The Dr. Freund referred to by Dr. Gerö is indeed my father Dr. Iosif Freund. “The Freund Sanatorium,” or to use its official name, the “Sanatoriul Central” was indeed located across the Boulevard from the University’s medical school, which until the end of the war was Banatia, the German high-school. Every Sunday, its bespectacled blonde pupils would march out of their boarding school carrying their swastika flags and singing that reviled Horst Wessel song. With fear in our hearts, we would watch them through cracks in the drawn rolling Eslinger shutters of our living room at the corner of the boulevard with Loga row. My parents would invariably follow up with a rehearsal of how we would quickly get our backpacks, should they come to round us up for deportation to a concentration camp.
Though my father was the physician, technically, Sanatoriul Central had always belonged to my mother. That is an amusing story in its own right. After getting his MD at the University of Leipzig in the twenties, my father had a position at the Municipal Hospital of Gotha, the city of almanac fame. There he got engaged to a German heiress by the name of Annie. Then, in 1933, the fellow with the square mustache came to power and my father had to immediately leave Germany (Annie had… let’s call it, good reason, to know that my father had better leave the Aryan country). They both were convinced that Adolf won’t last more than a few months, after which my father could come back and marry his fiancée. The idea was for my father to temporarily return to Temesvar and set up practice there, and then for Annie to join him later, if needed. To tide him over this period, Annie’s industrialist father lent the departing Jew ten thousand dollars, which my father promptly deposited at the Szana bank on Piata Sfântul Gheorghe.
He set up his practice, but after one year the young couple realized that this was not the time for a Jew to marry an Aryan girl, and they decided “to call the whole thing off.” Understandably, Annie asked her ex-fiancé to return the ten thousand dollars. The Szana Bank however, had a great surprise in store for my father. His (step-)uncle Kelemen Joska, may he rest in peace, was working at the bank, and he was always coming home very late, given the big load of work he claimed he was given at the bank. It turned out, that load was not by far as big as he had claimed, but rather Joska, married to my dear grandmother Jozsa’s unbelievably boring sister Janka, was spending not only his evenings at brothels and gambling places, but financing these frequent escapades with money he was embezzling from the Szana bank. My father was given the alternative: either he claims his money and the bank starts legal proceedings against Kelemen Joska, or my father forfeits the money, and the bank accepts Kelemen Joska’s resignation and closes the matter. To avoid “blamage” for the family, my father chose this latter course.
But there was the matter of the Aryan money. Letters from Annie, instead of starting on their usual “Mein Allerliebster!” now kept starting on “Du Schuft Du!.” Something had to be done, and the one with the solution was none other than my father’s younger brother, my beloved blue-eyed uncle Sanyi. He advised my father to quickly marry a local Jewish heiress, and, wouldn’t you know, that heiress turned out to be my mother, Spitzer Rozsi from Lugos. Instead of a dowry, my grandfather David Spitzer, paid out the money owed to the German industrialist. He then wanted to build a sanatorium for his son-in-law. My father refused, lest people think that he was a gold-digger. The compromise was that the building was put in my mother’s name. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, I went to Gotha and tried to locate this Annie to whom in some sense I owe my very existence, but to no avail. In any case, it was much fun, you might call it a wild goose chase spiced with some red herrings.
As to Kelemen Joska, once he left the banking business, he opened a lottery outlet across from the Catholic Cathedral near Piata Traian, next to the Mann Cukrászda. As children, I and my cousin Eva would go every week with our Jozsa omama to Mann Cukrászda to eat an indianer ---oh, how good they were! --- and then we would stop at Kelemen Joska bácsi’s lottery outlet and he would give us one lottery ticket each. Next week we were always told that our tickets had won some small amount. We both came away with the clear understanding that lottery is a game in which …. you cannot lose.
Of our family, Kelemen Joska and Janka were the first to be let out, during the 1951 alia. Joska died soon thereafter, whereas Janka became a nurse in an Israeli leprosy colony, “Who has ever heard of leprous Jews?” was how my mother incredulously took the news, and then, with characteristic hypochondria, she started throwing away unread Janka’s letters, “The gall of Janka! Does she want to infect us all with leprosy?” Then the communists too started their own lottery, and I bought a few tickets, just for spare money. Of course, with Kelemen Joska gone, I had to buy them from another agent, but that, I thought, wouldn’t make any difference, Much to my surprise, for the first time ever I lost! It was one of the lesser losses inflicted on me by the communists.
Memories of my Father