The Holocaust in my city, in my family And a remarkable experience of an exceptional meeting
The Holocaust in my city, in my family And a remarkable experience of an exceptional meeting

Every Jew has got a story of the Holocaust, but each experience is unique, and we must share them in order to remember our martyrs. Below is a story from my family. And the tragic experience of the Jews of Szeged.

My great grandparents were residing in Szeged (the third largest city in Hungary now) as of 1944. The year when the Hungarian nation betrayed their Jewish compatriots. Historians agree on the fact how quickly and efficiently the Hungarian authorities and administration, with the assistance of the population deported the Jews to various death camps, mostly to Auschwitz.
My family was among those Jews. But let’s examine the background first, before we get into the details and to the horror of the Holocaust.

Szeged had a very patriotic Hungarian Jewish population; its rabbi Leopold Low was a great advocate for the Hungarian cause in 1848. Jewish soldiers of Szeged valiantly fought in the First World War, demonstrating their devotion to Hungary. But it appears not all Hungarian neighbours appreciated the Jewish sacrifice.

My grandmother's sister told her daughter how our family was betrayed. In 1944 my grandmother was only two years old. There are still questions and mysteries going on, but my great grandparents and their children were allegedly betrayed by their non-Jewish neighbour – and perhaps were saved by a Jewish neighbour!

When the gendarmerie (a form of countryside police in Hungary) was collecting and deporting the Jews they took the other Jewish family first (it was the Mandler family) in our street but they passed by the house of my great grandparents.
And that was the time when a neighbour ran out screaming the following to the police: "Hey, hey! There are more Jews here, in this house!!" pointing his fingers at our property. Not sure on which date, but for 100% sure the police took my great grandfather from Szeged. Other family members who were living in Mako (a smaller town nearby with significant Jewish population) all died in Auschwitz according to records I have seen.

Regarding my great grandmother, and as of the 12 children (including my grandmother) there are no records at all. All of them got birth and identity documents after the second world war to the best of my knowledge.
It makes me think they probably bribed some officials, but there were rumours that my great grandmother had foreign citizenship and perhaps they could not find a record of her in the Hungarian administration. Other family legends say that Margit the oldest sister was able to save her siblings by erasing birth and faking religious documents.

Regardless, great grandfather was surely taken, and he is on the deportation list of Szeged which can be seen on this link.

But how did my great grandpa come back and how the family survived? According to an older brother of my grandmother who’s the last living brother of the twelve siblings and who has been in Canada since 1956 a Jewish family in the neighbourhood was also helping and supporting our family.

According to the list, there was only one more Jewish family there which was the Mandler family. The Mandler family owned a sorghum factory and were in good wealth and they were one of the few Jews from Szeged who were deported on a different train. Their train went to Austrian concentration camps, instead of Auschwitz. This is due to the Kastner-Eichmann agreement.
I do believe the Mandler family helped saving my relatives as they were known to be benefactors to us, and they were our neighbours too. They must have been taken together I assume. But the story is not over yet and it’s going to be exciting!

I have got a Facebook friend who is called Gabor Mandler and who’s a US citizen. He is originally from Szeged, but we never met in real life. When I realised the address of the Mandler family on the deportation list I messaged him to find out if he’s related to them. Gabor came back to me saying yes and he revealed dozens of new information that confirmed my above theory.
Our parents, grandparents and in my case, great-grandparents were neighbours and friends! What a small world I am so touched by this.
I always felt that without help and support my family could not have made it alive, even though they lost so many uncles and aunts from both sides.
The Mandlers also have a remarkable story. Gabor’s father George Mandler is a Holocaust survivor who was born on the train that was deporting the Jews. “Luckily”, as we learnt he was on a train that was on the way to Austrian concentration camps and not to Auschwitz.

As of now Gabor kindly introduced me to his father who’s nearly 80 years old and we are hoping to find out more stories about our families.
It is heart-warming to see; how two Jewish families stayed together in the most inhuman period of history and survived the Holocaust due to their convergence, friendship and unity.
However, tragically most of the Jews were not able to survive, no matter how they wanted and how hard they tried.

Nearly all the Jews and many of Jewish ancestry were deported. It means 3881 people who were deported from Szeged, only 1404 returned. This is still a "lucky" survival rate as other communities were fully destroyed.

My great grandparents lost all their siblings who were Mako residents. The oldest victim from Szeged was 101 years old and the youngest was new-born. The list shows the addresses and occupation of the Jews too. We learn from it that there were disabled Jewish first world war veterans who were taken and killed. There were many veterans and prominent Jews who did a lot for Hungary only to be murdered. The most shocking for me was the story of the 101 years old Jew and the number of new-born babies who were taken and murdered. Let’s tell their names to the world: Lazar Fein was 101 years old and never returned to his hometown. Eva Lang was a new-born in 1944 and never returned. May their memories be blessed together with all the victims. May their sacrifice make our nation stronger and braver.

It's also interesting to mention that 256 Jews were Christian by religion. Only 73 came back.
This is one more proof what we have always known: Anti-Semites do not care about our religion, they ought the total annihilation of the entire Jewish nation.

Remembering the Holocaust through personal connection and viewing it from our relatives' point of view is painful. But I believe it’s a must need experience. I think, our suffering, and common fate can bring our nation closer together.

Peter Kovacs Rosenbluth
And the Mandler Family
Next: Commemorating the pogroms of Hungary of 1919


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