Gyorgy (George) Pick, the only child of Istvan and Margit Kornhauser Pick, was born on March 28, 1934, in Budapest, Hungary. His father was born in 1901 to Jeno and Gizella Augenfeld Pick. His mother was born in 1901 to Samu and Malvina Spitzer Kornhauser, both in Budapest. The couple married in 1930. Istvan was an engineer and was a travelling salesman for a wine press manufacturer Rokk Istvan Machines. Margit was a legal secretary for her uncle, Pal Kornhauser, a prominent attorney. The Hungarian government had radical fascist elements and was closely allied with Germany. Antisemitic measures based upon the Nuremberg racial laws in Germany were passed in the 1930s. Jews lost their citizenship and were barred from many professions. Istvan lost his job in May 1939 because he was Jewish. He paid the building superintendent to take out a business license which Istvan used to open a scrap metal business. Margit continued to work for her uncle, Pal Hornhauser, a lawyer who was exempt from some restrictions because of his exemplary service in the army during World War I (1914-1918.) In September 1940, Istvan was conscripted by the Hungarian labor service and sent to a small town in Ruthenia for three months where he worked building roads. Gyorgy and his mother remained in their home in Budapest. His maternal grandmother Malvina Kornhauser lived with them. Gyorgy attended the Jewish Boys' Orphanage School.
In November 1940, Hungary joined the Axis Alliance, and participated in Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The labor battalions were placed under the control of the Hungarian Army. In April 1943, Istvan was selected for a road construction project and sent to Cluj in Transylvania for three months. After the German retreat from Stalingrad in February 1943, Hungary sought a separate peace with the Allies. In March 1944, Hungary was occupied by Germany. In April, Gyorgy could longer attend school and all Jews had to wear yellow star badges on their clothing at all times. Hungary previously had refused to send its Jews to German concentration camps, but in April, Hungarian police conducted large scale round-ups and deportations. His father’s labor battalion was sent to western Hungary to build anti-tank fortifications. His great-uncle Pal was deported. In June, Gyorgy and his mother were forced to move to a specially designated Jewish yellow star house. Gyorgy’s maternal great-aunt Gizella already lived in the designated area, and Gyorgy, his mother, and grandmother moved in with Gizella and her family. Budapest became a frequent target of allied bombing raids. On July 2, the city was heavily bombarded and Gyorgy remembers having to step over dead bodies.
In September 1944, his father’s battalion was transferred to Budapest. On November 22, Margit and Gyorgy received a message from Istvan telling them to join him at a textile factory on Csango Street. They packed a small suitcase and left without telling anyone, even his grandmother, and were reunited with his father. Istvan’s battalion commander had given his men leave in early November the night before they were to go to Germany. Istvan had gone into hiding in the factory. There were about 170 other Jews hiding there. The factory was supposedly producing military uniforms, but the Jewish manager, Imre Kormos, had established it and three other factories as safe places for Jew to hide. Kormos, in hiding with Hungarian friends, was betrayed to the Gestapo. The informer also disclosed the locations of three of Kormos' four factories. On December 2, five armed members of the State Security Police raided the Csango Street factory where the Picks were hiding. The Jews hiding there were able to evade arrest by bribing the police. Some people in the other two buildings were killed. Kormos was sentenced to death, but escaped. A few days after the December 2 raid, Gyorgy was transferred with the other twenty-one children, to a building under the protection of the International Red Cross. There was no food there, so Gyorgy and a friend left and rejoined his parents in the textile factory. Soon after his escape, there was an Arrow Cross raid on the Red Cross safe house. The children were rounded-up and shot on the banks of the Danube. Gyorgy and his parents remained at the Csango Street factory until December 17, when two of the bribed policemen told the hidden residents that the factory was going to be raided. They offered to escort those who wanted to leave to the new central ghetto. Gyorgy and his parents went to the ghetto where Istvan was on the ghetto police force. There were severe food shortages as the Russians laid siege to the city. There was no gas, water, or electricity and there were dead bodies in the center square. The Picks lived crowded with 200 others in the basement of their bomb damaged building.
Pest, where the Picks were living, was liberated by the Soviets on January 18, 1945. Buda was freed on February 13. Gyorgy and his parents returned to their apartment. His grandmother Malvina also returned; she had survived in hiding in the international ghetto. The war in Europe ended with Germany’s surrender on May 7, 1945. Over 160 members of Istvan's and Margit's extended families perished in the Holocaust. His Uncle Pal was killed in Auschwitz. Gyorgy and his family remained in Budapest. His grandmother Malvina, age 76, died in 1950. After graduating high school, Gyorgy earned a degree in mechanical engineering. His father Istvan died at age 55 in March 1956. Gyorgy became involved in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 against the Soviet controlled government, and had to flee to Austria. In December 1956, Gyorgy immigrated to the United States and assumed the name George. His mother Margit joined him in Washington DC in 1958. She died, age 90, in May 1991. George is retired from a career as a mechanical engineer with the US Navy and married to his third wife Leticia. He has long been committed to educating people about the Holocaust and has shared his own experiences with teachers, students, and many other groups.
Malvina Spitzer (Kornhauser) was born in 1874 in Austria-Hungary. She had two sisters, Ilona and Gizella, and a brother, Bela. Malvina married Samu Kornhauser, an engineer, and the couple settled in Budapest, Hungary. They had four children: a daughter, Margit, and three sons, Laszlo, Charles, and Karoly. In 1933, Margit married Istvan Pick, an engineer. They had a son, Gyrogy, on March 28, 1934, who was Malvina and Samu’s first grandchild. After Samu’s death on July 19, 1935, Malvina went to live with her son Charles. He emigrated to the United States in 1938, and she went to live with Margit’s family. In 1938, the Hungarian fascist regime adopted discriminatory anti-Jewish laws, similar to those of their ally, Nazi Germany. Istvan lost his job in May 1939 because he was Jewish. He paid the superintendent of their building, Gyorgy Dudek, to take out a business license in his name. Istvan and his business partners then set up scrap metal business. Margit continued to work as a legal secretary for her uncle Pal Kornhauser, who was exempt from the Jewish laws because of his distinguished service during World War I.
In 1940, all able-bodied Jewish males were required to perform forced labor. In September, Istvan was conscripted into the Hungarian labor service and his labor battalion was sent to Raho, in Ruthenia, to build roads for three months. Malvina, Margit, and Gyorgy remained in their home in Budapest and Gyorgy attended the Jewish Boys' Orphanage School. In November, concerned about continuing German support, Hungary became a member of the Axis alliance, and in spring 1941, joined Germany in the surprise attack on the Soviet Union. The labor battalions were placed under the control of the Hungarian Army and deployed on war related construction work.
Malvina’s nephew, Gabor, and his parents Ilona and Jeno Halmos, had escaped to Budapest from Slovakia in 1942, and her extended family and the Pick’s helped hide the family. In April 1943, Istvan was conscripted for a three month road construction project, this time in Cluj, in the area of Transylvania taken from Hungary and given to Hungary in 1940 through the German mediated Second Vienna Award.
Following the German defeats in Russia in 1943, Hungary sought a separate armistice with the western Allies. On March 19, 1944, Germany invaded Hungary. Previously Hungary had not acted on German demands to deport its Jews to concentration camps. Now, Hungarian authorities began to round up all Jews not living in Budapest gathering them in regional centers. Jeno Halmos, who was still living in hiding, turned himself in, while his wife and son escaped back to Slovakia. By April 5, all Jews were required to wear yellow stars on their clothing. In April, Malvina’s brother-in-law Pal Kornhauser was deported. Istvan’s labor battalion was sent to western Hungary to build anti-tank fortifications. In June, Malvina, and her daughter and grandson, Margit, and Gyorgy, were forced to move to a specially designated "yellow star" house for Jews. Malvina’s sister, Gizella, and her family, already lived in one of these houses, and they moved in with them. During May and June, Budapest was a frequent target of allied bombing raids. In September, Istvan's battalion moved to Budapest. In early November, his commander warned the unit that they would be sent to Germany the following day. The men were given a 24-hour furlough and Istvan went into hiding with a friend.
On November 22, 1944, Margit and Gyorgy left the apartment without telling Malvina where they were going. The apartment building was raided the following day, and Malvina, Gizella, and her family, and everyone else in the building were taken to transit camps in the brickyards along the river. The building superintendent knew that the women had a brother, Bela, living in one of the “safe” houses in the international ghetto protected by the efforts of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. This ghetto consisted of buildings held by neutral nations, particularly Sweden and Switzerland, and many were reserved for Jews and their families that held certificates of protection from those nations. The superintendent found Bela there and explained what had happened to Malvina, Gizella, and her family. Bela went to Wallenberg and asked for certificates of protection for them so that they could leave the brickyard and be allowed into the ghetto. Wallenberg was successful and they went to live in the Swedish safe house with Bela.
The city was liberated by the Soviet Army in February 1945. Malvina left the ghetto and walked back to the Pick’s original apartment, where she found Margit, Istvan, and Gyorgy. Malvina learned that Istvan had hidden his family in a textile factory on Csango Street, eventually ending up in the central ghetto. The war in Europe ended on May 7, 1945. Malvina’s immediate family survived, but more than 90 members of her extended family perished in the Holocaust, including Pal Kornhauser and Jeno Halmos who were killed in 1944 at Auschwitz concentration camp. Malvina and the Pick family remained in Budapest. Malvina, age 76, died in 1950.