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INTERLUDE IN BUDAPEST

Daily, I inquired at the Foreign Ministry whether there was any answer from the Russians to its request of an exit visa for me. From the face of the official to whom I was referred, from his gesture expressing helplessness, I knew what he was going to say even before he opened his mouth. Daily, I left the building more discouraged, more depressed. It became clear to me that it was useless to hope for any positive attitude from the offices of the Commander of the Bucharest Region of the Russian military.

One day something happened just the same. I received the visit of a gentleman who introduced himself as being closely connected with the Russian authorities in the Rumanian capital. He spoke to me in Yiddish, stated that he was of the Jewish faith. He was informed of the fact that I was in. the possession of a diplomatic passport, and that I had applied for an exit visa to be issued by the Russians. He stated his willingness to help me obtain that visa, but he added, that would involve some money.

I was at once on my guard. How did that man find out that I had my visa application pending? He could have been sent to me to lure me into some illegal action for which I could have been arrested. I was aware that people were frequently framed in this manner. I gave him a cautious answer. My petition for a visa was being handled by the Foreign Ministry, and it would be improper on my part to try to move the case by personal action. The man insisted that he was in a position to offer speedy help. I finally told him that he should leave his name and telephone number, and that I would resort to his services if I felt that this would be the thing to do.

That incident frankly scared me. My application for an exit visa - I reasoned - called the attention of all kinds of people to me. I assumed that the Russians were suspicious of anyone who showed that he was anxious to get out of the country. From the recent past of the Hitler era I had learned to fear the nocturnal knock at the door by agents of the secret police, of whatever political label they might be. I felt it more urgent than ever to leave.

I met again the attorney who had been our spokesman before Mr. Vishinsky and told him about my problem.

"Did you say you had a diplomatic passport?" he asked.

"Yes, but what good does it do me if I cannot leave the country?"

"Listen," he said, "why don't you try to secure the help of the Red Cross?"

"How can the Red Cross help me?"

"I know they have Russian translators. They can give you a certificate attesting to the fact that you travel with the consent and approval of the Foreign Ministry to attend an important meeting abroad; they can ask the authorities to assist you in every way."

"Will such a certificate - if I obtain it - help me get an exit visa?"

"No, but it might help you get through the border without it, provided it is written in Russian and has a big stamp on it!" he answered, winking at me significantly.

I thought I understood him. "You think so?"

"I would take a chance an it. What have you got to lose? The worst that can happen to you is to be turned back at the border crossing."

I only halfway believed him; nevertheless, I could in my situation, let no chance go untried. I went to the Rumanian Red Crass, applied for such a certificate; they referred me to the International Red Cross, the proper authority to deliver it.

There it was, the document, in beautiful Cyrillic type. I could not read its contents, but was assured it conformed exactly to my request. In its possession I packed my few belongings, put the letter of the Red Cross into my passport, and boarded the train toward the frontier. We traveled back to Cluj, then through Oradea-Mare, the city which had seen the happiness and misfortune of my sister, Naomi. Reading the name of the station my first impulse was to get off and .stay for a few days in Oradea-Mare in order to try to find out something more positive about her fate. The train stopped there for a short period of time, so I had no opportunity to follow up on my impulse. Moreover, I was afraid of not being able to get out of the country if I interrupted my journey. Besides, I had been informed through various sources that very few Jewish families had remained in that city, and that until a few weeks ago, only a small number of deportees had returned there.

The Hungarian frontier appeared soon after OradeaMare. The train, again came to a halt. Two Russian soldiers came aboard. Without a word, I handed them my passport with the letter written in Russian lying inside. One of them read the document, frowned, looked at me, seemed surprised. He put his hand on my shoulder. I was convinced he was going to arrest me. I looked at his face and it was then my turn to be surprised. The officer was the same one I had met an my first trip from Cluj to Bucharest) He smiled, returned my papers and said to the other soldier: "Chorosho! ( OK! )"

They passed me, left the compartment. I thought they must have heard the beating of my heart, the sigh that escaped from my chest. What was the kind of "luck" ( this word for the lack of any better) that had sent that officer, a chance acquaintance of a few fleeting hours, to meet me there at the crucial crossing, crossroads of my destiny? Silently, but fervently, with an irresistible urge, I addressed a prayer to God, who had been with me in the forced labor camp, had saved me from death, protected my beloved in a time of universal savagery. My feelings were composed of diverse elements; gratitude for knowing that a superior force was protecting me; strength that I derived from that knowledge; joy to feel really free for the first time since I had left my family, which was still mixed with a lingering fear that something might come up at the last moment that would prevent or delay our reunion.

On the Hungarian side of the border I could consider myself more or less out of danger. The Hungarian guards were awed by my diplomatic passport, by my Russian document, which they did not understand; they saluted and got off the train.

I resolved to stay a few days in Budapest, to inquire into the situation of the surviving Jews and get mare information about the circumstances that had preceded the defeat of the Germans and saved the greatest number of the Jews of Budapest.

I knew, of course, that the latter had been concentrated in the so-called Jewish houses. I had also been informed of the efforts of Raoul Wallenberg, officially third secretary of the Swedish legation in Budapest, to save the Jews of the capital by giving them Swedish passports and extending the protection of his country to them; how he had borrowed I and rented apartment houses, brought food and medicine to those he had succeeded in removing there, and what desperate other moves he had undertaken to wrest the ' unfortunate victims from the hands of the German and j Hungarian Nazis we shall never know. At present the Germans were gone, and a new regime was installed in the government. What was happening to the Jews who had remained or who were coming back from deportation? No matter how anxious I was to be reunited with my family, I regarded it as my primary duty to know.

My first surprise in Budapest was that people were now eager to proclaim their anti-German sentiment. It sounded as though no one ever had uttered a single word against the Jews, or acquiesced in what the Germans had done against them. I was told how the attitude of the Hungarian authorities toward the Germans had changed, and how public opinion had turned during the last phase of the war. As the military situation of the Germans worsened every day, they demanded ever more energetically that the Hungarians send more troops to the fronts, a minimum of fifty thousand skilled workers to German factories, and an increase in the deliveries of food to Germany. These demands were very slowly and reluctantly satisfied by the Hungarian government; the one concerning the sending of skilled workers could not be satisfied at all. The government cooperated with the Nazis only in the measures directed against the Jews, but dragged its feet in other respects. The deportations had cost Hungary more than two billion pengös, paid out of the confiscated Jewish fortunes. They resulted in a sharp decline in the economy, in the impoverishment of the entire nation. The people who had welcomed the deportations, as long as they could step into the positions or take over the properties formerly held or owned by Jews, slowly came to the realization that the occupying German robbed the country of its vital resources. This realization, together with the opening of a second front by the Allies, stiffened the resistance of the Hungarian authorities concerning the German demands. In addition, reports were received about the enormous losses of the Hungarian troops on the Russian front, even before the beginning of the Russian offensive in June, 1944. The Hungarian soldiers had actually been sent to certain death, since they totally lacked any modern military equipment.

The German propaganda machine continued to boast with the invincible strength of the Wehrmacht, proclaiming the certainty of final victory of Germany, but it was no longer believed. Everyone, except the fanatic pro-Nazis, realized that the Germans were beaten and that Hungary was being dragged down into defeat with them. People wondered what would happen to them and to their nation after the war.

By the end of June, Baky could report to Eichmann that the Hungarian provinces were "judenfrei," meaning that there remained hardly any mores Jews outside of Budapest.

At that point President Roosevelt sent an ultimatum to the Sztojay government; stop the deportations, or Budapest would be heavily bombed.

Pressure on the same government was also exerted from elsewhere. The Pope addressed a strong plea to it; the King of Sweden wrote a letter to Horthy deploring the deportations and appealing to the sense of chivalry that had once reigned in the armies of the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy.

The Swiss government in turn launched an appeal to the Hungarian authorities, both in their own name and in the name of the Red Cross that had its seat in Switzerland, to stop the deportations and the persecution of the Jews still remaining in Hungary.

The ultimatum of Roosevelt expired an June 29th. On the 2nd day of July, Budapest was subjected to the heaviest bombing in the entire war.

All these factors, the growing hostility of public opinion to the Germans, the resistance of the government to German demands, a new anti-German atmosphere that was developing in high military circles, the pressure exerted on the government by foreign powers, prompted undersecretaries Endre and Baky, the two fanatic Jew-haters, to accelerate the deportation of Jews from the outskirts of Budapest. At that time the number of Hungarian Jews who had been deported amounted to five hundred eighty thousand.

Baky had a special commando unit set up to begin the deportation of Budapest Jews. On July 7th, the capital was surrounded by troops of the gendarmerie. However, just as the operations of the gendarmes were to start General Lazar, an officer devoted to Regent Horthy, ordered the sirens of the bombing alarm to be sounded in the city. The population was scurrying into shelters; during that time tanks and armored cars occupied the strategic points of the capital. Baky was taken prisoner in his apartment. The gendarmes were sent back to their provinces. Endre and Baky still were allowed to keep their portfolios in the government, but were deprived of the authority to supervise Jewish affairs.

Eichmann, who had reported to his superiors that the liquidation of Hungarian Jewry was only a matter of days (while he still continued his negotiations for the exchange of Jews for war materials), left for Germany to obtain new instructions in view of the worsening situation for the Germans in Hungary There were rumors that Hungary would be declared a German protectorate, like Poland, and its administration taken over by the Germans. The members of the Hungarian government resigned, although their resignation was not made public for the time being.

Prompted by the papal intervention on behalf of the surviving Jews, most of the Catholic priests now began to participate in the movement to save the Jews. The head of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Serédi, who had shown himself an opportunist, unworthy of the example of Catholic prelates in Holland, Norway and France, during the time of the greatest need of the Jews, now ordered that a list be set up of the names of people baptized before 1941. He declared that they were Catholics and as such under the protection of the Church. A few Jews could depart for Palestine thanks to immigration certificates forwarded by the Papal Nuncio, Monsignor Roncelli; still others received safe conducts issued by him.

Protestant bishops also joined in the opposition to the deportation of Jews. Some of them were sheltering people of Jewish faith and helped them disguise their identities, while they urged the authorities to resist the German demands. In fact, resistance to the occupants and their Hungarian stooges was growing everywhere.

Eichmann returned from Germany with an ultimatum; either the Hungarian government would deport the Jews with maximum speed or he, Eichmann, would have them deported within three days.

This threat had to be taken seriously. Visibly, Eichmann's office made preparations for the deportation.

However, Mr. Bencze, the new Minister of the Interior of the Hungarian government, was not to be intimidated. He conferred the power of decision concerning Jewish matters to his trusted man and confidant, Colonel Ferenci, with the strict order that under no circumstance should he allow the deportation of any further Jewish contingents. Ferenci surrounded the capital with nineteen thousand of his men, ready to engage the Germans in case of a showdown. Eichmann did not dare risk a clash between his soldiers and the Hungarians. He had to give in. The Jews of Budapest were saved once more. It was the first time that the occupying Hitlerites retreated before the opposition of an occupied nation!

Such a situation could not be tolerated. Eichmann regarded the conflict between him and the Hungarian government as a personal challenge. He understood that the Hungarians defied him because they were convinced that Germany had lost the war. He was aware of Horthy's efforts to get in touch with the Allies. He reported this to Berlin, and asked for reinforcements.

It was then that the Wallenberg saga unfolded. Raoul Wallenberg had been sent to Budapest in the capacity of third secretary of the legation there. His real task was, however, to do his utmost to save as many Jews as possible.

He was singularly qualified for this task. Descendant of a long line of statesmen, prelates, military and financial leaders, son of a naval officer, grandson of a diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg traveled extensively in Europe and in the Middle East. Far a while he lived in Haifa, Palestine, where he witnessed the plight of refugees from Hitler. A man of great sensitivity, he was deeply committed to his humanitarian assignment. He combined in his person the

idealist and the practical man. With funds obtained from the joint Distribution Committee, he bribed Nazi and Hungarian officials liable to help him. In the name of his government, he issued five thousand passports certifying that the bearers had connections with Sweden and were awaiting emigration there. Later, the number of these passports was increased to ten thousand and more. The owners of the Swedish documents were then moved to houses declared to be under Swedish protection. The Swedish flag flew over these buildings and Wallenberg's friends guarded the entrances. Wallenberg established hospitals, nurseries and soup kitchens, employing thousands of Jews there.

Inspired by Wallenberg's example, the Swiss, the Spanish and the Portuguese governments also established programs for the protection of the Jews.

On October 15, 1944, the Germans moved a Panzer division into Budapest and kidnapped the son of Regent Horthy; on October 17th, they installed a new government, appointing Ferenc Szálasi, head of the fanatically anti-semitic Arrow-Crossist Party, to the post of prime minister. His accession was considered by his followers as the official sanction to loot and kill, especially Jews. The crackling of machine guns could be heard all day on the streets. People locked themselves in their apartments. From time to time trucks loaded with Jewish men, women and children, picked up by drunken soldiers, passed at great speed, headed toward the Danube river. There they were aligned along the shores, shot and their bodies were dumped into the water.

The Arrow-Crossists knew that their days were counted; the Russian armies were closing in on the capital. These desperados, ruffians of the worst type, intoxicated by the power that they had seized in a vacuum of power, were feverishly trying to expedite to the other world as many Jews as they could get hold of. They were accompanied on their bloodthirsty excursions by a former Franciscan monk, the Rev. András Kun. This strange priest participated in the beating and torturing of their helpless victims. Wearing the arrow-cross over his ecclesiastical garments, he blessed the murderers "in the name of Jesus Christ," and ordered them to fire on the unfortunate people who, stripped of their clothes, were facing the guns on the shore of the river.

Raoul Wallenberg versus Szálasi, versus András Kun - this in a nutshell was the situation in those critical days in Budapest. Wallenberg had to outdo himself in order to counter the designs of the sinister forces aligned against him. The Germans ordered, and Szálasi willingly signed, the decree by which thirty thousand Jews had to be marched to Austria in order to work in underground munition factories there. The Austrian border was one hundred forty-four miles away; no food, no blankets against the bitter winter cold were provided for them. Hungarian guards, armed with whips, drove them on. Those who were too weak to march, were shot.

Wallenberg rushed to the scene. Exhibiting documents from various authorities, he snatched two thousand of the marchers from the claws of their torturers, and obtained the return of several other thousands later from Austria. The papal nuncio, Monsignor Rotta, issued hundreds of safe conduct documents which were distributed by the Red Cross among the marchers. Notwithstanding these efforts, so many died on the road that Szálasi had to cancel his order. The Jews, exhausted on their arrival, were of no use to the German munition factories.

Every day the match between Wallenberg and the Arrow-Crossists became more bitter, more dramatic. Risking his own life, he often had to rush to the scene whenever he was informed that a carload of Jewish victims was to be taken by the Arrow-Crossists. It was a miracle that these bandits who respected nothing, refrained from shooting or arresting him.

At last, the Russian armies were at the gates of the capital. The Jews of the city sighed with relief. Marshal Rodion Malinovsky's troops liberated the international ghetto. Wallenberg declared that he would not return to Sweden before the property of the Jews was restored to them.

On January 17, 1945, a Russian automobile stopped in front of the house at 6 Tátra Street, in which Wallenberg's office was located. Several Russian soldiers alighted, entered the office and asked Wallenberg to accompany them to Debrecen, to Marshall Malinovsky's headquarters. He was to discuss the rehabilitation of Jews with the Marshall.

"I do not know whether I am going as a guest or as a prisoner," Wallenberg said to his fellow workers.

It was the last time he was seen in Hungary.

He was taken by the Russians to Moscow. For years nothing was heard of him. To the pressing, repeated inquiries of the Swedish government, Stalin opposed a categorical denial of any knowledge of his whereabouts. In 1957, after Stalin's death, Foreign Minister Gromyko announced that a document certifying Wallenberg's death of a heart attack was uncovered in the archives of a Moscow prison.

His Swedish compatriots never accepted this explanation. They continued the search for the man who had become a national hero in their country. Against enormous odds, interviewing prisoners of many nationalities, penetrating the secrecy that enveloped this whole affair, they obtained evidence proving that Wallenberg was still alive in 1961, and that he lay in serious condition in a mental hospital. It may be that the Russians had, immediately after his arrival in Moscow, locked him up in an asylum, a practice they are now following with intellectuals who oppose their regime. It also may be that Wallenberg, martyr of a saintly mission, cut off from the outside world, despairing of ever regaining his freedom, lost his mind after many years of captivity.

One may ask, why did the Russians arrest Wallenberg? What did he do to them? What danger did he represent for them? Rodion Malinovsky's troops liberated the international ghetto. Wallenberg declared that he would not return to Sweden before the property of the Jews was restored to them.

On January 17, 1945, a Russian automobile stopped in front of the house at 6 Tátra Street, in which Wallenberg's office was located. Several Russian soldiers alighted, entered the office and asked Wallenberg to accompany them to Debrecen, to Marshall Malinovsky's headquarters. He was to discuss the rehabilitation of Jews with the Marshall.

"I do not know whether I am going as a guest or as a prisoner," Wallenberg said to his fellow workers.

It was the last time he was seen in Hungary.

He was taken by the Russians to Moscow. For years nothing was heard of him. To the pressing, repeated inquiries of the Swedish government, Stalin opposed a categorical denial of any knowledge of his whereabouts. In 1957, after Stalin's death, Foreign Minister Gromyko announced that a document certifying Wallenberg's death of a heart attack was uncovered in the archives of a Moscow prison.

His Swedish compatriots never accepted this explanation. They continued the search for the man who had become a national hero in their country. Against enormous odds, interviewing prisoners of many nationalities, penetrating the secrecy that enveloped this whole affair, they obtained evidence proving that Wallenberg was still alive in 1961, and that he lay in serious condition in a mental hospital. It may be that the Russians had, immediately after his arrival in Moscow, locked him up in an asylum, a practice they are now following with intellectuals who oppose their regime. It also may be that Wallenberg, martyr of a saintly mission, cut off from the outside world, despairing of ever regaining his freedom, lost his mind after many years of captivity.

One may ask, why did the Russians arrest Wallenberg? What did he do to them? What danger did he represent for them?

The answer to these questions is that Stalin was suspicious of everyone who had any contact with any foreign power. Wallenberg was preparing to establish a great organization to help the Jews returning from concentration camps reestablish themselves in the postwar world. After the defeat of Hitler, Stalin desired to extend his domination over the entire Danube Basin. Any activity that could consolidate the influence of foreigners was in the way of his plans. Besides, he might have suspected that Wallenberg was a spy for the Americans. In his diseased brain, the entire world conspired against his personal power. In his entire career there was only one man whose given word he never doubted; that man was Adolf Hitler.

The Jews honor Wallenberg's memory. A street was named after him in Budapest. The Israelite Congregation of Pest expressed to him and the Swedish nation their eternal gratitude for saving one hundred thousand of them.

What Wallenberg did for the Jewish victims of Nazi terror was a testimony to human solidarity. His saga should be told and retold from generation to generation. What he could do single-handedly was not enough, but he did more than the combined might of the rest of the world accomplished under the circumstances.

I wandered in the streets of Budapest. A bloody chapter of history had occurred there only a few months before. Now that chapter was closed, but my mind kept evoking the tragic, heartrending, revolting, incredible scenes that had animated these very same streets. I was assuming the soul, the mind, even the flesh of each of my unfortunate brothers who had been tortured, humiliated, and put to death in that city. I was driven to the shore of the river where their bodies had been floating; I shed tears. I could not help shedding tears for them. I pieced together their story as I just related it. I heard it from various sources, from people who wanted to ease their conscience; also, and especially from eyewitnesses, namely from the Jews who had survived the storm.

At the time of my short stop in Budapest, I could not learn anything about the fate of the mission of Joel Brand, who as one remembers it, was sent out by Eichmann to negotiate the blood-for-money agreement. The reports that were shown to me were scarce, confused and contradictory. Only later did the truth come out, partly told by Brand himself, partly by historians. [*] Brand's mission, as everyone knows, ended in failure, and the Jews of the Hungarian provinces perished almost without exception in the holocaust. In a nutshell, here is what happened to that mission.

On May 23, 1944, Brand arrived in Istanbul and was put in contact with Mr. Steinhardt, ambassador of the United States to Turkey. He told him, as well as the representative of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, about Eichmann's offer to release a hundred thousand Jews for each thousand trucks or other war materials he would receive, from the Western Allies. Steinhardt cabled to the State Department, adding the further comment that Eichmann had pledged to use the trucks only on the Eastern front against the Russians.

The American authorities saw in Eichmann's offer an attempt to split the Allies. They feared that the Germans might leak the offer to the Russians. During the entire war the Western powers were mortally afraid of the possibility of Stalin's betrayal and of making a separate peace with the Germans, or of rejoining Hitler's camp.

The State Department also received information about Brand's mission from the British government. It called Eichmann's proposal sheer blackmail, or a political maneuver. According to the British, "This proposal implied the suggestion that we should accept the responsibility for the maintenance of an additional million of persons, which is equivalent to asking the Allies to suspend military operations."

Eichmann had set a deadline of two weeks for Brand to report to him about the success or failure of his mission. Brand was anxious to meet Moshe Shertok, head of the political department of the universal Zionist Land Organization in Jerusalem, later foreign minister in the Israeli cabinet. He cabled Shertok to meet him in Istanbul, but the British, who did not want Brand's mission to succeed, did not authorize Shertok's trip to Turkey. Brand then decided to attempt a meeting with Shertok in Aleppo, Syria. If that failed, he would continue to Palestine.

Brand was warned that the British would arrest him in Syria, a danger that did not exist in neutral Turkey. In spite of this warning, Brand left for Aleppo and was, indeed, taken into custody by the British. They treated him with courtesy and, in general, allowed him freedom of his movements under their supervision. Meanwhile, Shertok managed to leave Jerusalem and to secure an interview with Brand. Shortly thereafter, the latter was taken to Cairo by the British.

In Washington, the War Refugee Board became suspicious of the continued British imprisonment of Brand. It prevailed upon President Roosevelt to send Ira Hirschmann, founder of the War Refugees Board, to Cairo as his plenipotentiary to arrange a meeting with Brand. The President gave Hirschmann a letter endowing him with presidential authority. He was asked to cable back to the president everything he heard and saw.

Hirschmann flew to Cairo and with great difficulty, in spite of the opposition of the British officials in the Middle East, he managed to meet Brand. The latter told him about the urgency of his mission and of the need to continue the negotiations, even though he was convinced that the Allies would not give the trucks to Eichmann. "While we. negotiate, there is a chance for hundreds of thousands to survive."

Hirschmann was impressed by the seriousness of Brand. He cabled to Washington, recommending that Brand be sent back to Hungary with instructions stating that "consideration is being given to the proposals in connection with money and immunity." There should be no mention of trucks.

As he sent his cable, Hirschmann did not know that the United States and Great Britain had already decided to terminate any dealing with Brand or with Eichmann. This decision had been prompted by a veto of the Soviet Union. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow had notified the Soviet government of American plans to explore the Brand proposal in the hope of stalling the Nazi extermination schedule. The Russians had been reassured that the United States would not be fooled by attempts to split the Allies.

On June 19, 1944, Ambassador Harriman relayed the Soviet reaction. It was an absolute "Night" The Soviet government did not consider it permissible or expedient to enter into any negotiations whatsoever with any representative of the German government in the matter referred to by the American Embassy.

This veto of the Russian authorities put an end to Brand's mission. Had he been allowed to continue his negotiations, stalling them to gain time, perhaps many Jewish lives would have been saved. He was kept for months in British custody, blaming himself all the time for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of his Jewish brethren. After the war, he was confronted with Eichmann during the tatter's trial in Jerusalem. He died of a heart attack in Germany as he gave an impassioned testimony at the trial of Auschwitz officials.

I wandered in the street of Budapest, accompanied sometimes by people I had known from earlier days. One of them, an old scholar who had been miraculously spared by the murderers, once took me aside and said painting toward a passerby, "You see that fellow? Last April he wore an Arrow- Cross uniform. He shot a couple in the street, man and wife, as they came out of a grocery store. I saw him myself from inside the housedoor where I was hiding. He had wanted to take them, but they fled; his bullets caught up with them:"

I was shocked, hearing the statement of my companion. I could not doubt his words, yet I asked, "How is it possible? Why don't you denounce him?"

My friend shrugged his shoulders. "This is a naive question. He is today a member of the Communist Party. He is not the only one who switched labels. After all, what is the difference for them? They do the same job as before, only they do it undercover for the time being."

"How come the Communists have accepted them? Don't they know about their past?"

"Of course they do. Their past actions denote their experience. The Communists need such people utterly void of scruples to establish their own network of spies. They want to be ready for the day they take over. . ."

His words sounded ominous. There was sadness and resignation in his voice.

However, not everything was sad and depressing for me during those few days. A pleasant surprise awaited me. I retrieved three of my wife's sisters, Rachel, Hanna and Sarah. They had been deported from Hungary to Auschwitz, and survived because they had been assigned to work in German factories. They had been sent to different places and were taken to Bergen Belsen into the forced labor camp. In a clandestine way they learned of the whereabouts of my wife and smuggled a note to her stating they were alive. The Americans liberated them and together, they made the trip back to Budapest.

There they were, emaciated, bearing the apparent signs of their long, terrible hardships. I was appalled by their wan appearance, their sickly pallor, their worn condition. Only their eyes sparkled as they met mine. They were happy to be free again and overjoyed to find one of their close relatives. They told me that their mother had been with them throughout almost their entire ordeal, but was separated from them at the last minute before their liberation. They had been advised of my stay in Budapest by a common acquaintance. They embraced me with greatwarmth, an effusion of wards mixed with sobs. I promised them that I would do everything I could in their behalf once I got to Switzerland. They accompanied me to the railroad station, waved "Good-bye" to me with their handkerchiefs.

I leaned out of the window to get a last glimpse of them, but soon they faded from my view.

The train rushed on. I was called to other preoccupotions.



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MG 2005-05-25