Saturday, August 5, 2017

The (US) Library of Congress announced it will be launching a World War 1 webinar series which will highlight the Library's remarkable World War 1 resources such as documents, photographs, maps and personal stories collected in the Veterans History Project.   This is part of the Library's 100th year commemoration of the United States entry into World War 1.  The series will be 5- 40 minutes webinars beginning on August 22 running through the end of the year.

The free and open to the public webinars require pre-registration. Go to:
Original url:

Once the webinar series is over, the Library of Congress  will make the sessions available to the public on their Echoes of the Great War online exhibition see:

To read more about the webinar series see:

Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

Friday, June 9, 2017

The topic will be presented by Dr. Peter Tarjan at the IAJGS convention in Orlando , Wednesday July 26 2017 at 11.15 an

Peter Tarjan
In 1988 – 32 years after I left Hungary – I was visiting my mother’s sister, Ágnes (z”l), in Budapest, who had cared for me–an orphan– after the war. I asked her about the family correspondence that somehow survived.
            “I gave those to you long ago”–she said.
But an envelope marked “Utolsó Levelek” –Last Letters–emerged from a secret drawer at the bottom of her antique wardrobe, with a few war-time postcards from my grandparents and my parents. Ágnes could not remember how those items survived. – After her death in 1992, her friend found a valise in another nook in her tiny studio apartment containing letters, photos and other memorabilia. I translated and chronologically organized the reports of my grandparents on the postcards following the German occupation on 3/19/1944 until correspondence from the ghetto in Pécs was forbidden. I juxtaposed these with concurrent articles dealing with the persecution of Jews in the local daily newspaper, Dunántúl (Transdanubia), the only one allowed by the Nazis in the town. The last header on 7/6/1944: “The Ghetto in Pécs is vacant” without further explanation.
Where the present city is located, the Romans established an outpost named Sopianae in the 2nd century C.E. The area has been continuously inhabited for almost two millennia. Christian tombs, a “Necropolis” was discovered from that period. The foundations of the cathedral were laid in the 4th century. The present structure began after a fire in 1064. The town’s life has been heavily influenced by its bishops for more than a millennium. The wall around the town was built in the 15th century, but it did not stop the Ottomans who conquered and held it from 1543 to 1686. Jews were living in the town before and during the Ottoman period, but when the Hapsburgs took over, the locals decided to allow only Christians to live in the town.
Pécs began to prosper in the early part of the 19th century. The first Jew was allowed to settle inside the town around 1820, but they had a cemetery by 1827 and a prayer house by 1841. The large synagogue, a national monument today, was completed in 1869.
My “Papa” –Simon Steiner (1869-1944), my maternal grandfather came to Pécs to be an apprentice men’s tailor in a relative’s shop around 1882 and had lived there until their deportation to Auschwitz in July, 1944. He took over the tailoring shop and then married “Mama” –my grandmother, Margit Katona (1886-1944)–around 1904. She was the only child of József (Krausz) Katona (1860-1939), an agronomist and Bertha Krausz (1867-1933) a teacher and newspaper reporter. My great-grandfather, my “Dédike,”retired early and moved to Pécs to be near their daughter and their two granddaughters, Ágnes (1906-1992) and “Bözsi”- Erzsébet (1910-1945), my mother. They lived in a duplex near the center, but when Bertha died, Papa and Mama moved into a modern apartment building with Dédike–who followed his wife after a few years. Papa spent his days in the home-office of Uncle Ede (Krausz) Bokor, Bertha’s bachelor brother, who died in 1943 and thus escaped the worst year of persecution which began with the German occupation. There was a very old lady living with Uncle Ede, I think she was also his sister. In the next little house lived Aunt Tilda Bokor, Ede’s sister-in-law and her grown son, Laci. Among all these people, only Zsuzsa Bokor, who was Ede’s niece and Mama’s cousin returned, who was about 22 and became a cardiologist.
Both of the Steiner girls were talented and ambitious. Ágnes aspired to be an actress and Bözsi’s talent was in music. The sisters moved to Budapest for their studies and remained there.
Bözsi and Tibor (Friedman) Tarján (1904-1945?) “discovered” each other in Budapest and they were married in Pécs in 1931. Moritz Friedman, (1860-1924) (Tarján after 1910) and his wife, Fáni Löbl (ca. 1870-1910) had four children: Aranka (1888-1944), Kornel (1893-1978), Böske (1898-1985) and Tibor (1904-1945?), all born in Szekszárd, a smaller town about 60 km NE of Pécs.
After Fáni’s early death, they moved to Pécs. It’s a separate story, but Kornel lived with his family in Zagreb from 1922 until Yugoslavia was attacked in 1941. His family went through Italian concentration camps, followed by two years among Tito’s partisans; eventually they  landed in Boston in 1950. Aranka, Böske and her husband were sent to Auschwitz, but only Böske did return as she was found fit to work. There were many relatives living within 50 miles from Pécs, virtually all perished including my four little cousins about my age. 
My parents rented a comfortable apartment in the Jewish district. My father could not enroll at a university due to the Numerus Clausus and he became an apprentice tanner at a factory owned by a Jewish family in Pécs. Eventually he did earn a law degree as a corresponding student and then he was appointed to manage the firm’s office in Budapest, a short walk from our apartment. My mother changed her plans from becoming a performing artist and she took a teacher’s diploma to give voice and piano lessons in our living room. Despite the war, we lived a modest, but comfortable life until the German occupation. We spent nearly all our vacations with our relatives in Pécs, where everyone was busy spoiling me as the only small child in the immediate family. My parents’ families got along well; they were moderately religious, liberal thinking middle class folks.
In Ágnes’s second set, a few letters survived from 1941 until the Occupation, which reflect the close bonds among the relatives, the care and worries for each other and the gathering black clouds. After the Occupation news sources were suppressed, Jewish owned radios and telephones confiscated, intercity travel forbidden and communication was limited to war-time open postcards, readily available for censorship. Mama was a diligent correspondent; hence a fairly complete picture emerges about the stressful period while they were waiting for their belongings to be systematically confiscated and their own move to the ghetto in May. The next set of postcards describes the miserable conditions in the ghetto, but they reflect some hope and dignity. The final set at the end of June reflects justifiable desperation as at the end of the month all the “inhabitants”–read “prisoners”– in the ghetto were transferred to a filthy barn before they were shipped to Auschwitz in unimaginably crowded cattle cars. I don’t know how my mother and Ágnes were able to cope with the postcards, but the official propaganda might have given them some assurance that “the Jews were transferred to work camps, where the young would work and the elderly take care of the children.”
Over the years I had searched for information about the way the Hungarian press reported the persecution of the Jews during the Occupation. The Library of Congress had a few fragile pages from 1944, but copies were hard to obtain. The “KNOWLEDGE CENTER,” a fabulous modern library was built in Pécs with EU funds in 2010. I visited there in 2014 and found digitized copies of the local paper from 1944, transferred from microfilm. My presentation will show in translation a stream of headers about the self-righteous announcements about the persecution of the local Jewish community in the only daily newspaper permitted to be published by the Nazis. The tone of the paper, needless to say, was viciously anti-Semitic without the slightest hint of sympathy or regret.
My father was in and out of “munkaszolgálat” –forced labor for the military from 1941 forward. His company was able to get him released time and again as they were producing leather for the war effort and they claimed him to be an indispensable employee. His service became non-stop after 3/19/44. Eichmann was delegated to Budapest to finish off the Jewish population. They first eliminated about 75 percent of the Jews, those who resided outside of Budapest. By the end of June they began to focus on the approximately 200,000 Jews in the city and forced us into STAR HOUSES. Our building was one of those and our apartment became a crowded camp for more than 20 people. The deportations stopped on 7/8/44; Eichmann was recalled. The Red Army was approaching Hungary. On 10/15/44 Regent Horthy declared neutrality on the radio to save the country from being overrun and destroyed by the Soviet forces. Three hours later the fascist “Arrowcross” or “Nyilas” party forced Horthy’s resignation and with the Russians approaching, focused on the destruction of all the Jews in the city. A few short notes and postcards reflect the tension and worry that affected everyone. My father’s unit was sent west. Eichmann returned to resume the deportations, but as all the railroad cars were used for the retreating army, he ordered the infamous Eichmann March. My mother was among those who were captured and taken on the march in early December. A postcard survived from her, the last signal of life.
There is an unexplained item among the postcards in my father’s handwriting, dated April 6, 1945 and posted in Budapest. It was addressed to a former neighbor with a mysterious message I am unable to explain. Could he possibly have survived the camps and returned by then?
The International Tracing Service had found a few entries about my parents’ separate travels in German areas with the latest entry from February, 1945.
If my father did indeed return to Budapest, then his disappearance is most likely due to the Soviets rounding up able-bodied men and some women to be taken to labor camps in the Soviet Union. Their records either do not exist, or are still kept secret by the current regime.
There are many questions for which I would like answers, but virtually all the survivors who were adults in 1944 have passed away already. While they were still alive, they did not want to talk about their experiences.
In summary, the correspondence amounts to eyewitness reports intended only for staying in touch with each other within the family, but its scope is much larger. Juxtaposed against the official news reports, it is an indictment of the Hungarian fascist government and its subservient hateful press specifically in Pécs, but in a broad sense, the whole country.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Message from Hal Bookbinder - Former IAJGS President

The WannaCry ransomware has been all over the news as it has infected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide, impacting major institutions as well as individuals. While all of the information below is available online, I have not found it written in nontechnical terms in a single place. Hope you find this helpful. Feel free to share with your membership. Additionally, please let them know that my series of monthly Practicing Safe Computing articles, which are published in Venturing into our Past, the newsletter of the JGSCV, is available in a single, indexed PDF at A new article is added to this ever-growing free resource by the first of each month.

What is the issue?
* The WannaCry (or WannaCrypt) ransomware exploits a vulnerability in all versions of the Windows Operating System (OS).
* Microsoft issued the following to explain this exploit,
* The above bulletin contains a link to Microsoft Security Bulletin MS17-010, which includes the security patch to fix this vulnerability.

Do I need to worry?
* If your computer is running a supported version of the Windows OS (7, 8.1 or 10) AND is set to automatically accept security patches from Microsoft, you should be protected.
* If you are running Windows 10, automatic updates are turned on and cannot be turned off by the home user, so you should be protected.
* If you are running a supported version but it is not set to automatically accept security patches, you are at risk.
* If you are running a non-supported version Windows OS (8.0, XP or earlier), you are at risk.

What if I do not know which version of Windows I am running?
* A quick facility to check what Windows OS you are running is (this is not a Microsoft site). It will display your OS at the top of the page and give you instructions if you want more details.
* Alternatively, you can find instructions at Though not quite as convenient, and only covering supported versions, this is a Microsoft site.

What if I am running Windows 7 or 8.1 and do not know if automatic updating is turned on?
* For instructions, see the following Microsoft publication, Go down to the portion entitled "Turn on and use Automatic Updates".
* If you find that you do not have automatic updating turned on, you are strongly advised to turn it on.

What do I do if I am at risk?
* The Microsoft bulletin cited in the first section,, contains links to download the MS17-010 patch
* In a highly unusual move, Microsoft has issued security patches for several unsupported Windows versions, including XP and 8.0, which are otherwise not supported with any fixes. Microsoft also offers a patch for Windows Server 2003. However, this is primarily a business installation and it is highly unlikely you have it on your home computer. Links to these downloads are at the bottom of the bulletin.
* If you are running an earlier version of Windows, no fix is available from Microsoft.
* If you are on an unsupported version of Windows, it is highly recommended that you upgrade.

Note: Since I am running on Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 at home and on Windows 7 in the office and all have automatic patching turned on I have not actually exercised the manual download. However, as it is directly from Microsoft I see no reason why it would not function properly.

Hope you find this helpful.

All the best and see you in Orlando!
Hal Bookbinder

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Yom HaShoah - Sunday April 23 2017
We are honored to publish a live testimony of our member Peter Tarjan- child survivor at the Holocaust

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author , except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to Peter Tarjan  e mail address
by Peter Tarjan

During the autumn of 1944 I was eight years old. Six months earlier, on March 19, Hungary was invaded by its ally, Nazi Germany, for Hitler’s fear of Hungary abandoning its alliance against the Soviet Union. Regent Horthy, the head of state since 1920, had been secretly negotiating for a separate peace with Moscow. A few days after the invasion a multitude of new ordinances were issued by the newly appointed pro-Nazi government to exclude all Jews from the economic and social life of the country. One of the most hostile ordinances required all Jewish persons over the age of six to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothes.

The building, where my parents had rented an apartment since before I was born, became a Star House in June, 1944. Jews were only allowed to reside in such  buildings, which were scattered throughout Budapest. It was rumored that this design was to protect the rest of the residents of the city in the false belief that the Allies would not bomb areas with  Star Houses. We were sharing that apartment with many people–relatives, friends and complete strangers–on October 15, 1944 when Regent Horthy–still the official head of state–declared the country's neutrality. A few hours later the Arrowcross Party grabbed power from him.  During the previous weeks my parents had acquired three separate Swiss Schutzpasse–protective papers–issued either by the Swiss Consulate led by Mr. Carl Lutz, or forgeries produced by various underground groups, including a team of Zionists. I was fascinated by those documents. I studied them side-by-side and noticed they were slightly different from each other. It seemed to me the shield on top of each sheet was a little different from the other two. Anyhow, looking back from the distance of seven decades, I have to assume that at least two out of the three, if not all three were forgeries.

My father was away in November in a forced labor unit–
–for Jewish men, and a note from him survived in which he made a reference to having acquired an important paper that he was trying to send to my mother in the Star House.

Sometime in November my mother and her friend and neighbor–Mrs. Jolán Deutsch–decided to walk from ʺourʺ Star House in the VII. District, Király utca 31, to one of the ʺprotectedʺ buildings in the International Ghetto. Those buildings were established by Swiss, Swedish, Spanish and Portuguese diplomats, and by Angelo Rotta, the Papal Nuntio representing the Vatican. Jolán's daughter, Trudi, was not quite three, her birthday was in January. Jolán somehow hired a young man in a soldier's uniform with a rifle on his shoulder, who accompanied us to V. Szent István Park 25, a tall building by the Danube, one of the buildings under Swiss protection. I don't know whether anyone checked our papers for authenticity, but we settled in an apartment on the 6. floor with some 70 people, with a single bathroom for all those people. My memories from that period include playing in the stairway with other children; problems and fights at night on account of the crowdedness and using the bathroom. Lastly, at the end of November, Arrowcross men broke into our building and ordered all the women of a certain age range who either had no children, or children  older than two, to gather in the back of the building for some work. The city had been severly bombed and those women were told they were needed to help clear the rubble for a few days. My mother, who was 34, had to go and left me in charge  of Jolán, who was exempt on account of Trudi's age. I last saw my mother from the rear window while she was waiting with the other women, ready to go. It turned out to be the infamous ʺEichmann March.ʺ The Red Army was already outside Budapest, but Eichmann was determined to finish off the remaining Jews in the city. There were no more cattle cars available for transporting Jews to the concentration camps as all the trains were assigned to carry the retreating troops westward. The camps in Poland had already been shut down, and Hitler needed workers to fortify Vienna against the approaching Soviets. Forty thousand Jews, mostly women and some older men, were driven on foot from Budapest toward the western border under the most inhumane conditions by Hungarian Gendarmes and members of the Arrowcross. My mother was able to send an open postcard from Bánhida–a village outside Budapest–at the beginning of December. That was the last news from her.

Jolán, a blue-eyed blond woman, decided to go underground with false papers and she survived with Trudi, but first she handed me over to a Christian military tailor, who made uniforms for officers. Over a few days this man tried to place me in several children's shelters without success, but finally, he left me at a makeshift orphanage operated by the Swedish Red Cross at V. Szent István körút 29.

It is not clear how my mother's closest friend, "Panni"–Anna Kertèsz–had learned about my whereabouts, but she came to visit me and gave me her temporary address at V. Tátra utca 4, a building under Swedish protection.   She and her 20 or so relatives occupied a room in an apartment under Swiss protection. Panni and her family had genuine protective papers as her brother, Georg "Gyuri" Kertèsz, a violinist, had been a member of the Zürich Tonnhalle since about 1931 and was able to obtain genuine papers not only for his mother and sister, but also for several aunts, uncles and cousins. One of these cousins was Miklós Balla, whose daughter, Edith Csontos lives in Sydney, Australia. Edith was born after the war.

Panni thought that the Swedish orphanage was a better place for me than to be with her group in a crowded room with a cousin, Miklós's younger brother, who was suffering from dysentery. But she said, if worse comes to worst, I should come to her address.

A few days before Christmas, the director called the children into his office one by one. He asked me whether I had any place to go as the orphanage was about to be closed and he didn't know where the children would end up. — In retrospect, there were only two likely places: the Budapest Ghetto or execution by the Danube. — I told him about Panni’s address and he instructed me to be ready to leave at 7 in the evening.

As planned, the superintendent let me out through the front door that was normally locked. I had no clue how to get to the address, but a woman noticed me in the boulevard's relatively busy pre-Christmas crowd, she asked me what I was doing and eventually, against the instructions for not speaking to anyone, I told her or showed her the address and she led me there. Again, the front portal was locked and the superintendent wouldn't let me in. The lady did manage to talk the superintendent into calling down Panni, who did come tp the gate, and probably for a bribe, managed to get permission from the superintendent for me to stay for only one night. I will never know the name of the lady who led me there, but she certainly saved my life.

The siege began in a day or two and everyone from our room was in the building's cellar most of the time, trying to be safe in case the building were hit and collapsed. The only people who stayed up in our room on the third floor were Panni, her Uncle Bèla and I. When I asked why we didn't go with the rest to the cellar, they said something about how bad the air was down there. The only food we had for weeks was dried peas boiled in water on a tiny stove in the middle of the room, and not much of it. We were liberated in mid-January by the Red Army.

Panni left for Switzerland in 1946 and was allowed to spend only 6 months there while she completed a course in hospitality. Panni and my mother–Bözsi–were piano teachers and they became friends while they were studying for their careers. Panni then immigrated to the UK and ran a small hotel in the Kensington area in London for many years.

I left Hungary in 1956 and came to the USA. The first time I saw Panni again was in 1968 in London, when I was already 31 years old. We talked a little about the events of 1945 and that is when I realized that the reason Panni and Uncle Bèla stayed in the airy room was because I was there illegally. They were hiding me from the eyes of the superintendent and the other tenants. They risked their own lives for me.

When people ask me about my survival, I tell them I was hidden by Jewish people who were  in an apartment under the protection of the Swiss government, but in a building that was set up by Raoul Wallenberg's group of Swedish diplomats.

I have always been and to the end of my life will continue to be grateful to Carl Lutz and Raoul Wallenberg for their humanity and heroism, and it saddens me to think about the unfair treatment Mr. Lutz suffered from his own government and the horrors Mr. Wallenberg experienced after his capture by the Soviet government during his years in the gulag.