Vera Szasz

Born August 13, 1940 - Budapest, Hungary

Vera, the only child of Nanci (LeBlanc) and Miklos Szasz, was a three year-old child when the Germans invaded Hungary in March 1944. She lived in the large, cosmopolitan city of Budapest, where her father was a businessman. Prior to the German invasion, Hungary had passed its own antisemitic measures, slowly moving Jews out of most professions and schools. Many were conscripted into hard labor. For most, conditions were difficult, but life went on much as before. When the Germans invaded Hungary, they immediately increased the persecution of Hungary's Jews. By July 1944, over 437,000 Hungarian Jews, mostly from outlying areas, were deported to death camps. The Germans then began deporting Jews from the suburbs of Budapest. The 170,000 Jews of Budapest, including Vera and her family, were to be next. On July 8, 1944, due to diplomatic pressure, the deportations were halted. Various "safe houses" were established and officially recognized through the good offices of the Swedish diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, and others. The Jews living in those houses were protected from deportation.

In October 1944, the Germans began deporting the Jews of Budapest. Jews were arrested and sent to Germany, to perform forced labor. Pregnant women and the elderly were among those seized. Wallenberg and others issued protective documents for thousands, exempting them from the deportations. Tens of thousands of others were seized and marched under brutal conditions to the Austrian border.

In November 1944, Vera and her family were sent to live in an "international ghetto" in the city. This ghetto consisted of the 72 buildings assigned to house Jews under Swiss protection. Wallenberg and others worked day and night to save Budapest's remaining 120,000 Jews. Four year-old Vera along with 14 other family members were crowded into two rooms. They lived in constant fear. Hungarian fascists roamed the streets randomly raiding "safe houses" and hospitals, and they brutally murdered every Jew they found. In January 1945, Wallenberg succeeded in sending 10,000 more Jews into the "protected" ghetto. The deportations from the city stopped with the Russian advance, but Hungarian fascists still ruled the city. On January 17, 1945, Russian forces entered Budapest, putting an end to fascist attacks. Raoul Wallenberg came to an uncertain end. He was summoned to Russian headquarters, arrested, and never heard from again.

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