Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Larry Brenner - December 13, 1981

Religious Conversion

Uh, going back to Budapest, as long as we're going back to Budapest, during the time when I was in this forced labor camp and I said we were stationed in a school, there was the Catholic clergy came out with some kind of a--I don't know if it's a propaganda with statement, perhaps it was they wanted to save our life--so, they came out to us and said, said such that they going to do some conversion to Catholism from Judaism. And all those people who be converted, they will get some papal paper stating as such that they been converted to uh, Christianity, to Catholism and uh, the papal paper will serve as a... that we are under a papal uh, guaranteed... the same thing as a Swiss or Swedish gave papers to stating that you are under the Swiss or the Swedish uh, government protection. So would the papal paper state such that we under the Vatican protection. So, they came out to us and then they start to give us uh, conversion lessons, and it was voluntary, it wasn't forced. And supposedly the rabbinical, they were, the Rabbinate from Budapest said such that you could attend it as long as you don't do it full heartfully, just, but to say it. So, I was fighting with my conscience what I should do. So, I decided I'm going to give it a try to save my life. So, I took, I believe, two or three lessons. After the third lesson, ??? my stomach came up from there, my stomach turned upside down and my conscience saying to me that uh, this is really uh, not... that's a traitor thing to do and my parents were taken away for being a Jew, my whole family, and all Jews. And I try to escape and, and, and, and saying that uh, I deny my religion and turn to such. So after, but I try to justify myself that it's a lifesaver and you do it. But after the third lesson, it came closer and closer to be a... to take the realism that they will baptize you and kiss the cross and such and such. I couldn't take it, not because I have anything against Catholism, but as I was born as a Jew and again, it's, it was against my belief and, and I felt it's a cop out and I really didn't believe that it would save your life because uh, right with us there was a lots of Christian-born people and they, because some of their families or parents or great-grandparents were Jewish, they got the same treatment as me. So, why would, why would it really change? Even though there was room already they, they would have a different treatment because then, in those days--at that must have been June, July or August--we didn't know what the outcome, that they going to deport us. We didn't know, we had a... We didn't know how fast the situation or what it will... the outcome will come of it. We thought that uh, perhaps that we will serve our time out there and war will be over, because we knew that the Russians are advancing. And uh, we hope that we're going to be trapped in Budapest and the Russians will come in and then that will be the end of the war as far as I'm concerned. I thought that I mentioned this episode.

Did you know anybody who did convert, who took that up?

Yes, I do know.

Do you know what happened to them?

Same thing as me. Nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. No... He, instead of a yellow, yellow ribbon, he became... he got a white ribbon.

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