Experience: Hungarian Forced Labor

Albert Burke
Louis Falek
Menachem Glaser
Sara Greenfield
Alex Hauser
Barna Havas
Otto Herczeg
David Kahan
Alex Karp
Abraham Klein
Agnes Lugosi
Aldabert Mann
Andrew Martin
Paul Molnar
Thomas Pallos
Abe Pasternak
Jenoe Roth
Erika Rovinsky
Vera Schey
Dezso Schonberger
Margaret Schwartz
Leo Steinmetz
Sol Winkler
Hungarian Labor Service, (Munkaszolgalat)

“(Munkaszolgalat), a system of labor service in Hungary. In March 1939, a law was passed in Hungary requiring the draft of Jews aged 20--48 into labor service units. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the service began to grow. By 1942, 100,000 men had served in these units.

“The units were run by Hungarian army officers. The Jews worked mainly in construction, mining, and building military fortifications. At the front lines, they built tank traps and trenches, cleared minefields, and fixed roads. Originally, these laborers were to be paid the same amount as regular Hungarian soldiers and receive the same uniforms and rations. However, many of their officers and guards were extremely antisemitic. As time went on, some Jews were deprived of their army boots and uniforms or never received them at all. At the front the officers and guards often stole the Jews' pitiful food rations, forced them to live outside, and subjected them to degradations. Thousands of laborers died from abuse, malnourishment, cold, and disease. Retreating from Bor in Yugoslavia, labor servicemen were massacred and in Doroshich hundreds were burned alive by their Hungarian guards.

“After Germany occupied Hungary in March 1944, the labor service, somewhat ironically, became a haven for thousands of Jews who otherwise would have been deported to extermination camps.”
Accessed on 6/7/11.

Hungary, Jews in the 108/56 unit of a Hungarian Work Battalion

Yad Vashem. Photo Archives. 
Accessed on June 14, 2011

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