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Members of a Jewish labor battalion work at a construction site in Hajduhadhaz.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 08420

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    Members of a Jewish labor battalion work at a construction site in Hajduhadhaz.
    Members of a Jewish labor battalion work at a construction site in Hajduhadhaz.


    Members of a Jewish labor battalion work at a construction site in Hajduhadhaz.
    March 1944 - October 1944
    Hajduhadhaz, [Hajdu] Hungary
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of John Gerrard

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: John Gerrard

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Andrew Gerrard (born Andras Galambos), the father of the donor) was the son of Istvan and Zelma Galambos (b. Debrecen, 1892). Andras was born on June 15, 1918 in Törökszentmiklós, where his father owned a flour mill. He had one sister, Anne. Istvan died of a heart attack in 1936 and three years later, Anne immigrated to Australia with her husband Paul Somogyi and son, Peter. Andras remained in Hungary with his mother. In 1938, Andras enrolled in University of Szeged to study law. After graduating law school, in 1941 he went to study mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Budapest. Sometime in 1942 during his second year of engineering school Andras was called up for forced labor. Although he encountered rough conditions the first few months, he had some childhood friends there to help him through. When the commander of the battalion asked if anyone knew anything about typewriters someone recommended that he speak to Andras since he was an engineering student. As a result, Andras was assigned office work instead of more strenuous work. The following year Andras was released from forced labor and he resumed his engineering studies.
    On March 20, 1944 Germany invaded Hungary and began imposing the Final Solution to the Jewish Question. Andras was recalled to labor service and sent to a camp to build air-raid shelters. The unit was then transferred to Hajduhadhaz where they built concrete bunkers, fortifications and a branch line from nearby train tracks to facilitate the transport to men and material. Andras met a friend from school in the camp who was an amateur photographer and the two proposed to the camp commandant that they create a photographic record of the battalion's work. The commandant liked the idea and excused the two from much of the normal physical labor so that they could create an archival record. They even put together an exhibition for other officers and guests. Since he was an engineering student, Andras also did surveying for the construction site. However, the concrete bunkers and track work were never completed. As Soviet forces advanced in October 1944, the Hungarian officers evacuated the camp. For several weeks, the Jewish laborers lived on cattle cars and were under threat of continued Allied bombing. They were taken to Szolnok to repair damaged railroad lines. Andras had relatives nearby and received permission to visit them and borrow a radio so that the battalion would have advanced warning of future bombing raids. Andras received the radio and became the battalion's radio operator for the battalion. The commanding officer then ordered the train to continue westward across the Danube. The two civilian train drivers refused to cross into Austria and abandoned the train. Men from the unit took over and brought train half-way between Budapest and Austria. When it stopped, Andras decided to escape and return to Budapest. He already had with him Swedish protective papers that his mother had gotten from Swedish acquaintances. By showing his Swedish papers, the officer in charge let him leave and wished him luck.
    When Andras returned to Budapest, he heard that his mother had been seized in a round-up. Surprisingly he found her back at home after she escaped from the deportation line. In Budapest, Andras found a way to avoid being sent again to forced labor by joining a group of other young Jewish men who created a fake labor battalion. They spent their time marching around the city pretending to be doing substantive work in order to evade the Arrow Cross. After three or four days some Germans spotted them and demanded to see their papers. When they didn't have any official orders, they were brought to the railroad station. By coincidence Raoul Wallenberg appeared at the station and demanded the release of anyone with Swedish papers. Free again, Andras reunited with his mother. He discovered that the Swedish Embassy had created a new hospital under its protection. Andras offered his services as an orderly, and his mother became a cook. The hospital cared for those severely injured in the Arrow Cross attacks as well as in bombing raids. Meanwhile, as the situation in the city became dire and the front approached, electricity, food, and water were all in short supply. Andras and his mother were liberated by the Soviet Army January 1945 and immigrated to Australia in 1948.
    Record last modified:
    2013-06-03 00:00:00
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