Molnar, Paul


Ujpest (Hungary), Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Magdeburg, Berga

Born in 1929 in Ujpest, a suburb of Budapest, Hungary, Molnar was the older of two sons of a moderately wealthy Jewish man in the construction business. His life prior to World War II was quite normal. He attended public school, mixed with all kinds of children, and recalls very little anti-Semitism.

After the start of the war, when Hungary became an ally of Germany, the Hungarian government enacted a number of anti-Jewish measures and his father was taken into a labor battalion. But for him as a child, life remained about the same. He continued to live at home with his mother and brother and attended the same school.

After January 1944 Hungary switched sides in the war and German military forces occupied the country. Drastic changes came with the occupation. Molnar was dismissed from school, he was required to wear the star of David, and his family was forced out of their home and they moved into smaller quarters. In July 1944 the family was rounded up in the middle of the night. Carrying only hand luggage, they were taken to a brickyard used as a detention area. From there they were sent in packed cattle cars, without food, water, or sanitary facilities, to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

During the selection process at Auschwitz, Molnar and his uncle and cousin were told to go in one line, which ultimately led to forced labor. His mother, younger brother, grandmother, uncles, aunts, and cousins were told to go to the other line. He never saw any of them again and assumes they went directly to the gas chambers and crematoriums. Molnar lists eleven close relatives as having perished in the Holocaust. After a few days at Auschwitz, Molnar, his uncle, and his cousin were sent to Buchenwald and from there were transferred to the labor camp at Magdeburg, Germany.

At Magdeburg, Molnar worked on the construction of a factory until one day he accidentally, due to exhaustion, dropped a bag of cement. As punishment the German guard unleashed his watch dog to attack him. The dog severely bit and gnawed his leg, making it impossible for Molnar to walk properly. He was taken to a medical facility and then to the camp hospital at Buchenwald. His uncle and cousin remained at Magdeburg. He never saw them again.

Shortly thereafter, all camp hospital inmates were lined up for shipment to another location. Since Molnar was in the last two rows and the cattle cars became completely filled before it became his turn to board, Molnar was returned to one of the two exclusively Jewish barracks at Buchenwald. Since he was a child, fifteen years old, and injured, the camp's inmate administration shielded him from excessive work and exposure.

He was subsequently selected by the same administration in January 1945 for transport to the labor camp Berga, located near the German town Gera. There, also because of his young age, he was given preferential treatment and not sent to work in the quarry. Instead, he was assigned to the kitchen where he peeled potatoes for twelve hours each day. He remembers a nearby American POW camp for which the Berga kitchen did the cooking.

Upon the liquidation of the Berga camp in early 1945 the inmates were forced to march to an unknown destination. The marchers were guarded by the Volkssturm, young, aged, and physically handicapped men drafted in Germany as a last resort near the end of the war. This allowed Molnar and an accomplice to escape twice. The first time they tried to find refuge in a farmhouse, but the German farmer turned them in and they were returned to the march. The second time, when already in Czechoslovakian territory, the Czech farmer allowed them to stay and used them as farm hands.

After the end of the war Molnar returned to Budapest and reestablished contact with his father, who had survived the labor battalion. Through the efforts of an uncle who had previously emigrated to the United States, Molnar and his father came to the United States in 1947. Molnar attributes his survival to being a teenager in good health, being protected and supported by his elders, working in a kitchen where food was more readily available, and to a great deal of luck.

Interview Information:
Date: September 20, 1991
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Format: Video recording