Portrait of Tom Veres taken after liberation.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 44931
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Thomas Veres
Portrait of Tom Veres taken after liberation.
- Thomas Veres (1923-2002), Hungarian Jewish photographer who during the final months of the German occupation of Budapest in World War II, served as the official photographer of Swedish diplomatic rescuer, Raoul Wallenberg. Thomas was the son of Paul and Berta (Lang) Veres. He had an older brother, Paul, who married an American and immigrated to the US in 1939. Thomas was raised in Budapest, where his father owned a photography studio and served as the official photographer for the Hapsburg monarch and subsequently for the Hungarian regent, Admiral Miklos Horthy. Paul Veres was recognized as the leading photographer of the Hungarian aristocracy, and as such, he and his family were exempted from anti-Jewish regulations that began to be imposed in the late 1930s. Thomas, who decided he wanted to become a photographer at the age of fifteen, learned his trade by watching his father. When he was sixteen or seventeen, his father started sending him to the palace in his stead to photograph Horthy's newly appointed cabinet ministers. Among the Veres' clients in Budapest were several foreign consulates, including the Swedish legation. In 1942 or 1943 Per Anger, second secretary at the Swedish legation, called in the Veres' to photograph his family. The Angers had purchased a new Leica camera and Thomas was engaged over a period of several weeks to instruct Mrs. Anger in its use. Following the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944, Paul Veres utilized his connections with the Swedes to secure passports for himself and his family. He also used his influence to make sure that when his son Thomas was called up for the Hungarian labor service he was drafted not as a Jew, but as an Hungarian. Thomas entered the labor service on April 7, 1944 and was sent to the town of Miskolc, where he remained until August. At that time his unit was transferred back to Budapest, where they were put to work in a factory producing ammunition boxes. When the Arrow Cross party assumed control of the Hungarian government on October 15, word came down that Thomas' unit would be transferred to Germany. With the help of his captain, with whom he enjoyed a strong friendship, Thomas was able to escape from the labor battalion before the transfer took place. He then returned to his parents home, where his father informed him about their Swedish documents. This gave Thomas the idea of turning to Per Anger for help in evading arrest by the Arrow Cross. On the morning of October 17, 1944 Thomas made his way to the Swedish legation, where hundreds of people were waiting outside in the hopes of obtaining protective documents. Against all odds, Thomas reached a policeman guarding the entrance to the building and asked him to deliver the message to Per Anger that Thomas Veres wanted to see him. Thirty minutes later an announcement was made over the loud speaker instructing everyone to leave the premises with the exception of Thomas Veres. Thomas was then ushered into Anger's office. After hearing his story, Anger introduced him to Raoul Wallenberg, who immediately hired Thomas to be his official photographer. Much of his time was spent taking photographs for protective documents that the legation issued by the thousands. But on November 28, Thomas was called upon for the first time to document what was happening to the Jews of Budapest. On that day he was instructed by Wallenberg to meet him at the Jozsefvarosi train station, a freight depot on the outskirts of Budapest. Thomas arrived to find the station completely surrounded by Hungarian gendarmes. Claiming he was a Swedish diplomat, Thomas gained entry and found himself in the midst of a deportation action. Wallenberg, who was there with his car and driver, had set up a table where he sat with his black ledger instructing the Jews to get into line to show him their documentation. When Wallenberg spotted Thomas he walked over to him and whispered instructions to take as many photos as possible. Thomas then slid into the back of Wallenberg's car, cut a slit in his scarf with a penknife and fit the lens of his camera through the hole. He then got out and walked through the station as calmly as possible snapping photographs. At one point an old friend who was among the deportees recognized him and called out his name. Thomas walked over to him, grabbed him by the collar and yelled, "You dirty Jew, get over there," pointing toward Wallenberg's line, and gave him a kick in the pants. Several hundred Jews had been pulled out of the crowd of deportees when Wallenberg sensed that the Nazis were losing patience, and he quickly instructed the new "Swedes" to walk back to Budapest. The next day was a repeat of the first, and Thomas arrived at the station with his camera already hidden in the folds of his scarf. This time, while photographing Thomas walked to the other side of the train, where he climbed onto an already loaded car that had been closed but not yet padlocked. After successfully prying the door open, he urged the deportees to jump down quickly and run to the line where Wallenberg was distributing passes. Just as Wallenberg was finishing up and instructing the newly documented "Swedes" to march back to town, an Hungarian gendarme spotted Thomas and yelled at him to stop. Wallenberg and his driver quickly got into their car, drove to the other side of the train, opened the car door, instructed Thomas to jump in and sped out of the station. During the next several weeks Wallenberg fought a constant battle with the Nazis and Hungarians to keep the 30,000 Jews living in protected houses from being transferred to the central ghetto or raided by Arrow Cross bands. At the beginning of January 1945 during the Soviet bombardment of Budapest, Thomas was living in the offices of the Swedish legation on Ulloi Street together with scores of others. On the night of January 8, 1945, the Ulloi Street building was raided by a group of Arrow Cross thugs. Thomas and the others were about to be marched to their execution along the banks of the Danube River when Wallenberg appeared with a truckload of Budapest police and demanded the release of the "Swedes." He had been notified of the raid by an undiscovered switchboard operator working upstairs in the building. Four days later, just prior to the end of the fighting, the apartment building in which Thomas' parents were living was raided by Arrow Cross members who had come to confiscate the hidden stocks of food belonging to the Zserbo confectionery that was stored in the building's cellar. All of the residents, Jews and non-Jews alike, were marched out of the building and shot into the Danube. Upon hearing the news of the raid Thomas went to see Wallenberg, who was then hiding in the vault of a nearby bank. It was at this last meeting that Wallenberg informed him of his intention to go to Debrecen to meet with the newly established provisional government, and invited Thomas to accompany him. Thomas declined because he still hoped to find his parents alive. A few days later Wallenberg was arrested by the Soviet NKVD and was never heard from again. Thomas remained in Hungary after the war and immigrated to the US in 1956.
[Sources: Veres, Thomas. Oral history with Raye Farr, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, 22 June 1992; Veres, Tom, "Raoul Wallenberg's Last Days in Budapest," Guideposts, January 1992, pp.14-19.]
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Thomas Veres
Record last modified: 2008-07-22 00:00:00
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