George Pick discusses experiencing antisemitism as a young boy in Hungary in the early 1940s. Hungary fell increasingly under the influence of Germany in the 1930s and joined the Axis alliance in 1940. During this time Jews in Hungary were increasingly subjected to discriminatory anti-Jewish laws modeled on those in Germany.
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“They were just yelling and screaming anti-Jewish you know, ‘Death to the Jews!’ etc. And my mother and I were very frightened.”
Over sixty years after the Holocaust, hatred, antisemitism, and genocide still threaten our world. The life stories of Holocaust survivors transcend the decades and remind us of the constant need to be vigilant citizens and to stop injustice, prejudice, and hatred wherever and whenever they occur.
This podcast series presents excerpts of interviews with Holocaust survivors from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s public program, First Person Conversations with Holocaust Survivors.
In today’s episode, George Pick talks with host Bill Benson about experiencing antisemitism as a young boy in Hungary in the early 1940s. Hungary fell increasingly under the influence of Germany in the 1930s and joined the Axis alliance in 1940.
George, let me ask you just a couple of questions about you personally during that time. You told me about an incident where in the building where you lived, you were slapped by a man. Would you share that with us?
Yes, sure. In 1940, I was enrolled in the first elementary school. You saw a picture of me on Mother’s Day. Our building was a mixed building. A few Jews lived there, mostly non-Jews. Some of them are extremely antisemitic, but some of them are just regularly antisemitic.
One of these persons lived in our building. He was a teacher, if I remember correctly. I was 6, 7 years old, and I had a mouth on me. So, I said something one to him, and he slapped me. I was shocked, I mean, my mother and father never slapped me, and he did. I told my mother this, and nothing happened for a day. But then, the man came up to us and apologized, and that was as surprising as his physical violence against me.
So, this gives you some sort of a picture of a sort of a dualistic type situation where the Jews were not quite easy, but there was very little and they had some culture left in particularly the Hungarian intelligentsia, to recognize that a Jewish kid is just as much of a kid as a non-Jewish kid.
So some sliver of remorse over having done that in his case.
George, for you personally and your family, you really did experience the first real threat, as I remember in 1943 while you were on vacation.
Yes. Well, ironically enough while the rest of the Jews of Europe were already many millions of them were already dead, the Hungarian Jewish community was still able to live like human beings, so much so that we took a vacation in the summer of 1943.
My mother and I went, it’s a nice place, it’s called Matra Mountains. They have some nice hotels there, and quite a number of places where you could walk around, and we did. The first frightening thing which we found out was a gathering of black-uniformed people whom we knew as the Arrow Cross. At that time this party was illegal, but many thousands of people joined. Their program was extremely pro-Nazi and anti-Jewish.
So, a fascist organization?
They were a fascist organization who later on took power, actually, took the power in Hungary. But at that time they were just yelling and screaming anti-Jewish you know, “Death to the Jews,” etc. And my mother and I were very frightened, because we were right in the middle of this crowd and tried to be as invisible as possible so we could get out as soon as we could.
You have been listening to First PersonConversations with Holocaust Survivors, a podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Every Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. from March through August, Holocaust survivors share their stories during First Person programs held at the Museum in Washington, D.C. We would appreciate your feedback on this series. Please visit our Web site, www.ushmm.org/firstperson, and follow the prompts to the First Person podcast survey to let us know what you think.
At our website you can also learn more about the Museum’s survivors, listen to the complete recordings of their conversations, and listen to Museum podcasts Voices on Antisemitism and Voices on Genocide Prevention.