NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) - Students at E.C. Goodwin Technical High School were recently treated to a story of perseverance and triumph.
Endre Sarkany, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, visited the school to share his story of surviving the Nazi regime with students and school staff.
Sarkany was born in Hungary in 1936 and now lives in New Haven with his wife.
“I’m 80 years young,” Sarkany said with a laugh while introducing himself to the students. “Numbers mean absolutely nothing. In some respects, I’m between 19 and 39.”
In his presentation, Sarkany painted a picture of Adolph Hitler’s rise to power and the formation of the Third Reich.
“He wanted to own and dictate the whole world,” Sarkany said of Hitler, “If you asked him, almost everything that Jews did was a detriment to Germany.”
By 1941, the Nazis occupied most of Europe, including Hungary. Sarkany’s family lived in the seventh district of Budapest, the Jewish part of the city.
While Hungary didn’t face the destruction some European countries did at the start of World War II, brutality did come eventually.
“By 1943, it was chaos,” Sarkany told the group of high school seniors.
“Us children were warned, ‘When you go out to the street, be very careful,” Sarkany said, remembering what his parents would tell him.
Sarkany said the Hungarian Jewish community tried working with the government in an attempt to quell the growing anti-Semitism, but to no avail.
Soon enough, Hungarian Jews were forced to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothing. Things were getting worse.
Sarkany was a child at the time, but he saw the toll the war had on his father.
“My father, all of a sudden, disappeared from home,” Sarkany said.
Sarkany said his father was in and out of forced labor camps for two years during the war.
“The authorities came and picked the men up. No questions asked, no search warrant, and they took them away. The men may come home, they may not,” Sarkany explained.
“The human mind has difficulty understanding the brutality that existed,” Sarkany said.
By the end of January 1945, Hungary was liberated by the Soviet Union. That’s when one brutal regime ended and another began.
Following Soviet military occupation after the war, the Hungarian People’s Republic was installed as the government of Hungary in 1949. Under the influence of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union, Hungary was a Communist state.
“Stalin was a cruel man. He was very close to being as brutal as Hitler,” Sarkany said.
On Oct. 23, 1956, the first shot of the Hungarian Revolution was fired. The revolt didn’t last even eight days though, Sarkany said, before the government put an end to it.
The failed revolution was the last straw for Sarkany. He then knew he was going to move to the United States.
Sarkany told his parents, and began his trek. After traveling to Austria, Sarkany finally ended up at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna. After filling out paperwork and applications, he was able to leave for the United States.
Finally, after a 16-day trip across the Atlantic Ocean, Sarkany reached New York City in 1957. Symbolically, the Statue of Liberty marked the end of his journey.
“That statue is the most beautiful, meaningful statue in the whole world,” Sarkany said.
Information from: New Britain Herald, https://www.newbritainherald.com
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