Hungarian Holocaust survivor to tell his story

A Hungarian Holocaust survivor who was deported to Vienna to carry out forced labour during the Nazi regime will visit the University of Wolverhampton to present an annual lecture.

George Pogany will present the annual Holocaust Memorial Day Lecture at the University’s City Campus on Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 5pm.

The University hosts a lecture each year to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27. George Pogany

Dieter Steinert, Professor of Modern European History and Migration Studies at the University, organises the free lecture each year, which is attended by school groups, visitors and University staff and students.

He said: “We are looking forward to welcoming George Pogany to present the annual Holocaust Memorial Day Lecture. Although we will hear from George how he endured very harsh and sometimes dangerous conditions, he was lucky to escape the fate of the majority of Hungarian Jews who were murdered at Auschwitz.  

“His story of survival allows us to remember all the victims of the Holocaust.”

The lecture will be held in the main lecture theatre (MC001) at City Campus in Wolverhampton. Entry is free, by pre-booked tickets only. 

George Pogany’s story

Germany’s occupation of Hungary and the persecution of the Jews began when George Pogany was 16 years old and a student at the local grammar school. He was made to wear the yellow Star of David and rounded up in a ghetto. Within a month he and his parents were deported.

George was born in 1928, in a small town in Hungary, called Orosháza. His father was a mathematics and physics schoolteacher and his mother a housewife. He had an older brother who studied mathematics and physics at the University of Szeged.

George regarded his family background as middle class. His family, and the local residents of the town in which he was raised, where Jewish, but not orthodox.

Growing up, George considered himself as a patriot and as nothing other than a good Hungarian.  When Germany occupied Hungary, George was shocked by the indifference of the local people amongst whom he had spent his entire life.

Cattle wagons where used to transport George and his parents, amongst 100 other deportees, to the nearest bigger town Békéscsaba.  They were then escorted to the local ghetto. The following day those from Orosháza were locked into the cattle wagons again and shuttled around for three days and nights. 

George says: “In spite of the hardship, we were extremely lucky, because we fell into the small quota of Jews who were not sent to a death camp but sent to work in Vienna instead. By some miracle my parents and I were still together.”

When the Russians arrived in April 1945 George and his parents started their long walk home. However, his brother, who had been forced into a military work camp by the Nazis, had been captured by the Russians and died from starvation in one of their camps.

Old friends and acquaintances who had been so indifferent at their deportation, welcomed the family on their return; a transformation in behaviour that puzzled George. 

George went on to study chemistry at the University of Budapest. He married and had a son.

He worked in the nationalised Hungarian industry until the revolution in 1956 and then the family escaped to the West, becoming naturalised British citizens in England.

At the age of 80, George started to write his memoirs and now lives in the Netherlands.

To book tickets, please contact Jacqueline Jones or Elaine Wilkes on 01902 322145 or email the special ticket line: holocaust-lecture2012@wlv.ac.uk

The Holocaust Memorial Day lecture is supported by the School of Law, Social Sciences and Communications, the Institute of Learning Enhancement, and the Centre for Historical Research.

ENDS

Picture: George Pogany and his wife Vera.

Date issued:  Thursday, 12 January 2012

For further information, please contact Vickie Warren in the Media Relations Office on 01902 322736.

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