Monday, February 20, 2006

When I attended the University of Washington, my roommate for awhile was Tom Lantos, a Holacaust survivor who later became a U. S. Congressman. Tom at the age of nineteen beat out five thousand other European students for a scholarship to study in the U.S.

He told me many stories of his activities in his native Hungary during World War II. Some were almost unbelievable including the one in which dressed as a German officer he arrived at a Nazi concentration camp with orders to transport a Jewish prisoner. The camp commander released the requested prisoner to him. On leaving the camp both the officer and the prisoner, Tom's uncle, quickly changed to civilian clothes and disappeared into an underground railway arranged by the Swedish diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg.

On hearing this story story, my father told me of a less heroic adventure of his uncle Nachman in World War I. Uncle Nachman was drafted into the Czar's army. He was imediately dispatched as cannon fodder to the Austro-Hungarian front.

He felt so honored to serve Mother Russia that he surrendered to the first Hungarian patrol he encountered. Able to speak fluent Hungarian he was paroled to a Jewish merchant whose clerks
were at the front in Hungarian army. Sort of "Wake me up when the war is over".

This brought up a discussion about his knowledge of Hungarian. Apparently the borders were very fluid. Some of grandmother Rissa's family were born in Russia and some in Hungary without really moving very far.


Blogger Mike Barer said...

Tom Lantos has been increasing his influence and seniority. Has he talked about retiring?

1:23 PM  

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