From Auschwitz to Budapest: an extraordinary journey


Taking the train: final destination Budapest.

Tuesday 3rd November 2015

It’s been very last minute but I am on my way to a country I have never been to, to meet a man I have never met.

I am finally fulfilling a personal journey that started in the bitter cold of Auschwitz in 2007 and will end tomorrow in the Autumn sunshine of Budapest, on the banks of the River Danube. So why am I making this journey?

As part of my military career I attended a course which included a study of genocide. What better place to see its grim reality than at Auschwitz. So on a bitterly cold day, trudging through the snow covered ground, I found myself at the heart of the Nazi’s most notorious extermination camp. During the visit I was advised to buy a book called “I Was Dr Mengele’s Assistant”, written by Doctor Nyiszli who was recruited to perform the post mortems for the infamous Nazi torturer. On my way home from Poland I read the book in one sitting; it was so compelling.

Towards the end of the book, I read about a boy who had been hidden by his Father in a monastery in Hungary, to avoid being rounded up by the Nazis in 1944. The boy was the son of Doctor Görög who had been sent to Auschwitz with his wife and daughter (who were both killed on their first day at the camp). Dr Görög was recruited by Dr Nyiszli to ease his workload, such was the volume of post mortems.

Auschwitz, a place without birdsong.

At the end of the book, when Doctor  Görög was close to death, he pleaded with the author of the book to adopt his son after the war. Whilst Dr Nyiszli agreed to this request and wrote this in the book, he never did fulfil Dr Görög’s final wish.

The boy was called Sándor Görög and he was 12 years old.

With no further mention of Sándor, I was intrigued to know what had happened to him after the war. I searched for him online when I got home to the UK and I found a Sándor Görög, who was around the right age, and like his Father, he had become a successful scientist.

Next to this information there was also an email address. So I wrote to Sándor Görög to ask if he was the boy in the book.

One hour later I received a reply and he confirmed that it was him.
He then wrote to me at length about his family’s story and Hungarian Jews in general. Over the years we have exchanged many pictures of our family, especially at Christmas time.

And today I am flying to Budapest to meet him for the first time.

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3 thoughts on “From Auschwitz to Budapest: an extraordinary journey

  1. David Salgo

    Good morning, Ade. I was half listening to Saturday Live this morning as I was working around my terrace in Spain. My ears really pricked up as your story of Sandor Gorog began to unfold as so much of it resonated with me as my family origins are Hungarian/Croation. In brief, my father, born in Zagreb of Hungarian parents was ‘sent’ to Loughborough in 1938 as an 18 year old boy where he qualified, as all things for a boy from an academic background (Greek/Latin scholar, excellent pianist etc) as a civil engineer, which saved his life as he was working in a ‘reserved occupation’ by 1943. His 2 colleagues and best university friends were taken as ‘internees’ and perished on the Arandora Star, blown out of the water just after leaving Liverpool en route for internment in Canada (of all places?) http://www.colonsay.org.uk/About/Arandora-Star.
    My parents married that same year but my mother had to relinquish her British Nationality and become a Yugoslavian citizen in order to marry and only became British again when my father was Nationalized in 1947. My Grandfather, who I never knew, was ‘taken’ by the Nazis in 1944 and forced marched towards a concentration camp in Austria or Germany and was shot somewhere along the way. My Grandmother survived the ghetto in spite of being at deaths door with pneumonia and starvation. She lived to 96 and became a huge influence on my life and career – inspired by her (and my dad) I became a professional musician and was in the Halle orchestra, Manchester, playing viola, for 27 years.
    My father, who was a baptised Lutheran (his father had adopted that faith much earlier) seldom spoke about his earlier years until I rooted out all the old pictures as he was failing in health and tried to get as much information as I could while I still could. He only ever wanted to be regarded as an English gentleman and seemed happier to gloss over his background which was evidently very different to the privileged life he had had before the war. On his death I researched my roots, even though I had been travelling to Budapest since 1964 to visit my grandmother and cousins. I recently sent a citation to the Yad Vashem database about my grandfather as well as having a memorial leaf installed on the wonderful ‘Tree of Life’ memorial in the grounds of the synagogue in central Budapest. (http://db.yadvashem.org/names/search.html?language=en)
    I relish my roots and my family ties to Hungary. Just this summer we had a re-union of cousins and family from 4 continents. It was fascinating to see family resemblances as well as a thread of genetic musicality among this group of 14 people. I am so happy to have this Hungarian/Jewish influence in my life – it has moulded me as a person as well as a musician. Thank you so much for this morning and that lovely, sensitive account of your meeting with Mr. Gorog. It took me straight back to my first visit to BP in 1964 when things there were very different to the way they are now!

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  2. Pingback: Sandor Görög | happygoldfish's jewish tv (and radio) guide

  3. David Salgo

    I sent a link to my cousin Tamas in Budapest with my blog-reply to you. He came straight back to me with the following – small world isn’t it?! Best wishes, David
    “Thanks for the article, it is really interesting.
    I know the man from the autobus, sometimes we travel together, he lives in the nearby.
    Best wishes Tam”

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