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The War Begins

When World War II officially broke out in the fall of 1939, Father was recalled to his old unit, to some camp in the countryside. A new decree declared that Jews were no longer allowed to serve as armed soldiers in the Hungarian army; rather, they were to serve in work battalions led by Hungarian officers and managed by low-ranking Hungarian soldiers. Jews continued to wear army uniforms, but they had to also wear armbands that identified them as members of the Jewish work units and they weren’t allowed to carry arms. These regulations were part of a second wave of antisemitic laws which further limited Jewish participation in the cultural and business life of the country. This was deja vu for our family.

Mother ran the store on her own, and David and I spent long hours helping (or maybe hindering) her and waiting for irregular, unexpected visits from Father who managed to weasel or buy his way out of the camp for short furloughs. In his green soldier’s uniform, he looked skinny and unhappy. Mother tried to feed him well and send him back to camp with enough food to last at least a few days.

As Father didn’t tell us stories about his experiences in the army, we never knew how well or badly he and the other Jews were treated. He asked all about our schooling and how we managed at home, but he never told much about himself.

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