Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Ehrmann - May 13, 1983


Did you experience any anti-Semitism before 1938?

Very, very little in the Czechoslovakian area, very little. The anti-Semitism that I can recall was uh, mainly among my own age group uh, maybe a farmer's son would say, "You dirty Jew," or uh, something like that or a--usually it was a newcomer to town, somebody moved into town. Uh, I had friends uh, among the non-Jews, very close friends, we respected each other, we walked into each other's house, in spite of the fact that I knew well that I can't have more than a glass of water in their house. Uh, they called me on my Hebrew name, my Hebrew first name. Everybody in town called me on my Hebrew first name.

Which is what?

My--which is Shai. Uh, I was not known, the only people who called me Alexander in the, in the Hungarian version, which is something like Sander uh, the only ones who'd call me is some members of my family, distant family, ironically.

So, you weren't, you weren't--you didn't live your childhood in fear of anti-Semitic attacks?

No. Not at all. My child...childhood was void of fear. The only, probably self-imposed uh, uh, separation was uh, the fact that we wanted to feel as Jews and my father told us, "You are different, you are a Jew," uh, in a complimentary way, not in a derogatory way. And uh, probably that's why, when the Hungarian era came and we started to be discriminated against, the impact was uh, very confusing. That threw us off balance. How did that what?

How did that begin? What do you remember initially?

Well, the uh, first strange experience uh, disappointing experience was uh, during the very first days of occupation, we were considered occupied territory in the first few weeks of annexation uh, we were under marshal law. The uh, Hungarian army was in our area and they were hostile to Jews. We were used to going up to uh, army outfits uh, there was a mobilization uh, in the last year, last probably ten months of the uh, Czechoslovakian era, the Czechoslovakian army was on the border and our town was full of uh, of uh, soldiers and we were used to walking up to them, they're one of us and we were one of them, there was no problem there. When we approached the Hungarian soldiers, soldiers, pretty soon we were pulled by our hair and uh, I wore payes, sideburns, and we were pulled by--some of them pulled out knives and threatened to cut it off. Uh, some of them beat us up uh, treatment like that, and we couldn't understand why. Uh, of course, we, we were told by our parents, we were told by uh, friends, that the Hungarians are basically anti-Semitic. They have anti-Jewish laws. Uh, the, the second anti-Jewish law was passed when we were annexed to Hungary. Uh, we were told that it's an entirely different government with uh, several different policies than what we are used to. So, it took us sometime until it sank in and uh, we were conditioned to it.

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