Accession Number: NEKHC:2015.8.1-6

Object: 6 napkins

Category: Agnes; The Nazi Camp System; Hungary; Austria; Ghetto

Physical Description: Pink cotton; cotton thread embroidery; silver thread pattern; complete set of six.

Image Use: Use of images owned by the National Holocaust Centre and Museum is governed by our Terms and Conditions.

Information: The National Holocaust Centre and Museum takes all reasonable measures to ensure we are not infringing on the rights of others. If you are the owner of the copyright or related rights in any of the material from our collections on this website, or you believe that the material may be subject to a third party ownership or another legal claim, and you believe its use infringes your intellectual property or any other rights, please contact us on [email protected]

We endeavour to resolve objections in a timely manner, and will withdraw affected materials from the website until the matter is resolved. The information you provide will be treated as confidential and will be used only in connection with this enquiry.

These napkins were donated by Agnes. They were embroidered by Agnes' maternal grandmother in anticipation of her getting married. 

Further Information

These napkins were donated by Agnes and had previously belonged to Agnes’ maternal grandmother Ilona, known as Ilonka.  Agnes’ family lived in and around Debrecen, Hungary, and Ilonka had been born in 1885.  As was customary for girls at that time, the napkins matched a tablecloth which Ilonka embroidered with her name, in anticipation of getting married. Ilonka was born in the country and had little formal education, but she was naturally intelligent. She was a huge influence on Agnes’ life, remembered as warm, caring, and driven, demanding the best from herself and her family. Her broad knowledge of the countryside would later help family members survive the camps. Agnes’ family faced increasing danger from the rise of Nazism and the persecution of Jewish people.  Ilonka’s flat was situated in the Jewish quarter of Debrecen, and fell in the area which in 1944 became established as the Ghetto.  When Jewish people were concentrated into the Ghetto from all parts of the city and surrounding districts, Ilonka's small flat became the home of thirteen people.  From the Ghetto, Agnes and her family were deported within the Nazi camp system to agricultural and industrial forced labour camps in Austria.  Surviving family members were finally liberated by Russian Troops in 1945. Following liberation, Agnes’ parents tried to return to their former family home, but found that it had been reassigned a non-Jewish family who had lost their home in bombing raids. Before their deportation, Agnes' family had tried to store some valuables for safe keeping with non-Jewish neighbours; however these possessions were never seen again, as people took them for themselves. By contrast, items which were not considered to have much value had been left behind, and some of these were saved by a kindly caretaker of the building who preserved as much as he could. Among these items were Ilonka’s napkins. The napkins were then left behind a second time when Agnes fled communist Hungary in 1956. Agnes' parents emigrated from Hungary to reunite with their daughter in November 1957.  They too had to leave everything behind apart from a small crate of possessions. Agnes’ mother had brought with her the embroidered napkins as they held sentimental value, having been embroidered by her mother.