Five Memoirs: The Jewish Hungarian Holocaust Experience

As part of my work for the Moshe Kraus Project, I have been researching the Holocaust in Hungary and have come to appreciate more and more my late Mother’s saying, that “anyone who survived the Shoah is a miracle!”

1. Budapest ’44: Rescue and Resistance, 1944-1945 by Moshe Holczler

“The young Slovakian businessman planned to join his wife in London, but the Nazis marched into Austria, and life would never be the same. Mandated by his illustrious father to remain in Europe to help his people, R’ Shmuel Binyomin (Wolf) Frey embarked on a saga of rescue and relief that had reverberations beyond his wildest dreams. Who was the mysterious Raoul Wallenberg, and how did R’ Wolf come to work with him? Why did the Hungarian Minister of Defense have such a startling change of heart? Did the gypsies have any redeemable qualities? Would his fellow Jews turn him over to the Germans? Where was the safest place for a street child to be at night? What were those Nazis doing in that building across the street? A house made entirely of glass? How long could they fool the communists? Were those nuns to be trusted…? Let us follow R’ Wolf to Hungary, and marvel at the incredible Hashgacha Pratis, the Divine Providence, that followed him through one threatening situation. With unshakeable faith, with remarkable foresight and bravery, against impossible odds, he resisted evil incarnate. He never thought of himself as a hero, but his courage and ingenuity will remain with you forever.”

Budapest ’44 gives a vast panorama of all of the rescue efforts organized within Budapest during the Nazi invasion of Hungary in 1944, including the efforts of Wallenberg’s as well as countless Jewish and non-Jewish undercover volunteers. It is a remarkable story that has to be shared more. Much of the detail is astounding, and it is a first-person account by Moshe Holczler, who is a chronicler and a participant. I found it quite amazing and a must-read to understand what was happening in Budapest in 1944.

2. Miracle in the Ashes

Miracle in the Ashes is a first-person memoir by Maurice Lowinger, a Hungarian-born Jew from Mezotur in central Hungary. It is about Lowinger’s valiant efforts to support his family and the Budapest Jewish community. Towards the end of the war, and all through Budapest’s siege, he took over his father-in-law’s position on the committee whose mission was to feed, daily, hundreds, the destitute remnants of Hungarian Jewry via the soup kitchen at the Dohany Synagogue, in Budapest. He, along with the committee, managed to keep it up until the end of the war – the arrival of the Russian army in 1945.

3. Deadly Carousel: A Singer’s Story of the Second World War

A memoir about Vali Racz, the Hungarian Marlene Dietrich, who during WWII harboured a Jewish family, a Hungarian fascist escapee, and Russian military brass, in her spacious home in Pest, as told to her daughter, Monica Porter. It’s also a terrific recounting of what was happening in Hungary socially and politically for Jews and gentiles, from before the war up to the Hungarian revolution in 1956.

4. Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust edited by Yaffa Eliach

Eighty-nine original testimonies of first-person accounts by Orthodox Jews, as they attempt to flee, and are sometimes entrapped, and sometimes miraculously saved, all over Europe.

5, Surviving the Hell of Auschwitz and Dachau: A Teenage Struggle Toward Freedom from Hatred, by Leslie Schwartz

Leslie Schwartz’ memoir of survival as an under-age, under-size, 12-year-old. Schwartz tells of the individuals who came out of the blue to help him, sometimes with a single glass of milk or a sandwich. He recounts how he tracked them down after the war, one by one, to thank them. He continues to speak about his experiences both in Germany and the rest of the world.

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