Throughout the war, Éva Modvál, born in 1936 in Transylvania, was accompanied by her doll Gerta. The doll was Éva’s best friend and the only witness to the good times enjoyed by Éva’s family before the war.
With the outbreak of war and in the wake of reports of attacks on Jews in their vicinity, Pinchas and Frieda Modvál moved with their daughter Éva to the village where Frieda’s parents, Berta and Yitzhak Lustig, lived.
After a time the whole family was deported to the city of Cluj, and from there the Modváls were sent to jail outside Budapest. Pinchas, who was held separately from his wife and daughter, managed through contacts to arrange for the Romanian consul in Budapest to apply for the family’s release. Frieda and Éva were indeed released but tragically, Pinchas was assigned to forced labor and deported before the instructions for his release came through.
Only after the war did Frieda learn that Pinchas had been sent to the Sarvar labor camp. He was killed during an escape attempt by the prisoners just prior to the liberation of the area by the Red Army.
Frieda and Éva immigrated to Israel in 1948.
For Éva, the doll Gerta symbolized her lost childhood. This made her parting with the doll difficult, when she donated it to Yad Vashem. When she finally made the decision to donate the doll she expressed some of these feelings in a farewell letter to Gerta:
Goodbye, my doll Gerta!
...I am leaving you with a heavy heart. Maybe you’ll be able to tell the people of today, and particularly the children, what you saw and where you were with me – a sad story, but also a cheerful one, because I survived... Dear Gerta, you will be the last witness of a dreadful childhood. May no child anywhere go through anything like that again... Maybe some day I’ll come to visit you; the only grave I have for my father and grandfather is Yad Vashem. And perhaps my children and grandchildren will come, and then you won’t be alone there!
Maybe you’ll meet toys and dolls who were in worse places, but survived all the same. My dear doll! Today you have become an inseparable part of my people, which has risen from fire and ashes like a phoenix.
You will always be in my heart.
Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Gift of Éva Modvál-Haimovich, Ramat Gan, Israel