Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Karp - September 14, 1995


What did your father do?

Um, my father had a couple of different occupations. First he was sales, he was a sales person for Singer sewing machine, you know, for several years, many, many years. And, uh, after several years, um, he went into the sausage casing business. And he was, that was his occupation into the time that he was, uh, drafted to the army at first. And later on, he was transferred to the, uh, labor camps.

This would have been what, 1940, '41?

Um, he was drafted in 1939, if I am correct. Uh, no, correction, it was in May of 1940 he was drafted to the army. And he was in the army 'till, uh, 1941. And in '41 he was transferred to the labor camps.

Had he been in the First World War too?

Yes. Yeah. In the last year. My father was born in 1900. And in 1918, he was drafted into the army.

So, he would have been in the Habsburg armies?


Hungarian armies?

Yes. And he served in Italy towards the end of the war.

Did he ever tell you any stories about the First World War?

Yes, some. Um, the place of his draft was in Munkacs. You, maybe you're familiar with that city.

This is in the Carpathian Mountains?

Carpathia, yes. And he didn't want to go in the army. He hid. He had substantial family in Munkacs. And he didn't want to go. He was less that 18 years old and he was hiding for a couple of weeks. And, finally, he gave up and he went because uh, no, for not going in, not honoring the draft, it was a very serious violation. And uh, so, finally, he was convinced that he should go. And he was taken to the Italian front and, uh, inexperienced, frightened and there was one, one particular episode what cames back to me what he was telling me. As they were marching in the Po valley, where big fights has taken place, big combats has taken place then. A fellow soldier who was walking with him, you know, a cannonball or somehow shaved his head off, and the buddy in reflex was still walking several steps without a head. This I remember distinctly that he was talking about. And uh, no, it's shortly after that because he only was several months, it was in the spring of 1918 that he was drafted and, of course, the war ended, I believe it was in November. So he was roughly about six months.

Was he a Patriot? I mean, did he talk about Franz Joseph in fond ways?

Yes, of course, the identity of being Jewish, it was, uh, it was somewhat, um, to call it, it was almost like a partnership, you know. Even though they considered themselves ardent Jews, but nevertheless, they considered themselves Hungarians too. This took place during Franz Joseph's time because he happened to be very liberal and he was, uh, he was a good ruler. And they had high regards for him.

You said your father's family was originally from Munkacs? Part of Munkacs.

Yes, Munkacs did belong to Hungary before the First War and his family, his mother, his father, my grandparents, they were all from Munkacs.

What kinds of memories do you have of your mother? What was she like?

She was, uh, very lovely, young woman as I remember her. Because, uh, in 1944, when we, when we went into the ghetto, I was already close to nineteen years of age. So, I do have vivid memories of her. And she was forty-three years old at the time. She was born in 1901. And, uh, it's, it's very hard to describe, because, uh, in those years to be a mother it wasn't a very easy thing. In order to raise a family, to keep the house, and things, by 1943, '44, it has deteriorated. But, nevertheless, through hard work, you know, they kept the family together and, uh, she did the very best what any mother would do.

And your sister, Martha?

She was born in '29 and, uh, she was a beautiful young child. And, uh, it's, uh, somehow those very few years, what we have spent together, was her too, she was deported in 1944 at the age of fifteen, you know. And she was going to school. We had a lovely childhood. Of course, I was getting a little bit older already. And, it's, it was heartbreaking to be, to get into the situation that we got into.

What, what kind of youngster were you? Were you a rebel? Were you a good student? Did you play football?

No, as far as students, we are good students, because we had to be good students, you know. It was pretty well demanded to be a good student. With this one, I don't mean that everybody was a genius, but we certainly are, responsibilities were expressed to us and also demanded that once you go to school, you are going there to learn. And respect had to be given to the teachers. If, uh, any problems should arise in the school, without any questions, the student was at fault. However, as far as rebellious or to be boisterous, I am sure that we had our share just like any other young adult or teen, teenager would. And, uh, we actually had a very pleasant upbringing in a few years up to 1940's, '40, '41, when it started to deteriorate because of the German influence, even though Hungary was not occupied till 1944. But influence was very great and the population at large, they were very close with, with the German sentiments. And, uh, problems started to arise. We felt it in school, out of the school, even though in the school, physically we have nothing, because we were going, as I said, to Jewish parochial schools. But, still, we did have some contact with the other youngsters. And at that time, uh, it was, it was obvious which way the trend is going. And from the government army, the exception perhaps of some single people in the government, the atmosphere and sentiments were certainly leaning towards the Germans. And this had a great influence on our daily lives.

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