"Beggars can't be choosers"
Farkas Spirer wrote these words in the last postcard he and his wife Aranka sent from their city of residence, Marosvásárhely, in northern Transylvania, to their brother-in-law, Hananya Kaufman (Lipot) in Bucharest. Three months later, Farkas and Aranka were deported to their deaths in Auschwitz-Birkenau, together with their daughters. Hananya survived.
The Spirers, Farkas-Ze'ev and Aranka-Leah née Geist, lived with their daughters Erna-Chana (b. 1928) and Miriam (b. 1930), in Târgu Mureș (Marosvásárhely in Hungarian), which formed part of Romania between the two World Wars. Farkas was a trader and his daughters went to Jewish schools.
In August 1940, control of the city was transferred from Romania to Hungary, and the Hungarian anti-Jewish legislation was enforced there with far more severity than in Hungary itself. In March 1944 the Germans invaded Hungary and in early May, a ghetto was established on the site of an abandoned brick factory in Marosvásárhely. The deportation of the Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau commenced at the end of May. They were deported on three transports, the last of which left on 6 June. The Spirers were amongst those deported. "According to testimonies that reached relatives", related the Spirers' niece, Chava Unger, "Aranka and the girls were murdered in the gas chambers immediately upon arrival. Farkas passed the selection and was sent to forced labor, but was murdered when wolf-hounds were set on him."
Mark Alman, a school friend of Erna Spirer, had started compiling a high-school yearbook, but ultimately made an album in memory of his schoolmates and teachers from the high school in Marosvásárhely murdered in the Holocaust. Erna's name and portrait are included in the album. "Usually," he wrote:
"we make a yearbook for high-school graduates, but regrettably, these plans were foiled by the Holocaust. We were 50 [students]; 25 of us survived."
In 1956, Freide Kaufman submitted pages of Testimony to Yad Vashem in memory of her sister, Aranka-Leah and her daughters Erna and Miriam, and in memory of another sister, Rezsin-Rachel Schwimer and her children, 8-year-old Toibe and 3-year-old Chana.
In 1988, Rachel's daughter Malka Levy submitted Pages of Testimony in memory of her uncle Farkas Spirer and other family members. In 2007, Freide's daughter Chava Unger donated the last postcard that her aunt and uncle wrote to her parents, to Yad Vashem for posterity. In the accompanying letter she wrote:
"Farkas Spirer, his wife Aranka and their two daughters were murdered in the Holocaust, and this postcard is perhaps the only evidence of the fact that they once existed."
Dear Jolán, Lizi, and Évike, too!
Today I received your postcard dated 27 January in the mail, and also 300 pengő from Uncle Károly B. from Nagyvárad. I was greatly surprised by the unexpected delivery. I’m curious if it is really meant for us—if so, we are very grateful—or for some other purpose?
Jenő and Rezsin left for Pest again two weeks ago and now Aranka is taking care of the house; she has no help, it is impossible to get any.
You ask if my brother-in-law pays well. Your question surprises me. Beggars can't be choosers.
Aranka works as well, she hems homemade handkerchiefs - we are getting along somehow. And I work with Jenő, as he is working under an assumed name. We make patterns for printing [on cloth], with the help of 10 girls. Did you meet my brother Samu?
Warm regards to everyone,
Farkas has already updated you about everything. Say thank you to Uncle Oszkár from me, too. The girls are studying, preparing for the mid-year exams. I’m worried about what Erna will do once she has completed her studies. She will want to continue studying at all costs. How are you doing?
Translated from the Hungarian by Zoltán Kékesi
Yad Vashem Archives 0.75/1338