Protocol Nr. 3610

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Name: M. R.
Gender: male
Place of birth: Devecser
Date of birth: 1894
Place of residence: Budapest
Occupation: banker

The person in question has given us the following information: In the beginning of 1944, I was the head organiser of a nationwide movement collecting money for the people in labour service. The sum we collected amounted to more than 3 million pengős (at the contemporary rate). With the permission of the Ministry of Defence we bought blankets, boots, underwear, sweaters and sent them to the labour servicemen. Moreover I led around 2-300 volunteers of a charity established to help the families and the orphans, mainly those families where the men left for labour service. We gave them money, clothes, medical care, treatment in hospitals. In the centre of the organisation, in 12 Síp Street, there was an Ambulatory Care Centre set up. As long as we could, we continued these services, even after the German invasion on the 19th of March, 1944. Not much later, the Germans founded the so-called Jewish Council, whose members were well-known. The city government ordered the Council to hand over – by way of moving families together – 500 furnished studio flats for the use of non-Jews whose flats had been bombed. Following this order the Council had to set up a housing office to handle the case of apartments, and I was made its administrative head. People in contact with the authorities were Dr. Kurzweil and Dezső Bánó and their assistants. The director of the office was Miksa Trebits, later Dr. Ármin Kun, further, there were around 100 lawyers involved with their assistants. The next instruction of the municipal authorities was to provide another 1,000 flats but these had to contain one or two rooms already. It resulted in moving families together. Later on, the Germans and the Gestapo handed in various demands for flats. These demands were placed through the “group in contact with the authorities,” which comprised Dr. Mandel, Dr. Pető, Dr. János Gábor, and Dr. Gergely. These people put the orders they had received into a written form and passed them to the housing office as instructions. The office carried out these orders as delayed as possible. The next move was to decide which houses were to be transformed into the so- called "starred houses". Already before the decree came out we knew about it. Moving together families had been more frequent in houses where the number of Jewish inhabitants was more than 50%, therefore the process of moving together was already advanced when the decree was published. First, it was supposed to be finished in 24 hours. We made great efforts to get it prolonged with 3 days, and having appealed a lot we got 8 days at the end. It was impossible to defer it for longer than that, especially that on the eighth day, which was a Saturday, a separate rule came out prohibiting the Jews to leave their flats. This put an end to the whole process. Moving Jews together was finished by the said Saturday, but the only reason it could be completed was that it had already started 2 weeks before the decree appeared. On the sixth day, the Council decided to open all temples of Budapest in order to let those move into who had no place to go to, while in the future we could secure them accommodation. Nevertheless, only a few used this opportunity as 95% of the Jews managed to move together. Moving people into the temples meant another two days for us, tolerated by the municipal authorities, when we could find accommodation also for them. Later, the Germans ordered to empty the zone of Pasarét, of the Castle and of certain parts of Buda keeping a distance of 500 meters, later of 1,000 meters of the Arrow Cross and other bandits who could not suffer Jews not even in their neighbourhood. As far as we could, we tried to sabotage these rules. The way they resolved this situation was throwing out the inhabitants of the houses in question, or by deciding upon the date by which the houses had to be emptied. As a consequence many came to the housing office to apply for a flat claiming that the German and Arrow Cross bandits chased them out off their places. Arrow Cross men came to me several times to ask me to empty houses for them so that they could use them as clubs or offices of the party, what I naturally refused to do so. Therefore, they constantly threatened me to teach me good manners. I complained in the Ministry but of course no one listened to me. This happened still in September. The number of starred houses was initially 1,654, out of which 681 was taken away in the following days: the whole of Buda, Zugló, etc. was emptied, so we ended up with 973 yellow star houses. In brief this was the story of the Housing Office. Around the middle of 1944, on the order of the Ministry of Defence Colonel Heinrich came to the Council and told us that Jewish men and women belonging to a certain age group had to start working as there was a need for clearing the debris in Budapest. Again I was appointed as the administrative head of this job. We enrolled more than 60,000 people for this objective, but thanks to successful sabotage there were only 1,500 who actually started working. We absolutely refused to enrol women and let them work. As a result women did not start working not even later. When authorities saw that we sabotaged the whole process of clearing the debris and there was already need for Jewish workforce to dig the trenches, gendarme Lieutenant Colonel Ferenczy took the lead instead of me. The Council ordered Ferenc Schalk to enrol people in Pozsonyi Road and to perform also a military health control. This was sabotaged, too, and had no results. Next, the Ministry of Defence withdrew the commission of Colonel Heinrich and gave it to Captain Gobbi who we managed to convince to have the people enrol again, this time in the presence of military doctors. But we sabotaged this, too. However, as a result of the strong pressure a few hundreds of people were taken away to work on the trenches close to Pest. I would like to note that the Labour Group of Gödöllő headed by Captain Bortits and his soldiers sent patrols to Budapest, and in certain houses these people rounded up men and women in order to force them to work. As much as we could, we tried to obstruct them. When at dawn people were forced to gather in the courtyard I was rang up in my flat. Almost every time I asked for the help of the Ministry of Defence, or of the army corps headquarters, what I duly received and soon I was racing by car to the place in question together with an officer. The officer dismissed the patrol and the people standing in the courtyard could return to their flats. At the end, these frequent emergency actions attracted the attention of higher authorities. This was followed by the well-known coup of Szálasi of the 15th of October. The next day in the morning, I went to the office in 12 Síp Street, where there was no one except for Miksa Domonkos. No one had the courage to appear. Still in the morning the ill-famed detectives of the Hungarian Gestapo came to the office, they took me away to the police headquarters, where they beat me up and made me suffer all forms of tortures that humans invented because they considered me their chief enemy who sabotaged everything. They left me covered with blood for 4 days, starving and not thirsty, then took me to Svábhegy to carry on with their well-known games. The Council and some military personages intervened in vain, yet, they let me free under strong pressure from the Swedish Embassy. Their condition was to make me appear in front of Lieutenant Colonel Ferenczy, who was to instruct me to organise the ghetto. Together with Lajos Stöckler, the current president of the Jewish community we got an appointment from Lieutenant Colonel Ferenczy for the next day. Naturally, I failed to go, since contemporaneously I was made appear at the Swedish Embassy where I received asylum and was instructed to organise the protected ghetto of the Swedish and to lead the charity department what I continued to do till we were liberated. Working for the Swedish I organised the ghetto. We selected 32 houses to serve as protected houses (Swedish protected houses), then we established a Swedish hospital in 16 Tátra Street, and various bodies of the Swedish Red Cross in different parts of the city, altogether 10 to 12. Furthermore, there was even a foster home under Swedish protection. It was also our job to provide food supplies to the protected houses, and to accommodate the protected people. The Ministry authorised a list for 3,000 people protected by the Swedish, but we also hid in the air-raid shelters more than 3,000 people, out of which more than 2,000 were supposed to do labour service, many of whom had been taken off the wagons by Secretary Wallenberg. People protected by the Swedish enjoyed a privileged state mostly because they were remarkably disciplined, and the whole organisation was well-administered, hence it gave no reason for attacks. I also lived in the building of the Embassy, and when they were about to abolish Swedish protection I moved my office to 6 Tátra Street, another building of the Embassy, to be ready to help in all circumstances. The 15th of January, 1945, I approached the head of the 50 policemen who served the Embassy, and attained that these policemen did were not thrown into battle. As a result, they violated the command and stayed on their place. I persuaded the person in command to dress labour servicemen doctor Wirth as a policeman - since he spoke good Russian - and to go to the Russians as negotiators together with him and two other policemen, to show the Russians the way to our place. There were neither Germans nor the Arrow Cross nearby. The mission was a success and the Russians appeared with the policemen early in the morning of the 16th.
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