Born: December 6, 1933, Kosice, Czechoslovakia
Robert was raised by Hungarian-speaking parents in Kosice, a town in eastern Slovakia with a sizable Jewish community of 7,000. The Grubers were a traditional Jewish family and they observed the Jewish Sabbath, dietary laws, and holidays. Robert's father owned a small jewelry shop.
1933-39: When I was 5, Kosice was taken over by the Hungarians, who were lead by a dictator named Horthy. I stood on the main street with my parents, watching the soldiers march into town in a victory parade. They were lead by Horthy himself on a white horse. Just days later, non-Hungarian Jews were given 48 hours to leave the region. Our family fled to the town of Michalovce where several of our relatives lived.
1940-44: By winter 1944 we had moved again, to a town in western Slovakia. The house that we lived in had a trap door leading to a hiding space, where we hid once the Germans started rounding up Jews. After the Germans began deporting Slovakian civilians as forced laborers, a neighbor came to us one day demanding that he wanted to hide in our space so that we should get out. He threatened to inform on us if we didn't. My parents retorted that if we were forced to leave and were rounded up by the Germans, that we'd inform on HIM. He left.
The Grubers stayed in the hiding place for nine months, until the Soviets bombed the area. In March 1945, when Robert was 12, he and his family were liberated by the Soviets.
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