b. Uzhorod, Czechoslovakia (became Ungvár, Hungary), 1920
The table was set with our special dishes, wine, herbs, and matzos. Elijah's cup,
filled with wine, rested at the end of the table where I was. Our family around the table consisted of my father, mother, sister, her two-year-old daughter, and my three brothers.
It was just about seven weeks since the Germans had occupied Hungary. You could see on everyone's face concern about the future. But reading the prayers in the Hagadah, we temporarily forgot the present.
Suddenly our neighbor's daughter burst into the house. Almost hysterical, she screamed, “Hide me, hide me! I just ran away from a German soldier. He tried to grab me!”
Without thinking about the consequences, we pushed her into the next room, where she hid herself. Everyone sat calmly and continued reading the Hagadah. My father led the prayer.
Following Passover tradition, we had not locked the doors, so that the Prophet Elijah could come in and join us at the Seder. This is how it was that a German soldier could just walk in, a gun over his shoulder.
Since I sat at the end of the table, he stood closest to me. I could feel his breathing behind my back. We continued to read as if we didn't notice him. He stood there for a while—I don't know whether it was two minutes or ten minutes. Then he turned around and left.
For the last fifty years, I've been wondering what made that soldier leave without inquiring about the girl, or threatening that we had to tell him where she was. I've come up with several possibilities:
—He thought that people who were hiding someone could not sit so calmly, conducting services.
—The German military command warned the soldiers not to commit any unnecessary violence, not to alarm the local population.
—He just might have been a human being.
I'll never know the truth.