Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

John Mandel - May 26, 1981

Hungarian Annexation of Munkacs

Can you tell me how you heard about the war?

Which war?


Well 19...well we were part of it. They--that the uh, the Hungarians came and occupied us.

I mean, do you remember if it...

I, I remember, I remember uh, before, before they came, before they occupied us there was a general mobilization and uh, um, all the uh, eligible young men were--went into the service and we had several barracks you know, military um, uh, compounds in our city. It was an important city in that particular part of the country. As a matter of fact there was an old medieval castle there to a side and, and, and everybody went in there and everybody got a uniform and everybody got a gun and uh, they were going to put up a big resistance and then nothing happened. And that's how they got in, that's how I was introduced to World War II.

How did your family respond?

Not in any particular way um, um. We hoped that things would get better and perhaps we were even happy about the change. Uh, not that uh, life wasn't all that uh, uh, uh, the government of Czechoslovakia, the Czech government itself was quite democratic. And um, we uh, but of course we went through, probably because we went through during the depression under the Czech regime it might have seemed to my parents that uh, perhaps under the Hungarian regime things would be a little better. And for awhile it was. When they came in the, the economy was quite prosperous and I remember that my father's shop was doing real well. And uh, things were coming along real well, but then of course later on things turned against us. As they started passing all these different laws uh, and restrictions upon the Jewish population.

Can you describe the nuisance laws?

Well it, it started out uh, rather, the way I remember it, it, it started out rather um, in a very, on a very low key, uh. At first uh, there were certain occupations that you couldn't go into. There certain uh, restrictions on, on licenses, uh. Then it, it kept mushrooming. And they, they kept adding on as uh, more and more restrictions until the final, at, at, at the end where they finally gathered us and put us into a ghetto where--which was just before they took us away to concentration camp.

How did your Gentile neighbors treat you and react to you at that point?

They were not very kind in most part. There were all, all, there were some exceptions. There were some--as a matter of fact, before we were taken away uh, in 1944, um, some of them uh, there was particular one neighbor who offered to take some of our uh, some of my younger brothers and my sister and hide them. But we had actually no idea as to what was going on. We--it's, it's really amazing because in 1942 uh, we received a postcard, a Red Cross postcard from Auschwitz, from an uncle who was taken to Auschwitz from Antwerp, Belgium. He originally was from our city but migrated to Belgium and then was taken to the concentration camp from there. And he just uh, sent us a postcard as to how well things are going for him uh, and, and uh, he's not being mistreated, he's in a uh, camp. And um, he asked for a package and we sent him a package through the Red Cross. Which of course as, as it turned out later when, when we arrived into Auschwitz, I met him there. Of course he never got the package. But uh, it was just kind of thing that they did uh, uh, a kind of subterfuge. And you know, where, where they, they were hiding things from us. And, and I'm sure that there were some people in our city that knew what was going on. But we never did. So, even to the point that when uh, the, some of our neighbors offered to hide some of our, some of my brothers and sister uh, my parents refused because uh, they wanted the family together.

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