Ludevít Végh

* 1921  †︎ 2016

  • “I lie down, sleep for a while and suddenly I hear shots being fired and I say: ´Dammit, the Germans have broken through the front.´ I quickly put on my clothes, I had a Belgian browning on me, and I go out and see that it’s the Russians who are shooting. But shooting in the air. That’s a custom, that when a war comes to an end, all cartridges are fired. I did not know about that, I learnt it and so I did the same. That was the end of the war. Then there was only one problem left – how to get home. With Honza, my uncle, we wanted to convince the command to lend us a car so that we could somehow drive to Prague.”

  • “At one moment I lost my nerves. I knew that the street up there was being checked by the fascists, they walked from one house to another, and wherever they found a man between eighteen and forty-five, they dragged him out of the house and shot him. Because they knew he was a civilian in disguise, a former soldier, who was in hiding. I was ready for that, but at that moment, I chickened out and I thought: I got to ask the guys for help. I walked towards them and gave a signal. This signal was three knocks. It was as if somehow they knew I was in shit, and as if they also sensed that they must not answer. When I repeated the signal three times and there was no reply, I understood it was me who made the mistake, and not them. And so I returned and thought: come what may. What I did not know, however, and what I learnt only after – that the house belonged to a high-ranking official of Hungarian fascists, and when the guards came to that house, he exclaimed: ´Do you know who I am?´ - ´Who? ´- ´I am official this and this. And I guarantee you there is nobody in this house. I would have known about that. Good-bye.´ And he gave them a fascist greeting. This was the only house which was left out from the search. In other houses, what they did was that the owner of the house had to go with them, and if they found somebody inside, they shot not only him, but the owner as well.”

  • “I was thinking what was the motive that goes through it all, that shapes your consciousness? And I discovered one thing – it is the effort to survive. Where to sleep and what to eat. What I say now may not sound fair, but while I was in the camp, I seldom remembered my brother or my parents. It was not an ordinary life, like when you suddenly remember ´oh my gosh, it’s my mom’s birthday tomorrow.´ No, at that moment you are happy just to be alive. Alive for this moment, or maybe for the next one… the effort to survive. Which means knowing that you will eat, that you will get some food. When I lived illegally in Budapest, the first time that I was living in illegality, after I fled from Košice – I earned 30 pengö a week by working. For a young boy like me, to make the ends meet, I was paying 6 pengö for a lousy place to sleep. I could rarely use trams, because the fare cost quite a lot. I remember well that one day I walked eight kilometers in order to buy 100 grams of marmalade for 80 hallers instead of 1,2 pengö. I walked eight kilometers. I was so stupid, for the wear and tear of my shoes was more than those 40 which I saved. I was happy that I walked to a market where I could get 100 grams of marmalade for 80.”

  • “We lived in midst of anti-Semitism. I said that anti-Semitism was a phenomenon accompanying a petty bourgeois society, with anti-Semitism being something as necessary sanitation. This does not pertain only to anti-Semitism, but to anti-Romani tendencies and to anything else. It simply formed a part of life, and that’s how I perceived it. I say it was normal, I regarded it as part of my life. I knew that my father was helpless against it, I knew it was no use complaining to him about boys who were bullying me and spitting on me, I knew that after the occupation of Hungary my professor of Hungarian language treats me differently than he would a Slovak student. I thought of anti-Semitism as something normal. At that time, nobody was speaking about anti-Semitism being inhuman, contradictory to human rights, etc. These questions, and questions regarding the army and such, were simply nonexistent. There were no questions about it. I found my way of defending myself against anti-Semitism when I discovered that mathematics could be my weapon. It became my personal weapon. Not only a way of defence, but it really worked. In my class, in the sixth grade of the secondary school, there was a boy sitting on front of me, his name was Balzar. And we were good friends. From time to time he needed a hand in mathematics, we talked to each other, quite simply we were two boys who were friends, one helping the other. Then the war broke out, people were fleeing, living in illegality, and one day I met this Balzar somewhere in Slovakia, and he was wearing an SS military uniform. At that moment I thought: Should I hide myself? Or should I go to him? Should I say hello? He recognized me, spoke to me the same way he used to and so I also behaved in the same way. He told me: ´Don’t keep looking at me this way just because of that SS uniform. We had an illegal group in Košice, while it was still the Czechoslovak republic. Many Germans lived there. When the war broke out, we got an order to join the Hitlerjugend, and so I got an SS uniform, but you don’t need to give a damn about it.”

  • “The Hungarians were notorious for shots in the back of the neck. In Budapest there were many corpses floating in the river. They did not want to carry people to be shot too far away, and therefore they brought them to the Danube river, shot them in the back of their necks and they fell in the water. And when Budapest became completely liberated, there was no shooting going on anymore, but from the Nyilas houses – these were the houses where the headquarters of the Arrow Cross Party was – they pulled out hundreds of corpses from their basements, you would not believe that. They laid them on the street. There were piles of corpses, seven, eight, nine metres high. Something had to be done with them. Dead horses also had to be cleared away. It was necessary, for there was a threat of an epidemic in entire Budapest. I was sick just to look at it. But it had to be done. Truly, the Hungarian Nyilas party members were in a sense worse than German Nazis – at least that’s what was rumoured. Just imagine this, when I was in that internment camp, a Hungarian sergeant got drunk, and started shouting: ´Do you know what I will do with you…´ We did not listen to him, he was drunk and lucky that he was able to sit or lie down. ´I will make a pocket for you.´ We did not know what a pocket was. A pocket means that they made an incision in your skin, put their hand there and on top of that poured salt in there. I have to say the Hungarians who were so cruel were truly very cruel people. I remember, in the camp, when we did some work and we were guarded by German Germans, we had to watch out. But when Austrian Germans guarded us, they just told us: ´You can speak when we are here, just be careful when this and this guard comes…”

  • Celé nahrávky
  • 1

    Praha, 22.05.2003

    délka: 02:07:35
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha 10, 19.01.2016

    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu The Stories of Our Neigbours
Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

A doctor who was a friend of mine secretly gave me an injection of typhoid bacteria, resulting in 40° fever, and thanks to that I avoided the draft

Ludevít Végh, 2003
Ludevít Végh, 2003

Ludevít Végh was born to a Jewish family in Košice in 1921. His father owned a shop and earned his living as a businessman. Since his youth, Ludevít had problems with his Jewish origin and had to defend himself against deep-rooted anti-Semitism. In 1941, he was to be sent to work at the labour camps, but thanks to the help of a doctor who gave him an injection with typhoid bacteria, resulting in 40° fever, Ludovít Végh eventually managed to avoid the draft. In fear of other deportations, he ran away to Budapest and for a time provided a relatively safe haven for Jews. There he worked in a chemical factory and as an electrician. He often had to change his address and lived as an illegal. However, he did not escape the second draft for forced labor, and in 1942-1944 he was interned in the labour camps in Galanta, Vác, and Uzhhorod. A year before the end of the war, he along with other Jews in Hungary that were in danger of being transported to an extermination concentration camp, managed to escape from the transport and get to Budapest. He again continued to live in illegality. He was one of the ten members of a resistance group. After the liberation of the city by the Red Army, he became a military translator and interpreter; he went with the Army from Budapest via Vienna, Baden-Baden and Enzersfeld to Prague. His parents died in Auschwitz, his brother in a Soviet gulag. He settled in Prague, studied at the civil engineering faculty at the Czech Technical University. After graduation, he worked in the Ostrava region. He became a university teacher. He recorded his experiences in a book titled, „Sun and Clouds of the 20th Century.“ Ludevít Végh passed away on September, the 25th, 2016.