Learn More about Manny
Manny Mandel and his mother, along with other Hungarian Jews, were chosen to be part of an exchange negotiated by the Relief and Rescue Committee with the Nazis. They were to be traded for trucks and other goods. Manny spent six months in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at age 12, but he considers himself lucky. Manny was allowed to stay with his mother and they were not forced to do labor.
Manny was born to Yehudah and Ella Mandel, a religious Jewish family, in the port city of Riga, Latvia on May 8, 1936. Shortly after Manny’s birth, Yehudah accepted a post as one of the four chief cantors in Budapest, and the family returned to Hungary, where they had lived before 1933. Manny’s father was based at the renowned Rombach Street synagogue. Following World War I, Budapest was an important Jewish center in Europe.
After the Hungarian state issued anti-Jewish laws in 1938, Jews were rigorously persecuted in Hungary. When it became mandatory for all Jews in Hungary to wear the yellow Star of David, Manny’s father wouldn’t allow his son to have a bicycle, fearing that someone would attack Manny after seeing the star badge affixed to his clothes. Even though Manny’s school was only a few blocks from their home, Yehudah often followed Manny as he walked to school. He was worried someone might push Manny into traffic, as there had been similar incidents in Budapest.
Manny was eight when the Germans occupied Hungary in March 1944. Ella heard rumors of impending deportations. Manny, Ella, and Yehudah’s brother David were among a group of Hungarian Jews whom Adolf Eichmann offered to trade for trucks and other goods in negotiations with Rezsö Kasztner, a member of the Va’ada (Jewish Rescue Committee). Like many able-bodied Jewish men, Yehudah had been compelled to join a Hungarian forced labor brigade and was not able to join them.
Almost 1,700 Hungarian Jews left Hungary by train on June 30, 1944, with the promise that they would be permitted to exit Nazi-occupied Europe. After difficulties in the negotiations, Manny and his family were diverted on a train to Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. After six months of incarceration, they were taken to Switzerland by Nazi transport, first to a Red Cross hotel near Montreux and then to a children’s home in Heiden.
In 1945 Manny and Ella immigrated on a British troop ship to Palestine where they were reunited with Yehudah in 1946. They moved to the United States in 1949. Settling in Philadelphia, Manny graduated from Central High School, Gratz College, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania. He was a practicing psychotherapist in Maryland until his retirement in 2014. Manny is a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.