Hungary's Tokaj wine region revives Jewish heritage

Fri Jul 22, 2016 11:54am EDT
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By Krisztina Than

MÁD, Hungary (Reuters) - Two plaques put up in the village of Mád last month commemorate the important role Jewish families played in making Hungary's golden Tokaj wine, most of whom perished in the Holocaust.

The plaques mark another step in Hungary on a painful journey in coming to terms with the treatment of its Jews during World War Two when most were handed over to the Nazis.

After two centuries of prosperity generated from the sweet wine that became popular in the courts of Europe, Jews in Tokaj were deported with the help of the Hungarian Gendarmerie to a ghetto and from there to Auschwitz concentration camp.

The plaques were mounted on the former home of the Zimmerman family, one of the biggest and most successful winemakers and wine traders of Mád in the northeast of Hungary, after a lengthy campaign by family members.

From the Zimmermanns sent to Auschwitz from their home in Mád only Susy Oster, who was born Zsuzsanna Zimmermann in 1928 and now lives in the United States, escaped the gas chambers.

But when asked if her mother had found some peace now that her family home in Mád was remembered, her daughter Beverly Fox said in an emailed response to Reuters:

"No, it has not given her any peace.

"How can it when everything that generations of her family toiled for, and not just her family, but all Jewish families, had everything taken away from them? How can you ever have peace after your country deports you ... and sends you through the gates of hell?"   Continued...

Three rabbis, the sons and grandson of a leading Hasidic rabbi Eliezer Ehrenreich walk in the cemetery in the village of Mad, Hungary, July 21, 2016. Picture taken July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh