Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Larry Brenner - December 13, 1981

Father's Army Draft

Was this 1939?

Something that year, '38, '39. I, exactly I don't know how far, maybe a little bit later. But it started to go. I know that in--I was going to school we learned about the Jewish law, what uh, Jewish law and, and why, why... They tried to explain why it is legal, try to justify it, saying that it's only about two or three percent, or four percent, I don't know whatever it was exactly, the Jewish population among the Gentiles. So, therefore the law says that so many... They tried to justify it to the students as such. Naturally which uh, it was hard for a Jew to buy it, you know, for a Gentile it was understandable. For a, it wasn't... And then I, must be around, in that area again, it, it came so fast that uh, dates did not exactly clear my mind but, it, it came to a point that one morning we get up, there is a... my father got a invitation to get into the army. It's called, what you call that when, uh...

A draft.

A draft into the army. Because, I think... No, we didn't know then exactly what happening, because there was a history of war. Uh, that in, Hitler went into Sudetenland and he took Poland. And as I said that they, uh... And also we had a treaty with Poland too. Hungary had a treaty with Poland and with Germany. That was before Hitler invaded. So, they didn't... It was all a mixture, we didn't know what was the draft for. And we didn't know that my father was called in because as a soldier from Second World War. We, we thought so, I mean...

The First World War.


From the First World War.

Oh, from the First World War. Right, right. And we assumed that was the reason. And uh, in a way, in a way as a kid, I remember I, oh, well maybe things changes. My father's a Jew and they call him in the army, maybe things are getting better. Also I was over, as a kid I was proud of it, my father a soldier, you know. All that thing it's, it's a nationalistic feeling. And, and then we found out that about a week later, we found out that they had been called in, to a forced labor camp. They're having--they been given uniform, but partial uniform and no ammunition, no... They couldn't touch any ammunition and they were separated, the Jews from the Gentiles. And uh, they didn't know what to do with them, so they kept them in just one area of doing nothing. Later on they, later on they uh, let 'em do some work. It wasn't--I don't think they were in physical danger except it was a very demoralizing thing for... Uh, also the Jewish... the Hungarian Jews, they were also kind of a nationalistic feeling. I think they have more of a nationalistic feeling than uh, other Jews, maybe the Polish Jews or the Russian Jews. They felt that they are... belonged to the community and they always participated in the nationalistic uh, history as such. So anyway, it was a very... And, and as I remember as a child uh, I had an uncle, my father's brother, and away maybe about a hundred and twenty kilometer away. The name of the city was ??? And he was also called in to this uh, forced labor camp.

Was he also a veteran?

He was not a veteran, but then they called in all the, all of the Jewish. This was already aspect of ??? but they tried to, I don't know what was the purpose of it, I guess to show Hitler that... his uh, depressing the Jewish population. They called them into forced labor camp. All kind of... Becau... I think maybe because the Gentiles were, you were called in, so in order to get the Jews too, but they couldn't give them uh, uh, the same treatment. So, financially for them they put them in a forced labor camp. Now my aunt was a--had a little baby and also had a grocery store. And as I said to you that we are four boys in the family uh, they asked us if one of the boys could go in and help to keep the store going because he was gone. And my aunt was uh, with one baby, not, not to close the store. And I volunteered and I was looking forward to it, because as I said to you, you know, before that uh, it was a little town. I was--I felt I was inhibited and, and with a, lots of things, I didn't have any freedom. I feel that was quite a bigger city and I don't have control over my... You know, nobody to control me. Not, not that I know that I want to do. But I knew that certain things was the same and boring perhaps. You know, Jewish cheder and constantly the same thing. And, and uh, my, something in my mind said that's not enough for me. And I was looking forward to it. It's a bigger city with bigger town, you could get lost perhaps and do things, go to a movie, imagine. So anyway, I went there and I stayed there for, I would say, about a half a year 'til I came home and helped with my aunt with the store, which uh, I was there. I don't think I did anything which I, which I thought I would do. But nevertheless it's a no-no for that, I felt it would buy my freedom. Okay. Going...

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