You are on page 1of 34

THE STORY OF MY TIMES (My 20th Century

By MIKLOS N. SZILAGYI Copyright © 2007-2009 by Miklos N. Szilagyi I cannot tell this to anyone; therefore, I will tell it to everyone. - Frigyes Karinthy

Volume Two: In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
7. Horthy’s soldiers in action (1942-43)
"I lived on this Earth in an age when man fell so low, he killed willingly, for pleasure, without orders." - Miklós Radnóti

1942 was one of the most catastrophic years for the Holocaust and certainly a catastrophic year for me. The year started badly for the Allies as well. The Japanese take Manila on January 2, invade the Dutch East Indies on January 10, and take Borneo on January 19. Hong Kong, Guam, Malaya are also occupied. Singapore falls on February 15. 130,000 British troops surrender there. The Japanese bomb the Australian port of Darwin on February 10 and land on Java on February 28. The Dutch East Indies and Rangoon are occupied, New Guinea is attacked on March 8. 80,000 US troops surrender in the Philippines on April 9. The Batan Death March starts. Prisoners of war are tortured. General Douglas MacArthur escapes to Australia. He declares: “I shall return.” On May 2, the Japanese complete the conquest of Burma. Even India and Ceylon are attacked.


Japanese conquests in 1942 In North Africa, Rommel attacks on January 21 and takes Benghazi a week later. He attacks again on May 26. The strategic fortress of Tobruk falls on June 21. Rommel takes 33,000 British prisoners and then moves quickly towards Alexandria. On January 13, German U-boats sink 25 tankers near the East Coast of the United States. Still no blackout until May when the Federal Government finally orders it. The disaster of the British PQ 17 convoy: 23 out of 34 ships destroyed on July 4. Arctic convoys to Russia stop until the end of the year. (Even so, 3,276 tanks and 2,665 aircraft were delivered to Russia during 1941-42.) A crisis develops in the Atlantic Ocean. 1,675 Allied merchant ships (7,795,000 tons) are sunk by U-boats this year (one ship every 5 hours). Only 87 U-boats are sunk during the same period. 212 still operated. They were equipped with acoustic torpedoes and radar detectors. The first U-boat was sunk only after the loss of 1 million tons of merchant ships. Admiral Dönitz tries to keep all his Uboats in the Atlantic Ocean and sink as many Allied ships as he can but Hitler overrules him and orders most of the U-boats to defend the Norwegian waters.


Douglas MacArthur

Karl Dönitz

The first jet aircraft is produced in Germany. On the Eastern Front the Germans steadily advance. Soviet troops attack in January but the Germans recover by March. Six German divisions are surrounded at Demyansk, South of Leningrad, but they manage to escape. Reichstag grants Hitler full authority in executive, judicial, and legislative matters on April 26. The war becomes a personal struggle between him and Stalin. Meaningless Soviet offensive starts at Kharkov on May 12. It leads to disaster. Three armies and 700,000 troops are lost. The Germans start to move South to occupy the oil fields in the Caucasus. 4,000 people die every day in besieged Leningrad. Massive German offensive starts in the Don River basin with 74 divisions including 20 Italian, Hungarian, and Romanian divisions on June 28. The 2nd Hungarian Army is assigned to the German Southern Amy Group. The Nazis move toward the Caucasus and Stalingrad. They take half a million Soviet POWs. Hitler moves his headquarters to Vinnitza (Ukraine). The Red Army is on the brink of collapse.

Hitler in 1942

Fighter of the Red Army! Save us!


July 4: Sebastopol falls after a 250-day-long siege. 200,000 Soviet soldiers are lost there. The Nazis reach the River Don at Voronezh the next day and take Rostov on July 23. On July 28, Stalin’s Order #227 ("Not a step back!") establishes penal squadrons for soldiers accused of disciplinary problems and blocking units to stop unauthorized retreats. He also allows the Russian Orthodox Church to revive. It played an important role in mobilizing the people against the Nazis. On August 9, the Germans take Krasnodar in North Caucasus. The Battle of Stalingrad begins on August 23 with the destruction of the city by a 3-day, 2,000-plane bombing. The city is not evacuated, 50,000 civilians are killed in five days. The Nazis cross the Don almost everywhere. Novorossiysk falls on September 10. Five days later, the Germans reach Stalingrad. House-to-house battle develops. The Hungarian troops occupy the left flank of the attackers. * * * On January 20, Reinhard Heydrich organizes the Wannsee Conference to coordinate the “Final Solution” to murder 11 million Jews. The US State Department dismisses the news about it as a “fantastic allegation.” Ten days later, Hitler announces publicly that “the end result of the war will be the complete annihilation of the Jews.” Mass killing of Jews starts in the Auschwitz gas chambers on February 15. On February 23, Life Magazine publishes pictures of the Holocaust. Next day, the Panamanian ship Struma crammed with 769 Jewish refugees is sunk by a Soviet torpedo. The British authorities refuse to accept even these refugees to Palestine. On March 5, the British War Cabinet reaffirms its decision not to allow Jewish refugees to be admitted to Palestine.

Massacre of Jewish women in the Ukraine On June 2, BBC reports the slaughter of 700,000 Polish Jews (the actual number was already 2 million at that time). June 30: Headline in the London Daily Telegraph: “More than 1,000,000 Jews killed in Europe.” On July 2, The New York Times carries the same report. Roosevelt is well informed about the “Final Solution” but chooses to do nothing about it. On July 16, 30,000 Parisian Jews are sent to concentration camps; only 30 of them survives. 100,000 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto are deported to the Treblinka death camp.


* * * January 21-23 are the “cold days” in Novi Sad. 3,309 Serbs and Jews are murdered there by the Hungarian Army and Gendarmerie. The gendarmes shot their victims and threw their bodies into holes blown in the ice of the frozen Danube. They also shot and hanged people in public squares.

Horthy’s heroes in action in Novi Sad Parliament elects Horthy’s son, István, Deputy Regent on February 19, opening the way to a Horthy dinasty. István is killed on August 20 when his plane crashes in Russia. (There were rumors that he was assassinated by the Germans.)

Dog tag of a Hungarian soldier


Vitéz nagybányai Horthy István Horthy sends the 2nd Hungarian Army (10 divisions, 250,000 men) to the Russian front on April 11. Bárdossy is replaced as Prime Minister by Miklós Kállay on March 9. On June 5, the United States of America declares war on Hungary. Kállay tries to carry out a “seesaw“ policy of opportunism by following Hitler’s orders, making the life of Hungarian Jews as miserable as possible, and seeking secret ties to the Western Allies at the same time. New laws and rules are introduced against Jews and they are zealously carried out by the local authorities. These laws did not only eliminate governmental, cultural, educational, and judiciary employment or business ownership for people of Jewish origin, but also stripped us of our citizenship, and declared us foreigners in our own motherland. The most diabolical feature of these laws was the clause that all Hungarian citizens had to document that their four grandparents were all Christians. Those who couldn’t prove their innocence were automatically considered guilty and were declared Jews by default. All Jews were issued identification cards with huge letters ZS on the front-page that stood for “zsidó” (yid in Hungarian).

The Kállay Cabinet

Kállay speaks


Labor Service is becoming a tool for the destruction of Jewish men. The labor servicemen were not prepared for the Russian winter and they were open targets for abuse by their sadistic officers and guards who subjected their vicitims to unimaginable cruelties. (Lt. Colonel Lipót Muray was one of these monsters.) Prominent professionals were called to special “punitive companies“ from which very few people ever returned. These companies were used mostly for cleaning up mine fields. On some occasions labor servicemen were machine gunned to death or burned alive in barns.

Close combat (this is how we were supposed to play)

Odol toothpaste

How do you know? I’ve read it in the 8 Órai Ujság (8 o’clock News)


Serédy Jusztinián, The Primate of Hungary

History of the Catholic Church for middle schools

Rákóczi Street in 1942


Experimental bus on rails

Aspirin to every house

* * * The year started for me with funerals. A couple of days after my father took me to the funeral of his boss, Director Szabó (I remember the decorated black horses), we received news that my paternal grandfather was gravely ill. He has never been ill before but now he caught cold, developed pneumonia, and very soon he was in agony. The also gravely ill Miklós said: “Only prayers can help here!“ The prayers did not help and my grandfather died at the age of 70 on January 26. I remember his funeral very well. Both my father and Miklós cut their jackets and threw sand over their heads while reciting the kaddish. After we came back from the cemetery, a 7-day deep mourning started. We were sitting süve on low stools in our socks for the soul of the deceased. Soon thereafter Miklós also died from his Hodgkin’s disease. As Béla put it: “He was burned by his terrible fever.“ He was only 39. Everybody cried when the rabbi said: “We bury him beside his father.“ Indeed, their graves are very close to each other but it is impossible to approach them today because they are completely overgrown by wild vegetation.

Szilágyi Albert (1872-1942) 9

Szilágyi Miklós (1903-1942)

Next was my great-grandfather, Ignátz Deutsch (introduced in Chapter 5 of Volume 1). We went to Őcsény for his funeral during the summer. It was not too easy to get there: we had to change trains in Sárbogárd. We stayed in Decs with Uncle Móric and his family. I loved this man! He knew how to entertain a six-yeear old boy. While we were sitting around the table, he frequently imitated a cat’s miaowing without opening his mouth, then reprimanded me: “Miki, why do you pull on the cat’s tail again?“ They had fly-papers over the table that were always full of flies. I helped in their soda-water “factory,“ too. It was also interesting to watch the cows coming back from the pasture in the evening and finding their homes themselves. I was given a metal hoop to play with. I exchanged that to a peasant boy‘s paper airplane.

Zoli, Aunt Szidi, Uncle Móric, and Ilonka

Authentic Hungarian gingerbread

Uncle Móric’s fate was very unfortunate. Not too long after our visit he developed meningitis. They could not do anything about it in the local hospital in Szekszárd, so he was taken to a hospital in Budapest. Even there he was declared hopeless and the doctors suggested that he is taken back to Decs to die there among his family. However, there was a young doctor who refused to let this exceptionally strong man die. He tried everything and succeeded: Uncle Móric was sent home a healthy man! Several months later he was called to “Labor Service“ where a sadistic guard beat him to death. We spent some time with Aunt Etel’s family, too. Uncle Berci, the horse trader introduced me to horses. I was horrified to watch Aunt Etel to cut a carp to pieces while the unfortunate fish was still alive. She explained to me: “If the fish suffers, its meat will be more tasteful.“ They had a beautiful granddaughter, a little two-year old angel with long golden hair who was always dancing and singing. Her favorite song was: ”Volt nekem egy pizsa-pizsamám…” (She had two more years to live.) We went to the local parish feast combined with an open market. The two main products sold there were gingerbreads and wooden spoons covered with painted slogans: ”Beat the Jew!” After the funeral, jack-o‘lanters were lit in the village to commemorate the old Deutsch. His dog disappeared; he went to his master’s grave and died there. My father continued to work for Ferenc Herczeg, the most famous official writer of Horthy’s regime, and the Regent’s personal friend. My father worked in the Great Writer’s print shop and set all his novels and magazines by hand. Herczeg liked my


father, he kept him as the Chief Master Typesetter for his magazine Új Idők, and he autographed all his novels “to Mr. Szilágyi, the master of letters.” My father also typeset the books of other fashionable writers such as Zsolt Harsányi, Irén Gulácsy, Kálmán Csathó, Károly Lyka, and others. He new all these writers personally. He produced the Hungarian editions of popular books like Gone with the Wind but also had to work on books of openly Nazi writers like István Eszterhás (Musztafa, Karafa és az akasztófa – Mustafa, Karafa, and the gallows, Háborúban nőttünk fel – We grew up in a war)) and Miklós Surányi (Egyedül vagyunk – We are alone). He was on especially friendly terms with illustrator Károly Mühlbeck.

Herczeg Ferenc

Gulácsy Irén

Harsányi Zsolt

Uncle Mühlbeck’s Illustrated Story Book Laci’s identification card. dedicated to “dear little Miklóska, His religion is Israelite, according to the my young friend, with love.“ laws he is a Jew, his profession is a retired bank clerk, and his qualification is a furrier. 11

My father was still a member of the Social Democratic Party and of course the Printers‘ Trade Union. He introduced me to the Gyermekbarát Mozgalom (Children’s Friends Movement) that gave me an opportunity to meet other children at the excursions organized by the Movement. It turned out to be an organization run by the illegal Communist Party but we did not know about it. It is totally forgotten now. My father’s membership card (lost in the Box) would be a unique document today. Rationing made it difficult to obtain food. In the theaters mostly German movies made by the UFA (Universum Film AG) Studio were shown. American movies were banned. However, there was a huge celebration on the Day of Heroes (last Sunday of May). Laci was called to “Labor Service” again in June with a SAS (Sürgős, Azonnal, Sürgős! = Urgent, At once, Urgent!) summons. His Company # 101/29 was taken to the Ukraine. They had to make 40-50 kilometers a day in forced marches. After such days they were usually taken to peasant houses where they had to spend the night in barns. Most of Laci’s comrades just collapsed on the wet straw and slept there. Laci, however, was smarter: he gathered some fresh straw first and went to sleep on it. As a result, he could move further in the morning while some of the other men caught cold on the wet straw, could not march, and were shot by the staff members of the forced labor unit. Laci was also smart enough to obtain some pills of the new medication Ultraseptyl (a very toxic sulfonamide) that helped him through a couple of bad colds.

Hungarian partisan hunting in practice After they reached their destination, Laci spent most of his time serving a unit of the Hungarian Army that occupied two Ukrainian towns, Uspenka and Ushitza. He witnessed the extreme cruelty of the Hungarian troops towards the local population. Their main task was hunting partisans. As they were not very successful at that, they tried to demonstrate their effectiveness by torturing and murdering the population, including children and even infants. They also had time to celebrate Hitler’s birthday by a military parade on April 20. * * * In the meantime, there were other developments as well. On January 1, the Declaration of United Nations is signed by 26 countries in Washington, DC.


US troops enter Northern Ireland; Combined US-British Chiefs of Staff Committee is established. On February 19, Roosevelt orders 120,000 Japanese Americans to be moved to Relocation Centers. 12,000 of them volunteer to fight in the war in a segregated unit. German and Italian Americans are not touched (evidently there are too many of them). War bonds, stamps, taxes are introduced in the United States. Rubber and metal scrap are collected. Gasoline is needed for tanks and planes, not cars, but rationing of gasoline is not taken easily. Unemployment is over: the war effort requires every available worker. One quarter of all transactions takes place in the black market. 3 million Americans are drafted (1 million of them illiterate). Black military units are segregated. Only 5% of black soldiers ever see combat.

On March 23, Hitler orders building the Atlantic Wall to defend occupied Europe from a Second Front. Rommel was assigned to supervise it later. General Marshall and Harry Hopkins discuss the possibility of the Second Front in London on April 14. 16 US planes bomb Tokyo on April 18. Bombing of Germany by the RAF intensifies. Lübeck and Rostock are bombed heavily. Night carpet-bombing starts. The Japanese are strategically defeated in the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 4 8. Although they manage to sink the US carrier Lexington and severely damage Yorktown, they also lose two carriers and their expansion is stopped. The US carriers have radar, the Japanese do not. Coriggodor taken. Molotov arrives in London on May 20. Britain and the Soviet Union sign their Treaty of Alliance on May 26. Molotov goes to Washington, then back to London. May 27: Czech patriots assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia. The Nazis retaliate by murdering almost the entire population of the village of Lidice on June 9-10. May 30: 1,000-bomber raid on Cologne. A new radio positioning system helps the bombers to attack factories in the Ruhr region at night. Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris leads the Bomber Command of the RAF. June 3: The Japanese attack the Aleutian Islands to divert attention from Midway.


June 4-7: Great victory in the Battle of Midway. The Japanese attack to obtain a powerful base against Hawaii and also to destroy US carriers in the process. Instead, all four Japanese carriers (Kaga, Akagi, Soryu, and Hiryu) are sunk by US dive-bombers. The price is the sinking of carrier Yorktown and the slaughter of US pilots. This was the turning point in the Pacific War and the first major victory for the Allies in the entire war. The Allies issue a public communiqué on June 11 in which they promise the Second Front during 1942 (!) June 17-25: Churchill in Washington. The Manhattan Project to develop the nuclear bomb starts in August. August 7: The Guadalcanal Campaign starts with landings on the southern Solomon Islands. It lasts six months. The Japanese Navy sinks four heavy cruisers but their land attacks fail. Malaria causes lots of causalities. August 3-10: Churchill in Cairo. Auchinleck is replaced by Alexander. The actual battle is assigned to Bernard Montgomery after the new commander, General Gott is killed one day after his appointment. The 8 th Army has 195,000 men in ten divisions and 1,000 tanks. August 12-16: Churchill meets Stalin in Moscow. August 17-23: Churchill in Cairo again. August 19: British attack at Dieppe (Northern France) fails. August 30: Rommel attacks with 515 tanks and 105,000 men but stopped in five days. He has to go back to Germany because of illness. 300 Sherman tanks arrive from the United States. On September 4, the first air raid against Budapest takes place. Nightly blackout is introduced immediately. The famous Hungarian writer Zsigmond Móricz dies the next day.

Móricz Zsigmond *

This is an ancestral Christian shop!

* * This was the situation in the world when I entered the first grade of the elementary school in Szív Street, a couple of blocks from Lövölde tér. I was a big sixyear old boy who already new the material of the first four grades of the elementary school. Our teacher was a nice old lady who understood my situation quite well but she had to maintain discipline. We had to sit quiet in the classroom, with hands behind our


backs. Although fountain pens were already available at that time (the most fashionable version was tintenkuli with a pen moving back and forth during writing), we were not allowed to use them. We had to write with ink and pen that required a lot of discipline. It was also mandatory to learn zsinórírás (string writing, i.e., writing every word continuously, without raising the pen from the paper). The first sentence we wrote down was “Úr ír“ (Master writes). It was also required to decorate the beginning and the end of each page of our exercise books with repeated little color illustrations. No wonder that I was bored in this school and tried to entertain myself with the introduction of some higher-grade material that I already knew. For example, I used parentheses in elementery arithmetic exercises. The teacher asked me how I knew them. I replied that my granfather showed them to me. She got angry: “Then you should be taught by your grandfather!“ she said. I did not have to wait too long for my first adverse school report. It said: “Miklós Szilágyi is inattentive and undisciplined.“ I complained about all this to my grandfather and asked him to entertain me by teaching me a little English. He did not know any English himself but he had an old Berlitz textbook and I started to read the first lessons from it. I still remember the sentence “What color is the pencil?“ My classmates were mostly nice boys. Gábor Glausius and myself were the best students. (I just learned that Gábor was killed in a plane crash in 1975.) “Colleague Vass“ was a dirty little boy who was already attending the first grade the third time because he had not been doing too much during his first two attempts. Péter Bőhm was a plump boy who performed a little monolog during a class celebration: “Nem szeretem, mégis eszem, mert van már nékem egy kis eszem!“ (I do not like it but still eat it because I am already smart enough to know that much!), he chanted. I also remember Adler (a Jewish boy) and Förstner (a blond Arian).

In the first grade. I am second from the left in the middle row. Glausius is next to the teacher in a fur coat. Adler is first from the left in the last row, Förstner is third, Bőhm is last. “Colleague Vass“ is third from the right in the middle row.


We started every school day with the Hiszekegy: Hiszek egy Istenben, hiszek egy Hazában, Hiszek egy isteni örök igazságban, Hiszek Magyarország feltámadásában! Csonka Magyarország nem ország, Egész Magyarország mennyország! (I believe in one God, I believe in one Fatherland, I believe in an eternal divine justice, I believe in the resurrection of Hungary! The crippled Hungary is not a country, The whole Hungary is Heavens!) We tried to make fun with the official greetings of the boy scouts and the Levente by saying “Légy résen! Ugorj át a kerítésen!“ (Be vigilant! Jump over the fence!) and “Szebb jövőt! Holnap iskolába nem jövök!“ (Better future! I won‘t come to school tomorrow), respectively. We were singing patriotic songs like these:
Kossuth Lajos azt üzente, elfogyott a regimentje. Ha még egyszer azt üzeni, mindnyájunknak el kell menni. Éljen a magyar szabadság, Éljen a haza! Esik eső karikára, Kossuth Lajos kalapjára. Valahány csepp esik rája, annyi áldás szálljon rája! Éljen a magyar szabadság, Éljen a haza! Föl föl vitézek a csatára, a Szent Szabadság oltalmára! Édes Hazánkért hősi vérünk ontjuk hullajtjuk bátran míg élünk. Híres Komárom be van véve, Klapka György a fővezére. Büszkén kiáll a csatatérre: Hajrá huszárok! Utánam előre! Föl föl! Látjátok lobogómat, indulj utánam robogó had! Zeng, dörög az ágyú, csattog a kard, ez lelkesíti csatára a magyart.

And also ordinary songs:
Megy a gőzös, megy a gőzös Kanizsára, Kanizsai, kanizsai állomásra. Elől ül a masiniszta, Ki a gőzöst, ki a gőzöst igazítja. Debrecenbe kéne menni, Pulykakakast kéne venni. Vigyázz kocsis, lyukas a kas! Kiugrik a pulykakakas! Lenn a délibábos Hortobágyon, Megakadt a szemem egy kislányon. Hullámzott a göndör haja a sötétbe', Mikor belenéztem a szemébe. El is mentem hozzá, meg is kértem: Legyen az én drága feleségem.


Boldogságom tudom nála megtalálom, Lenn a délibábos Hortobágyon. Csak még egyszer tudnék hazamenni, Csak még egyszer lehetnék Tenálad, Párnám lenne fehér bársony vállad, Csókolhatnám selymes, puha szádat. Ne kacsingass a szemembe, Kati,inkább üljél az ölembe, Kati. Nékem el kell menni, Kati, Téged itt kell hagyni,Kati, Sej, három évre be kell rukkolni, Kati!

And songs from movies:
Az egyik ember gazdag, az övé minden kincs. Van palotája, arany szobája, csak boldogsága nincs. A másik ember boldog, az övé minden dal. Vidám és lelkes, olyan szerelmes és közben éhenhal. Én nevetek ma mindenen, hiszen a könny nem érdekes. Én nevetek, mert sírni már, tudom, régen nem érdemes. Nem panaszkodom többé senkinek, tán nincs is okom és nincs is kinek. Én nevetek, hisz úgysem értenéd a fájó szívemet.


From the movie “Szerelmi láz”

Írásban, szóban, telefonon üldöznek a nők És egytől egyig azzal gyilkol, vegyem nőül őt. Nincs más ellenszerem, hát közhírré teszem mély tisztelettel a következőt: A telefon kínszenvedés már nem sokáig tart, Mert beéneklem gramofonba holnap ezt a dalt, S szó nélkül felteszem a kedvenc lemezem, Ha újabb kérőm jelentkezik majd! Nem nősülök soha,nem nősülök soha, nem nősülök egyáltalán! És nem győz meg a papa, nem főz meg a mama, Se szüret előtt, se szüret után. Akkor se nősülök soha, ha vénuszi csoda a Dárius papájú lány. De hogyha Te akarsz, a kisujjadra csavarsz és nem kell semmi hozomány.

- From the movie “Egy szoknya, egy nadrág”
A ruha a fő és benne a nő a legszebb reménység. A ruha a jó, meghódítható egy ezred legénység. Szépnek lenni érdemes, a szép nő mindig érdekes, A ruha a fő és benne a nő a szívre veszélyes. A Pompadour szalonban minden nő költői lény, De nekem az se fontos, ha egy selyem költemény. A csúnya nő is férjhez megy, ha tőlünk vesz ruhát, S a féltékenység éjjel-nappal gyötri az urát. Egy új ruha, egy új cipő, egy édes kis kalap, És nincsen olyan férfi, aki agglegény marad. A pesti nőnek méltó párja nincs, a bája és ruhája drága kincs. A pesti nő ruhája izgató, a Pompadour szalon megbízható. Minden kreációja drága földi kincs, A pesti nőnek párja nincs.

- From the movie “Sziámi macska“


Én a téglagyárban lakom, téglaporos a kalapom. Onnan tudják, hogy ott lakom, téglaporos a kalapom. Én Istenem, tégy egy csodát, változtasd borrá a Tiszát! Ha a Tisza borból volna, kiinnám egy hajtókára.

- From the movie “Orient Express“ (This song will acquire terrible connotations next year.) And Katalin Karády‘s songs:
Hiába menekülsz, hiába futsz, A sorsod elől futni úgysem tudsz. Mert sorsunk nekünk, vagy végzetünk, Hogy egymásért szenvedünk. Közeleg az éjfél, a szerelmes éjfél lágyan, Vigye el egy tangó Tefeléd a forró vágyam. Ez a buja ritmus hozzon ide Téged hozzám, Tudom úgyis, rég vársz már énrám. Száz vágy muzsikál most az éjben, Szívem sír e zenében, ez a dal csupa ölelés, Csupa csók, csupa remegés. Száz vágy szava hív, Te is érzed, Ez a perc, ez a végzet, Ez az éj hogyha tova száll, Ilyen éj nem lesz soha már.

I also learned some sayings like “Okos enged, szamár szenved“ (If you are smart, you yield and let the stupid donkey suffer) and “Egyszer esik esztendőbe‘ Vízkereszt, zsidó asszony szobájába‘ nincs kereszt“ (Epiphany happens once a year, but there is no cross in the Jewish woman’s room). Then came the catastrophe: my father was called to report to Punitive Company IX.109/39 that meant no return. The men who were in charge of the Jewish “work servicemen” were told that they would get a leave from the Army as soon as they manage to “de-Jew” their units, i.e., murder all the people under their command. When this became clear to her, my mother requested to see Ferenc Herczeg. He agreed to see my mother, who begged him to save her husband. The Great Writer looked at her in disbelief: “Madam, but your husband is a Jew!” All he would have to do was to pick up the phone and request the transfer of ”Mr. Szilágyi, the master of letters” to an ordinary unit, but he did not bother. My mother packed warm things (sweaters, pulse-warmer, etc.) into father’s rucksack. Father hugged me, put his windbreaker on, and - accompanied by my mother and Béla - went to the village of Szada where he had to report. He knew that this was the end of his young life. I will never forget that night. When my mother came back, I lay in bed close to her and couldn’t sleep. I watched her breathing: “Oh, God, I’m only six years old, at least keep my mother with me!” Soon we received two postcards from father: one from Vác and another from Érsekújvár (now Nové Zámky). That was all.


A couple of months later soldiers started to appear at our apartment. They all claimed that they had seen my father and volunteered to take bóns to him, i.e. they were asking for money. These were evidently the guards who have earned their vacation. My mother had got acquainted with several other wives of condemned “labor servicemen.“ These women started to visit us and tried to get in touch with their husbands by means of spiritual seances. They were sitting around a big table, their hands stretched out before them and asking the men to respond. One of these women was a Christian lady whose Jewish husband was among my father’s comrades. Her name was Mária Szabó. I called her Aunt Manci. She played a big role in my later life. My mother also entertained herself by making flower-like breast pins from wires. She was quite good at it. A year later, the wives of all “labor servicemen” from my father’s unit received official notification: “Your husband has disappeared during military action.” Not a single man came back from the entire battalion! We received an identical message about Gyuri.

”We regret to inform you that Labor Serviceman Ábrahám György disappeared in the war against the Soviets.“ We received a similar message about my father but it is lost in the Box. My great uncles Sándor, Móric, and Ödön were also called to “Labor Service.“ So was Béla. He was first assigned to a unit whose task was logging in the hills around Budapest. They jokingly called themselves faquirs because logging is fakitermelés in Hungarian. The jokes stopped when they were transferred to the Ukraine.


“Christmas of 1942 belongs to our fighting soldiers and their folks.“ My grandfather turned 60 on December 18. The disappearance of my father and all of my uncles has totally changed my life. Our family was reduced to grandpa, mother, and me. A deep sadness has set into me that was greatly enhanced by the horrors of 1944. * * * It is a grotesque twist of history that the war fortunes started to turn around just about the same time as these tragedies happened to us. Rommel returns but the Germans are defeated by General Montgomery (Monty) at El Alamein between October 23 and November 4. Four German, eight Italian divisions, 350 tanks, and 1,000 guns (75 % of Rommel’s army and 90% of his equipment) are destroyed. 25,000 men are killed, 30,000 POWs are taken, including Rommel’s deputy and 9 other generals. The British lose 13,000 men and 250 tanks. The danger of a German–Japanese pincer in the Middle East is eliminated.

Battle at El Alamein Bernard Law Montgomery


This is followed by Operation Torch on November 8: 650 US and British ships bring troops to land in French North Africa. Casablanca, Rabat, Oran, and Algiers are taken. Tobruk is taken back on November 13, Benghazi falls a week later. German counterattacks fail. The Italian armies are destroyed. Montgomery is now 1,500 miles West of El Alamein. As the French troops do not oppose the Allies, Germany occupies Vichy France and the French naval base at Toulon. The French sink 73 of their warships there rather than letting the Germans take them over. Vichy breaks diplomatic relations with the USA. Laval is summoned to Berchtesgaden. German and Italian troops fortify Tunisia. Legislation is proposed in the US Congress to allow some French Jews to immigrate to the United States. The bill is killed in a committee. British troops occupy Madagascar on September 23. On the Russian front the Germans attack again on October 3. 90% of Stalingrad is in German hands by October 14. On October 26, Zhukov is made Deputy Commanderin-Chief and sent to take charge of the defense of Stalingrad. Nalchik (in North Caucasus) falls on November 2. Hitler publicly boosts of winning at Stalingrad on November 8 but then 750,000 fresh Soviet troops arrive. General Paulus requests permission to withdraw. Hitler refuses. On November 19, Zhukov and Vasilevsky organize a huge Soviet counterattack with ten armies (1 million soldiers). 300,000 German troops are encircled when two Soviet Fronts meet through the bend of the River Don. Two Romanian armies are destroyed almost immediately. The Germans start withdrawing from the Caucasus on December 28.

Soviet soldiers fighting

Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Vasilevsky

The Japanese lose 23 ships in a major attack on November 12. On December 2, Enrico Fermi initiates the first artificial self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in Chicago. Wernher von Braun perfects his first flying bomb at the same time.


French Admiral François Darlan is assassinated on December 24. General Henri Giraud takes his place as leader of French forces in North Africa. Roosevelt cannot stand De Gaulle. What else happened in 1942? On December 17, British Foreign Secretary Eden tells the British House of Commons of mass executions of Jews by the Nazis. The Allied Governments officially condemn the Nazis’ “bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination.” Pope Pius XII refuses to support this document. He announces that he can only help the oppressed by prayers. Indescribable medical experiments are routinely performed in the death camps on living prisoners. 6 million Russians are lost during this year but the Red Army is turning around the war at Stalingrad. Stalin is “Man of the Year” in Time Magazine.

Who do you like more, the Man of the Year or the Love Goddess? The movie Casablanca with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart in the title roles is released on November 26. Frank Sinatra becomes an idol of young women. Rita Hayworth is the “Love Goddess” admired by millions of American servicemen. The German song Lili Marlene becomes an international top hit. * * * 1943 starts with the complete destruction of the Second Hungarian Army near Svoboda at the bend of the Don River on January 13. Of an initial force of about 250,000 Hungarian soldiers about 100,000 are dead, 35,000 wounded, and 60,000 taken prisoner. Russian forces, overwhelming in numbers and equipment, begin the VoronezhKharkov Strategic Offensive Operation on the Bryansk, Voronezh, and Southwestern Fronts simultaneously. Final Soviet assault starts at Stalingrad at the same time.


Excerpts from the General Order #294/2 issued on January 24 by Colonel General vitéz Gusztáv Jány, Commander of the 2nd Hungarian Army: “1. The 2nd Hungarian Army lost its honor…The headless cowardly helter-skelter flight is a disgrace. We are deeply despised for it by both the allied German Army and at home. They have every reason for it. 2. Everyone must take notice that I am not going to release any soldier because of illness, wounds, or frostbite. Everyone must remain at his designated place of reorganization until his recovery or death. 3. Order and iron discipline must be restored with hardest means, if necessary, by putting to the sword on the spot. There will be no exceptions. Any soldier or officer who does not obey my orders does not deserve to linger on his miserable life any longer. I will not allow anyone to further increase our shame.” January 14-24: The Casablanca Conference takes place. Unconditional surrender of the enemy is set by Roosevelt as the goal of the war. Defeat of U-boats is set as top priority. General Dwight Eisenhower is appointed Commander in Chief of all Allied forces in North Africa. (A year before he was still a Colonel, never had held an active command, and was very far from being considered as a potential commander of major operations. General MacArthur considered him an outstanding clerk and nothing more.) After much pressure from Churchill, De Gaulle finally arrives to Casablanca and meets General Giraud there.

Giraud, Roosevelt, De Gaulle, and Churchill in Casablanca January 18: Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto. January 23: Tripoli is taken. This is “the end of the beginning” (Churchill).


January 27: First American daylight air raid on Germany. Roosevelt freezes prices and wages. Income tax withholding is introduced in the US. January 30: Admiral Karl Dönitz becomes Supreme Commander of the German Navy. 17 new German U-boats are produced per month. 400 U-boats are now in service. During three weeks in March, 97 ships are sunk by U-boats. However, in May alone 41 of them are sunk because of major improvements in radar technology. The U-boats can now be located at large distances. Another factor: the Canadian Navy is increased 50 times of its original size. January 30: Churchill visits President Inönü in Turkey. A gap is opened in the Leningrad blockade on January 18. Final attack starts on the German 6th Army on January 22. Hitler forbids Paulus to surrender. The Red Army takes Voronezh three days later. Hitler promotes Paulus to the rank of Field Marshal on January 31. On February 2, Paulus capitulates (he is the first German Field Marshal to do so). Two German armies surrender at Stalingrad. 24 generals, 2,000 officers, and 91,000 troops are taken prisoner. The Germans lose 22 divisions and about 150,000 men in the Battle of Stalingrad. The participating Hungarian, Italian, and Romanian armies are destroyed. The war material lost would be enough to arm one quarter of the entire German Army. Northern Caucasus is liberated. All this costs the life of half a million Soviet soldiers. Radio Berlin announces defeat. 4-day national mourning in Germany. Silence in Hungary.

Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus

A Labor Serviceman

Kursk is liberated on February 8, Rostov on February 14, Kharkov on February 16. A month later, however, a big German victory happens there. Goebbels proclaims “total war” on February 18. Churchill goes to Tripoli on February 3 and then meets Eisenhower in Algiers. British and American troops enter Tunisia. Rommel attacks in Tunisia and wins at Kasserine Pass on February 14. The Americans do not know how to fight yet. However, the incompetent American general is replaced by George Patton and Rommel runs out of supplies. He is removed from his Africa command on March 9.


The British take Tunis, the Americans Bizerta on May 13. The Germans are out of Africa. 250,000 prisoners taken, including von Arnim, Rommel’s successor and eight other generals. 137 Nazi ships are sunk, making evacuation impossible. The Axis lose 950,000 soldiers, 8,000 aircraft, 2,550 tanks, and 6,200 guns during their Africa campaign. The Allies lose 76,000 men. May 17-26: A British convoy sails from Gibraltar to Alexandria without any loss in the first time. A small commando attacks the heavy water factory in Norway on February 16. A year’s production of heavy water is destroyed. The Japanese abandon Guadalcanal on February 9. New Guinea is also taken back. Malaria is as dangerous as the Japanese. The Battle of the Bismarck Sea takes place on March 2. The Americans sink 21 Japanese transport ships. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plane is shot down on April 18. A week later, Admiral Louis Mountbatten is appointed Commander in Chief of the newly established South-East Asia Command. British attacks fail in Burma because of malaria and lack of air support. The Japanese abuse the POWs. The Aleutian Islands are liberated from Japanese occupation on August 17.

Isoroku Yamamoto

Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas George Mountbatten

March 13: General Henning von Tresckow tries to assassinate Hitler but the attempt fails. April 6: 1,000-bomber attack on the Krupp factories in Essen. April 12: The Soviets start bombing East Prussia. April 13: Germans discover 4,143 bodies of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest. April 14: After Stalin refuses Hitler’s offer to exchange his son for Field Marshal Paulus, Lieutenant Yakov Dzhugashvili commits suicide in a Nazi concentration camp.


May 11-26: Churchill in Washington. He addresses Congress on May 19. The Second Front is postponed to 1944. By breaking codes and intensifying air support, U-boats are defeated in both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. In May, more U-boats are sunk than merchant ships. 1,000 of their sailors are killed in action this month. Dönitz recalls them from the North Atlantic on May 24. New construction of Allied ships now exceeds losses (539,000 tons lost in March but only 28,000 tons in June). The Battle of Kursk, the greatest tank battle of all times takes place between July 4 and 13. Seventy German divisions try to destroy a bulge of armies. The Red Army, commanded by Generals Rokossovsky and Konyev attacks one day earlier according to the plans of Zhukov and Vasilevsky. A huge tank battle (6,000 tanks) erupts near the village of Prokhorovka. 2.5 million soldiers and 5,000 aircraft clash. It ends with total Soviet victory but 200,000 Soviet soldiers die. There are half a million Allied troops in the Mediterranean region. Invasion of Sicily starts in bad weather by 160,000 Allied troops, 2,000 tanks, 250 warships, and 2,000 other vessels on July 9. It takes 38 days and 31,000 Allied causalities to finish the job. The Axis loses 150,000 Italian POWs. The Germans mostly escape. Patton leads the 7th US Army, Montgomery commands the 8th British Army.

Harold Rupert Leofric George Alexander

George Smith Patton

The Red Army starts its victorious assault on the Nazis on July 15. Ten million soldiers in 500 Soviet and Axis divisions fight for life or death. Thousands of tanks and aircraft are produced every month in Soviet factories. Orel and Belgorod are taken back on August 5. Soviet troops finally take Kharkov on August 23. Novorossiysk is liberated on September 16, Bryansk on September 17, Smolensk on September 25, Dnepropetrovsk on October 25. Soviet troops liberate Kiev on November 6. This battle takes the lives of half a million soldiers. Out of the original 1 million inhabitants only


180,000 are found in Kiev. Gomel is liberated on November 30. Soviet offensive starts on the Ukrainian front on Christmas Eve. British Field Marshal Smuts declares: “Russia is winning the war [alone].” The number of Soviet partisans rises to 1.2 million. Entire regions are under their control. 75% of the Nazi force is deployed in the Eastern Front. 3 million Soviet and 1 million German soldiers are killed or wounded this year. 3,000 planes bomb Hamburg on July 24. 45,000 civilians are dead, 60% of the city is destroyed. During the next six months, 19 attacks take place on Berlin, panic develops across Germany, but the price is high: 600 allied aircraft are shot down, 2,700 fliers die. American bombers severely damage the oil fields at Ploesti and the V2 rocket factory in Peenemünde during August. October 14: Black Thursday. American bombing of a German ball bearing factory ends with a disaster. No long-range fighter airplanes yet. The new Mustang fighters that could accompany the bombers to Germany were introduced later. On July 25, Mussolini is arrested after 21 years in power. Pietro Badoglio succeeds him. On August 16, Allied troops take Messina and cross into Southern Italy on September 3. The Badoglio regime surrenders on September 3. The armistice is announced on September 8. The Nazis take Rome on September 10 and continue fighting in Italy under General Kesselring. The King and Badoglio flee Rome. Italian Jews are deported to Auschwitz. US troops land at Salerno on September 9. Eight fresh German divisions attack the beachhead. The Italian fleet surrenders in Malta on September 11. The next day, Mussolini is rescued. A new Fascist regime is established in Northern Italy. On September 16, the British 8th Army from the East joins the Americans at Salerno. Sardinia is occupied on September 19. Naples is taken on October 1 but a stalemate develops in a difficult terrain. The Germans hold the Gustav Line south of Rome. Royal Italy declares war on Germany on October 13 but disagreements develop between the British and the Americans about Italy and the Aegean islands. Churchill wants to take Rome and attack Rhodes but Roosevelt and Eisenhower sabotage his plans: the bulk of the troops and the landing craft necessary for these attacks are transferred to England to prepare for Overlord. The Germans reinforce their winter position (Winterstellung). Deadlock in Italy. Churchill visits Roosevelt between August 12 and 14, before the Quebec Conference (August 19-24). Boris III, Czar of Bulgaria suddenly dies on August 28 (possibly poisoned by the Germans). De Gaulle’s and Giraud’s forces take Corsica on October 4. A conference of Allied Foreign Secretaries takes place in Moscow between October 19 and November 3. The so-called Moscow Declaration is signed. Between November 22 and 27, the Cairo Conference is held between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Chiang Kai-shek. The famous Teheran Conference takes place between November 28 and December 1. “The Big Three” (Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin) meet the first time. The division of Germany is decided. Churchill wants to establish a Danubian Confederation including Bavaria. He believed that if the Austro-Hungarian Empire had not existed, it should have to be invented.


“The Big Three” in Teheran On November 29, Tito forms the Provisionary Government of Yugoslavia. 250,000 partisans are fighting under his leadership. Sir Oswald Mosley, the founder of the British Union of Fascists is released from internment. Churchill and Roosevelt meet again in Cairo between December 2 and 6. Eisenhower is appointed Supreme Commander of Overlord. Intensive bombing of Germany is decided. Churchill outlines the idea of the Security Council and other postwar arrangements. On December 25, the German battleship Scharnhorst is sunk. 350,000 women are now in the US Army, 1,000 of them are pilots. Six million women are working in the American industry. Black workers also start working in white male jobs. German POWs are allowed to use the same latrines as white American soldiers but black soldiers must use different latrines. LST landing ships are produced in large numbers for Overlord. The Pentagon and the Jefferson Memorial are completed in Washington, DC. * * * The second Warsaw Ghetto Uprising starts on April 18 with a heroic fight for a month. The Ghetto is exterminated on May 16. 56,000 Jews are murdered and the few survivors are deported to death camps.


Two pictures from the Warsaw Ghetto Between April 19 and 30, the Bermuda Conference takes place. Representatives from the U.S. and Britain discuss the problem of refugees from Nazi-occupied countries, but the Conference results in inaction. The Bulgarian Government refuses to deport Jews to death camps on March 10. The Nazis declare Berlin to be Judenfrei (cleansed of Jews) on May 19. Mengele arrives to Auschwitz on May 30. Himmler orders the liquidation of all Jewish ghettos in Poland on June 11. Newly built gas chamber/crematory III opens at Auschwitz on June 25. With its completion, the four new crematories at Auschwitz have a daily capacity of 4,756 bodies. The Nazis impose martial law on Denmark on August 28. By October 2, the Danish people rescue most of Denmark’s 7,700 Jews. Himmler openly calls the extermination of the Jews a “never-to-be-written page of glory” on October 4. The United Nations War Crimes Commission is established on October 20. Romanian dictator Antonescu resists German efforts to exterminate Jews on November 17.


* * * The industrial boom continued in Hungary: airplanes, tanks, and trucks were produced in increasing numbers. Unemployment totally disappeared but inflation started to rise. Agriculture, however, was in such a bad shape that compulsory produce delivery had to be introduced in January. Rationing also continued.

Popular movie stars: Ladomerszky Margit, Latabár Kálmán, Muráti Lili,

Szeleczky Zita, Tolnay Klári, Csortos Gyula, and Honthy Hanna On April 17, Horthy goes to Salzburg to meet Hitler. Jány comes home, decorated, and celebrated as a hero. On June 18, Horthy is glorified on his 75 th birthday. The official newsreel devotes a 27-minute special edition to him, written and presented by Ferenc Herczeg.


Hitler and Horthy are still friends

For the Fatherland

The Hungarian Government accepts the Western Allies’ conditions for an armistice on September 8, but these conditions say nothing about what happens if the Red Army liberates Hungary.

Newspaper report about Yamamoto’s death


My grandfather is sent to retirement

As if nothing had happened 32

The sadistic treatment of the labor servicemen continues. On April 30, 800 labor servicemen are murdered by their guards by setting fire to a barn where they were sleeping. On July 2, an agreement is signed with the Germans to deploy labor servicemen at the Bor (Serbia) copper mines. It is extremely interesting to watch the official Hungarian newsreels of this period. First they show the heroic Hungarian Army occupying part of the Ukraine, hunting partisans, and humiliating the “Bolsheviks.” They also report the victories of the Axis forces in Africa and in the Atlantic Ocean. All this stops toward the end of 1942. Although the official name is still “World Newsreel,” there are no world news at all. Nothing about Midway, El Alamein, Italy, Stalingrad, or Kursk. The destruction of the Hungarian 2nd Army is not even mentioned. We can learn about it only from Prime Minister Kállay’s speech in June 1943 when he promises “to replace our lost army with a new one.” Instead, we are shown endless celebrations of past and present heroes and preparations of the Levente for future battles. Hungarian flags are everywhere but no Árpád-stripes! It is also remarkable that by the end of 1943 the rethoric of “destruction of Bolshevism“ is replaced by “praying for a just peace.“ * * * This was the situation in the World and in Hungary when I entered the second grade in September. Our teacher had retired and was replaced by a younger woman who was openly anti-Semitic. Once she noticed that Adler did not have his wristwatch on him and asked him for the reason. The boy explained that his father had broken it in despair when he received his call to Labor Service. The teacher exploded: “When every Hungarian man is fighting against the Bolshevist enemy, you Jews are even unhappy to do some work to help them.“ I also had a little problem with Adler. Once we were fighting and I hit him so hard that he spat out two of his teeth. My father and Gyuri had been alredy murdered, Laci was in the Labor Service. My grandfather thought that he had lost all three of his sons. He was already a broken man wearing black ties all the time. Sadness ruled our lives. I terribly missed my father and miss him to this day. These songs come to my mind frequently:
Az én jó apámnál nincs jobb a világon, Hiába keresném, párját nem találom. Mikor rá gondolok, mintha róla szólna Szívemben egy szép dal, egy gyönyörű nóta Az én jó apámnak nincsen rossz barátja, Nincsen szenvedélye, s boldog a családja. Fárad éjjel, nappal, de már alig várja, Mikor a gyermekét karjaiba zárja. Tudom édesapám, sok bajod volt vélem, Mégis milyen sokat tettél eddig értem. Nélküled nem volna az életem oly szép, Azt kívánom néked,hogy nagyon soká élj még! Nótás kedvű édesapám, Réges-régen nem dalol már. A szívemet bánat rágja, Egy-egy kedves nótájára.


Az lett a sok nóta vége, Kivitték a temetőbe. Dalos ajkú kismadárka, Szállj az apám fejfájára!

He does not even have a grave. Just a plate on his mother‘s grave commemorates his life. My only consolation were my two canary birds, Csibi and Csiri. They were constantly singing in their cage. Yes, and we once went to watch the new movie Sári bíró that I enjoyed and sang: Sári bíró hu-hu-hu, Ez a bíró hu-hu-hu. * * * At least 3.2 million Jews were murdered during these two years. The death camps were working full time. There were six of them in Poland alone: Auschwitz, Belzec, Chemno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka. The incredible atrocities of the Holocaust are well documented in many publications. Interested readers may take a look at The Holocaust Chronicle published by Publications International in 2000. Thousands of documents and pictures show what happened in an age when man fell so low, he killed willingly, for pleasure, without orders.

Szilágyi Károly (1904-1942)

Ábrahám György (1920-1942)