Julie Kirsh on the train to Miskolc
On March 18, 2009, my daughter Amy and I took the 7:30 a.m. "fast" train from Keleti Payudvar in Budapest to Miskolc. I always buy a first class ticket, but something tells me that there is not much difference between first and second class in Hungary. The train was efficient, but not exactly luxurious. Cabs were waiting at the train station, so we went straight up to the zsido temeto [Jewish cemetery] on Avas Hill. Istvan Balogh, the gatekeeper, let us in.
The cemetery on Avas Hill
My great-grandfather, Adolf (nee Herman) Strausz, was born in 1839 and married in 1869. He died in 1923 and was buried in the Avas Hill cemetery. This was not my first trip to Miskolc, so I knew where the graves were for my grandfather and great-grandparents. Istvan tagged along with us to the grave sites. When we returned to the little office near the cemetery entrance, he showed us an old book with a tattered brown-leather cover. It was a burial register that listed deaths by date, with the precise location of each grave site. My father had told me that Adolf's father's name was David Strausz and that he died in a cholera epidemic. I have not been able to find David or his wife in the Miskolc Anya Konyve [Mormon Church's filmed registry of births, deaths, and marriages
for the Jewish community of Miskolc] or to find my great-grandfather Adolf’s birth record. I always have wondered if my great-great grandfather David was buried in the Avas Hill cemetery, so we looked in the burial register for an entry for David Strausz. We found one at row and site 1-8512, which is very close to my family grave sites; but the date did not really match. The David in the register had died in 1912, which I think is after the cholera epidemics. If my great-great-grandfather David had died in 1912, he would have been ninety years old at the time of his death and only seventeen years old when his son Adolf was born in 1839. This is not impossible, but it is a stretch; so I am not sure that the David Strausz whose interment is recorded in the burial register at the cemetery is my great-great-grandfather. I regret that I did not think to take a photo of the first entry in the register, which I think was in the mid-1800s.
Julie and Amy Kirsh outside of the Miskolc cafe
The cab had waited, so we went to the Kazinczy utca synagogue. We could not go in (because there was a funeral), so we found a place for coffee and palachinta. Both were served cold. When I complained to the waiter, he said that he did not run the kitchen, which made us both laugh. Afterwards we went back to the synagogue and a lady let us into the sanctuary. I've always known that there was a bronze plate on a pew in the name of my great-uncle Miklos Strausz, who was a prominent member of the Miskolc Jewish community. Amy found a second plaque with his name, so I think that he purchased seats for himself and his wife, daughter, and son-in-law. His name also is on the Holocaust memorial plaque that is in the synagogue's courtyard.
Holocaust memorial naming Miklos Strausz
We did not go to the Borsod Archive because, prior to our trip, they had sent me a letter giving me the information I wanted. We walked along the main street a bit. It was a gloomy, cold, gray March day in Miskolc and the downtown seemed grim. There was an old-world cafe that I always liked going to, but it was closed. Although I would have liked to explore more interesting sites, we had to catch an early train back to Budapest.
Street scenes in downtown Miskolc (2009)
Credits: Page design copyrighted © 2009 by Helene Kenvin. Photographs copyrighted © 2009 by Julie Strauss Kirsh. Page created by Helene Kenvin. All rights reserved.