Krulik's story
Hugo's story
Rose K's story
Abraham's story
Salek's story
Rose D's story
Roman's story
Pinchas' story

Hugo's story

Hugo was born in Hungary. In 1944, when he was 13, the German army invaded and took over the country. Hugo and his parents and younger brother were immediately forced to live in a Jewish ghetto. After a couple of months all 10,000 of the ghetto's inhabitants were deported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Hugo and his family were tired and frightened as the train pulled into Auschwitz station. On the platform the SS were pushing and shoving people about. There were also some gaunt, strange men in striped uniforms and strange hats; they were carting any bags or cases off the train. One of them caught young Hugo's attention. Hugo noticed that this man kept saying in a low voice to any boys he saw, 'You're 18 and you've got a trade'. Hugo thought the man must be crazy. But his father realised that the man was a prisoner trying to help the children; and he explained this to his son. So when an SS man asked his age, Hugo firmly answered '19', and added, 'I'm a carpenter'. Sadly, his 10-year-old brother couldn't say either of these things. Hugo never saw his little brother, or his mother, again.

Hugo and his father were sent to work on a building site: a holiday town for German officers was being built there, they were told. After that they were marched to another camp. In the mornings, each day of the march, there were always some people too weak or ill to stand; as the fitter marchers set off, they could hear the sound of shooting behind them. At the beginning there were 3,500 people on the forced march ; less than 900 survived. Hugo's father died too, of starvation and typhoid fever.

In the spring of 1945, when the war was over, Hugo ended up in Prague with a crowd of other Jewish orphans like himself. They heard there was a chance for refugees under 16 to go to Britain. So Hugo, already a natural leader, told his young fellow orphans: 'Right: all the boys shave. Girls: no make-up. We are all children'. It worked.

When the plane taking Hugo and his friends to Britain stopped off in Belgium, local Jewish women made a point of welcoming them with refreshments. They were offered milky tea, and the 'children' were appalled: they thought only sick people drank milk. Sick people wouldn't be allowed into the UK. 'Don't drink it!' said Hugo, and told the friendly women 'We're all healthy'. Then they went off to drink tapwater from the lavatory washbasin instead.

Hugo had confidently told his companions that they were going to London, bright lights and an exciting life. In fact they were taken to a farm school near a small village in Scotland. 'The boys were mad at me.' But there were some people who were anything but mad at him: a group of very small children who had somehow survived the Holocaust and needed care and love and comforting. Hugo and other older teenagers spent time with these troubled children, and worked on the summer camps arranged specially for them.

Hugo later became a famous rabbi. In 1990 he went with his daughters to revisit his birthplace in Hungary, one of many villages in the Carpathian mountains where Jews and non-Jews had lived side by side for centuries without quarrelling or hating each other. Hugo began to weep as they wandered through what had once been his father's vineyards. 'It was so beautiful - I had such a beautiful childhood,' he said, half in joy at the memory, half in sorrow at how it had ended.

When groups of people are singled out for persecution, the organisers persuade or force people outside the victim groups to take part in persecuting them. The inflaming of prejudice is also one of the first steps taken by people planning genocide. What examples of it are there in history, and what happened afterwards? What examples of this are happening now? How should it be resisted?



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