Personal Testimonies: Memoirs
As part of my work for the Moshe Kraus Project, I have come across these amazing first-person accounts of people’s experiences before during and after the Shoah/Holocaust in Hungary.
- 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 really 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 hashgachah pratis, the Divine providence, that followed him through one menacing situation after another. 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, his story, is an unforgettable tribute to the human spirit.
Budapest 44 by Moshe Holczler gives a wide panorama of all of the rescue efforts organized within Budapest during the Nazi invasion of Hungary, in 1944, including the efforts of Wallenberg, and many Jewish and non-Jewish undercover volunteers. It is a remarkable story that has not been told or shared enough. Much of the detail is astounding, and it is a first person account by Moshe Holczler who is not only a chronicler but also a participant. I found it quite amazing and a must read to understand what actually was happening in Budapest in 1944.
2. Miracle in the Ashes is a first person memoir, by Maurice Lowinger, a Hungarian born Jew from Mezotur in central Hungary, – his valiant efforts to support his family and the Budapest Jewish community. Towards the end of the war, and all through the siege of Budapest, 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 and the committee managed to keep it up until the very end of the war – the arrival of the Russian army in 1945.
3. Surviving the hell of Auschwitz and Dachau is Leslie Schwartz’ memoir of his survival as an under-age, under-size, 12 year old. The subtitle is A teenage Struggle Toward Freedom from Hatred, as he recounts his story of the individuals, who came out of the blue, to help him, sometimes with a single glass of milk, or a sandwich, and how he tracked them down one by one, after the war to acknowledge and thank them: And he continues to speak about his experiences both in Germany and the rest of the world.
4. Hassidic Tales of the Holocaust – edited by Yaffa Eliach – are first person accounts of Orthodox Jews, as they attempt to flee, and are some times entrapped, and sometimes, miraculously saved, all over Europe.
5. Deadly Carousel, is about Vali Racz, the Hungarian Marlene Dietrich, who during WWII harbored a Jewish family, as well as a Hungarian fascist escapee, and Russian military brass, in her home, in Pest, as told to her daughter, Monica Porter, who is also the author of this book. It’s also a terrific recounting of what actually was going on in Hungary, for both Jews and gentiles, socially and politically, before, during, and after the war, up to 1956 – the Hungarian revolution. The book is written by Vali Racz’ daughter, Monica Porter, who had the opportunity to interview her mother extensively for this book.
Written October 27, 2019 – Parshat Bereshit – which brings the blessing of new beginnings, renewal, starting over – every day of our lives – seeing with fresh eyes.
Written by Abigail Hirsch, social worker, blogger, filmmaker