October 4, 2022

Eva Shainblum was just 16 when she and her entire family were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz death camp.

Loaded onto cattle trucks in June 1944 from a ghetto in Nagyvárad, Hungary, with Soviet and Allied troops closing in, upon arrival almost all of her family were immediately sent to the gas chambers.

Only Eva and her sister Ela survived.

In the filthy, disease-ridden conditions of the extermination camp which would eventually claim an estimated 1.1 million lives, the sisters existed on a miserable diet of rotten vegetables and bitter liquid.

Loaded onto cattle trucks in June 1944 from a ghetto in Nagyvárad, Hungary, with Soviet and Allied troops closing in, upon arrival almost all of her family were immediately sent to the gas chambers

Eating tiny amounts of calories and suffering from diarrhoea and crippling abdominal pain, many inmates died from weakness or starvation

Eva Shainblum was just 16 when she and her entire family were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz death camp. (Picture: Eva Shainblum as a girl with her sister)

Eva Shainblum’s recipe 

Recalling the recipe for the book, Shainblum wrote: ‘Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a casserole dish with butter or margarine. 

Boil the whole potatoes until tender but still firm. Set aside to cool. Slice the cooled potatoes and the hard-boiled eggs into 1⁄4-inch rounds and sprinkle them with salt and pepper to taste. 

Set aside some of the sour cream and bread crumbs for the topping. 

In the prepared casserole dish, make a layer of potatoes, followed by layers of eggs, bread crumbs, and sour cream.

Repeat layers until the dish is full; top with the reserved sour cream and bread crumbs. Bake for 40 minutes or until brown on top.’ 

All around them were the dead and the dying.

Of the many bestial deprivations inflicted upon Auschwitz prisoners, lack of food was one of the most notorious.

Eating tiny amounts of calories and suffering from diarrhoea and crippling abdominal pain, many inmates died from weakness or starvation.

According to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum: ‘The combination of insufficient nutrition with hard labor contributed to the destruction of the organism, which gradually used up its stores of fat, muscle mass, and the tissues of the internal organs.

‘This led to emaciation and starvation sickness, the cause of a significant number of deaths in the camp.

‘A prisoner suffering from starvation sickness was referred to as a ‘Musselman,’ and could easily fall victim to selection for the gas chambers.’

In an effort to survive the agonising hunger, inmates clung to memories of happier times and of their favourite family dishes.

Now, a new cookery book by 29 survivors of the camp has collated these memories into a book of recipes.

Entitled Honey Cakes and Latkes: Recipes from the Old World, the 110 recipes have been divided into chapters, each of which begins with an introduction where the survivors recall what the food means for them.

Giving a recipe for Hungarian Layered Potatoes, Eva, whose sister died from typhus after being liberated from the camp and attempting to walk home, wrote: ‘The last meal we had on the night before the deportation to Auschwitz was this particular dish of rakott-krumpli.

‘I don’t know how we were able to get the ingredients. I will never forget this, as it was our last meal together as a family.

‘This recipe was one of our favourites. While it’s a very primitive recipe, it’s delicious.

‘It’s great comfort food.’

David Marks, who was born in 1928 into an upper-middle-class Romanian Jewish family, was 15 years old when he was sent to Auschwitz.

Within hours of arriving, 35 members of his family including his mother had been murdered in the gas chambers.

David Marks, who was born in 1928 into an upper-middle-class Romanian Jewish family, was 15 years old when he was sent to Auschwitz

Within hours of arriving, 35 members of his family including his mother had been murdered in the gas chambers

Recipes from the Old World, the 110 recipes have been divided into chapters, each of which begins with an introduction where the survivors recall what the food means for them 

David Marks’s recipe  

Marks says that to make his mum’s dish: ‘Preheat the oven to 350°F (for a faster bake) or 200°F (for a slower simmer). Use a sharp knife to cut out the central hard core of the cabbage.

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts water to a boil over high heat. Carefully drop the biggest outer leaves of the cabbage into the boiling water. 

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Boil until the leaves are soft. 

After 2 minutes, remove the leaves to a large platter to cool. Shred the remainder of the cabbage and set aside. Sauté the minced onion until tender. 

In a large bowl, combine the sautéed onion, beef, rice, egg, 1⁄2 cup of the chicken stock, and pepper. Set aside. In a second large bowl, toss the shredded cabbage, sliced onion, and sauerkraut. 

In a third large bowl, whisk the tomato paste and the crushed tomatoes with the remaining 2 cups stock.’ 

Forced to work in one of the camp’s kitchens peeling potatoes, the cookbook’s introduction says he was able to steal some to get ‘shoes for his four sisters when he discovered they were alive, having seen them through the fence as they daily pushed and pulled garbage and bodies in wagons.’

When scarlet fever broke out in his barracks which housed 1,500 boys, the SS sent anyone showing signs of the illness to the gas chambers.

Marks was later forced to march to Dachau concentration camp where he was to be killed before being liberated by the American 5th Army.

In the introduction to his recipe for stuffed cabbage and sauerkraut’, Marks wrote: ‘When my mother made stuffed cabbage, it signaled a special event or a holiday.

‘This feeling has stayed with me since, and until this day cooking this meal puts me in a celebratory mood.’

He added: Over the years, I have embellished my mother’s original recipe with V8 juice and Heinz Chili Sauce. Of course, when I was a child, all of the ingredients were fresh and homemade. Now I use some canned items like tomato paste.

Eugene Ginter from Krakow in Poland, whose chocolate sandwich in the Breakfast & Brunch chapter starts the book, based his recipe on his memories after being liberated from the camp.

Just five-years-old at the time, following a stay in a hospital he was moved to a Jewish orphanage where he was later found by his mother who had been rescued by Oskar Schindler.

Eugene Ginter from Krakow in Poland, whose chocolate sandwich in the Breakfast & Brunch chapter starts the book, based his recipe on his memories after being liberated from the camp

Just five-years-old at the time, following a stay in a hospital he was moved to a Jewish orphanage where he was later found by his mother who had been rescued by Oskar Schindler 

Desperately under-nourished, to help him put on weight his mum created a special sandwich made of things she knew he liked

Eugene Ginter’s recipe  

Ginter wrote: ‘I will share with you a recipe for a chocolate sandwich that my mother made for me right after the war.

‘She used this recipe to fatten me up.

‘She would take a slice of black bread, put a lot of butter on it, then take hard chocolate and shave it down and pat it into the butter.

‘She was trying to fatten me up. So, I would bite into this thing. How bad can black bread be with butter and chocolate?’

In order to make the chocolate sandwich, Ginter says: ‘On a slice of black bread covered in butter, shave dark chocolate flakes, and pat down on the butter.’

 

Desperately under-nourished, to help him put on weight his mum created a special sandwich made of things she knew he liked.

Ginter wrote: ‘I will share with you a recipe for a chocolate sandwich that my mother made for me right after the war.

‘She used this recipe to fatten me up.

‘She would take a slice of black bread, put a lot of butter on it, then take hard chocolate and shave it down and pat it into the butter.

‘She was trying to fatten me up. So, I would bite into this thing. How bad can black bread be with butter and chocolate?’

In order to make the chocolate sandwich, Ginter says: ‘On a slice of black bread covered in butter, shave dark chocolate flakes, and pat down on the butter.’

Written in English, the 213-page book is the brainchild of Ronald S. Lauder, the son of cosmetics baroness Estée Lauder.

Lauder who heads the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation which published the book said: ‘[Food] was a way of remembering a murdered mother or grandmother.

‘It was a way to feed their children and grandchildren when food was and will always be precious to them.

‘It was a way to hold on to the past and pass it down to our future.’

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‘Surviving this unspeakable tragedy took the strength of character that most human beings cannot even imagine.

‘And along with breathing, food is one of the chief components of life.’

Another survivor to share a cherished recipe is Lois Flamholz.

Born in 1927 in Zdenova, a small town in the Carpathian Mountains, she was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau with her grandparents, aunt and extended family.

All were exterminated except for four cousins.

Born in 1927 in Zdenova, a small town in the Carpathian Mountains, she was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau with her grandparents, aunt and extended family

In a recipe for the family’s Jelly Cookies, bubbly 95-year-old Flamholz says the ‘secret ingredient’ is a thimble

According to the book’s introduction: ‘After a horrific period and barely alive, she was liberated by the Russian Army on January 27, 1945’

Lois Flamholz’ recipe  

She writes: ‘You can’t just use any thimble. It’s gotta be the special thimble that has the hole on the bottom—you know, the one that real tailors use, that’s open on both ends.

The bottom end is a little bit sharper, so that’s how you cut the cookies. In a large bowl, mix the flour, margarine, butter, egg yolks, vanilla, and yogurt.

Knead the dough until it comes away clean from your hands. Wrap and refrigerate overnight. When ready to assemble, preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease two cookie sheets.

Roll out the dough thin and cut out into small circles. Make a hole in the middle of half of the circles using a thimble or the smallest cookie cutter you have. On the uncut circles, spread a small amount of apricot jam and cover with the cut circles.

Press down the edges, then dip in beaten egg white. Sprinkle the tops with sugar. Working in batches, place the cookies on two or more cookie sheets and bake until light brown, about 40 minutes.’ 

In a recipe for the family’s Jelly Cookies, bubbly 95-year-old Flamholz says the ‘secret ingredient’ is a thimble.

Eva Szepesi was born in 1932 in Budapest, Hungary. When she was 11, her mother sent her to Slovakia to avoid Nazi round ups, with the promise that she would would join her with her seven-year-old brother.

She never saw them again.

In mid-October 1944, she was taken to the Sered’ concentration camp by cattle cart and then deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where she arrived on November 3, 1944.

According to the book’s introduction: ‘After a horrific period and barely alive, she was liberated by the Russian Army on January 27, 1945.’

In 1995, Eva returned to Auschwitz with her daughters to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the camp’s liberation.

Inspired to break her silence and tell her story, she continues to give talks at schools to tell her story. Writing an introduction to her recipe for Hungrain pancakes, she wrote: ‘I remember an apricot tree in the garden by our house in Pesterzsébet, where I often played with my two cousins Zsuzsi and Vera, and my little brother Tamas. 

Eva Szepesi was born in 1932 in Budapest, Hungary. When she was 11, her mother sent her to Slovakia to avoid Nazi round ups, with the promise that she would would join her with her seven-year-old brother 

Eva Szepesi’ recipe 

Giving her recipe, she wrote: ‘In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the salt and sugar. 

Slowly add the flour and mix well. Add the milk and sparkling water to the dough and stir well. 

The batter should be a pourable consistency, like crepe batter, not too thick and not too thin. 

Stir in more sparkling water if it is too thick. Brush a frying pan with oil and heat over medium-high. 

Pour enough batter into the pan to just cover the surface. Cook until golden, then flip and cook for another minute on the other side. 

Remove and repeat with the remainder of the batter. Enjoy with various fillings, such as apricot jam, cottage cheese, or chocolate spread, and roll up the pancakes

to serve.’

 

‘None of them came back from Auschwitz. I can still recall the scent of the ripe fruit. Until this day, my favorite pancakes are filled with apricot jam because of that vivid memory.

‘I remember that my mother and my grandma cooked the apricots in

a big pot to make jam.

‘Then they poured it into jars and put them in a prepared laundry basket made of willow sticks in which there was already a down pillow at the bottom. In the end, they covered the jars with a down pillow to draw in the warmth. That is how we had delicious jam all winter.

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‘After baking, my mother would stack the pancakes one on top of the other and then spread the different fillings (poppy, nut, curd, jam), roll them together, and place them next to each other on the plate in the middle of the table.

‘We children always ate the rolled pancakes with our hands, and the adults ate with forks.’  

Tova Friedman was born in 1938 in Gdynia, Poland. 

Her family came from Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, and returned there when the war broke out. Her father was shocked at the devastation of his town. 

The 15,000 Jews were cramped into six four-story buildings, unable to leave without special permission.

Tova and her family lived with their grandparents and other families in tight quarters, with the children sleeping and eating under the table. Starvation, shootings, and deportation soon decreased the population.

Those who managed to survive were packed into trains and shipped off to German Nazi labour camps. A handful of Jews were kept as the ‘cleanup squad.’

Tova held her mother’s hand as she and father picked up corpses and brought them to a communal grave.

Tova Friedman was born in 1938 in Gdynia, Poland. Her family came from Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, and returned there when the war broke out. Her father was shocked at the devastation of his town.

Thanks to her mother’s ingenuity both their lives were saved when they hid amongst corpses instead of leaving on a death march.

Tova Friedman’s recipe  

Her recipe says: ‘Set up a steamer basket over a pot of simmering water.

Add the carrots and steam for 15 minutes. Remove the steamer basket from the pot, drain all but about 1⁄2 cup of the steaming water, and transfer the carrots to the pot. 

Turn the heat to medium and add the honey, brown sugar, and oil and cook until the liquid thickens and glazes the carrots, about 20 minutes. 

Add the raisins, prunes, lemon rind, and ginger and stir well. 

Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the mixture is almost dry.’ 

They were then sent to the Starachowice work camp, where Tova’s parents worked at an ammunition factory while the children roamed the streets of the towns surrounding the camp, careful not to get shot by the armed soldiers.

When it was time for the children’s selection in the camp, Tova remained hidden and managed to go unnoticed.

But, son after when she was five and a half years old, she and her family were sent to Auschwitz- Birkenau.

Upon arrival, her head was shaved, and she was tattooed. Tova survived hunger, disease, and a trip to the gas chamber.

Thanks to her mother’s ingenuity both their lives were saved when they hid amongst corpses instead of leaving on a death march.

In her recipe for Carrot Tzimmes, Tova wrote: ‘You have to understand that I have no memories before the war because I was only a year old, so my memory of food is really after the war, after liberation.

‘We were liberated from Auschwitz in 1945 and went back to our hometown in Poland.

‘Food was, of course, scarce, so I can’t even talk about recipes there because we barely had anything to eat even after the war.

‘I first remember the food in a displaced persons camp in Germany. There, my mother began to cook from what she remembered. One of the things that I remember more than anything else was her tzimmes because it contained sugar; it was sweet. It was like eating dessert.

‘I was about ten or eleven years old. I remember this exceptionally well. For Shabbos, she would make the tzimmes. It’s a stewed carrot dish that is traditionally served with the Rosh Hashanah meal, when it is customary to eat sweet foods for the new year.’

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation head Ronald Lauder said: ‘Food and aroma instantly bring back memories.

‘Sometimes, memory is all that is left of the people we loved so dearly. This book has memory.

‘This book is a story of hope and triumph of the human spirit.’

Released last week in the US, the cookbook is due to be published in the UK on October 27.