SEVEN decades after Melbourne resident Vera Danos was liberated from a German camp, she has joined 13 other Holocaust survivors in a class action against the Hungarian government, seeking court-ordered compensation in the United States.
The survivors contend that “the Republic of Hungary collaborated with the Nazis to exterminate Hungarian Jews and to expropriate their property”, and claim that the nationally owned railway was used to transport Jews to concentration camps.
Hailing from Miskolc in Hungary’s north-east, Vera (nee Deutsch) lived comfortably with her father Fivish, who was a wine merchant, her mother Edith and four siblings Avraham, Erica, Tibi and Mandula.
“We were very privileged because my parents were quite well off financially,” Vera told The AJN.
“We were quite a well-known family. We had a nice life.”
This familial bliss, however, was shattered when the Nazis arrived in Hungary.
Fivish’s business was confiscated by the Hungarian government in 1943, followed by the seizure of the family’s home and valuables by Hungarian police in May 1944.
The Deutsch family was forced to live in the local ghetto before they were put on crowded trains bound for Auschwitz.
From there, Vera and Erica were moved to a camp in Berlin.
Each day, the siblings were forced to work at a nearby airplane factory for hours on end.
Vera credits her survival during those 12 months to the company of her sister.
“That’s what saved me. She was very good to me, she looked after me as she was a couple of years older than me,” Vera recalled.
“And we survived.”
The sisters were liberated from the clutches of the Nazi regime by the Soviet army in 1945. However, Fivish, Edith and Vera’s younger brothers, Tibi and Mandula, had perished at Auschwitz.
Avraham did survive Auschwitz, but was killed in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.
Within months of her liberation, Vera met Robert Danos in Hungary and they married in February, 1946.
In December 1950 the couple moved to Melbourne, where they started to rebuild their lives, raising two sons, Tom and Tony.
Vera, who worked in the fashion industry for half-a-century, said receiving compensation now from the Hungarian government is important, even if it cannot reverse the past.
“[The Hungarian government] haven’t done anything. We haven’t received any compensation whatsoever,” the 89-year-old told The AJN.
“They can’t pay me for what I’ve lost.”
For more coverage, see this week’s AJN.