Cookbooks and Recipes
In many families, recipes and cookbooks hold a special place—a well used, tattered cookbook passed down from one generation to the next, a treasured family recipe prepared for gatherings, the aroma of a favorite pie baking.
During the era of the Holocaust, cookbooks and recipes were among the precious items people took with them during emigration.
They were also created in hiding or secretly in camps and ghettos by people who were starving or suffering from malnutrition.
Others were compiled after the war in displaced persons camps as survivors sought to rebuild their lives.
Cookbooks and food in general reflect who we are, preserving recipes from relatives and passing them on to future generations to keep memories alive. Each cookbook or recipe in the Museum’s collection tells a story. They evoke memories of happier times and bear witness to the will to create under the most dire of circumstances. In some cases, cookbooks were even ways of preserving a past that the Nazis and their collaborators were rapidly destroying.
Fenyves family cookbook
Steven Fenves (born Fenyves) and his family lived in Subotica, Yugoslavia. His mother, Klári Fenyves created this cookbook with recipes handwritten in Hungarian.
Recipes written down by Ilona Kellner
Ilona Kellner and her family lived in Pelsöc, which became part of Hungary before World War II. In 1944, Ilona was deported to Auschwitz and then to a forced-labor camp. There, Ilona smuggled blank pages out of wastebaskets and wrote down hundreds of recipes dictated by her fellow women prisoners.
Eva Oswalt's cookbook
Eva Oswalt was born in Cologne, Germany, to Jewish parents. After Eva and her mother were captured by the SS, she was deported to the Ravensbrück camp in 1943. While imprisoned there, Eva created this cookbook.
Critical Thinking Questions
- What might have motivated people in camps and ghettos to collect and preserve recipes and create cookbooks under such difficult conditions?
- What can we learn from primary sources?