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Three young Hungarian Jewish displaced persons sit around a table with lit candles.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 60803

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    Three young Hungarian Jewish displaced persons sit around a table with lit candles.
    Three young Hungarian Jewish displaced persons sit around a table with lit candles.

Among those pictured is the donor, Sandor Berko, seated on the right.


    Three young Hungarian Jewish displaced persons sit around a table with lit candles.

    Among those pictured is the donor, Sandor Berko, seated on the right.
    1948 October 11
    Landskrona, [Malmo] Sweden
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Sandor Berko

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Sandor Berko
    Source Record ID: Collections: 2000.356

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Sandor Tzvi David Berko, is the only child of Izrael Berko and Erzsebet Weisz-Berko. He was born on October 25, 1928, in the Hungarian village, Tiszalok where his father owned a soda factory. Most of the community was Hasidic and they greeted each other by naming the weekly Torah portion. Approximately 450 Jews lived in Tiszalok in the interwar period. From the age of four years Sandor attended Cheder (religious school for Jewish children). At the age of seven he entered the Izraelita Elemi Iskola while contunuing to attend the Cheder. However, as World War II approached the situation for Jews deteriorated as the government instituted new anti-Jewish edicts. In 1941 Jews were classified "unreliable". Jewish school children were required to wear yellow armbands and had to prepare for Munkaszolgalat (Jewish slave-labor battalions), while the non-Jewish youth were schooled in paramilitary training. Sandor's father, Izrael Berko, who was forty years old at that time, received a command to enroll in the Munkaszolgalat, together with all Jewish men aged from 20-42. He enrolled in Kassa (now, Kosice, Slovakia), on May 10, 1942, and never returned home. In the spring of 1943, a non-Jewish Hungarian soldier told the family in that Izrael Berko's entire Jewish battalion had been deported to the Ukraine and perished there during from exhaustion and exposure. In November 1943, Sandor's mother brought him to Budapest to acquire a profession. Representatives of the Jewish community placed Sandor in Kalman Rath's firm to learn to become an orthopedic technician and gave him housing in one of the community's boys' dormitories. The building had a basement synagogue for daily prayers, served kosher food and housed approximately 50 to 60 Jewish boys. On Sunday, March 19, 1944, Germany invaded Hungary. On that day Sandor had been visiting a Jewish family in Budapest, who had relatives in Tiszalok. Sandor wanted to return to his mother, but the family persuaded him to stay, and he returned to the boy's home. After a fortnight Hungarian authorities confiscated the house, and the boys were turned out on the street. The Jewish community immediately placed the boys in smaller groups among the remaining Jewish homes. Sandor, with some friends, was placed in an orphanage for smaller children. Conditions eased somewhat later that summer, but Jews were still confined to live in houses that were designated by the yellow star and had to wear the yellow star on their clothes. On October 15, Miklos Horthy called for the cessation of arms. The children in the orphanage celebrated for a short while, but a few hours later they learned that Ferenz Szálaszi, the leader of the Hungarian Nazis, Nyilas (Arrow Cross) had become head of the country. At that time, one of Sandor's friends worked in a firm that was owned by an ethnic German, Mr. Deutch. Mr. Deutch tried to hide the friend, Sandor and two other boys in his garage. His daughter delivered a daily meal to the boys, but within a week Hungarian boys in the neighborhood discovered them. The Jewish boys fled back to the orphanage in Budapest. As of October 15, 1944, all Jews aged 16 and older had to register in designated places for forced labor. Sandor's battalion was immediately marched towards the eastern front, where they were forced to dig trenches to stop the Russian advance. Armed Hungarian soldiers constantly watched the Jewish slave workers. The Jews suffered hunger, thirst and exposure from the severe weather. On November 2, 1944, the Red Army approached to within a few kilometers of the trenches, but that afternoon, the Arrow Cross guards marched the entire group 30 kilometers to Budapest's Franz-Joseph bridge on the Danube. When all of the Jewish men were on the bridge, the soldiers opened fire on them and then proceeded to kill the injured. The remaining Jewish boys were then forced to throw the corpses down from the bridge into the Danube. Though the Nazis marched the survivors to the Danube's Csepel-island, Sandor succeeded in returning to the orphanage. On December 24, 1944, Christmas Eve, the Russian Army surrounded Budapest. A dozen Nyilas Nazis attacked the orphanage and ordered that the children and their teacher march towards the Danube. When darkness fell, grenades and bombs began raining down. The Nazis panicked and stopped the march, but before fleeing, they killed a number of children and a teacher. The remaining children were taken to a deserted house by the director of the orphanage and were seated when a young armed Nyilas entered the room and shot the 14 year old boy sitting next to Sandor, killing him instantly. The only reason that a further massacre did not take place was that the gunman's weapon malfunctioned. Sandor and a few other boys moved into another deserted building, while another Jewish boy, wearing an Arrow Cross uniform hid in the park and delivered some bread to them. At night they now heard demands from the Russian loudspeakers to the Hungarians to surrender. On January 13, 1945, the Soviet Army entered the city and on January 18, 1945 they liberated the Jewish ghetto. During the next few days Sandor witnessed the atrocities committed by hat the Hungarian Nyilas. He helped carry the corpses of dead children out of a Jewish dormitory for burial. In March 1945 Sandor returned to Tiszalok. He found his home occupied by Hungarians and learned that in May 1944, all the Jews in the town had been concentrated in a ghetto in Nyiregyhaz and from there deported to Auschwitz. On the eve of Passover, the few survivors gathered for a seder but their grief was so intense they had to discontinue the ceremony. Sandor lived in a commune with other survivors in Tiszalok for a year and a half. Then he and a friend traveled to Budapest and from there to a DP camp in the American zone of Germany. In August 1948, together with some other refugees, he took a small fishing boat to Sweden. A friend who had relatives in Stockholm found him work in a garment factory in Uppsala. After completing his education, he worked as a clerk in the administration of the Agricultural Swedish University until his retirement. In 1966 he married Hedwig Stein, another Hungarian survivor.
    Record last modified:
    2007-01-25 00:00:00
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