Protocol Nr. 3581

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Name: dr. H. F.
Gender: male
Place of birth: Budapest
Date of birth: 1907
Occupation: rabbi

The person in question has given us the following information: It was in June 1944 that a member of the Zionist Association, Sándor Somló, drew my attention to the ongoing deportation of the Jews and to the fact that no attempts were made to stop it. I lived in Somló’s building, 54 Damjanich Street, and we worded a memorandum together and agreed to hand it in to the leaders of the religious community. As he was the head of the purchasing department he had good connection with the leaders of the community. We presented our memorandum to the newly established Jewish Council and asked them to act as the situation was unbearable. The Council approved my text and gave it to First Secretary Ernő Munkácsi to improve it. He edited the petition which was then sent to various members of the government. Meanwhile Béla Pásztor also wrote a similar memorandum, but ours was more clear-cut. When I received this draft I told him that I had already prepared one and had presented it to the community. I re- elaborated his text adding comments to it, such as how impossible it was that the Hungarian nation, which asked for fairness and righteousness from the nations of the world, tolerated and watched the ruthlessness with which the Jews were deported (it was in June, 1944). This memorandum addressed the Christian society and was entitled "A copy of a letter." We made copies of these texts with a copier that Sándor Somló managed to obrain from a merchant called Mayer. Naturally, it all happened in secret. We shut ourselves off in a room of the Rabbinate, Mrs Tibor Faragó, a typist helped us in this work. We made around 2,000 copies, and distributed them to different personalities like university professors, people who had a role in politics, naturally to ex politicians, partly using the mail, partly through personal connections. Béla Vihar also helped us in the distribution, and so did some leaders of Zionist youth associations, who also used their personal relations to pass our memorandum to the right people. Dr. Tibor Polgár, the head of the Supportive Office also had promised to distribute around 25-50 copies in the best places before he left for Switzerland with a group ready to move to Palestine. This is how we distributed the memorandum. Meanwhile the group heading to Palestine left. I took part in the preparations of their travel. This job was organised in 29 Vadász Street. Later, “The Department of the Swiss Embassy in the interest of foreigners” was set up here. After a while, my part in the distribution of the memorandum ended. But the whole process came to a halt when the author was denounced at the prosecutor’s office as an agitator. It happened as follows: I gave some copies to Fülöp Grünwald, a teacher, so that he would distribute them. He was very enthusiastic and gave some to his brother, who was also a teacher. To his misfortune, he (the brother) gave some copies also to Rabbi Dr Dénes Látzer, who showed one to a colleague of his, and she made the denunciation. Latzer was immediately arrested. During the interrogation he testified about who had given him the memorandum, as a result the two Grünwalds were also arrested and taken to the Svábhegy. In the name of the religious community we attempted to take steps in their interest at the Ministry of Justice, where they had personal connections, but the advocate of the community was told not to proceed as the case was so delicate that anyone involved may get into trouble. Meanwhile Grünwald thinking that I already had left for Switzerland (as I had planned to do) testified that it was me who gave him the letters. The same day, the 26th of August he was transported from Svábhegy to the detective office of Csillaghegy, from where two inspectors immediately went to capture me in my flat. Here they were told that I was at the Swiss Embassy. The two detectives came to the Embassy and they made me appear in front of them. I obeyed since I reckoned it was better not to go into hiding because in this case they would take and torture my relatives, as they usually did. Right on the spot they asked about various details then they put me in the car and took me to the detective office of Csillaghegy. On the way they told me I should be happy to end up at the police as the next day the Jews of Budapest would be deported. They assured me that by the time I got freed there would be no Jews in Pest any more. However, they did not know what we had learnt in the Embassy the Wednesday before, i.e. that the deportation scheduled for the 27th would be postponed. There was Ottó Komoly, the president of the Zionist Association in the same car, but they dropped him off at Vígszínház because he was a privileged person through his connections to the government. I was taken to Csillaghegy where a small fat officer received the detectives shouting at them “Where have you been so long? Being late for such a filthy Jew! All should be annihilated.” I have to note that the political tension started to ease in all aspects of life since the Lakatos government came into power. It meant the improvement of the general situation. For example at the detectives’ headquarters in Csillaghegy it happened the first time on the 27th, a Sunday afternoon, that the prisoners who had been kept in for several months could now take a half an hour walk in the courtyard, and this became a daily practice. These prisoners said their life was a paradise now compared to the previous situation. In reality, however, except for a few gendarmes who had more humane ways prisoners were tortured on the order of the chief gendarmes in the most brutal and inhumane ways here, not to mention those whose case was just being investigated. These people were forced to testify through the most terrible beatings and tortures. (Mostly the leftists were their victims.) The corridors were full of banging when their feet were beaten. Horrible cries could be heard from the other end of the building, so everyone got scared when detectives entered smilingly their cell with sleeves rolled up as butchers do and ordered prisoners with a bow to follow them into the torture chamber. My case was relatively easy. Detectives gave me some cuffs and smashes to make me remember some details I forgot. Later, when I was confronted with Grünwald I saw what could be said openly. The case was closed with my testimony. In the meantime Zionists increased their pressure on the Lakatos government. They succeeded in as much as they transformed the initial accusation of agitation into an accusation of violating the rules of press. Since deportations were partially halted, agitation against them was not considered any more an agitation, for it coincided more or less with the intentions of the government. 9 days passed, then we got released and were transported to the main office of the police headquarters. From here we went into the detention house where we were referring to the fact that our case was closed and we were released, but they warned us, that Jews could not be freed at all, at best they could be interned. A few days later, I was selected for a transport to be deported, however, these were times when it was already easier to get into hospital claiming that you were sick. This is how I got into the prisoners’ hospital, where I was treated correctly. The only surprise was the head nurse who noticed that me and a pair of my companions were not eating the non-kosher food of the hospital but the food we had delivered in detention - having starved for 9 days in Csillaghegy. She angrily said "You cannot eat this kind of food here, I will let the doctors know that you are cured." Me and Grünwald managed to attain that we were transported to the hospital of Bethlen Square. Here, we could observe how the SS tried to get hold of leading political and economic prisoners. Three weeks passed since we were captured when I was finally freed, and went back to Vadász Street and continued working. As of the liberation I contributed to preparing lists and procuring letters of protection. Consul Lutz was benevolent. He emphasized several times that he generously provided the Schutzpasses despite the severe instructions of the Anglo-Saxons. Besides valid Schutzpasses, which were so difficult to procure, Zionists and leftists, who worked there, managed to prepare printed documents putting forged seals on them. These papers helped to come back throngs of those who had been taken into labour companies. At the beginning they did not notice it, and these people evaded the deportations to the West. One evening, young girls who were called up and supposed to leave in a few hours were desperately waiting for the Schutzpasses. We had no more forms with the original seals on. We helped ourselves with forged seals. This work was carried out in various places, on the attic, in the cellar. We collectively gave them the Schutzpasses with the forged seals so that they could evade leaving for service. We had to resolve a great number of difficulties; at the end we distributed around 120,000 Schutzpasses instead of the 7,800 what was legal. As for protected houses the problem was that these houses were already full before we could let the people move in. Everyone bribed the janitors, so the houses became crammed. Those who got the Schutzpasses had difficulties to enter these protected places. The Embassy instructed us to clarify the identity of the 7,800 persons who had the right for having a Schutzpass; the rest were to be put into the ghetto. The Embassy started to sabotage our work but we went on preparing lists, every week newer and newer copies. We could not finish the last list because the Russians arrived. Sabotage meant these people could temporarily stay in the protected houses till the final list got ready, but it never got ready. The 2,000 people living in the building of the Embassy went through this perilous period without great tragedies, although food supply and accommodation was tragic, and the Arrow Cross caused some losses with their attacks. It is part of the historical truth that several non-Jew leftists enjoyed protection in these places, too.
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