b. Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, 1928
My bar mitzvah was only a few weeks away. Waving a casual goodbye to my family, I went off to my lesson.
When I returned home, I found the house locked and no one there. A neighbor who was not Jewish pulled me into his house and told me that my parents, two brothers and my sister, along with quite a few other people who lived on our street, had been taken away. Where they were taken he did not know. That afternoon was the last time I ever saw any member of my family.
The neighbor said he knew of some people who lived close to the Hungarian border and were helping people who were being persecuted to leave Czechoslovakia for Hungary. He got in touch with them and was told to take the first train with me, that they would meet us.
We left that same evening, arriving about midnight. Two men were waiting for us. They said that we had no time to waste and must leave immediately, so that I could cross the border and reach the safe town in Hungary before daylight. One of the men started walking with me toward the border. After about one hour, he said this was as far as he could go. He gave me directions and instructions on how to avoid the border guards, and told me what to do when I reached the town in Hungary. I walked and at times crawled on my stomach, so as not to be seen by the guards, for the next four to five hours.
In the town, I located the person I was to see, and he knew all about me. He told me that he would help me and assured me that I would be okay. He asked if I had any relatives in Hungary. I told him I had grandparents in a small town there and an uncle in Budapest. He said that to go to the town where my grandparents lived would be much too dangerous—that if I was caught there not only I, but also my grandparents, would be arrested.
We went to Budapest and found my uncle. I stayed with him for a few weeks. One day he received a call telling him that someone had reported to the police “that he was hiding a foreigner in his home.” We had to make other arrangements immediately. We got in touch with a cousin who lived in the outskirts of the city, and he agreed that I should move in with him. I stayed with him too for only a short time, before someone reported him to the police.
I went back to the city to look for work. In some restaurants, I offered to