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Oral history interview with Thomas Detre

Oral History | Digitized | Accession Number: 1990.8.4 | RG Number: RG-50.063.0004

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    Oral history interview with Thomas Detre


    Interview Summary
    Thomas Detre, born May 17, 1924 in Budapest, Hungary, describes his family; living in a small town outside of Budapest; learning German and Hungarian as a child; being taught in a strict Catholic order and receiving lessons from a local rabbi; his Bar Mitzvah; not experiencing discrimination until he was a teenager; how his family was protected by early antisemitic laws because his father fought in WWI; how people disregarded the German invasion of Poland and how he was unaware of the anti-Jewish laws being passed; not being able to register for certain classes because he was Jewish; auditing medical courses in Budapest; different expressions of Judaism that were practiced in Hungary; how his family was integrated into Hungarian society and disdained the more cloistered orthodox Jews; how in 1942 the Arrow Cross became more violent and destroyed more Jewish property; how his cousins were drafted into the forced labor battalions; working in a Jewish hospital in Budapest in 1943 and learning from Jewish refugees about the camps and atrocities occurring in Nazi-occupied areas; the loopholes in the antisemitic legislation; being only vaguely aware of the ghettoization of Hungarian Jews; being arrested in 1944 and sent to a work compound; escaping with 100 other inmates and being captured later; being detained and correctly diagnosing a guard, who fell ill; feigning suicide and being sent to a rehabilitation hospital as required by Hungarian law; escaping the hospital and being recaptured; being sent to a detainment hall in Óbuda, where people were either sent to a Swiss safe house or a death camp; sneaking into the group of people going to the Swiss safe house; obtaining legal papers from a cousin and living in a safe house in Budapest; living with hundreds of others in cramped conditions; how in May 1944 his entire family was deported to Auschwitz and only one uncle survived; his reflections on the reasons for decreased Nazi cruelty in the last months of the war; his contact with the Zionist underground during his months in the safe house (he mentions Raoul Wallenberg); a Yugoslav partisan he lived with in the safe house; coming down with typhoid fever in the safe house; being liberated by the Russian Army in February 1945; learning about his parents via the bulletins issued by the International Red Cross; retrieving family jewels that friends had safeguarded and selling them for food; beginning his medical training three weeks after liberation; going to Italy to get his medical degree; immigrating to the United States in 1953; not experiencing survivor’s guilt and how it was luck that kept him alive; his belief that many Americans participated in denial en masse during the war; his questions about the effectiveness of widespread education on the Holocaust; and his belief that there should be more study of the psychology and behavior of groups.
    Thomas Detre
    interview:  1990 March 16
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, acquired from Holocaust Center of the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh

    Physical Details

    1 videocassette (VHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Corporate Name
    Nyilaskeresztes Párt.

    Administrative Notes

    The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh conducted the interview with Thomas Detre on March 16, 1990. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum received the tape of the interview from the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh on June 17, 1991.
    Record last modified:
    2023-11-16 08:10:24
    This page:

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