I worked with Susan F. Darvas to publish RESIST ENDURE ESCAPE, a warm and personal account of growing up Jewish In Nazi and then Communist Hungary. She is one of a growing number of survivors who are telling their stories.
I also helped Erika Schulhof Rybeck, author of On My Own: Decoding the Conspiracy of Silence, publish this memoir of growing up in Austria, fleeing via Kindertransport at age 10 to a boarding school in Scotland, and finally at age 20 coming to America to join an aunt and uncle who had escaped from Vienna. Erika did not know she was Jewish. She was not told that her parents came from an illustrious Jewish family tracing back to generations of rabbis. She was unaware that the Nazis had stripped her father from his position or that the family was in grave danger when they suddenly left Hohenau to go to her grandmother’s apartment in Vienna. When she then became Catholic, she was not told that it was to save her life.
Once in America, Erika, gradually confronted reality. She learned that her parents had been deported to Lodz in Poland, but there the trail ended. For half a century the Red Cross sent periodic letters saying they were still trying to learn her parents’ fate. Meanwhile, Erika became a teacher, got married and raised two sons. In 2002 her son went to Lodz and discovered at last that his grandparents had been murdered at Chelmno in May 1942. As Erika wrote, “Knowing the awful truth is a relief after spending most of my life trying to fathom how my wonderful parents could have vanished into thin air.”
Susan’s book, RESIST ENDURE ESCAPE, written for her children and grandchildren, tells a story of the love that helped her and her family survive the horrors and privations of Hungary during World War Ii and its aftermath under Soviet rule. In a daring move supported by family and friends, Susan and her husband escaped to Austria and eventually made it to England and the United States.
Hungary, a small country of less than 10 millon people, joined Nazi Germany in declaring War on the Allies in 1939 with devasting consequences to the whole population. Jews were hit the hardist as persecution began to increase dramatically. More than 100,000 Jewish men were mobilized for forced labor and 40,000 perished. Jewish families were forced out of their homes to live in ghettos under dismal conditions. In 1944, mass departations of Jews to concentration camps accelerated. In addition, thousands of Jews were murdered on the banks of the Danube or killed in death marches towards the Austrian border. By the end of WWII, 565,000 Hungarian Jewish men, women, and children were murdered.