It’s the first night of Passover in the early spring of 2022. My husband and our two adult children are gathered around our dining-room table along with my mother, Agnes. In the center of the table is our seder plate, the matzah wrapped in a silvery woven cloth, and a small bowl of salty water for dipping our parsley.

On the sideboard, out of the corner of my eye, I can see a familiar envelope. My mother brought it from Toronto to our home in Montclair, New Jersey, with the sole purpose of giving it to me just as her mother had given it to her. I had no idea this was her plan, but I know full well the chilling, yet holiday-appropriate, content that lies within it.

We each read from our wine-stained Passover Haggadah, retelling the story of the Exodus. We were slaves for 400 years before God rescued us and called us to be in our own land. As Jews, we are commanded to tell the story of how we fled slavery at the hands of the Egyptians so that future generations will remember.

I’d heard this story every Passover since I was a child. And I know that, for our family, slavery is not a thing of the biblical past. Our history lies within that protective plastic envelope on my sideboard. It contains five postcards. Although I am not exactly sure what they say, their existence has captivated me for my entire life, especially on this holiday.

For Passover is also close on the calendar to Yom Ha’Shoah, designed to commemorate the approximately 6 million Jews and others murdered by Nazi Germany and its collaborators, and the heroism of the survivors and rescuers. The two holidays are intertwined with each other and with my life.

After the blessings over the first cup of wine and after we explain the symbolism of each element on the seder plate, we soon reach that familiar passage: “We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt…” As my husband begins to recite the story of our enslaved forebears, my thoughts drift to a more recent story of slavery and one person in particular—my maternal grandfather, László Braun.

Almost 80 years ago, in 1943, the Nazis made him a slave when they sent him to the copper mines of Bor, Serbia. He never returned. For Elizabeth, his wife and my grandmother, the trauma of losing her beloved László drove a permanent wedge into her heart. Although I would sometimes see a smile on her Revlonned red lips, it always quickly faded. It pained me that my mother, Agnes, affectionately known as Ágika, had never met her father.

At the conclusion of the seder, my mother presses the envelope into my hands. It contains the last letters Elizabeth received from László—five fragile, brown postcards, filled with faded black ink, their edges frayed with time. The sight of them gives me shivers of dread. I am conscious of the responsibility that is being transferred to me. I see it as my duty to preserve the memory of our family members who were murdered. What I don’t realize at this moment, though, is that this gift will introduce me to the grandfather I’ve never known and reveal the warmth and love within a marriage cut short.

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MY GRANDMOTHER, Elizabeth, rarely spoke about my grandfather. The only two photos of him hung on the wall of my mother’s apartment. In them, László was frozen in time, forever smiling. The fact that these images even exist is a miracle. Elizabeth protected them during the most brutal years of World War II and hid them during the 50-day siege of Budapest that began in December 1944. That was when the invading Soviet army sought to overrun the Nazis and destroyed most of the city.

Top left (left to right): László, Zoltán, and Belá Braun. Top right: Elizabeth and László on their wedding day in March 1942. (Photography courtesy of Carol Moskot)

The first photo is of a baby-faced, bespectacled László together with his brothers, my great uncles, Zoltan and Béla. All three were brutally murdered during the last year of the war. Slight, with pale skin and black hair swept back to reveal big, smiling eyes, László was a talented furniture designer and upholsterer. As the youngest, he was expected to stay in Budapest and take care of his widowed mother, Sarah Marvanykoï. Zoltan, the middle brother, left home to study architecture at the Sorbonne in Paris, then returned and married the gorgeous Vera Szilagyi. Béla, the eldest, married Magdolna Schwarz and had a baby.

The second photo is a formal wedding portrait of my grandparents. László, 25, is in a tuxedo and stands next to my 22-year-old grandmother. Elizabeth Grün is wearing a dress that only her sister-in-law Vera had worn to her own wedding a year earlier.

When Elizabeth was in her late 70s, I mustered up the courage to ask her how she and László met and what he was like. I didn’t want to bring up painful memories, but I wanted to learn. Elizabeth had grown up in the seventh district of Budapest, the city’s historic Jewish quarter. She and László met at a dance put on by the Jewish Women’s Club at the Bethlen Square Synagogue. She explained that they got to know each other when they attended High Holiday services and went for a walk on Yom Kippur. “That is when people walked,” she told me. “We first went to synagogue, and then some of us youngsters went for a walk so that time passed.”

When I asked what László was like, she flashed that rare grin: “He was a very handsome boy, a nice guy, he wore glasses. He was a good boy.” They were married on March 16, 1942, in the synagogue where they had first danced together. Then our conversation quickly shifted and darkened: “But unfortunately, then came the war. That is why we could only live together for one and a half years.”

Hungary has a long history of anti-Semitism. The 19th and early-20th centuries were a time of major change as the country transformed from a feudal system to a capitalist economy. While many benefited from this shift, others were on the losing end. As is so frequently the case, frustrations were taken out on Jews, including, in Hungary, hundreds of pogroms (massacres), atrocities, and assaults, often carried out by citizens.

In 1938 Budapest, a sign in a shopkeeper’s window reads in both Hungarian and German: ‘Jewish shoppers not wanted.’ (Photography courtesy of the Haver Foundation)

In 1920, 13 years before the Nazis rose to power in Germany, the newly elected autocratic government established by Miklós Horthy passed Europe’s first anti-Jewish laws. The Numerus Clausus Act restricted the number of Jews who could be admitted to higher education and effectively ended legal equality of Jews in the country. The government continued to add more restrictive laws, including preventing Jews from owning property and attending university at all (which explains László’s brother Zoltan going to Paris for his education).

In 1940, Hungary allied with Germany. When Nazi forces invaded the Soviet Union, Hitler demanded that Hungary mobilize its military. For almost a century, Jews had proudly served in the Hungarian armed forces, including my great-great-grandfather. But by 1941, Jewish officers were discharged because they were Jews. Instead, the Hungarian military created a new forced-labor system that required Jewish males to serve at least two years. Deemed “unsuitable” to carry a rifle or wear a uniform, the men labored in civilian clothing and wore yellow arm bands (converts from Judaism had white arm bands), making them open targets for both Hungarian and German anti-Semites.

Following France’s defeat in 1941, Europe’s largest copper mine in Bor, Serbia, was transferred from French ownership to the Germans. Nazi civilians operated the mine and used Jewish slave labor. Bor provided 50 percent of the copper requirements for the Reich’s war industry to make cannonballs, cartridges, machine guns, and tanks. The problem was that by 1942, the entire Jewish population of occupied Serbia had fled or been killed, so the Nazis turned to the remaining Jews of Budapest to supply that labor.

In 1943, the Hungarian government bowed to Germany’s pressure and sent three groups of mostly Jewish forced laborers to the Bor mines. On July 25, my grandfather received his forced labor call-up to Bor. Notices were delivered in person and had to be signed. László would have had a day or so to prepare. He and my grandmother Elizabeth had been newlyweds for just over a year. He promised her to return as soon as possible.

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Five postcards László Braun sent to his wife Elizabeth while he was a slave laborer in the Bor mines. A Nazi eagle with a swastika in its claws is stamped on the top right corner. (Photograph courtesy of Carol Moskot)

 

AFTER PASSOVER, my grandfather’s postcards sat on my desk for weeks before I got the courage to have them translated. My mother had read me snippets but never a full card. I wanted to hire a professional translator so I could glean subtle details and gain some insight into the person my grandfather was. But part of me was terrified of the pain that was headed my way. I knew how László’s story ended. Would I feel his loss that much more?

My Budapest-based translator, Bence Kovacs, took approximately three hours to translate the postcards to English. In his email to me, he said, “I hope you will like them, however tragic it is indeed.” I had no idea what I would encounter or how I would feel as I settled in to read them, one by one.

POSTCARD ONE

Dated: November 7, 1943, and stamped by Sergeant Talas
Mailed: November 9, 1943 by Official Nazi Fieldpost
Sender’s Name: László Braun
Rank: Auxiliary Forced Labourer
Field Post Office Number: F 485

Sent to:
Mrs. Lászlóné Braun
14 Hernád utca, District 7
Budapest

My Little Darling,
You must have been very worried that you haven’t received a card for a long time, but it was impossible to write, unfortunately. Thanks God, I am well, I’m not lying. I received the package a long time ago, I was very happy about it. It serves me well, because it is quite cold already. But that you want to send me my beige suit, I am not so pleased about it, because I do not need it. The pants I got from OMZSA [National Hungarian Jewish Aid Organization] I do not wear, but I will take it home, it will make a nice costume for you. My love! I always get your letters, keep writing to me, because I have not received anything this week. I am very happy that you are well, you are about to go to the hospital soon. I am very worried, you can imagine, it hurts so much that I cannot be with you…I am longing for home a lot, I hope this won’t last long. My darling! Be strong, and take care of yourself, my thoughts are wandering around you, I am asking the Almighty to look out for you and our little darling. Please write… I am sending my kisses to Mom as well.
Your husband,
Laci

I ran my eyes over the words written across the first postcard several times, absorbing László’s endearments, his longing for home and family, how he signed with his pet name. I took in his kindness, his concern, his affection. His thoughts were of his mother and Elizabeth, who was five months pregnant with my mother and alone in Budapest. Each sentence raised another question. Why was it impossible to write? What was his day-to-day world like as a slave laborer? What kind of work was he doing? I felt an urgency to piece together a more fully formed picture of what happened to László at Bor—exactly what was hiding behind the carefully worded postcards?

I came upon Ferenc Andai’s memoir, In the Hour of Fate and Danger. Andai was 19. His first-person account of the Bor mine described in detail the difficult work the men carried out, along with the severe deprivation they endured. He also describes the friendships and necessity of trying to maintain a degree of normalcy.

A shiver ran through me as Andai recalled one of his bunkmates telling biblical stories about Jewish slave laborers building the ancient Egyptian cities of Pithom and Ramses, being exploited and tormented and how they were miraculously set free. There would be no miracle coming to save the Jewish slave laborers of Bor.

Andai explained that travel to Bor took five stench-filled, oppressive days by train, starting in Vac, Hungary. Each cattle car was crowded with 40 men. The train pushed through some of the most remote, forested, and beautiful landscapes of the Serbian mountains. The men arrived at a complex of 33 camps ironically named after cities of the Third Reich.

Jewish forced laborers in the stone quarry of the Bor mines in Serbia. (Photography courtesy of Yad Vashem)

Jewish slave laborers received two meals a day of thin soup and moldy bread. They worked 10- to 12-hour shifts. Some repaired roads or built the Bor-Zagubica railway, but most worked in the mines, often standing knee-deep in water and breathing in dust and explosive gas. This work was always accompanied by death threats and harassment from the Nazis who oversaw them.

By the time my grandfather arrived, he would have encountered Lieutenant Colonel Ede Maranyi, commander of the camp, along with a brutal regime of officers and subordinates who were encouraged to commit atrocities. They punished the laborers for alleged offenses with beatings, trussing up, and hog-tying. Too often, the punishment was death by drowning them in mud pits.

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I STUDIED THE DATE of December 30, 1943, on the second postcard and realized László had become a father. Two months before, Ágika had been born prematurely at seven months in a maternity hospital. She weighed less than five pounds. She and my grandmother stayed in the hospital for two weeks before going home to their apartment. László was hundreds of miles away, denied by the Nazis to take a short leave and see his newborn daughter and wife.

László wrote: “I have received your letters written until 15 December, I am very happy that you’re fine and our Ágika is growing well. I cannot express how much I want to see her. You always tell me how beautiful she is and I still have not seen her, you know how annoying that is. I have received her birth record, but unfortunately, I do not need it, I cannot go on leave yet. It is Christmas Day today, and our little daughter is 2 months old, and I have to be here… this is so terrible that I want to cry. Exactly one year ago how happy we were. The only thing that keeps me alive is that I will get home one day, and then we will be so happy as no-one has ever before, I dream about this all the time.

As I read through the second postcard, I began to piece together what was taking place in Budapest at that time. László would have been devastated had he known the immense danger Elizabeth faced, along with thousands of Jews in the city. During one of the few times I asked Elizabeth about this period, she told me she had been extremely worried: “I was on my own with a baby and no support system. As a Jew, I wasn’t allowed to hold a job. I worked from home, earning money by sewing to make ends meet.”

During the war, Hungary was in the crosshairs of both Germany and Russia. On March 19, 1944, the Russians advanced on the eastern front and the Nazis took control of Hungary’s capital. Despite discriminatory legislation and widespread anti-Semitism, the Jewish community in Budapest had been relatively secure until German occupation. The Nazis ordered the establishment of a Jewish Council, a group of Jewish leaders charged with relaying orders to the Jews, and severely restricted Jewish life.

Jews living outside of Budapest were rounded up and forced to live in designated ghettos and camps in more than 200 locations. Police guarded the perimeters, forbidding anyone to leave, and they often extorted Jews. Food and water supplies were dangerously inadequate; medical care was nonexistent. All Jews were soon required to wear the yellow star.

In May, SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann, chief of the Nazi team of “deportation experts,” worked with the Hungarian authorities to start deporting Jews. In less than two months, nearly 440,000 were forced from Hungary in 147 trains that took them to the concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Nazi-occupied Poland.

László’s third postcard was written on June 24, 1944. Elizabeth’s address was different from the first two cards, as she and Ágika had been forcibly moved from their home. The Arrow Cross, the Hungarian fascists, had confiscated apartments occupied by Jews, along with their belongings. More than 70,000 Jews in Budapest, including Elizabeth, her mother, Teréz Kister, and Ágika, were herded into a handful of designated apartment blocks. Scattered throughout the city, these buildings were known as “the Yellow Star houses” because they were marked with Stars of David.

More than 70,000 Jews in Budapest, including Elizabeth, her mother, Teréz Kister, and Ágika, were herded into a handful of designated apartment blocks. Scattered throughout the city, these buildings were known as ‘the Yellow-Star houses.’ (Photograph courtesy of Fortepane/Wikipedia)

 

My grandfather was clearly trying to mitigate Elizabeth’s fear, writing to her: “Thanks God, I am fine, you do not have to worry about me. The weather feels like spring, one can walk around in a spring overcoat. If only it stayed this way until we get home, soon, I hope.”

He went on to imagine what life would be like when he returned and asked after his brother Zoltan, who was held in a slave labor camp somewhere near the border between Ukraine and Hungary: “It is Sunday today and the weather is nice, it almost breaks my heart how much I am longing for home. How great would it be now in the City Park, walking just the three of us, which may happen sometime as well. How is Mom? I am sending many kisses to her. Any news about Zoli?

The card ends with, “Please kiss our dear little Ágika for me, as she has just turned three months old. I am sending you my kisses. Your loving husband, Laci.

By mid-1944, about 25,000 Jews from the city of Budapest had been rounded up, including my great-uncle Béla with his wife, Magdolna, and their baby, and transported to Auschwitz. Upon arrival all three would have been sent directly to the gas chambers. Hungarian authorities suspended the deportations in July 1944, sparing the approximately 100,000 Jews still in the capital city, at least temporarily. They were virtually the only ones remaining in Hungary.

Elizabeth was among those who remained. She had heard that the Swedish government, represented there by the diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, was helping Jews by issuing letters of protection, called a Schutz-pass. She wrote to the Swedish Embassy in fall 1944, explaining that she, her mother, and her baby daughter were living together in one small room. She had no job. She had no money to buy food. Could they help her?

Elizabeth Braun’s Schutz-pass, which was typed on diplomatic letterhead emblazoned with the Swedish coat of arms. It protected her and Ágika from immediate deportation to Auschwitz since the pass effectively made them wards of Sweden. (Photography courtesy of Carol Moskot)

 

Several days later she had her own Schutz-pass, which was typed onto diplomatic letterhead, emblazoned with the Swedish coat of arms. It protected her and Ágika from immediate deportation to Auschwitz since the pass effectively made them wards of Sweden. Each month, the Swedish embassy also issued her a cheque for 250 pengő—enough to buy food for all three. That letter saved them many times from the fascist soldiers who roamed the streets of Budapest, often shooting Jews on sight or dragging them off for deportation to Auschwitz. When Elizabeth showed her pass, they would harass her, but let her return home.

_____________

POSTCARD NUMBER four, dated July 5, 1944, was also mailed to the Yellow Star apartment where Elizabeth, her mother, and nine-month-old Ágika were living with several other families. It is half the length of the other cards, written with a courteous formality and addressed to a Mrs. Blau, who would have been the head of the household.

László clearly spelled out his fears for his wife, whom he calls by her pet name, Bözsi: “I would like to inform you that we are all well, thanks God. I am healthy, but I am very worried. I hope that you are fine, too. I am receiving the letters from Bözsi with much delay, I hope nothing bad has happened to her. I’m hoping that you will get this letter, because I know that you have not received any letter from me in the past 3 months.”

My heart fluttered with relief when he mentioned, “I have received the picture of our Ágika, I was very happy, but please send me more attached to your next letter.” László could finally gaze at the daughter he would never meet. He signs off: “I am sending my kisses to my Bözsike, please kiss Ágika in my name, I’m sending a million kisses to everybody.” I closed my eyes and imagined receiving one of those kisses myself.

_____________

I LOOKED AT POSTCARD number five with dread. This was the last one Elizabeth would receive from László. I read it slowly, taking in the weight of his words as he tried to assure Elizabeth he was all right. Only he wasn’t.

They both understood their communication would be read by officers to ensure they were free of details that revealed the truth of what was truly happening in each of their worlds. What they received were sanitized versions. Each must have been terrified they might never see the other again. László knew the Nazis had finally arrived in Budapest. Elizabeth, Ágika, and his family were in terrible danger, and there was nothing he could do to help.

The postcard is dated August 14, 1944. By this time, the Soviet army was rapidly advancing toward Hungary from the east. The Nazis began to panic and ordered the Hungarian army to evacuate the Bor camp complex in two stages.

On September 17, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the first group of approximately 3,200 forced laborers began a 285-mile march toward the Hungarian border under the supervision of about 100 guards. The second group of 3,200 started to march on September 29. They were given only two loaves of bread each at the outset of their journey, marching 20 miles per day. These men had spent the past 14 months working in mines, quarries, and construction sites, weakened by starvation and subjected to violence and torture. This was a death march. Men who were caught gathering food along the road or who collapsed from exhaustion were beaten or shot.

László was part of the first group. On October 7, 1944, he was among 3,000 prisoners who arrived in Cservenka, Serbia, and locked into a brick factory. Waffen-SS men, the military branch of the Nazis made up of Germans and Bosnian Muslims, replaced the Hungarian guards. Beginning at around 11 p.m., the SS ordered the prisoners into rows of five, forcing them to hand over any remaining valuables. They were then marched in groups of 20 to 30, lined up near a large trench and shot, group by group, until 700 had been murdered. The SS soldiers fired into the trench and tossed in hand grenades to ensure that every last man had died.

Between 3 and 4 A.M. the shooting suddenly stopped. The local German authorities had gotten word that Soviet forces were approaching, and they were to evacuate Cservenka. László and the remaining prisoners were released from the factory only to be forced to march northwest toward the town of Sombor. Along the way, at least 100 prisoners collapsed and were shot on the side of the road. László was one of them.

I searched the area between Cservenka and Sombor on Google Maps, looking at photos of rutted, tree-lined roads surrounded by pastoral fields and forests. The images were sunless and bleak. I imagined László being shot and left on the side of the road as the others kept marching. Did someone from a nearby farm bury him? What happened to the bodies of all those men who were murdered?

The most famous victim among the Hungarian forced-labor battalion at Bor was the poet Miklós Radnóti. Whether to rescue himself or out of belief, he had converted to Catholicism but still received his draft notice in May 1944. Radnóti wrote poetry about his experiences in captivity. He also wrote cards to his wife, Fanni. His last letter was dated August 16 and included the words: “…thank you, my Dear, the nine years spent together…

Like László, he survived the massacre at Cservenka but was later shot when he too collapsed between Sombor and the Hungarian border sometime in early November. He was 35. Radnóti was buried in a mass grave near a town not far from Gyor, Hungary. The poet was identified by a notebook full of his poems written on the death march. His last poem was dated October 21, 1944:

I fell next to him, his body turned over,
it was tight as a string when it is stretched.
Shot in the head, — That’s how you’ll end up too,
I whispered to myself, — just lay there in the trench.
Patience blooms into death here, —
Der springt noch auf, — I heard near,
Mud and blood dried on my ear

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ON OCTOBER 15, 1944, the Nazis installed the fascist leader of the Arrow Cross, Ferenc Szálasi, as Hungary’s prime minister. In November, the remaining 70,000 Jews of Budapest who hadn’t been shipped to Auschwitz were forced to march into a walled ghetto that was less than a square kilometer in size. The elegant Dohany Synagogue was on its western border. Elizabeth told me how she, her mother, and Ágika walked into the ghetto. “I had one dress, no food, no money. Each person would receive one eight-ounce can of soup each day. Not enough food to sustain one person, let alone a 10-month-old baby.”

In October 1944, the Jews of Budapest were rounded up and marched to the Budapest ghetto. This photo shows Jews on Rákóczi Street being led from the Yellow Star houses to the walled ghetto. (Photography courtesy of Fortepan)

 

Life was full of random violence perpetrated by the Hungarian Arrow Cross. No food was allowed in. Jews were shot. The dead lay in the streets. During December 1944 and January 1945, the Arrow Cross escalated their attacks. Elizabeth was terrified to walk the streets in search of food in case she’d be hauled away and deported to Auschwitz or taken to the Danube and shot.

The words from László’s last postcard resonated as I reread them. “Darling, I hope that you are fine, why did you have to [quit] your work, I hope that you do not have any serious problem. I am happy that you moved together with Mom, at least she is not on her own, and she can help you a bit. My dear, please take care of yourself and Ágika, I am very worried.”

Elizabeth described to me how she had survived one close call when she went out to find bread for Ágika. Arrow Cross Nazis dressed in green army fatigues and their white armbands with the red and black cross dragged her to the Danube, which was red with blood. She recalled looking down in terror, seeing bodies floating all around.

Elizabeth’s wrists were tied behind her back with wire. Groups of people would be tied together, some shot, while others were left to drown once they were pushed off the edge of the steep stone embankment. Elizabeth was tied to an elderly Jewish man. As a member of the Arrow Cross raised his gun to execute them, a group of low-flying Russian planes strafed the sky. The Arrow Cross ran for cover. Elizabeth stood in disbelief as she freed herself from her fellow captive and fled back to Ágika.

In December 1944, the Nazis encircled the ghetto with dynamite, but the Soviet army reached Budapest before the explosives were set off. Hitler commanded his men to defend the city to the last man. This resulted in a street-by-street battle. When Budapest was liberated on February 13, 1945, Elizabeth said she and her mother staggered out of the ghetto, carrying 18-month-old Ágika, who was “too weak from malnourishment to even crawl.”

Several months after the war, men from the labor battalions who had survived the death march from Bor returned to Budapest. Two men who had been with László brought Elizabeth the news of his death. I asked my grandmother what her thoughts were when she heard this. She said she sat on a crumbling street curb and cried for a long while.

As a 24-year-old widow, the only thing she could do was push past her broken heart. Her focus was ensuring their survival after losing their home, their possessions, and László. Most of her immediate and extended family were also murdered by the Hungarian and German fascists—her 16-year-old brother, Tibor Grün, their father, Vilmos Grün, her brothers-in-law, her maternal grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins. She described building a wall around her heart to keep it from imploding. That wall remained in place for the rest of her life.

Life after the war was impossibly hard. There was no work. With the help of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, both Elizabeth and Ágika received food, clothing, and money, which is how they survived until 1948, when the Hungarian economy began to revive. However, Elizabeth feared the rising and virulent anti-Semitism she continued to experience in postwar Budapest. She and Ágika escaped Hungary in 1956 after the Hungarian Revolution.

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Left: Ágika, age 3 in Budapest, 1946. The skeletal remains of the city can be seen behind her. Right: Elizabeth, in her mid-50s, with Ágika in Toronto. After fleeing Hungary in 1956, they lived in a transit camp on the outskirts of Tel Aviv for two years before being placed in permanent housing. They immigrated to Canada in the early 1960s. (Photography courtesy of Carol Moskot)

 

ELIZABETH DIED on October 4, 2019. She chose a medically assisted death and left this earth on her terms. I cry when I say mourner’s kaddish for László and Elizabeth during Yom Kippur services—another holiday when Jews remember those we loved and lost during the Holocaust. I think about László a lot, somehow feeling his presence all year round. I trace the shape of my nose, the curve of my eyes and see some of him in my own face. I am weighed down by the guilt that I’m here and he isn’t. Giving myself permission to enjoy the big and little things in life that László never had a chance to experience has been a lifelong struggle.

Just as Jews are required to tell the story of Passover, I feel the need to tell the story of my grandfather—of modern slavery and its brutality. I’m sharing it for this generation and the next, for those who think the Holocaust is something Jews should move on from and, most important, for those who deny it happened or that it could ever happen again. I owe it to László, who was 26 when he was murdered. It was because of him that I received the most precious gift: my life.

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