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 June 1941 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.
Istvan Pick was born in 1901 to Jeno and Gizella Augenfeld Pick in Budapest, Hungary. His father was the director of a lumber company. Istvan had three younger siblings: one brother, Laszlo, and two sisters, Jolan and Erzsebet. Istvan became an engineer and traveled the country selling wine presses to wineries. In 1933, he married Margit Kornhauser, who was born to Samu and Malvina Spitzer Kornhauser on March 26, 1901, in Budapest. Margit had three brothers, Laszlo, Charles, and Karoly. She worked as a legal secretary for her uncle, Pal Kornhauser. Istvan and Margit’s only child, Gyorgy (George), was born on March 28, 1934, while they were living with Istvan’s parents. Once the couple moved to their own apartment, Malvina lived with them.
In 1938, the Hungarian fascist regime enacted anti-Jewish laws similar to Germany’s Nuremberg laws, revoking rights Hungarian Jews had held for nearly 100 years. 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 a scrap metal business. In 1940, all able bodied Jewish males were required to perform forced labor service. In September, Istvan was conscripted into a labor battalion and sent to Raho, in Ruthenia, to build roads for three months. Gyorgy, Margit, and Malvina remained in their home in Budapest and Gyorgy attended the Jewish Boys' Orphanage School. In November 1940, Hungary joined the Axis Alliance, concerned about maintaining good relations with Nazi Germany. In spring 1941, they took part in Operation Barbarossa, Germany’s surprise attack on the Soviet Union. The labor battalions were placed under the control of the Hungarian Army and deployed for war related construction.iIn 1942, Margit’s aunt Ilona Halmos, with her husband Jeno and son Gabor fled Slovakia for Budapest. The Pick’s and other extended family helped hide them. In April 1943, Istvan was conscripted for a three month road construction project, this time in Cluj, in the region of Transylvania taken from Romania and given to Hungary in the German mediated Second Vienna Award in 1940.
After the German defeat and subsequent retreat from Stalingrad in February 1943, Hungary sought a separate peace with the western allies. In March 1944, Germany invaded Hungary. Prior to this, Hungary had not ceded to German demands to deport its Jews to concentration camps. Jeno Halmos turned himself in and his wife and son fled back to Slovakia. In April, Hungarian authorities began rounding up all Jews outside of Budapest and gathering them in centralized locations. By April 5th, all Jews were required to wear yellow stars on their clothing. Margit’s uncle Pal was deported. Istvan’s labor battalion was sent to western Hungary to build anti-tank fortifications. In June, Gyorgy, his mother, and her mother Malvina were forced to move to a specially designated yellow star house for Jews. His grandmother’s sister, Gizella, already lived in one of these houses, and they moved in with her. During May and June, Budapest was a frequent target of allied bombing raids. In September, Istvan's labor 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 planned to go into hiding with a friend. His friend was caught, and never made it to their hiding place. Istvan had to find a new shelter. He sought the help of a former business associate, Gyorgy Gyekis, who sent him to a textile factory on Csango Street. The factory was ostensibly manufacturing uniforms for the Hungarian army, but in actuality, had ceased production. Approximately 65 Jews were hiding there when Istvan arrived. The factory was established by Imre Kormos (Kohn), a Hungarian Jew living on false papers, who had experience in the textile industry. Kormos operated four factories where 1100 Jews were hidden.
On November 22, Istvan sent an urgent message to Margit and Gyorgy telling them to pack a few things, join him at the factory, and tell no one. They packed a small suitcase, saying nothing and leaving Malvina and Gizella behind. When they arrived at the factory, there were 170 Jews hiding there. Kormos, who had been 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. The Jews hiding evaded arrest by bribing the police to protect them instead of deporting them. People hiding in the other two factories were killed. Kormos was tortured for two days, but he did not disclose the location of his fourth factory. Kormos was sentenced to death, but escaped and survived the war. A few days after the raid, Gyorgy and 21 other children in the factory were transferred to a building under the protection of the Swiss Red Cross. The conditions there were terrible, so Gyorgy and a friend escaped and returned to the factory. Soon after their escape, there was an Arrow Cross raid on the Red Cross safe house, during which the children were rounded-up and shot on the banks of the Danube.
The family remained at the factory until December 17, when two of the bribed policemen told people in the factory that it was soon to be raided. The policemen escorted whoever wanted to leave to the new central ghetto, and Istvan’s family went there. Istvan joined the ghetto police force to earn double rations. There were severe food shortages as the Soviets laid siege to the city. There was no gas, water, or electricity. Istvan patrolled the streets while Gyorgy and Margit hid in the basement of a building with 200 others. Pest was liberated by the Soviets on January 18, 1945, and Buda on February 13. Istvan’s family returned to their apartment. His mother-in-law, Malvina, returned from the International ghetto where she had been hiding. The war in Europe ended on May 7, 1945. Istvan’s sister Erzsebet Pick Rutkai was killed in 1944 on her way to Ravensbruck concentration camp. Sixty-three members of his extended family perished. Margit’s closest family members 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. Istvan and his family remained in Budapest. Malvina, age 76, died in 1950. Gyorgy went on to study mechanical engineering. In March 1956, Istvan died at age 55.