Angyalfi family of Budapest

Wednesday, 6 March, 2013 - 12:53 pm

The history of my grandfather's family of Budapest, the Angyalfi family, provides a window into the history of Jewish life in Budapest at the beginning of the 20th century. This essay will aim to give a context to this Jewish family and insight into the kind of life they would have maintained in pre war Hungary.


A reference to the Angyalfi family can be found in an autobiography of Ervin Gyorgy (George) Raphael Patai, ‘Apprentice in Budapest: Memories of a world that is no more’ (Lexington Books 2000). Upon reading the autobiography one learns that he was a classmate and high school friend of Imre Miklos (Moshe) Angyalfi, my grandfather, also born around 1910, to Carlos (Yitzchok Zev) Angyalfi. The Angyalfi family lived in Budapest at 8 Jokai Street, named after and near the statue of Hungarian poet and dramatist Mor Jokai.


Angyalfi name


It is also known that the name Angyalfi would have been previously Engel or Englert before it was Magyarised around in 1886. This ocurred after the establishment of the Austro-Hangarian Empire in 1876 when Jews were given equal rights as citizens once they became recognized as a religion rather than a nation. The family thus changed the family name, as countless others did, to the Hungarian, noble sounding, name Angyalfi.


This is evident from a list of names that exists in Kislod, Hungary, where an Angyalfi family name was previously Englert ( ) 


Similarly, in a book by Anton Tressel it implies that the name would have been previously Englert (


There is also a strong possibility the name was formerly Engel as is found in other lists of Hungarian Jewish names from that time.


Biographical details about Raphael Patai


The autobiography of Patai offers us a partial biography of the Angyalfi family during the 1920s in Budapest and in particular the high school years of Imre Angyalfi. George Raphael Patai was born on 22 November, 1910, at home at Munkacsy Street, not far from where his mother’s parents lived, near the City Park. Before that, they lived on Lovag Street in a very poor apartment (p. 111) until the family grew and they had to move for more room. His younger sister was called Evi and younger brother Guszti.


George went on to become a renowned Hungarian-Jewish ethnographer, historian, Orientalist and anthropologist. Upon graduating from the Rabbinical Seminary of Budapest, he lectured at Hebrew University and held numerous professorships in the US, known as Raphael Patai. His father, József Patai (d. 1928), was born in 1855 in Gyongyos Pata. The family name was Klein before it changed its name in 1904 to Patai after the name of the village Pata. Jozsef is known to have done research in the Bodleian library at the University of Oxford in 1909, the year before George was born, on unpublished manuscripts of Hebrew poets to be translated into Hungarian.


Jewish community of Budapest in 1920


In 1920, 215,000 Jews lived in Budapest. They had formed no less than five separate congregations, the largest of which was the Neolog community of Pest. Its official name was Israelite Congregation of Pest. Pest and Buda were two separate congregations and Pest was confined to the left (Pest) bank of the Dunabe. It maintained hospitals, orphanages, institutions for the blind and the handicapped, old people’s homes, cultural institutions, numerous synagogues, and a network of elementary and lower secondary schools.


The more orthodox Jews in Buda had a separate network of schools and synagogues, and there would be very little interaction between the two communities. Some of the Neolog synagogues in Pest would have organs played on the Shabbat as part of the Shabbat morning service, though by non-Jews, as Jews are forbidden to play a musical instrument on the Shabbat. Amongst the synagogues in Pest was the Great Dohany Street Temple, which was the largest synagogue in Europe.


While Orthodox Jews in Buda would never attend a Neolog synagogue in Pest, the families were 'mixed'. In the case of the Patai family, the family would attend the Dohany Temple while their grandfather Ehrenfeld was an adherent of the Chasidic Szatmarer Rebbe from Buda. 


The Neologs were mostly however observant. George Patai relates (p. 181) that he would pray every morning with a Talit, wear Tefilin, recite the blessings before and after food and say the prayers in the synagogue on the Shabbat and festivals.


However, his morning prayers were reduced to the Shema and Amida (eighteen blessing standing prayer) whereas, as he related, his grandfather Ehrenfeld would pray the whole morning prayers and the afternoon and evening prayers also. On the Shabbat afternoon, every week, George's father would ensure he received an advanced level of Jewish study by studying with him the Talmud for a few hours every Shabbat. He also received this instruction through a private Hebrew tutor.


There appears to have been different levels of observance amongst the families in his class. George Patai writes (p. 182) that his family would keep the Kosher dietary laws and that this caused that he was unable to eat in some of the houses of his classmates in school.




The elementary school George Patai attended was the Szemere Street elementary school until 4th grade when he was 9 years old and then attended the Lovag Street elementary school. In the Hungarian school system, the structure was elementary school lasted four years, for ages six to ten, after which one would go to polgari school, which was like a higher elementary or lower secondary school, for another four years. A minority would instead enter at ten years old an academic high school, which awarded after eight years of study at eighteen years old a ‘maturity certificate’ after a rigorous final exam, entitling the student to seek admission to a university.


First Jewish High School of Budapest


Just in time for completion of elementary school in 1919, the Jewish Congregation of Pest began to admit students to its first grade of the new Jewish high school of Pest for those who chose to pursue a more rigorous education, while receive instruction also in Jewish studies. This class was located in the building of the Polgari (civic) school of the congregation on Wesselenyi Street, not far from the Patai home. This new Jewish high school was to be a realgimnazium.


The difference between gimnazium and realgimnazium was that in the former the emphasis would be on the humanities and the latter on science. This high school, as a Jewish realgimnazium, therefore, would have had courses in Latin, mathematics, chemistry and physics, as well as Hungarian, German and English. As a Jewish school, Hebrew was taught also, as well as Torah and the Jewish religion (Halacha) (p. 147).


The first similar high school of the Jewish Congregation of Pest that was to be a realgimnazium opened in 1919 just in time for George Patai, Imre Angyalfi and their friends to apply to for their first grade. It was housed as mentioned in the building of a polgari school of the congregation located in Wesselenyi Street.


The high school had class from 8am until 1pm three days a week and until 2pm the other three, to accommodate the Hebrew and Jewish studies. As a Jewish school, it was closed on Shabbat and open as usual on Sundays. On Shabbat however the students were required to attend morning service at the school synagogue, which lasted (p. 199) from ten to twelve. Many of the prayers were sung; those boys who had a good ear and a good voice sang solo pieces, while the rest of constituted the choir.


The curriculum in the Jewish schools was the same as the municipal schools. The only difference was that in the municipal schools three hours were set aside for religious studies, divided into three groups: Catholic, Protestant and Jewish, each one receiving instruction from a clergyman of their own faith. The teachers of Jewish religion were given by graduates of the Jewish Teachers Institute of the Rabbinical Seminary of Budapest. The Jewish congregational schools had five hours a week dedicated to Jewish studies, the maximum weekly hours that was allowed to be dedicated to any particular subject.


In about 1924 the school moved into its new though as of yet unfinished building; a modern, spacious structure with a large yard, located on Abonyi Street, not far from the City Park. 


As the new Jewish high school first admitted students in the autumn of 1919, George Patai prepared with a private tutor, his mother’s first cousin, Rabbi Denes Friedman, for his entrance exams, which he passed in August, 1920. The class he entered was the (graduating) class of 1928. That class consisted of two parallel forms, IA and IB, each with some forty of fifty students in. George was placed in form IB.


At the end of the fourth grade in 1924, many students left the school and the two forms were merged into one to continue for another four years until graduation in the spring of 1928. Two years after the establishment of this new Jewish High School for boys, the Jewish Congregation of Pest established a high school for girls as well. George’s younger sister, Evi, became a student there, as most likely Imre's younger sister Eva also.




George Patai writes that he was rather shy, while many of the boys were aggressive and some outright hostile. They did name calling to him referring to him as Lopata (horse hoof in Hungarian) instead of Patai, as well as also making mockery of his Zionism, which he received from his father, Joseph Patai.


George however also had some good friends, whom he would visit, invite or take walks in the many attractive places in the city. His friends (p. 149), amongst others, included Dezso Stern, who became a doctor and was killed by the Nazis, Laszlo (Laci) Schwartz, Laszlo Salgo, who remained his colleague at the Rabbinical Seminary of Budapest and later became Chief Rabbi of Budapest in the 1970s, and the brothers Sandor (Shanyi) and David (Duci) Rappaport, who lived in Buda and later emigrated to America, where Shanyi worked as a businessman and Duci became a famous psychologist. Another friend mentioned is a Fleichmnann, who was from a wealthy family, and a Jewish primary school class mate was a Varosy (family name), whose father was in the government (P. 131). 


It doesn’t appear that Imre Angyalfi was one of his close friends that he remembers from his first years at the Jewish high school. With forty or fifty boys in a form and separated into two classes it doesn’t seem he was close friends with Imre Angyalfi at that point. In the autumn of 1924, however, after many boys had left the school and the two classes were merged into one, George Patai recalls (p. 228) that when he was two months short of fourteen he began to play tennis, as an addition to his private lessons in Hebrew and Talmud, and he and Imre Angyalfi became tennis partners together, as well as Imre’s sister Eva. Imre and George were of similar height, 6 ft, at 15 years old and they had much fun together as they were proudly entering into physical adulthood. They remained close friends until graduating from High School, when it seems they lost track of each other, though George later became aware that Imre had moved to England, got married and had a child.


George Patai relates that the high school was deeply polarised when it came to nationalism (p. 239). In about 1925 while at High School he became a member of the Zionist youth group called Techelet Lavan (Blue - White) and made no secret of his Zionist convictions. This aroused the antagonism of several of his classmates, some of whom persecuted him. Amongst his friends, he relates, remained Laci Schwartz and Imre Angyalfi, though they didn’t share his Zionist convictions and enthusiasm. In 1920’s Budapest, George Patai was somewhat a maverick and had almost daily confrontations with his Jewish friends who were proudly Hungarian and saw Zionism as a possible contradiction to being Hungarian.




The principal of the Jewish High School was Dr. Bernard Heller, who later became a member of faculty at the rabbinical seminary of Budapest. The form master was a stern Dr. David Rafael Fuchs (b. 1884), who was also the Latin teacher, and subsequently changed his name to David Fokos. He went on to become a renowned Finno-Urgic philologist and a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The gym teacher was called Zoltan Duchstein. The Hebrew teacher at the school was Solomon Widder and he was later replaced by Dr. Mr Fenyes, who was a graduate of the Budapest Rabbinical seminary, recognized Jewish scholar and author of a textbook on Jewish religion and an introduction to the Bible (p. 240). It is suspected that Widder was replaced due his Zionist convictions, influenced by anti-Zionist Samu Glucksthal, who was one of the five vice presidents of the Israelite Congregation of Pest and a member of upper house of parliament due.


Bar Mitzvah


In 1923, preparation for George Patai, Imre Angyalfi and their friend's Bar Mizvah would have begun. George Patai writes (p. 172) that in preparation for his Bar Mitzvah that was to take place in November, 1923, he had to be prepared for the reading of the Maftir and Haftara in the synagogue. The designated teacher in the school for teaching the ‘Maftir boy’ was the teacher of Religion and Hebrew, Solomon Widder, who was also the teacher of German and Hungarian. All the boys liked Mr. Widder and due to this he was able to keep them quiet and disciplined, as the much sterner Dr. Fuchs.


George Patai is however critical of the limits of the Bar Mitzvah instructions they received (p. 176), as it consisted of only how to recite their Bar Mitzvah Torah reading with the cantillation, however neither in school nor at home was anything taught about the Jewish faith and duties that should be shouldered when one reaches the age of Bar Mitzvah in Jewish tradition. It seemed as if one was expected to reach one’s own conclusion.


The religious education that was important was primarily to learn and recite the prayers, to observe the religious do’s and don’ts and understand the prayers. The conclusions however what to be drawn from the prayers concerning G-d was entirely left to the boy. The basics of Jewish belief were indeed taught as part of the study of the book of Genesis that G-d created the world but not as a subject on its own.


As part of the Bar Mitzvah instruction, one was also taught how to put on the Tefilin for the weekday morning prayers. George writes (p. 178) that the Bar Mitzvah occasion had a great impression on him and he continued to wear the Tefilin daily, never missing a single day, for the following ten years until he went to Palestine, where he became influenced by friends in Jerusalem.


Enjoying Budapest in 1920’s 


Building.jpg(Pictures of the Angyalfi Budapest home at 8 Jokai Street)

George recalls his fascination with Budapest with its stately buildings, monuments, broad boulevards, and hills of Buda with the grandiose royal palace. He recalls Vaci Street, lined with stores, and Andrassy Avenue, where very wealthy people lived, paved with brick shaped wooden blocks to diminish the noise of the vehicles. This street led to the city’s greatest monument, erected for the 1,000th anniversary of the conquest of Hungary by the Magyar tribes led by Arpad.


Building1.jpgNear the monument there was a lake on whose shore stood a replica of the castle of Vajda-Hunyad, the ancestral seat of another great Hungarian royal family, the Hunyadis, whose most outstanding ruler, Matthias Corvinus, was the great Renaissance king of Hungary, and who appointed the Jewish prefect – an ancestor of the Patai family - to represent the Jews of the country.




In conclusion, the Angyalfi family would have formerly been called Englert or Engel until 1886, when they changed the family name to Angyalfi, as many Hungarian Jews did at that time, though the Patai family only changed their name in 1904. As the name Engel or Englert indicates, they most likely came from Germany.


At the same time, Jews of Pest in 1920 were proudly Jewish and many families, as the Angyalfi and Patai’s, would have sent their children to a Jewish primary and high school rather than the municipal school. Though there were various degrees of observance of those attending the Jewish school, they all would have received Hebrew instruction, learnt about Jewish observance, kept the Shabbat and attended Shabbat morning and festival services, affording them proficiency of the prayers. Jewish observance continued after Imre immigrated to England, where he would continue to recite the daily prayers with Tefilin, read the weekly Torah portion on Shabbat and lead the services at the local synagogue, where they lived in Amersham.


An entry in the London Gazette 17 January, 1947 states that Imre Miklos Anyalfi became naturalized as a British citizen on 6 November, 1946. He worled as wholesale and manufacturing Jeweller and lived at Little Intaglio, Chartridge Lane, Chesham, Buckinghamshire (






Imre (Moshe) Angyalfi’s father was Carlos (Yitzchok Zev) Angyalfi and mother Janka nee Grunhut. They had three children: Imre, Eva and Erszi. Eva married Shani Mandell and had a child called Veronica. They first lived in Belfast before moving to England. Veronika has two sons. Erszi (Elizabeth) lived in Stockholm and married Knut Janssen. They had Jan Peter.


The Grunhut family seems to have been a large Jewish family in pre war Hungary. There was a Rabbi Lazar Grunhut (Eliazar Halevi) born in Gerenda, Hungary, on 10 May, 1850, and died in Petah Tikva, Israel, 2 February, 1913. He is renowned for his research & publications in the field of Midrash and Saadia Gaon . Receiving his diploma as rabbi while a mere youth, he went to Berlin, where he attended the lectures of Dr. Israel Hidesheimer at the rabbinical seminary, as well as those at the university. For eleven years he officiated as rabbi at Temesvar, Hungary. 


It's possible that the Grunhut family orginally came from Frankurt-on-the-Main, where there was a German rabbi of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries called David Grunhut. His father was secretary of the congregation, and his maternal grandfather, Simon Günzburg, was a member of the rabbinate. In 1682 Rabbi David Grunhut edited Hayyim Vital's book on transmigration, "Gilgulim", which brought upon him the censure of the rabbinate, which was opposed to Shabbetai Zvi and, therefore, to the Kabbala, but he nevertheless reprinted this work in 1684. He also published "Tov Ro'i," rules on shechitah together with "Migdal David," homilies on the Pentateuch, and notes on some Talmudic treatises (Frankfurt-on-the-Main, 1712), and a commentary on Abraham ibn Ezra's grammatical puzzle in the 1712 (Frankfurt) edition of the "Sefer Hasidim," which commentary was reprinted in the 1713 edition of Samuel Uceda's commentary on Avot entitled "Midrash Shmuel." He served as a rabbi in Aue, Hesse-Nassau, and perhaps also in Heimerdingen.


Charlotte Angyalfi - Rosenbaum 


Imre Angyalfi met Charlotte Rosenbaum in Budapest about 1930, when she worked as a German Jewish governess with a Hungarian family. She was born in Breslau, which then part of Germany, currently Poland, and her father passed away when she was twelve. 


In a brief introduction to her catalogue of paintings and sculptures 'Eloquence Silences: A collection of drawings and sculptures' (1985), she writes that when she was ten she realised she was an artist and drew portraits of most of her school friends. Over the next few years, despite restraining efforts from her family, she strayed into Life Classes during High school at the Breslauer Kunstschule (Breslau Art School) - later became the Breslauer Kunstakademie (Breslau Academy of Arts) - instead of attending classes and her teachers at that time were expressionist painter Otto Mueller and Professor Kowalski. This would have been in the late 1920's as Otto Mueller died in September 1930.


Despite bleak predictions from her headmistress, she succeeded to matriculate from high school and got into Art School and university. In 1932 the Breslau Art School closed and when Hitler came to power in 1933 she was chased out of university and realised that if she would wanted to pursue art she would have to leave the country. 


Her first stop was Budapest, where she learnt useful techniques of watercolour fashion drawings, which, she says, she showed to an interesting young Hungarian. He in turn introduced his self portrait to her over a game of chess in a little cafe and a year later they got married in London. This young Hungarian man was Imre Angyalfi when he would have been about 23 when they met first and 24 when they got married. He was offered a place to study at the LSE in London, where they remained to live.


She writes the streets of London were not paved with gold. She painted for a living, occasionally designing postcards for a printing firm, dresses for fashion houses and helped her husband make a living, while always with a sketch pad under her arm. 




Charlotte (Lotte) Rosenbaum was born around 1913 and her mother was called Liesl (Mietze) nee Krimke. Mietza was widowed when Charlotte was twelve. Mietza had two brothers, Hanz and Fritz Krimke. Hanz married Nanni who converted to Judaism in Germany. They had a daughter Ulla. Ulla had a half brother, Ditz, who had two daughters. Ulla married Wolfgang & lived in Wembley. Mietza had Charlotte and Suzi. Suzi married Rudi Wayne (formerly Wagner) and had a son Peter Wayne.


One of Lotte’s close friends from school in Breslau was Ida (Adi) Freyhan, who married Rabbi Josef Hirsch Dunner (1913-2007). Joseph Hirsch was born in Cologne and served as Chief Rabbi of East Prussia before World War II. He moved to England after Kristallnacht with Solomon Schonfeld via the Netherlands in December 1938 and served as Rabbi of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations in London from 1960 to 2007. Ida Dunner nee Freyhan was the daughter of Dr Wilhelm (Zev) Freyhan, a leading member of the Jewish community of Breslau, and one of the original founders of Agudat Israel at the Kattowitz Conference of 1912. 


The Angyalfi and Dunner families remained friends after moving to England and Lotte would recall how they helped provide them with basic furniture, despite their own difficulties, when they arrived in England almost penniless in 1938.



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