Workers in Leó Goldberger’s textile factory, Budapest, 1920. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of George Pick)

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Goldberger, Leó

(1878–1945), industrialist. Leó Goldberger studied at the Evangelical High School in Budapest and in 1900 received a juris doctor degree. In 1867, his grandmother had been Hungary’s first Jewish woman to be ennobled and had thus been allowed to use the predicate Budai (or Buday; “of Buda”) before her name; hence he is also known as Leó Budai-Goldberger. As the second-born son, Goldberger did not at first intend to continue the tradition of working in his family’s factory. But after the early death of his older brother in 1913 and a long period of recession, he took over the management enterprise from his father. At the time, the factory, with headquarters in Óbuda, concentrated on manufacturing cotton fabrics.

During the 1919 Revolution, Goldberger’s family escaped to Switzerland, where he continued to master the textile trade before returning to Hungary. With the founding of foreign companies in Hungary (Wespag in 1923; the Anglo-Hungarian Spinning Company in 1927), he formed several foreign business partnerships and radically modernized the Óbuda factory, approaching foreign professionals and introducing new technology to produce viscose silk and film-printed textiles, while employing first-rank designers. Goldberger established the earliest research laboratory in the textile industry and donated major funds to establish a chair in chemical textiles at the predecessor of the school currently known as the Budapest University for Technical Studies. Through his purchase of the right to use the American Sanforizing procedure and trademark, he was also able to introduce stock sizing. His firm became the most important in the Hungarian textile industry, as well as its largest exporter, and he founded several affiliates in London, Brussels, Milan, and Geneva between 1934 and 1937.

In 1936–1937, the bulk of Hungary’s textile exports, valued at $2 million, came from the Goldberger factory. This sum represented 38.4 percent of the factory’s production. The products were competitive in Eastern and Western European markets, as well as in the United States. Goldberger’s company was the only Hungarian company that participated in the 1937 World Exposition held in Paris. He also led a colorful political and public life, maintaining friendly relationships with politicians, writers, scientists, and artists. In 1944, rather than following his relatives to Portugal, he voluntarily joined those who were being deported to Mauthausen. A few days after his liberation he died of hunger, on 5 May 1945.

Suggested Reading

Walter Endre, “Goldberger Leó,” in Magyar Tudóslexikon, ed. Ferenc Nagy, pp. 332–333 (Budapest, 1997); “Magyar textilmágnás—Goldberger Leó élettörténete,” Célratörő Magazin (May 2001): 15.



Translated from Hungarian by Sonja Mekel