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About Lilly Toth

Courtesy of Lilly Toth, Montreal Holocaust Museum Collection.

 

Lilly Toth in 2014, courtesy of the Montreal Holocaust Museum.

Lilly Toth was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1925, the only child of Viktor and Carla Gluck. A self-described ‘spoiled brat’, she had a happy childhood and was kicked out of Jewish elementary school frequently for misbehaving. When the Germans occupied Hungary in March 1944, her father was drafted into a forced labour battalion. Both parents were taken away in October 1944 after the fascist Arrow Cross organization allied with the Nazis took control of the Hungarian government.

Lilly went into hiding, but was found by the Arrow Cross. She miraculously survived an attempted execution at the shores of the Danube. Despite having been shot in the arm, she swam to safety and was rescued by a sympathetic Hungarian policeman and then taken to a Jewish hospital by some German soldiers, where she recuperated. She worked as a cleaner at an Arrow Cross building for the rest of the war.

Lilly remained in Hungary until the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, when she decided to emigrate to Canada where she had family in Montreal.

Lilly remained in touch with family in Hungary and Austria, and occasionally travelled back. In Montreal, Lilly regularly volunteered at the Montreal Holocaust Museum and contributed her life story to the Museum’s oral history collection.

About the Toth Collection

Lilly’s miniature book collection includes over 1,000 items: its scope is diverse, eclectic, and multilingual. Hungarian books comprise a large part of the collection, with  a particular emphasis on Hungarian literature and poetry. In the mid-twentieth century, miniature book collectors considered Hungarian minis to be some of the finest in the world, and many are represented in Lilly’s collection. The collection also includes fine literature, children’s literature, artists’ books, bilingual dictionaries, musical scores, mass-market minis, and even ‘macrominiatures’, books that are technically larger than the miniature designation (less than 3” or 76 mm).

Lilly prized her miniature books, displaying them on a variety of custom-built shelves in her bedroom where she could admire them daily. Lilly marked many of her books with bookplates, decorative labels sometimes referred to as “ex libris” that are placed into books to indicate ownership.

The collection suggests Lilly was at least occasionally involved with the Miniature Book Society (MBS). Some souvenir items indicate that she occasionally traveled to MBS meetings, called conclaves, such as the 1990 meeting in Glasgow, Scotland and the 2000 conclave held in nearby Vermont.

Lilly’s personal handwritten inventory indicates she had 935 books in her collection by 2000. We have little information about where or how Lilly sourced her books, although occasionally information is available from the collection itself: for example, a receipt for a limited edition book titled Shades of Autumn indicates that Lilly purchased the book from Carol Schwartzott, a book artist in Niagara Falls, New York, in December 1995 (Toth Collection 13.A.8).

Selections from the Toth Collection

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