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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf People in Hitler's Europe

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                                               Peter Farago upon his return from the Bergen-
                                               Belsen concentration camp, 1945. Courtesy of
                                               Peter Farago, Budapest.

[Hungarians] told me that we should start walking. I was very skinny . . . . For about eight or ten days we were walking, we were begging for food wherever we could. I couldn’t cry at that stage. I could see the others—I was just following with them. We—when got into Hungarian territory but I still couldn’t understand, I didn’t know for sure that we were in Hungary. . . . I was a young kid, and there again I was begging for food. I was afraid of—very hungry, and I was a very pretty child and they felt sorry for me. I can never forget this. We arrived [Gyór, near the Austrian border]—accidentally I noticed my mother’s back. I said, “Mom, mother,” and my mother just fainted on the spot. Just a moment [tearful, Farago recomposes himself].

My mother became so sick, she was trembling, I got very scared. I was afraid for her. And then she finally got up . . . . I told her we were going to Budapest. And I’ll never forget we were on the train in 1945, the first of May we arrived . . . where we received money, clothes. Unfortunately, I was full of fleas, they had to shave our hair. My mother didn’t have fleas, just me . . . . I can never forget.

After Arriving Home

Everything valuable that I had was all stolen from us. My mother said, “Doesn’t matter as long as we’re alive.” They moved us to Budapest and we lived there. In 1983, my mother passed away from cancer. I nursed her, she died in my arms. I nursed her for thirty-seven years and it was too short a time for me.

Schuchman: Peter, you said that Pavel told you not to sign. How did the two of you communicate?

Peter Farago: He always told me what to do, but he was very . . . subtle about it. I didn’t know why he was so—why he was always hiding messages. I realize now had they found out, they would have killed me. I have three saving angels. First, on the wagon [railroad car] towards Auschwitz, they bombed the train tracks and the train had to turn around—had to return, make a detour towards Austria. I was with my mother at that stage. In Bergen-Belsen, Pavel was the other one that saved my life. I don’t want to meet Pavel right now. I’m very worried what might have happened to him. I’d rather not find out. The meeting would be very painful for me.

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