At 15 years old, I left school to learn a trade as a machine builder. In 1938, the Hungarians moved into Czech and it was hard to find work so I worked in an oil refinery fixing various machines until 1942. On October 2, 1942, I was sent to a labor camp in Mohach, Hungary. Over the next three years I spent three to four months going from town to town with 245 prisoners in the group. We first went to Serbobon, Yugoslavia until the end of November, beginning of December. Then we went to Palotabozsok, Hungary where all 245 people were hired by the local railroad company. I worked on the locomotives and went to Pecs, Czechoslovakia (20 km away) every day to the depot to repair the locomotives. We were there until March. Then we went back to Mohach for five or six weeks to build bunkers. In April or May, we went to Hajdu Boszormany, between the larger cities of Debresen and Nesmay. We also went to Nagyvarad (pronounced Noodvarot) where we built stables and an airport; then to Uzok in 1944.
On March 18, 1944, the Germans entered Hungary and our work detail headed towards Poland and Kiev cleaning roads or blowing up roads – walking the entire way. We stayed only in the mountains and had no idea what day it was at any point. We would be picking up mines, building bunkers. When the Russians took over Kiev, we reversed directions stopping at Siankay, which was 6,000 feet up in the Carpathian Mountains. The Russians blew up the railroad between Uzog and Siankay so we were driven to Svalyava in September. We worked unloading railroad cars. Of the 245 people in the group, only 55-60 survived.
There was a public toilet facility where we were working and one very drizzly day, I recognized a girlfriend of a friend walking into the ladies room. When I had a chance to speak with her, she arranged to bring clothes that I could change into and then escape. I stayed with them for seven to ten days. I was then taken back to Mohach and hid in a house in an area between where the gypsies lived and where the Bulgarians lived until October 28, 1944 when the Russians came.
My brother Isaac had joined the communist party back in 1927 and was in a labor camp. But when the Russians took over, he was freed and became a “big shot.” My sister Sidonia came back at this time too. I started a machine shop with my brother. My sister Bela came home from war very sick and died a few weeks later. In May, 1945, I met my wife, who I had known all my life because she was friends with my sisters and we were married in 1946.
One day the Russians, who were smart and did not “occupy” the area, just took everything away. No more salt or soap. You had to stand in line to get some. So we left town to look for my wife’s sisters. We settled in Trutnov. I got a job and my twin girls were born there in 1947. I worked in a machine shop and I was flown by airplane to other areas to fix their machines. This was between 1951 and 1952.
At one point I got in a fight with my boss at the plant. I was the only Jew out of 7,000 and I walked out. A few days later the communist party came to see me and said I was a rebel and that they were going to punish me. I was given a choice of six months hard labor or twelve months in the Uranium mines. I chose the mines. I loved it - double the wages, more food coupons than anyone else, and American cigarettes – an excellent job. One day a Russian delegation comes and I can speak fluent Russian. The secretary of labor was looking for a good job for her son. I helped him and I got my own desk and telephone and chair. After my year was up, I wanted to stay until there was an accident at the mine and I was stuck underground for three days. In 1962, I moved to Prague and I became an electrical locomotive engineer. When I moved to Detroit I applied for a job at GM, started that same day and worked until 1984.