though they had converted to Catholicism they were still counted as Jews. So instead she could become a visiting student – one could attend lectures but couldn’t take the examinations. Asked if there were anti-Semitic signs in the streets. By 1938 people were losing their jobs. Her father could only keep so many Jewish employees – he had two shops one in the inner city and a smaller one, maybe 100 employees. First half were Jewish but eventually it was less.
User notes for this item
I am sad to say that my mother died aged 93 on 18 July 2015. She died peacefully without regaining consciousness, surrounded by her family, hours after a sudden heart attack at home. She kept her dignity, her intelligence and her zest for life to the very end.
Posted by Annabel Simms on 01/10/2015 21:35:00