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Preserving the Jewish Identity: Museum Displays Cookbooks Written by Hungarian Women During the Holocaust

2018.09.20.

One of the most treasured artifacts found in the Sydney Jewish Museum is a handmade cookbook written in resilience by a Hungarian Jewish woman in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp. It demonstrates how tradition and national identity could be preserved through family recipes in a place where food was in short supply.

The cookbook was made in 1945 by Hungarian-Jewish Edith Peer when she was an inmate at Ravensbrück concentration camp for women, located in northern Germany. According to the museum,

Beset by constant thoughts of food in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, a starving Edith Peer and friends jotted down recipes on stolen paper. Recalling the preparation of their favorites, from “Mushroom filled with chicken liver” to “Transylvanian cabbage” and “Cheese dumplings,” helped to alleviate their hunger.

Recipe sharing played a salutary role within the camps. Women swapped recipes as a way to bond with other prisoners and bolster their will to keep on living. Recipes were passed on verbally and some of the brave women transcribed and hid them as a way of preserving their national identity.

Sydney Jewish Museum

The Montreal Holocaust Museum also let visitors explore recipes gathered during and after the Holocaust. One of the six remaining recipe books, which contains nearly 200 recipes written on stolen paper with stolen pencils, was originally transcribed by the Hungarian-born Edith Gluck in the Lippstadt concentration camp. Edith hid this booklet under the ground because it was written in Hungarian, and German guards would think it was a diary and beat her if they discovered it.

photo: museeholocauste.ca

In this book, she wrote down the recipes she remembered preparing before the war to preserve her cultural heritage.

Anne Georget’s documentary film, Festins Imaginaires also tells this story. It shows how deportees wrote down recipes while in Nazi concentration camps, The Gulag and Japanese war camps. Hundreds of those recipes were copied in small notebooks by starving people of all origins who took huge risks in writing and keeping them.

via 24.hu, museeholocauste.ca, sydneyjewishmuseum.com.au