Júlia Lusztig

Júlia Rosenberger, nicknamed Juliska, was born in Gyalu (today Gilău) in 1908, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Her story inspired one of the audio guides at Muzeon. She was the wife of Andor Lusztig, nicknamed Bandi, the second child of Moritz and Gizella Lusztig. The two married in Gilău in 1933. By then, the historical region of Transylvania had been annexed to Greater Romania. After they got married, the couple moved to Cluj for a better life, where their two children were born in 1936 and 1938, Tibor and Noémi. Bandi was an electrotechnician, and Juliska was a housewife. The two intended to emigrate to Palestine, being active members of the Zionist community of Cluj.

Juliska and Bandi Lusztig.

From 1940 to 1944, after the Second Vienna Award, Northern Transylvania was annexed back to Hungary. The Hungarian army established labour camps where, after WWII started, like most Jewish young men, Bandi was sent to in 1943. He was sent to Nagybánya (today Baia Mare), in Battalion X. As a result, Juliska was left alone with her two children, Tibor, who was 7 at the time, and Noémi, who was 5. Juliska did, however, receive moral support from Bandi through his letters. In 1944, Bandi wrote in a letter to Juliska: “I’m fine and I’m looking forward to hearing from you and to find out how my situation can be resolved. I wish you all the best, may God allow your path to succeed and guide you. Millions of sweet kisses to everyone, and to Tibi and Nomi as well. Tell them that their daddy, Bandi, kisses each of them a million times.” Juliska was also helped by her father-in-law, Moritz Lusztig, and her sister-in-law, Erzsébet. 

Juliska and Bandi Lusztig.

The ghettoisation of the Jewish people in Northern Transylvania began in the spring of 1944. On May 5th, Juliska and her two children, Moritz and his daughter Viktória, with her husband, Dezső, and their two children, were all taken to the ghetto of Cluj, where 18.000 Jews were concentrated. The post-Holocaust memoir of Juliska reveals the fact that she and her children should have been exempt from being sent to the ghetto, because her husband was working in a labour camp. Nevertheless, they were not. Bandi managed to send some wood for them, to be able to cook, as well as the mattresses for the children so that they wouldn’t have to sleep directly on the ground. From Juliska’s memoir, we also learn that Noémi, nicknamed Nomika, was very ill. 

Tibor and Noémi, and their cousins, Róbert and György.

Paul, Gizella, Viktória, Bandi and Juliska Lusztig.

Rezső Kasztner was the vice president of the Aid and Rescue Committee set up in Budapest in 1942. After the German army entered Hungary in 1944, Kasztner made a pact with Adolf Eichmann, an SS-Obersturmbannführer, or lieutenant colonel, that in exchange for a certain amount of money and resources Germany was to release some Jews from Hungary and transfer them to a war-neutral country, such as Switzerland. Due to a close relationship between Bandi and Rezső Kasztner, Bandi managed to get himself, his father, Moritz Lusztig, Juliska and her two children, and a cousin of theirs on the passenger list of the train that Kasztner arranged to transport Hungarian Jews to Switzerland during deportations. On June 10, 1944, the train left from Kolozsvár (Cluj) to Budapest, where the passengers were held in special barracks at a camp on Columbus street. Bandi, who at the moment was interned to work in a Hungarian labour battalion, was supposed to reunite with his family in Budapest and escape together, but he was not released and could not leave. June 30, 1944 was the last day that he communicated with Juliska.

Rezső Kasztner. (Image source: Wikipedia)

Adolf Eichmann in a courtroom in Israel. (Image source: Britannica)

Juliska recalls in her memoirs that while they were in Budapest on Columbus street, waiting to continue their journey to Switzerland, she and her children were not allowed to enter the camp bunker during some bombings because Juliska was ill and had fever. However, they survived and were able to continue their journey.

The passengers of Kasztner train. (Image source: Tablet Mag)

The Kasztner train left for Bergen-Belsen, Germany, on June 30, 1944, and it arrived on July 8 to the camp. The train passengers were held separately from the other prisoners in the camp, but the living conditions were not any better. Juliska described in her post-Holocaust memoir to having an unpleasant experience on the road to Germany: 

”We are moving forward today and we still don’t know where. For 3 days, the train has been running without a destination between Pest and Mosonmagyaróvár. Finally, we are setting out. We’re 60-70 in a car. We have no space to sleep at night. Sometimes I have to push someone’s feet off my children, so that they don’t suffocate them. (All of the parents have to do this.) None of us have it any better. They are taking us to Linz where we will enter the city to wash ourselves. There’s no one on the streets but us. The shutters are closed on the windows of the houses. Probably the people behind them are looking at us. It’s a terrible day.

Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. (Image source: Wikipedia)

At Bergen-Belsen, they lived in terrible conditions, but at least they were not put to work. Juliska tried to humanise their situation in the camp by making a cake for the birthday of a little boy or by celebrating the holidays together. The Kasztner train finally set out for Switzerland in December 1944. It stopped in many places before it arrived in Caux, Switzerland, where the Lusztig family spent eight months.

The passengers of the Kasztner train arriving to Switzerland. (Image source: WYPR)

Switzerland, Jews that arrived from Hungary on a train organized by Rezső Kasztner, 1944.(Image source: Yad Vashem Photo Archive)

Juliska and her two children left for Palestine after the war, hoping to start a fresh life there and to reunite with the rest of their family. The three of them settled down in Haifa (then Palestine), where they received help and Juliska soon found a job. She only found out in 1945 that her husband died one year before in a bombardment. She remarried two years later. There, Tibor changed his name to Shraga, while Noémi shortened her name to Nomi. The three of them were present at the founding of the state of Israel in 1947, at the war of independence in 1948, and the following wars. In spite of all the hardships, Juliska was able to begin a new life in the newly formed state of Israel together with her children.

Nomi Lusztig.

Sources

The Archive of the Lusztig Family © Muzeon.

Randolph L. Braham, The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary.

George Bishop, Amintiri despre ghetoul de la Cluj și despre trenul Kasztner.

Yehouda Marton, Michael Berenbaum, Kasztner, Rezső Rudolf.

Randolph Braham, Genocide and Retribution: The Holocaust in Hungarian-Ruled Northern Transylvania.

Ladislaus Löb, Rezső Kasztner: The Daring Rescue of Hungarian Jews: A Survivor’s Account.

Jozeph Michman, Yehuda Bauer, Menachem Rosensaft, Bergen-Belsen.

Csirák Csaba, Szovjet bombatámadások a lakossági kárbejelentések alapján. http://www.frissujsag.ro/szovjet-bombatamadasok-a-lÁkossagi-karbejelentesek-alapjan/

Hanna earned her bachelor's degree in Cultural Tourism from Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca. She is currently working as a museum assistant at Muzeon while pursuing a Master's Degree in Cultural Heritage. History, culture, and heritage are among her passions. She thinks Cluj-Napoca is a great place to learn about Transylvanian history and culture.

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