Translating Tragedy: Clara Garbon-Radnoti’s Deciphering of Hungarian Holocaust Records

Categories: Blog, Holocaust Voices, Now at the HMC

Clara Garbon-Radnoti deciphering Hungarian records in the HMC Library Archives.

By: HMC Editorial Staff – 

Like many of our wonderful volunteers, Clara Garbon-Radnoti is devoted and passionate about the Holocaust Memorial Center’s mission to engage, educate and empower by remembering the Holocaust. But she had no idea that her work as a volunteer would lead to a monumental discovery for Holocaust survivors and Hungarian Jews.

Clara was born in Hungary, and as a teen she evaded capture by the Nazis and their Hungarian supporters. She has painful memories of the Holocaust; she lost her father, sister, and 31 first cousins. She survived by hiding in 22 different places around Hungary.

The roundup of Hungarian Jews was documented in detail by the collaborationist Hungarian government, and a microfilm collection of those documents was donated to the Holocaust Memorial Center. They were stored away for years until Clara decided she wanted to find a meaningful way to use her Hungarian language skills. Once she started on the task of translating the documents, there was no stopping her efforts to index the information collected on more than 180 microfilm reels.

“I was fascinated,” she relayed. Every week she would sit at a microfilm reader in the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus Library poring over the records kept by the Hungarian government, and the more she read, the more fascinated she became. Clara discovered the names of more than 120,000 victims, including references to her own family and lists of household items, including artwork, confiscated as loot by the Hungarian government.

In fact, Clara’s index is supporting the efforts of the Holocaust Art Recovery Initiative, led by local attorney Jonathan Schwartz, in helping to track down the rightful owners of artwork looted from Hungarian Jews and the many museums that currently hold them.

Clara continues to volunteer in the HMC library and speak to visitors and school groups. We encourage you to visit us and hear her inspiring story of survival and hope.