"I beg of you, love her like a mother, so that she feels my absence less keenly. Don't tell her where I am. I am sure that there is much courage in her young soul, and many unanswered questions."
Isabella Fodor wrote these words in a letter to Mrs. Szomor, in which she asked her to adopt her daughter Gita. Isabella was murdered in Auschwitz. Gita survived.
Chaim and Isabella-Bella Fodor lived in Cluj, in the Transylvania region of Romania. In 1936, their daughter Gita was born.
In 1940, northern Transylvania was annexed to Hungary and remained part of Hungarian territory until 1945. In 1942, Chaim Fodor was drafted into the Hungarian Army labor battalions, and posted to Ukraine. In March 1944, the Germans occupied Hungary, and Isabella searched frantically for a way to save her little girl. She moved her into an orphanage in Nagyvárad in the hope that a Hungarian family would take her home. Mr. and Mrs. Szomor agreed to take Gita in. A Hungarian neighbor informed the authorities that the Szomors were harboring a Jewish child, and Gita was taken from their home and sent to the Nagyvárad ghetto, established on 3 May 1944. Janusz Szomor went into the ghetto and smuggled Gita out. Fearing for her life, he took her to her aunt in Budapest. Gita and her aunt survived, and were liberated in Budapest by the Russians.
After finding a safe haven for her daughter, Isabella Fodor continued to reside in Cluj with her mother, Emilia. On 3 May 1944, Isabella signed a declaration waiving her parental rights to her daughter Gita, and agreeing to Gita's adoption by the Szomors. The document includes Isabella's request that Gita convert to Catholicism. The deportation of the Jews of the Cluj ghetto to Auschwitz commenced at the end of May. Isabella and her mother Emilia were both deported and murdered. Gita's father, Chaim Fodor, perished while in the forced labor battalions.
After the war, Gita and her relatives returned to Cluj. In 1958, she married David Nemesh, a Holocaust survivor from Romania, and in 1959, the couple immigrated to Israel and made their home in Rosh Ha'ayin. They had two children – a daughter, Shifra, and a son, Moshe-Micky.
In 1994, Gita Fodor-Nemesh submitted a Page of Testimony in memory of her mother Isabella-Bella, and in 2006, she donated her mother's last letter and the adoption document to Yad Vashem for posterity.
3 [May] 1944
Dear Mrs. Szomor,
The writer of this letter is a distraught mother who is being taken away with her family to an unknown destination. You have surely heard about our current predicament. The same thing that happened in your city is happening in ours. I am sending you an adoption document for my little daughter, in which I give her up for her own good. In this way perhaps she will be saved and they won't take her. I have no other choice. I entreat you, use this document so that she will be saved. Try and make her understand that she has been converted to Catholicism and she is now Christian, and that she has to be educated as such. I know that this is a very hard mission for you, but this is the way forward now. In any event, if it's too hard for you and you don't succeed in this undertaking, send the child to your sister… so that she can hide her in her village. I beg of you, love her like a mother, so that she feels my absence less keenly. Don't tell her where I am. I am sure that there is much courage in her young soul, and many unanswered questions.
I am sending you 20 Forints via messenger, but I don't know when and under what conditions it will reach you. I beg of you, pray to God on our behalf, and make the child pray too, so that I will see and hug my daughter again. Please write to me and be in touch on a regular basis. Ask my child to write, it doesn't matter what, I just want to see her handwriting. I request once again, write to me how she is, what is going on with her. Warm regards to your husband. I thank him for his good heart, for his nobility and his generosity. A million kisses to my darling daughter from a distraught mother whose soul and heart are weeping.
Once again I beg of you, Mrs. Szomor, look after my daughter.