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Bela Salamon

There was a single man living with us called Bela Salamon. He was a tall, strongly built young man, who was exempt from forced labour on account of his being a deaf-mute. A very intelligent man, Salamon managed to communicate extensively with us. He taught me both lip-reading and sign language. He was a sweet, soft giant–very strong but patient and quiet. He was a also a chess genius. We would spend hours every day playing one game after another. Needless to say, he beat me almost all the time.

Salamon did not survive the war. Later that summer, one of the raiding parties took him away to a labour camp, refusing to accept his handicap as reason for exemption. Once there, not understanding the orders given to him and not understood by the soldiers and guards, he was beaten to death by an enraged, shovel-wielding Hungarian soldier. We heard this tragic story shortly after his death and I grieved as if I had lost a member of my own family. I have never known a gentler, better human being. My heart aches even today when I think of him.

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