<p>Ilona Kellner and her family lived in Pelsöc, which became part of <a href="/narrative/6206/en">Hungary</a> before <a href="/narrative/2388/en">World War II</a>. Following the <a href="/narrative/6229/en">German occupation of Hungary</a>, Ilona, her sister Vera, and her parents Karoly and Jolan were forced into a <a href="/narrative/286/en">ghetto</a> in another area of the town. In mid-June, the family was <a href="/narrative/5041">deported</a> to the <a href="/narrative/3673/en">Auschwitz</a> camp in <a href="/narrative/4879/en">German-occupied Poland</a>. Ilona's parents were killed in the <a href="/narrative/4537/en">gas chambers</a> at Birkenau.</p>
<p>In early August, Ilona and her sister were deported to Hessisch Lichtenau, a subcamp of the <a href="/narrative/3956/en">Buchenwald</a> concentration camp. They were part of a transport of 1,000 Hungarian women taken to Germany to fill a <a href="/narrative/3384/en">labor</a> shortage. At the labor camp, Ilona worked as a translator and messenger and tidied the factory there. She smuggled blank pages out of wastebaskets and used them to record hundreds of <a href="/narrative/58867/en">recipes</a> dictated by her fellow <a href="/narrative/3298/en">women</a> prisoners, along with some of her own recipes.</p>
<p>This page shows Ilona Kellner's recipe for various strudel fillings, written on the back of a blank munitions factory form.</p>

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.

Key Facts

  • 1

    During the era of the Holocaust, cookbooks and recipes were among the precious items people took with them during emigration. 

  • 2

    They were also created in hiding or secretly in camps and ghettos by people who were starving or suffering from malnutrition. 

  • 3

    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. 

Family cookbook: Saved and returned

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.

Recipes recorded in a forced-labor camp

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. 

Cookbook created in the Ravensbrück camp


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?

Thank you for supporting our work

We would like to thank Crown Family Philanthropies and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia. View the list of all donors.