Interview with Andrew Romay

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These interviews are the third in a series of extended profiles on the lives of participants in the New York Hungarian Table, which meets for lunch once a month in Morningside in New York City. It features two interviews with Andrew Romay about his experiences in Hungary from the interwar period through 1956. The interviews were conducted at Romay's apartment in New York on February 18 and 25, 2014. Special thanks go to Ph.D. candidate in History at Cornell University, Máté Rigó, for his assistance in cataloging the interviews. To download the interviews, click here.

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FIRST INTERVIEW: February 18, 2014: 0:00 Birth and Family; 1:30 Family business, father is wholesale salesman; 3:10 Splendid childhood in Hungary; 3:40 Mother; 5:40 Father was more religious, kosher household; 6:30 Miskolc Jewish community, numerus clausus, Jewish students in Catholic high school; 8:30 Antisemitism, Hungarian identity; 9:30 Yiddish; 13:30 Family home; 15:00 Brother, trip to Paris, bother accepted to the Sorbonne, Paris; 17:30 WWII; 18:40 Politics at home, Horthy; 20:50 lack of WWI memory, Trianon 23:50 relatives in Oradea; 27:50 WWII, Hungary’s participation; 30:50 Accepted to the University to Economics in 1940. Family moves to Budapest 1940; 32:50 Studies economics in 1940s. School of economics similar to current classics. Initially wanted to study medicine; 33:50 Readings at university; 39:50 politicized daily life, friendships; 42:50 Jewish-non-Jewish relations; 44:50 1945 as a radical break; 45:50 saved by university student status, deferred labor service till 1944; 47:10 student status saved him from labor service for years; 53:05 forced labor camp conditions, labor battalions; 57:50 Protected houses; 59:50 Rescue efforts by the Catholic church; refuses to convert to Catholicism, friend converts in his stead in summer 1944; 1:04:50 Arrow crossmen deport him to Mauthausen; 1:05:50 Escapes from Mauthausen; 1:10:55 concentration camp memoir of Romay [published as "De Profundis: Memoir of an Inmate at Mauthausen Concentration Camp, March-May 1945," published in the Austian History Yearbook, Vol. XXVII (1996): 301-11]; 1:14:00 liberation of the camp by US soldiers; encounter of US soldiers with camp inmates, “apocalyptic scene.” Inmates naked for weeks before liberation; 1:17:50 US troops put him in a rehabilitation camp, on the site of the previous camp; 1:18:15 health problems after liberation: couldn’t swallow as a result of starvation; many former inmates died after liberation; 1:19:40 Could speak English with US soldiers; 1:24:10 Anomalous relationship between camp inmates and survivors; 1:26:45 One-month recovery, then taken back by train to Budapest. Family survived in the ghetto. Brother survived in Miskolc; 1:28:40 Encounter with parents. They didn’t talk about his camp experience; 1:31:10 Experience of returning to Budapest in 1945. Stayed in bed for months. Rumors about the total destruction of Budapest; 1:33:30 Parents returned to the same apartment as they lived in before; 1:34:15 Shortages in Budapest. SECOND INTERVIEW: February 25, 2014; 00:00 Labor service in Western Hungary; 04:20 Forced march into Germany, infections, chaotic march, saved by luck; 08:00 SS killings of forced laborers in Eastern Austria; 13:20 Massive death toll among laborers, starvation; 19:00 Jewish forced laborers forced in a crammed barge in winter 1945; 23:00 Liberation by US troops, sent home after a month of recovery; 28:00 Reuniting with family members in Budapest; everyone survived; 33:00 Learns that luck saves him in 1945, as the SS kills sick laborers who stayed behind; 35:30 Meets George Soros’ father Tivadar through the Hungarian Esperanto Society, presided over by Tivadar Soros; 40:00 Tivadar Soros’ escape from Siberia in 1917; 44:40 Tivadar Soros’ rescue efforts in 1944; 45:00 Emigration decisions at the Soros family, 1945, 1956; 48:00 Lack of a homogenous holocaust experience; 55:00 Communist turn of most of Romay’s friends after 1945; 1:00:00 Failed escape attempt from Hungary during Rákosi period in 1949. Captured at the same place where he did forced labor in 1945; 1:01:00 Greeted at the Hungarian secret service headquarters as „stinking fascist” at 60 Andrássy út in Budapest; 1:05:00 Former inmates and Jewish survivors of Nazism who became communist did not help him when in prison; 1:07:00 In prison for eight months as enemy of the people; 1:08:00 Impossibility of finding a job as a ”capitalist” economist; gets job by denying his university education; 1:09:00 Finds job at a foreign trade company; 1:10:00 New director of the company is fully informed of Romay past that he wanted to hide, as the director was working for the secret service (Á.V.H.) before. Director and Romay shared the same social background, both issued from Hungarian-Jewish middle class families. New director was hostile to Romay and suggests that he confesses everything to the party secretary about his past as “enemy of the people"; 1:17:00 No further discrimination against him at the company; directors of the company were fully incompetent, without education; 1:18:00 Hungarian foreign trade handled badly and ineffectively due to the appointment of trustworthy party members; 1:20:00 Works at the company till 1956; 1:21:00 Former college friend becomes communist minister, who gets him a job as a laborer; experience of being deceived by Hungarian Jewish friends, once again; 1:23:00 Appointed to work at a factory outside of Budapest before he got the foreign trading job; worked as a physical laborer at an aniline factory; 1:24:00 Works with a wheelbarrows; 1:26:00 Gives up job at the factory due to health reasons; 1:28:00 When visiting Hungary in 1970s, he questions former college friend who appoints him to a factory job why he did so.


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