This is Part VI in a series documenting my Uncle Irving’s account of his personal and family histories during and after the Holocaust. Previous entries can be found on this site under the titles: Only the First Four Hurt Parts I, II, III, IV & V.
After the sanitorium, I think they offered us to go to Switzerland or Palestine or back to our homes. I decided to go back to Hungary because I didn’t know who frommy family was alive or not.
While in the sanitorium, I don’t know how but a cousin from my mother’s side visited me and asked if I was Tibor Klein. I said ‘yeah’ and he told me who he was. He told me my brother Sandy and my sister Berjie were alive and that he had let them know I was alive.
There was no transportation to Hungary so we took cargo trains from one station to the next to get there. I was with other people and I just followed them. When I got close to our hometown station – Matisakov – there were no more trains left to take. So from there a local farmer who recognized me or heard about me or something took me by horse and wagon back to the town with the synagogue – Okorito. That’s where my brother Sandy and sister Berjie were staying because in our town there was nothing left to go back to. It was very close by but the Hungarian government had taken over all the Jewish homes in our town.
I got to where Berjie and Sandy were. They were alive – living with a Jewish family and with other young people from the area – there were about 5 people living in the same house. I remember being happy to see them and I remember the reunion being very happy. But I found out that not all of my siblings or my parents or grandparents were there. My sister Barbara was in Bergen Belsen – we didn’t know that at the time – but she wasn’t with the others.
One thing I noticed when I got there was that Berjie and Sandy and the young people who had come home from the camps were all living like there was no tomorrow. Dancing, drinking, celebrating like….well I guess like any normal person would.
But it depressed me.
Irving pauses here and his face crumbles. He is sobbing.
I couldn’t comprehend it all. What was there to celebrate? I came home and it was the end of 1945 and Sandy was already 21 years old and he was a business man supporting himself. But I was 16, without education, without parents and I was very depressed.
So for a couple of months I stayed at home doing nothing. The Russians were in power in Hungary and they forced all Hungarians to put in weekly work allotments for the Russian army. Sandy sent me to do some of his days to keep me busy. But after a couple of weeks when he saw there was no education, future, work or income for me, he sent me to a relative in Budapest. The idea was for me to help out in the cousin’s vegetable store and support myself or learn something.
Sandy himself was in the trade business. If someone needed money and wanted to sell, say, a ring, Sandy would buy and re-sell it for profit. Later he bought land and a home there in Hungary. Bergie stayed at home doing nothing.
Sandy also decided to change our family name during these years from Klein to Kutas because he thought Klein was too Jewish sounding. The Russians were as bad as the Hungarians and there was still a lot of anti-Semitism so he was trying to stay safe.
I went to Budapest and worked in my uncle’s vegetable store for pay. We got up at 4 a.m. to go to wholesale places & pick up cases of fruit & vegetables for the store and then he had big deliveries at a couple of Catholic institutions and at a home for children.
My uncle a beautiful wife and a small child but he and his wife didn’t get along. He didn’t want me at home around his wife while he was out at work so he took me to eat at the Catholic Children’s home every day. Their son, who was two or three back then in 1946, became a famous singer in Hungary when he got older.
I helped him a lot and he took care of me but there was no future in the work and he didn’t like taking me to the Catholic Institution every day. He asked me if I wanted to join a Zionist Jewish children’s home; At the time, I didn’t know what ‘Zionist‘ meant. He said I could try it and if I didn’t like it I could leave.
So I moved into the children’s home in Budapest – it was Shomer Ha’Tzaeer – and I got a very very warm welcome. After a day or two I felt at home and I decided to stay. From there I decided Hungary’s not for me anymore and that I would move to Israel.
The home was all young people my age – 15-20 years old. There were girls and boys. We studied & worked and whatever money we earned went back to the home. Jewish people would come and ask for different handy people to come do jobs so we went out to different work places. I worked in a jewelry factory making metal items and jewelry for a long time. I polished and crafted metal.
We basically went wherever they sent us; the money we earned went into buying our clothing and food. The idea of the home was to convince us that Zionism is the future of the Jewish people.
And for me, that’s what happened.
I ask him about God. Did he believe in some sort of God? Did he feel God had a hand in the Holocaust or in his fate specifically?
When I got out of the camp I had a lot of questions in my mind about God. Like how could it have happened – all of it.
I have no question that God saw to it that I made it through and that I got out or that hundreds and hundreds of times I was saved and that I managed to stay alive. After the camps when I came home and saw that my grandparents and none of my relatives had come back, I questioned how all of this could have happened if a God exists. And I spent time questioning. But after a while it (my belief) came back; I always believe.