In early October of 2023, for the first time in Canadian history, the Speaker of the House of Commons was forced to resign his position. In the presence of the whole house, who had gathered to hear a speech by President Volodomir Zelenskyy of the Ukraine, Speaker Rota recognized and honoured one of his constituents, Ukrainian/Canadian war veteran, Yaroslav Hunka. The problem being that Mr. Hunka had fought for the Nazis.

While it is hard to believe that no one did their due diligence, neither the Speaker, his staff, nor the staff at the PMO and not one of the 338 Members of Parliament, Mr. Rota has taken the fall and has been relegated to the back benches.

Since that time, there have been calls to declassify the whole of the Deschenes Commission’s 1980s-era report in its entirety so the country can learn the true extent of Ukrainian Nazi activities in post-Second World War Canada. This is one such story.


Popemobile in Newfouondland

The Popemobile travels past a rural home en route to Flatrock where Pope John Paul II blessed the fishing fleet in the harbour on September 12, 1984 during the fourth day of his Canadian visit. (CP PICTURE ARCHIVE/Andy Clark)

After Pope John Paul II kissed the tarmac at the Quebec City airport on September 9, 1984, to commence the first-ever papal visit to Canada, the Pontiff visited the Montreal tomb of Blessed Andre Bessette on September 11. He blessed the fishing fleet in Newfoundland on September 12. On September 15, an estimated 300,000 people gathered at the Canadian Forces base at Downsview, north of Toronto, for the Pope’s largest mass during his twelve-day national tour.

In Vancouver, on the other side of the continent, a bemused Rudolf Vrba was watching television coverage of Pope’s activities in Toronto, largely disinterested, until he suddenly sat bolt upright. There, for all the world to see, serving as an official escort for the Pope in Canada’s largest city, was none other than Jozef Marian Kirschbaum, partially responsible for sending him to Auschwitz.

According to the Ontario journalist Paul McKay who interviewed Vrba at length for the Ottawa Citizen in 2005, “Kirschbaum was responsible for banning Rudolf Vrba (a top student) from school, the seizure of the family sawmill, and ordering Hlinka Guards to beat him up in public.”

Josef Kirschbaum and John Paul II

Rudolf Vrba tried in vain to expose Jozef M. Kirschbaum as a convicted war criminal who was shielded by the Canadian government for more than fifty years. Having been a diplomatic representative of Slovakia at the Vatican in 1950, Kirschbaum later befriended Pope John Paul II and escorted the Polish-born Pope during his tour of Canada in 1984. Here (above) Jozef Marian Kirschbaum is seen shaking hands with Pope John Paul II in Rome. [Photo by Grebert]

Kirschbaum had been a leading figure within the pro-Hitler puppet regime of the fascist politician Jozef Tiso, enabling the confiscation of Jewish wealth and the instigation of mass transports of Jews to the concentration camps. The first-ever mass transport of Jews to Auschwitz was sent from the Poprad transit camp in Slovakia on March 25, 1942, restricted to 999 mostly young Slovak females who arrived in Auschwitz the following day. Now, 42 years later, Jozef Kirschbaum had been approved to serve as one of the dignitaries who accompanied the Pope.

By 1984, Kirschbaum was securely positioned as an employee of the uranium mining tycoon Stephan Roman. During his visit to Canada, the Pope took time to consecrate a new Catholic ‘Cathedral of the Transfiguration’ that was still under construction in Markham,  north of Toronto, financed the wealthy, Slovakian-born, mining billionaire [Štefan Boleslav Roman] who had continuously aided and abetted men who were loyal supporters of Jozef Gašpar Tiso, the Roman Catholic priest who had served Hitler by operating a pro-Nazi regime in Slovakia during World War II.

Vrba’s efforts to sound his alarm on Kirschbaum had mostly fallen on deaf ears for several reasons.

  • Canadian federal authorities and the CBC were not keen to be deemed culpable and naive.
  • By 1984, Kirschbaum was well-regarded as a university professor, historian and author, as well as a staunch anti-communist, as he served as the right hand man for the right wing mining industry tycoon Stephen Roman.
  • The history of Vrba’s native state of Slovakia is an obscure subject for nearly everyone on the planet.
  • Kirschbaum was a pawn in a larger geo-political game in which the United States and its allies used former fascists from Europe, including Nazis, to facilitate anti-Soviet, anti-communist espionage, dissent and dissolution.

One of the reasons that Rudolf Vrba was particularly aggrieved about Canada’s protection and retention of Kirschbaum as a seemingly respectable citizen — even though Kirschbaum was a convicted war criminal who had never served any of his twenty-year sentence in Europe — is that Vrba knew Kirschbaum had had input into the drafting of legislation in Slovakia that resulted in the theft of Jewish businesses (businesses akin his father’s sawmill). Vrba was a rarity in that he long understood, and felt obligated to discuss, the extent to which the Holocaust was almost as much about theft as it was about mass murder. This was a subject that he frequently emphasized when he was invited to speak about the Holocaust.

As there are far fewer books about the impacts of Nazism in Slovakia than in surrounding countries that were more openly conquered, it has been alleged in print, by journalist Paul McKay, that Kirschbaum, as a history professor, with support from the Kirschbaum Sr.’s employer patron Stephen Roman, had success in literally rewriting the history books to minimize Kirschbaum Sr.’s impact. As McKay writes in The Roman Empire (Key Porter 1990): “Roman and Kirschbaum [Sr.] led the world-wide appeals for clemency at Tiso’s war crimes trial in 1947, and worked tirelessly for the next four decades trying to sanitize and re-write this shameful chapter of Slovak history through Roman-funded newspapers, books, broadcasts and ethnic associations. Among their small group were other former Fascists and convicted Nazi collaborators.” [Subsequently, Paul McKay’s essential and extensive article The Kirschbaum File appeared in the Kingston Whig Standard and received the Centre for Investigative Journalism Award for investigative reporting, a National Magazine Award and was a finalist for the 1988 B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award.]

Fewer historians have examined the Holocaust as it impacted Jews in Slovakia than has been the case for countries such as France, Holland, Poland and Hungary. Whereas there has been one book by Kirschbaum’s son, a history professor, that obviates his father’s pro-fascist activities in Slovakia, it is relatively easy to find academics who have verified the horrific impact of Hitler’s racist and repressive laws in Hungary:

  • Three acts and 17 decrees specified the appropriation of landed property, at least 850,000 acres of land were “Aryanised”, i.e. handed over to non-Jews. It is impossible to say how many people were ruined as a result of this „Christian changing of the guard”. This legislation did not concern Jewish factories, banks and urban real estate. Anti-Jewish laws affected some 250,000 people particularly disadvantageously of the 800,000 strong Jewish population.” (Gyáni-Kövér, 2003. and Ungváry, 2012.)
  • “Hundreds of thousands were humiliated, robbed of their possessions because they, or their parents, grandparents followed or had followed the Jewish religion. It was at this time that the Hungarian middle classes were corrupted: after 1938, hundreds of thousands of officials, gendarmes, policemen, townspeople, farmers and workers got used to the idea that they can acquire wealth, jobs, land, positions not only by working, enterprising, but also by taking them from their Jewish neighbours with the help of the state.” (Bibó, 1948)


The most notorious Nazi war criminal never brought to justice was Dr. Josef Mengele. It is globally known that Mengele was able to evade jail time or execution by living successfully undercover due to the feeble policing standards and corrupt officialdom in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. Having fled to South America in July of 1949, Mengele, the so-called Angel of Death (Todesengel in German) was constrained to a furtive life of fear and evasion until he died in 1979, universally reviled, at age 67. It is possible that Mengele never had a moment’s peace.

Mengele was among countless Nazis who took advantage of the so-called “ratlines,” chiefly orchestrated via the Vatican, to reach freedom in the Americas, chiefly via Argentina. Among the thousands of Nazi who did so, some of the more prominent Nazis who succeeded were:
Andrija Artuković
, ·  Klaus Barbie, ·  Otto Skorzeny, ·  Alois Brunner, ·  Herberts Cukurs, ·  Léon Degrelle, ·  Adolf EichmannAribert Heim, ·  Aarne Kauhanen, ·  Sándor Képíró, ·  Ante Pavelić, ·  Erich Priebke, ·  Walter Rauff, ·  Eduard Roschmann, ·  Hans-Ulrich Rudel, ·  Dinko Šakić, ·  Boris Smyslovsky, ·  Franz Stangl, ·  Gustav Wagner

Conversely, precious few people know Canada had provided a safe haven for Kirschbaum (translation: cherry tree) who had long been convicted of being a pro-Nazi war criminal and allotted a twenty-year sentence. Even after the world’s most famous Auschwitz escapee, Rudolf Vrba, made efforts to blow the whistle on this fugitive from European justice, the transplanted Slovak named Joseph Kirschbaum had remained a free man.

Like Mengele, Kirschbaum had reached the Americas in 1949. Unlike Mengele, he lived openly under his own name, widely respected as a university professor, raising a family, until he died in August of 2001 at age 88, having enjoyed the hospitality of Canada for 51 years. Canada’s representative of the Wiesenthal Center, Sol Littman, pierced the bubble of silence concerning suspected war criminals in Canada when he suggested to the media that Mengele might be in Canada because Mengele had applied to the Canadian embassy in Buenos Aires for admission as a landed immigrant in May or June of 1962. The hornet’s nest stirred up by Littman led to the 1,000-page, “masterpiece of bafflegab” (according to James E. McKenzie, author of War Criminals in Canada), for $4 million, called the Deschenes Commission Report compiled over a two-year period in 1985-86.

Mengele was famous for being evil. He was forced to live clandestinely with false names in three countries for thirty years, and he was subject of a Hollywood movie in 1978, The Boys of Brazil, in which he was portrayed by Gregory Peck. In stark contrast, Kirschbaum was protected and shielded by successive Canadian governments, both Conservative and Liberal, and the Canadian public has never seen a film or documentary about him, or read a book about him. Better yet, Kirschbaum and his fellow history professor son managed to whitewash his criminal record by crafting history texts that expunged his actions from modern Slovakian history.

Doubts about Mengele's death in Brazil


Given that Josef Kirschbaum was an influential person in the murderous Slovakian regime of the Catholic priest-turned-dictator Josef Tiso (hanged as a war criminal), the Canadian Jewish News in 1962 identified Kirschbaum as “one of the most ferocious authors” of Slovakia’s “criminal regime.” But, with one noteworthy exception, Canadian journalism mostly failed to expose Kirschbaum’s unserved 20-year sentence in Europe as the Canadian government turned a blind eye.

The outstanding exception to the complicity of Canada’s mostly lacklustre climate for investigative journalism is the veteran journalist Paul McKay. His book The Roman Empire: The Life and Times of Stephen Roman (Key Porter Books, 1990) incorporates just some of the exemplary work McKay undertook to blow the whistle on Kirschbaum in a remarkably in-depth piece he wrote for the Whig-Standard Magazine in 1988.

In his book, The Roman Empire—a title that no self-respecting, commercially-motivated publishing house could fail to resist—McKay recounts how Stephen Boleslav Roman was born in Veľký Ruskov, Slovakia, in 1921, and he immigrated to Canada at 16 in 1937. Roman made his fortune as a mining engineer and mining executive, chiefly with Dennison Mines, and died as an alleged billionaire on March 23, 1988. McKay’s biography appeared two years later.

Stephan Roman

Stefan Roman, billionaire, helped Kirschbaum succeed in Canada. Roman twice ran unsuccessfully in federal elections for the Conservative Party. His funeral in 1988 at his yet-to-be-completed cathedral–modelled after the Catholic church Roman had attended as a boy in the village of Veľký Ruskov, now Nový Ruskov–would attract 1,600 people including Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Jozef Kirschbaum, the Archbishop of Toronto, former Ontario premier Bill Davis, former federal finance minister Michael Wilson and various pro-Hitler, former Slovakians.]

In 1945, Roman had co-authored a petition to oppose the arrest of the puppet dictator Josef Tiso and other Slovak leaders and he remained an apologist for Nazi Slovakia until his death. His wealth generated political influence, nonetheless, so he was made a Knight Commander, Order of St. Gregory, by Pope John XXIII (1963) and he received the Order of Canada from Gov. Gen. Sauvé (1987). Posthumously, he was awarded the highest “state honour” of his Slovakia homeland, the Order of the 1st Class White Double Cross, from Slovak President Michal Kovác (1995).

It is possible that the virulently anti-communist, “free enterpriser” Stephen Roman was not fully aware of Kirschbaum’s background. It is conceivable, but unlikely, that Roman did not know that Kirschbaum was invited by the Nazi Party of the Third Reich to attend Hitler’s birthday celebrations in Berlin on April 20, 1939. Kirschbaum did so along with Josef Tiso, the Catholic priest who had recently become the leader of the Slovak puppet state in March of 1939, and Ferdinand Durcansky [Ďurčanský], his mentor, who had negotiated the terms for a nominally independent Slovakia with Hermann Goering.

Kirschbaum’s mentor Durcansky was cited as a Category A war criminal in 1946 and sentenced to death in absentia by Czechoslovakia’s elected communist government in 1947. Having joined the Hlinka Party in 1927, Durcansky had used Nazi funding to create antisemitic publications (1936-1938) and later became Nazi Slovakia’s Foreign Minister and Deputy PM, having served as a Cabinet Minister for Justice, Health, Transportation and Public Works portfolios. As a businessman, he owned drug companies in Slovakia and later in Argentina. Afforded refuge by the Vatican, Durcansky would take advantage of the so-called “ratlines” that enabled Nazis to escape to South America–as did Eichmann.

It has been alleged that British agent Kim Philby arranged for Durcansky to make the first of several visits to Canada on a British visa in 1950; or he arrived with an Argentinian passport in Montreal on December 15, 1950, with a three-month visa. Either way, he would have reconnected with his protégé Kirschbaum. Durcansky returned to Canada in the 1970s on speaking engagements. Long associated with the pro-fascist Anti-Bolshevik Block of Nations (ABN), Durcansky was linked to U.S. spy agency program in West Germany known as “Upswing” (1952-1958) coordinated by former Nazi intelligence officer Major General Reinhard Gehlen, previously chief of the Wehrmacht Foreign Armies East military intelligence service on the eastern front. According to Mark Aarons and John Loftus in their book, Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, the Nazis and Soviet Intelligence, Ferdinand Durcansky unsuccessfully planned a post-war coup in Slovakia and later “travelled freely in and out of Canada, despite the fact that the government was fully aware of his war crimes.”

As the fanatical leader of the Students Hlinka Guard’s elite detachment of thugs that terrorized the campus of Bratislava University in the late 1930s, Josef Kirschbaum, as a law student, had edited antisemitic publications and had input into the drafting of the repressive legislation that confiscated Jewish properties, possessions and businesses and empowered the state to send approximately 70,000 Slovakian Jews to the Nazi death camps—including Rudolf Vrba (still known as Walter Rosenberg at the time).

Under the tutelage of Durcansky, the much younger Kirschbaum, had previously met with Adolph Eichmann in 1938 when Eichmann was sent to Slovakia orchestrate the transition to Tiso’s subservient regime. Trained as a lawyer, Kirschbaum was named Secretary-General of the ruling Hlinka Party in Slovakia in 1939 and 1940, and he delivered speeches extolling the virtues of the totalitarian Slovak state in keeping with Nazi ideals. Eventually, on July 15, 1941, the Ministry of Interior published its infamous degree 7201/II/4 – 1941 which reads as follows:

“In accordance with Paragraph 2 of the Law 190/1939 it is prohibited for all Jews and persons equal status, in the public interest, to

  1. have free access to public baths and parks,
  2. to frequent, or shop in, the public markets before 10 a.m.,
  3. to walk on streets or patronize public places after 9 p.m.,
  4. to visit Aryan households, or for Aryans to visit Jewish families.
Smashed synagogue

On May 2, 1942, when the Hlinka Guards removed 1,400 people from Trebisovo in Slovakia, they destroyed the synagogue
and desecrated or burned valuable religious objects.

It is mutually prohibited to maintain any social contacts between Jews and Aryans one side, and between Aryans and Jews on the other side.

The term “social contacts” is to be interpreted as meaning not only contact at homes, but any contact on the streets, public places and the like. The prohibition of social contacts between Jews and Aryans and vice-versa is to be extended throughout the entire territory of Slovakia. Overstepping of this Law is subject to prosecutions, and the offenders will be sentenced to a term of six months in prison.”

On September 10, 1941 the puppet Slovak Government passed a law as to who was to be considered a Jew. In 1942, the mass transports of Jews out of Slovakia would begin. It is estimated that at the outbreak of the war, 89,000 Jews lived in Slovakia; by its end, approximately 70,000 of these would be murdered by their Nazi tormentors.

After Kirschbaum had served as a Slovak diplomat in Rome, where he met the Pope (1941-1942), he became the unofficial Slovak ambassador (“Charge d’Affairs”) in Switzerland (1942-1945). These two seemingly ceremonial postings enabled him to claim he was blameless for the Holocaust. Even though Kirschbaum had also met Hitler, Himmler, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Werner Gottsche and Edmund Vessemeyer, his subsequent activities within the CIA-affiliated, anti-Communist,

Nazi Josef Kirschbaum

Jozef Kirschbaum, who was a key figure in Slovakia’s clerico-fascist wartime regime, fled to Canada in 1949. For the next 51 years he was a leader of the Slovak World Congress and the Canadian Slovak League, both chiefly funded by Stefan Roman.

Kirschbaum as an older man

Kirschbaum as an older man, living in Canada as a respected history professor, rewrote Slovakian history to expunge a clear trail of collaboration with the Nazis and responsibility for the deaths of approximately 70,000 Slovakian Jews.

Slovak World Congress [SLC], as well as his prominent role within Canadian Slovak League [SCL], enabled him to deny and dispel accusations of wartime allegiance to the Nazis. As a history professor in Montreal and Toronto, as well as a co-founder of the University of Ottawa’s Chair in Slovak History, Kirschbaum was cloaked in academic respectability. He was simultaneously buffeted by economic support from the ultra-wealthy, Slovakian-born, uranium mining magnate Stephen Roman. [As early as 1945, the Canadian businessman had co-authored a petition to oppose the arrest of Tiso and other Slovak leaders and he praised Tiso as “a man who confirmed his love to the nation by the highest sacrifice” in 1971. Roman and the SWC rejected appeals from the National Holocaust Survivors Association to condemn the pro-Nazi Tiso regime. The year before Kirschbaum’s primary benefactor died, Governor-General Jeanne Mathilde Sauvé conferred the Order of Canada on Stephen Roman in 1987.]

Although Joseph Kirschbaum had been convicted of complicity with the Nazis and sentenced to a twenty-year prison term, and even though Canadian Jewish groups had pressured the RCMP to investigate and extradite him since 1962, successive Canadian governments failed to have him extradited, consistently ignoring the requests from Jewish groups and Rudolf Vrba.


When investigative journalist Paul McKay sought to publish an extensive article about how Canada was serving as a haven for convicted, pro-Nazi war criminal JOSEPH (JOZEF) KIRSCHBAUM—the man that Rudolf Vrba had identified as the author of the severely oppressive legal statutes that were drafted to enable the pro-Hitler regime of Joseph Tito in Slovakia to send at least 70,000 Jews to the death camps—the venerable Whig-Standard newspaper (founded in 1908 and purchased by the father of novelist Robertson Davies in 1925) was one of the few places in Canada, possibly the only place, that would consider such a boldly disruptive and deeply disturbing expose.

During his stellar career as an investigative journalist, Toronto native Paul McKay had already won three national awards for his work in the Whig-Standard. Editor Neil Reynolds welcomed McKay back onto the masthead and added staff writer Beppi Crosariol to augment the Kirschbaum file. They sifted through thirty books on Slovakia, the Holocaust and World War II and unearthed Kirschbaum’s own writing, combing the archives of the Canadian government, the archives in Bratislava and Jewish organizations in Canada.

In June of 1988, when McKay had approached the Whig-Standard, the editors determined that a major retrospective piece about the Holocaust in Slovakia, leading to a story about how Canada shielded and a convicted war criminal for almost forty years—a man who had befriended the Pope and never served his twenty-year sentence in Europe—would be an appropriate way to mark the 50th anniversary of the Nazi surge in Europe.

At the time, the Whig-Standard had only the comfort of knowing that McKay’s work had already been heralded as exemplary. He was not a writer with an axe to grind. As a graduate of Trent University, he’d first written a book on the history of Ontario Hydro, Electric Empire, in 1983, and joined the paper as a reporter in 1985. He proceeded to win a National Magazine Award for a series on the Workmen’s Compensation Board, a National Business Writing Award for his investigations of Kingston-based computer company (Documented Circuits) and a Centre for Investigative Journalism national prize for a piece pertaining to falcon smuggling.

It was McKay’s research for an unsanctioned biography of the Slovenian-born, Canadian uranium mining magnate Stephen Roman that alerted him to the need to dig more deeply into Kirschbaum. As preface to the piece on Kirschbaum and his native Slovakia, and as a caution to those connected to both the late Stephan Roman and Kirschbaum who might feel inclined to sue, the Whig-Standard took pains to outline some of the research undertaken.

“Interviews were conducted in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Vermont and Czechoslovakia. In Bratislava, McKay obtained Kirschbaum’s court file, checked through original newspaper archives from 1939 to 1945, photographing each relevant page, and went through original Slovak photo archives assembled during the Second World War, obtaining four dozen photos of Kirschbaum at various speeches, ceremonies and government functions. Archival photos were dated and stamped.

“In Slovakia, McKay was assisted by interpreter Eduard Pekarovic, a Slovak lawyer and official translator for the Institute for Foreign Press Relations in Bratislava. His translations were checked against other independent translations. Several key original Slovak documents were also translated by a Queen’s University professor.

“McKay interviewed people in the remote rural village where Kirschbaum was born, the prosecutor who drew up charges against him in 1946, military and academic historians, Jewish survivors of the concentration camps and individual Slovaks who had refused to take part in deporting fellow citizens to Poland. Through this work, McKay and Crosariol built up profiles of Kirschbaum (who refused to be interviewed by the newspaper) and the Slovak World Congress (whose top official also declined to be interviewed).”

Ultimately, the Whig-Standard Magazine showcased a 40,000-word overview, including six viewpoints from witnesses and Holocaust experts, on December, 10, 1988. JOSEPH KIRSCHBAUM had declined to be interviewed by Whig-Standard reporters during the preparation of the article. Also, he had declined to answer written questions submitted to him personally. The Whig-Standard stated that, “Through his lawyers, he has denied playing a major role in the creation of the Slovak state or in the persecution of Slovak Jews. He maintains that he lost his post as secretary-general of the Hlinka Party because he held anti-Nazi attitudes.”

Marian Stastny Kirschbaum

Marian Stastny

An article by Robert Sibley for the Ottawa Citizen on April 20, 1989 supports the contention McKay’s investigative article on Kirschbaum was disqualified from the Canadian Bar Association’s media awards by a “potential law suit” that was never filed. Nonetheless, the convincing article [reproduced below] was not without an impact. While the article was underway, Kirschbaum lost his long-held position as the executive Vice-President of the Slovak World Congress (since its foundation in Toronto in 1971) and was replaced by the former NHL hockey player, Bratislava-born, Marian Stastny, who had played for the Quebec Nordiques and Toronto Maple Leafs. [Chicago Black Hawks star centre Stan Makita became the first Slovakia-born player to compete in the NHL in 1958.]

According to a helluva-lot-better-than-nothing book called War Criminals in Canada (Detselig 1995) by James E. McKenzie, the threat of legal action–even though Roman/Kirschbaum did not dare to follow through on their threats to the Whig-Standard–proved sufficient to kill the story. McKenzie writes: “Burnett M. Thall, senior vice-president of the Toronto Star, explained why his paper didn’t tell its readers about the past life of the prominent Toronto businessman and well-known Slovakian patriot. In a letter to Sol Littman of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Thall said: ‘The problem as I understand it, is a legal one. A letter was served on us by Kirschbaum’s lawyer warning us that if any allegations were made in The Star, he would sue. While this was obviously designed to scare us off, it certainly highlighted the legal dilemma we were in. I suspect this is also the reason no other newspaper felt it could run the article.'”

McKenzie also reports that Kirschbaum was able to visit Slovakia in 1992, just prior to formal split of Czechoslovakia on January 1, 1993, whereupon Slovakia reverted to be a separate state–in keeping with Kirschbaum’s hopes.

Revisiting this piece by Paul McKay some thirty-five years later–at which time McKay has become an accomplished songwriter and composer–one wonders whether any mainstream media outlet in Canada would have the means or the inclination or the gumption to foster six months of research and face the inevitable threat of lawsuits for such an in-depth article.

Here then, with the kind permission of both Paul McKay, is the complete and un-edited transcript of coverage afforded by Paul McKay and his Toronto-born colleague Beppie Crosariol, re-typed by Jan Graham from a photocopy provided by Robert Krell. Photocopied images of poor quality were removed; appropriate images have been substituted.

[Rudolf Vrba gave his last interview to Paul McKay, months before Vrba’s passing in 2006. Both Vrba and Kirschbaum emigrated from Slovakia to Canada. “One told the searing truth,” says McKay, “the other denied his own dirty hands.”]


Not everyone obeyed. Some, like Rudolf Vrba, knew the Jews were being tricked into obedience. Another man who refused to be subservient as a boy in Slovakia was Louis Mandel who left behind the following memoir of how he managed to evade death in Slovakia. This account was first released in New York in 1950 within a book Mandel edited called The Tragedy of Slovak Jewry in Slovakia.

Contents for public awareness have been made accessible by the American Committee of Jews from Czechoslovakia, affiliated with the World Jewish Congress, New York City. The editor of this website has only supplied an alternative title.


First, They Took The Candlesticks…

An account of man’s survival as a Jew in Slovakia during the Holocaust

The month of March 1942 approached. The radio brought an announcement ordering all Jews to report to the draft boards. This was, of course, a trick. The Government radio merely tried to conceal the fact that the Jews were to be drafted for slave labor camps. Prison terms of six months were announced for those who failed to heed the order.

Almost every Jew, not wishing to antagonize the Fascist authorities any more, reported quietly to the draft board. Previously rumors had it that the Jews would be deported to Poland. Many did not believe that deportations to Poland would take place. They preferred to believe that the Jews would be kept in labor camps in Slovakia itself.

My brothers, like the rest of Jewish young men in our town, reported to the draft board. I however, the youngest in our family did not so report. I did not want the Fascists to have any records as to my person. I knew that all this was a mere smokescreen and that the Fascists merely attempted to get a grip on the Jews the easy way. Many young Jews fell for this and wee subsequently deported to labor camps in Poland.

The month of March 1942 passed quietly, and Nazi propaganda relented a bit. The entire situation seemed very suspicious to me. I tried to explain to my family that something was afoot, and asked everyone not to be deceived by this apparent lack of wild propaganda in the papers. The war raged in full swing. Hitler advanced and his armies approached Stalingrad. The warm, tepid April days of 1942 arrived. The remaining Jewish population of Slovakia became panicky. Rumors circulated among Jews, and non-Jews, as well, that the Nazis would draft Jewish boys and girls. The girls were to be sent to the front, for the brothels, the boys were to be sent to the task of rebuilding of roads, bridges and houses. Every father and mother not realizing that they, too, would meet their end in tragic death at the hands of the Nazis attempted to save their children from deportation. The only means of escape was to flee to Hungary. Some of those who lived in border regions succeeded in their attempt. Some went into hiding. It was not too easy to hide, for the Fascists installed guards and informers everywhere. The only relatively safe hiding place was the mountains. But then it was necessary to build caves and accumulate enough food and clothing for the winter. This was not easy to accomplish.

Although I was in hiding most of this time, I also wanted to save my sister, who, unmarried was subject to draft into the labor camps. And so I took her to another sister who was married, and who lived some 150 miles away from our family. I secured the services of a dependable taxi driver who took us, at midnight, to our sister. We were very lucky to evade all the roadblocks and control stations. When we arrived at our sister’s house, everyone inside was asleep. We knocked on the door and windows until finally our brother-in-law opened the door. We awoke our sister. Not knowing what was going on she became so frightened that she fainted. I left my unmarried sister there and returned home since our parents were anxious to know how we fared. I came home at dawn. Our parents were still awake.

On April 15, 1942 at 9 a.m. the so-called Hlinka Guards appeared in the streets, taking boys and girls into custody. People cried and shouted. One could see Jewish young men being led away by armed guards. Some youngsters escaped. Fully ninety percent, however, were taken away. The deportees were permitted to take with them some forty pounds of clothing and food for three days.

The guards searched Jewish homes until finally they came to us too. They asked for me and my sister. They turned the house upside down, looking into every corner while menacing our parents and hurled all sorts of insults on them. When our parents declared that we were gone, they were told that they would be shot. Of course, our parents did not reveal that they knew of our whereabouts. The guards finally left and let our parents alone.

In the evening, the guards forced the assembled deportees into a cattle train and subsequently into one of three deportation centers in Slovakia whence the Jews were transported to Poland.

During all this time I was not too much concerned about where to hide. I told myself that either I would come out of this alive or they would not take me alive. I never stayed in one place for more than a day. I slept in a different place each night.

Of course, I could not carry on like this for a long time, and so I decided with my nephew who likewise stayed with me all this time, to make our hiding place in a big stack of straw on the outskirts of our town. We had a supply of food from our parents’ home: dried fruits, canned goods and bread. However, it was impossible to store supplies because the heat in the stack became unbearable and the food spoiled easily. Local police informers soon learned what was going on. They again searched my parents’ home.

One day, as I came home for supplies once more, I didn’t even realize that the guards were on my trail until I saw them coming into the courtyard and entering into the house. I quickly jumped out of the window and ran away through the garden not however without being shot at by the guards who stopped me. They did not hit me though and I escaped empty-handed.

Two days passed. My parents were unable to bring any food to a place previously agreed upon and I decided to try again and see whether I could get home anyway. As soon as I entered I was very surprised to find my sister there, the one which we took away to relative safety three weeks previously. I reprimanded her sharply for having come back. Tired to death, I decided, nevertheless, to spend the night at home.

My sister was very tired too, and frightened. She explained that she could not possibly stay at our sister’s any longer, since her hiding place became known to the police. She declared that she had had enough of this misery, and that she would not budge from our home. She also said that sooner or later the Nazis would deport every Jewish person, and that she intended to stay together with our parents.

Nothing happened during the night, and it was impossible to leave the house during daylight. The next day ended tragically for our family; for the guards surprised us once more. I escaped the same way as before but returned soon thereafter to observe from a safe distance what was going on. My sister, Frieda was her name, first escaped through the back door and hid behind the stable. The Nazi guards, who originally came to get me, were very surprised to find my sister in her hiding place, and without permitting her to say Good-bye to our parents they took her into custody at once; they led her out on the street, stopped a passing automobile, pushed her into the car and ordered the driver of the vehicle to take her to a city prison in Trebisov.

Later on, I learned that they took my sister, with 30 other prisoners, to a concentration camp called Patronka, located near Bratislava. From this camp my sister was transferred, together with 1060 other victims, to the infamous Oswiencim concentration camp in Poland.

As I later learned they crammed 106 people into a boxcar. I also learned that my brother Alexander was caught in the same raid. He was then transported from Trebisov along with 120 persons of Jewish faith to an unknown destruction.

At about the same time another incident occurred in the vicinity of a nearby town called Humenne. There, in the woods, someone killed a gendarme. The Nazis of course claimed that this was the work of Jews. The purpose of spreading such rumors was to make non-Jewish angry and prejudiced, and to facilitate the mass-arrest of the Jewish population. Some 150 persons were arrested in this connection. The Nazi authorities let out rumors that every second person of those arrested would be shot unless the perpetrator or perpetrators of the murder of the gendarme was found. Finally, after two weeks of detention, the arrested were released since the investigation disclosed that the culprit was not a Jew.

Soon the tragic, incredible day May 2, 1942 arrived. It was the day of the Sabbath. The entire Jewish community assembled in the synagogue. A notice was posted on the church wall. The notice was undated, and did not stipulate whether it concerned the young or the old people. It merely stated that every deportee was to carry with him, or her, up to forty pounds of clothing and food. The older folks simply did not believe that they too were to be deported, since the pro-Nazi Government of Tiso and Tuka bellowed time and again that whoever cared to listen that their Government was fighting for Christianity and humanity.

No sooner had we left the church when we saw on the street some hitherto unseen Nazi uniforms. We approached the chairman of the Jewish community and asked him what was this all about. He replied that he feared the worst, that all of us would be deported. I asked him whether we should flee, to which he replied in the negative, adding that according to authorities we were all to remain together, that we would be taken to Poland and that our families would not be split up.

That very same afternoon, at two o’clock, a whole group of Nazi guards were seen searching Jewish houses. Their first victim was a man named Jozef Weinstein. They were leading him through streets. He had a small trunk in his hand. On the way to military barracks the guard beat him. It was one of the local Nazi police who acted most savagely. He was in a rage because Weinstein a few weeks earlier had refused to let him have his textile store.

From a safe distance I observed that Weinstein’s house was sealed. A few minutes later I saw the Nazis leading other Jews away.

Afterwards, I returned home where the rest of our family was gathered. We feverishly discussed the situation. Everyone was crying. My brother Arnold declared that he would go along with the rest of the deportees since he believed that he would thus help our parents. He believed the Nazi Government would really permit the families to stay together. In this he repeated what the chairman of the Jewish community said shortly before. I, however, did not believe the Nazis in the least. I told my family what I saw on the streets and urged everyone to go away and hide. My father, a seventy-year-old and gravely ill, was simply unable to realize any more what he was doing. Laying in bed, he declared that, perhaps they would not dare to take him away in his condition. I decided then that I would not go with the rest of the deportees, and readied myself hastily for a hasty departure. I put some bread into a crude bag, went out a tucked the bag safely in the stack of straw, and remained outside. In the meantime I observed carefully what was going on. I was especially careful not to let myself be seen. I spent the rest of the day in the garden. My head was ready to burst from sorrow and anxiety.

In the meantime the rest of our family made preparations for the inevitable. At six o’clock the guards came. They entered our house and left within a half-hour. From where I stood I could see my brothers and parents being led away. The Nazis put the house under seal. All my family was standing in the courtyard. My late mother went for the last time to the stables where we used to keep three cows. She gave some fodder to the animals. Then she rejoined the rest of the family who were in the courtyard watched over by armed guards.

Then the guards took my parents and the rest of the family away to the military barracks. They did not show the slightest consideration to my parents who were old and ill.

That day I became an orphan.

I remained in hiding in the garden. My heart was heavy from sorrow. Disturbed in the extreme I simply did not know where to turn. Should I give myself up? What was now that I was to become, left entirely on my own?

It was impossible to stay in our garden any longer. It was too easy for anyone to detect my presence, and so I left the garden furtively only to return that same night at about ten o’clock.

Everything was quiet around the house. I broke the seal on the door and stepped in. I found my overcoat and was ready to leave again when our tenant, to whom we leased one storeroom, realized that someone was inside the house. — Who is it? He asked. I changed my voice and said just one word: Gendarmes. There was no further exchange between us and everything went silent. I took some more clothing from my room and left quietly.

At midnight I set out for my former hiding place in the straw stack. When I reached the place I found my nephew who remained hiding in the stack all this time.

He was very impatient to learn what happened. No sooner had I told him what occurred when he fainted. He came to however, and I pushed him out of the stack to breathe some fresh air. At three o’clock in the morning he even went to the shore of Ondava River to get fresh water for us. We were exhausted and desperate, for it was none too wise to stay in the stack any longer. An escape to Hungary, which we discussed thoroughly, seemed too problematic since it involved the added risk of falling into the hands of the border patrols. The surveillance on the borders was growing better every day, and so on the evening of the next day we headed for town.

The purpose was to get our own alcohol heater. When we came to the town we had a sudden change of mind and we decided to try spending the night in our family home. The night was very dark. We approached our house. Everything was silent but for the barking of a dog. Nothing suspicious in the courtyard. We knew that the doors were locked and sealed and that the gendarmes were supposed to stand guard over confiscated Jewish houses. But we knew also that this surveillance was far from perfect or efficient. The gendarmes saw to it that there would be enough sloppiness as to make it possible for the gendarmes themselves to rob these houses at night. In addition, the recently promulgated decree ordering the entire population to stay away from the streets after 8 p.m. under the penalty of loot sequestrated Jewish homes undetected.

We made our way into our house: I pried the seal open again, entered my own room and searched for the heater. All of a sudden I heard someone entering the front room. Sure enough, they were gendarmes. Two of them. They entered through the window and hastily whispered to each other. In a split of a second I ducked under the bed, breathless. I heard them whispering: “Let’s get it quick!”

First, they took the candlesticks, then my sister’s coat and lingerie, and a lot of other things. They piled everything into two trunks and were ready to leave. Shaky and holding my breath, I thought this was the end of me. But they left without noticing my presence or my nephew who stayed outside on the lookout.

I learned afterwards that in the afternoon of the very same day all Jews were taken away from Trebisov’s military garrison and shipped in boxcars to Zilina, and from there to Poland. Part of them was sent to Majdenek while others were shipped to Lublin. None but four families were spared the ordeal. They were so-called Presidential exceptions, the term used for those who were spared on explicit orders of Tiso, the President of the Republic. In this particular case all four were families of dentists.

The clandestine raid of the gendarmes on our house caused us to change our minds again. It was obvious that we could not have waited in the house. We went back to our straw stack, taking the heater with us.

We remained there, inside the stack, for two crucial weeks. The heat inside was unbearable. During the day it was impossible to go out of hiding. At night we crawled out to get fresh air and replenish our supply of water. The heat inside the straw stack was so intense that the water warmed up to point where it was almost possible to cook dough in it.

Then the day May 16, 1942 arrived. From our hiding we saw a peasant cart approaching. As it developed, a neighborhood petty farmer came, with three other men to pick up some straw. The stack did not belong to him. He merely borrowed a load of straw from the owner who did not have the slightest idea about us hiding in his straw stack. The stack itself was located some six miles from the town of Trebisov.

Neither did the Ruthenian farmer who came to pick up the straw know about us being inside the stack. As he searched for a better quality straw and started digging deeper he spotter our hiding place, and started to investigate. I stuck my head out. Taken aback, he asked what we were doing there. I explained why we were there to which they all replied that, in truth, they knew we were hiding in the stack. We then gave each man five hundred crowns (worth then about twenty-five dollars), and begged them not to betray us to the authorities.

They promised that they would not say a word to anyone, accept the money, and assured us that we would not have to worry about it anymore. Then they piled the vehicle high with straw and left.

We went back to our hole, nervous and frankly worried as to whether those people could be trusted. We decided right then that we must flee that evening. I actually wanted to leave immediately but was unable to move so tired and exhausted was I. I dozed off for a spell while my nephew was trying to read a book in the twilight.

At six o’clock that same evening I suddenly felt that someone on the outside was working feverishly, making his way through the mass of straw to our hiding place.

In a moment we saw men, armed with pitchforks and guns. They immediately ordered us to come out, hands up, and to hand them over our money. They brought two more men with them, all of them from Trebisov. As I learned much later, their names were as follows: Juraj Rusnak, Michal Tudna, Geyza Stanislavsky, Ladislav Hurcik, and few others.

We did not see at once that they were six in number. Two men were hiding behind the stack. As they shouted to us, I quickly grabbed one man, wrestled the pitchfork away from him, hit him hard and started to run away. The two other men, who were hiding all this time behind the straw stack, run after me, firing from their pistols. Fortunately, they missed me, and I out-distanced them rapidly. I stopped running, wondering what was to become of the young boy who was with me. We agreed previously that in the event one of us was captured, the other must give himself up, so that we would be together, come what may. And so I decided to walk back to the straw stack.

As I approached I saw that they had disrobed my nephew completely, looking for money. Of course, they did not find anything on him, since we did not have any money with us at all after we gave them previously all we had. The man I hit earlier in the scuffle jumped at once to me and hit me with the pitchfork so hard that I fainted.

They disrobed me too, completely. They did not find any money on me. They then ordered us to come along with them to the town. On the way we begged them to give us a drink of water. They told us scornfully that we will no longer need any water, and that shall not live long anyway.

However, one of these Nazi thieves did not give up trying to extort money from us by promising us that he would let us go if we could produce a substantial amount of money in cash.

I asked how much they would want, and he said twenty thousand crowns. I told him that I did not have any money on me, but that, perhaps, I would be able to raise some cash in town.

My foremost thought was to escape, although I realized that this was very difficult on account of my young nephew. There was nothing left for me but to continue bartering with my captors.

I promised that I would produce five thousand crowns, but they would not listen to anything else but the full amount demanded.

It should be pointed out that for this amount it was possible to build, at that time, a new solid one-family house.

I kept pleading with them and promised them that I would try to raise 5000 crowns among my acquaintances in Trebisov.

Two of the gangsters, Juraj Rusnak and Michael Trudna, who seemed to be the leaders, would not hear at all of my offer. As we were nearing the town, I agreed, in desperation, to what they demanded. I asked that three of them stay with my nephew while I was to go with Rusnak and Tudna to town.

We came into a house of one of my acquaintances, a liberal-minded farmer’s family, where I previously deposited some money for safekeeping in those troubled times.

I explained what happened and what we came for. The farmer asked first what happened to my nephew, and advised me not to give anything to those gangsters; he pointed out, in the presence of my captors, that the situation on the fronts was worsening for the Germans, and that our suffering might soon end.

When my captors, small-time Nazi thieves and profiteers, heard what the farmer so outspokenly said, they did not want to stay in the house any longer. The farmer gave them the money. I asked him whether he would be so kind as to go along with my captors and see that my nephew was released. My captors did not want to hear about this and replied that they would release us both as soon as we reach the place where my nephew and his three captors were.

While on our way back the two leaders of the gang asked me not to tell the rest of the gang that they had received all of the twenty thousand demanded. They enjoined me to say that I gave them only 15,000 crowns. I agreed to this.

When we came to the appointed place, I asked them to release my nephew at once, and to let us go. Instead of letting us go they grabbed us by our hands, and said: You gave us the money, but we shall not release you. We shall turn you over to the gendarmes. You will then be sent to Poland, and should you come back, we shall give you back your money. We advise you not to brag about having given us any money. Otherwise we shall report this to the Hlinka Guards and they will confiscate all your property. We also would denounce your farmer friend, and tell the authorities that you are collaborating with the anti-Nazi underground.

Not wishing to endanger my farmer friend, I kept silent. They took us to police headquarters. In the morning we were called for interrogation. We explained what happened. The police asked us whether we had given any money to our captors. I said that we did not. Then the police left us alone. We were incarcerated there three weeks, until enough prisoners were gathered to be sent, in a group of 100 persons, to a concentration camp.

While imprisoned in the police station I met a charwoman I knew. She was employed by the police to bring food to the prisoners. I implored her to bring me a file, or to put a file into a loaf of bread, so that I could escape by sawing off the prison’s bars. She replied that she couldn’t possibly do so, since it would have been easy to ascertain who had helped me. So I dropped the whole idea of escaping from the prison and I decided to wait until we were on the train on our way to the concentration camp.

On May 28, 1942 they sent out a big transport from our prison. I was in that transport. We were about 106 in number. Twenty gendarmes were assigned to guard us.

While in prison I made acquaintance with a young man, and we decided to escape together. We were at the railroad station. In the crowd I spotted the wife of a farmer I knew. She was on her way to market with a basket of eggs. I bought about a hundred eggs from her and a loaf of bread.

We boarded the train. The gendarmes were with us and watched us carefully. When we approached the main station in the town of Kosice, I found myself a place near the window. As we came closer I started throwing eggs into the crowd. People thought I was throwing hand grenades on them, or something. Everybody started to run. In the ensuing confusion I went to a washroom in the back of the car, and jumped out from the window.

I landed squarely and found that I was in a patch of cultivated land. I remained there for about fifteen minutes, thinking that I had broken my leg. Then I pulled myself together and set out for town.

I wandered around the town for about two days. Then the police caught up with me. They arrested me again and sent me to a frontier town where they turned me over to a border patrol. Two hours later, I was a free man again. I escaped.

I set out for the town of Presov. There I met a few Jewish families and acquaintances. They, too, were to report for deportation. So I left in a hurry.

Within an hour after I left Presov the gendarmes and the police were on my trail again. I set out at once for the town of Spiska Nova Ves. Again, the police surprised me on my way, and asked for my papers. Not having any, I was re-arrested.

My story was checked and I was sent again to Zilina where I found the deportees with whom I was originally shipped from Trebisov. The police investigated my case thoroughly, and bet me. A police inspector named Vaska was especially brutal during this investigation. He met his death after the war having been condemned by a Peoples’ Court to be handed for war crimes.

They kept us all in the Zilina camp for a couple of days, waiting until sufficient number of prisoners was gathered to make a convoy. We were herded inside barbed wire enclosure and guarded by a special detachment of the Hlinka Guard in black uniforms.

For supper they used to give us raw sauerkraut, but nothing else. In the morning, a cup of lukewarm ersatz “coffee”.

I kept thinking of the camp in Poland. What would they be like, comparing the treatment we were getting in our own country.

The local press of course tried to paint a rosy picture as to the situation in Polish camps. Imagine, they, the imprisoned Jews, even enjoy some kind of autonomy inside these fine camps!

I could picture the kind of “autonomy” the Jews presumably “enjoyed” in Polish camps. It sufficed to observe what was going on in our own camp in Zilina.

When a transport came the old and ill men and women were thrown out of the boxcars as that they were animals. Many broke their legs or ribs. These unfortunates were then put on stretchers. Red Cross people took them to an infirmary. A few days later the guards kicked them out of the infirmary, fever or no fever.

Every inmate in the camp received a serial number. I noticed that some prisoners carried special white armbands. They were the orderlies. Usually, they were the last ones to be shipped to a death camp. I tried to get possession of such an armband.

One morning while I was arguing with one of the orderlies, a Nazi guard came by. He heard me telling the orderly that I felt ill and was unable to work. The guard immediately took my number down and ordered me to report to the office at noon.

I knew it means a severe beating for me. By sheer luck, I had two serial numbers with me. One belonged to a woman inmate. When I did not report as ordered, the guard set out looking for the holder of the number. He finally learned that he had been fooled and searched for me everywhere.

In the meantime I remained in hiding. I told my fellow prisoners that I intended to escape that very same night. The cautioned me against such action, and asserted that I would be shot while attempting to escape. Not one attempt to escape from this camp had ever met with success they told me.

I tried to induce another nephew of mine, who was with me in the camp, to try to escape with me. He refused.

In desperation, I remained in the camp for two more days.

On the eve of another big convoy to Poland, I escaped, not without being shot at by the guards. They missed me. A few moments after I was in town, Nazi guards were everywhere asking for identification papers. I soon reached the railroad station. I turned around, stepped casually forward along the rails, and posted myself at a safe distance, on the outside of the track, waiting for the train to move.

Eluding the guards and the crowds I jumped aboard while the train was gathering speed.

For a couple of tense moments, I tried to orientate myself. Then, finding that there were no policemen or gendarmes on the train, I fell asleep.

After half way between Zilina and Kosice someone waked me. It was a gendarme. He asked me for my identification papers. I pretended that I was very sleepy and showed him an old social security card which stated that I was working on the railroad. Casually, I explained that I was going home from work and asked him not to bother me. He let it go at that.

Finally, I reached the town of Hanusovce, near Kosice. I stayed there a week in hiding, until hey again caught me.

I experienced the same old routine. Only this time I did not reveal my real name. Back to Zilina again.

By pure chance there was no one in the record room when the gendarmes brought me into camp, but an old inmate, acquaintance of mine. I gave him a false name.

The very next day I was put on a train, with hundreds of other prisoners. Destination: Poland: my hope: a smuggled-in knife.

Each car was jammed to capacity. People began to suffocate from lack of air.

As the train approached the border between Slovakia and Poland, I finally succeeded in trying open a window.

Without losing any time I jumped out from the speeding train. A few others followed me, until the guards became aware of what was going on. They fired from their pistols, but did not order the train be stopped.

I remained in hiding in a field for a couple of hours. In the evening I set out by foot for my native town.

After several days of tribulations, I finally reached the town of Hanusovec, a distance of several miles from my hometown. I stayed there for two weeks.

Bitter experience and past sufferings taught me to try a new angle. From Hanusovce, I sent a messenger to my hometown Trebisov, requesting a member of a respected Christian family from Trebisov to come to see me. The man came. He was very surprised indeed, since he was led to believe that I was in Poland for many months already.

I asked the man whether he would be kind enough to institute a procedure whereby his family would be allowed to take over the possession of our house. It was a difficult and lengthy procedure but finally he succeeded in convincing the authorities of his good faith.

As soon as they let me know that they had moved into our house and that they made arrangements for me to hide inside the house, I moved in too. We dug a hole under the table, put a carpet over it and camouflaged everything very expertly.

I remained there for many months, and came out only at night since the gendarmes came searching for me on several occasions. As a matter of fact, they kept searching for me constantly for about a month. Then they gave up.

It was at that time I found out more about the fate of those Jews who were deported to Poland.

I found out especially that my parents and brothers-in-law were led to believe that I was shot during one of my attempts to escape from a deportation train.

I sent them a letter under an assumed name through the Jewish agency in Bratislava which was still operating at that time. I also succeeded in forwarding five hundred crowns to my parents.

The receipt of said money was acknowledged in my father’s own handwriting. This was to be the last letter I received from my parents before they died. They wrote:

“Dear son, the reading of your letter meant a new lease on life for us. Send us some old things, but no money. May God protect you wherever you are. Gruenfeld and Katz died from illness.

In September 1942 news leaked from Poland that the Nazis began to use gas chambers for the purpose of murdering older inmates of concentration camps. In October of the same year, my parents succumbed to this ordeal.

The year of 1942 was a tragic year not only for myself but for all Jewish people in Slovakia.

Hitler was at the gates of Stalingrad. It was then that I began to think of suicide since I thought I was not able to endure this trial any longer.

Some people were saying that the war might last for at least four more years. The farmer’s family with which I lived in our house and was taking care of me all this time tried to convince me that it was imperative for me to hold out a bit longer, and assured me that the war would soon end. They undoubtedly were in fear that I might be discovered whether dead or alive and that they would be punished by ten years of imprisonment for hiding a Jewish person in their household.

During the day they stayed out working in the fields, and in the evenings they gave me food. And so I remained in hiding there from June 1942 to December 6, 1944, the day of liberation of my hometown by the Russians.

Throughout all this period of two and a half years of hiding I had never seen the sun once. I felt ill and discouraged until the time when the Nazis took their beating at Stalingrad in the Winter of 1943. I read the accounts, however scared, of what happened on the fronts, and I made my mind that I must hold out, although I was very ill and ate very little. I was often desperate reading of Hitler’s boasts of some new arms which would win the war for him.

However, in the first days of June 1944, I heard something about the partisan movement in Slovakia against the Nazis, I knew the people of our town and was informed as to their opinions about the war and their attitude in political matters. It was during this period that I sent several letters using assumed names, to the most rabid of local pro-Nazis. The purpose of these letters was to deter them from any possible further action against the partisans and the democrats in general.

It was also at this time that I got in direct touch with the anti-Nazis partisans themselves through the intermediary of a Jewish doctor named Gyarfas, incidentally the only Jewish doctor who was permitted to continue practice in my hometown (Trebisov).

A partisan liaison contacted him, and through Dr. Gyarfas I, too, gave some money to the partisans.

Later on, this same liaison man came to see me in my hiding place, on information given to him by Dr. Gyarfas. It wasn’t until then that I found out that the liaison man was no one else but my former schoolmate named Deutch. We had not seen each other for over six years.

This man’s job was to seek contacts with those officials of the regime who would be willing to provide the partisans with false identity cards. To this effect, Deutch and I contacted another of my former schoolmates, a man named Sokolov.

I had lost track of Sokolov since we left school and I was not sure at all as to his political convictions. When he saw me at night he became very frightened since he believed I was long dead. Nonetheless, he promised to co-operate with us, however it was necessary to threaten him with reprisals in case of non-cooperation.

This man, to our great satisfaction and astonishment, brought us the very next night ten identity cards, blank ones bearing all necessary seals. Deutch then went away and I took over the leadership of the partisan movement in the vicinity of my hometown.

Sometime later we joined another group of partisans, and after two weeks we took to the mountains where we joined a large group known under the name of Tchapayev partisan group. We engaged the Germans in fight several times, blowing up bridges and holding up Nazi transports.

On December 4, 1944 the oncoming Russian armies liberated our district and I then enlisted in the regular Czechoslovak Army where I served until the end of the war.

Click for more information on THE HOLOCAUST IN SLOVAKIA

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