Ungar, Lawrence

Ungar, Lawrence

Nagyleta (Hungary), Debrecin, Puspokladany, Hajduboszormeny, Buscu, Mauthausen

Mr. Ungar was born in 1927 in Nagyleta, Hungary.  He lived with his parents, Joseph, a tailor, his mother, Fanny, and his two sisters, Margaret and Ava.

His hometown was the third biggest city in Hungary. There were ten thousand Jewish people living there. The Ungars lived in an income house and the children went to a Jewish/Hungarian school.  His family was conservative, but they observed the entire eight days of Passover.

Lawrence also went to trade school for three years to be a shoemaker.

In September of 1939, Germany invaded Poland, which did not surprise his family as they saw newspapers and heard about the invasion on the radio.

His family was sent to the Debrecin Ghetto and heard the air attacks begin.  Lawrence was forced into Puspokladany, a labor camp, in October of 1943.  They he was in the third group that was sent to Hajduboszormeny, another labor camp, which was guarded by the Hungarians.  He stayed with the white armband group, those who were part Jewish.  The editor of the Jewish News and many Olympians were in his group.

When the Germans gave orders to evacuate, he ran away from the group.  He found out that the Germans were losing because he had access to newspapers in Budapest.

In November of 1944, he was deported to the Austrian border and taken to the Bucsu camp to build a munitions deport.   The walk there took two days, with Germans shooting those who fell down along the way.

Lawrence said he survived because he was “a stubborn person.”

His next stop was Mauthausen where he met a group of men from his hometown.  There were three barracks there and his diet consisted of watered soup and one piece of bread per day.

He was liberated on May 5, 1945 by the Americans.  He ate all the food they gave him and became ill as the liberators didn’t know how to treat starvation.

In September of 1945, he left for Budapest where he made a deal with the border guards and was allowed to go to Austria.  Russian soldiers took him to Vienna.

In 1949, his aunt sent him papers to come to America. He arrived in Boston in 1949 and became a citizen six years later.

He went from Boston to New York City (where his relatives were not kind to him).  He stayed until 1950 when he left for Detroit.  He discovered that no one was interested in what happened to the Jews in Europe during the war.

Lawrence got a job at the Ford Mercury plant in Wayne, MI.  His wife’s name is Klara and they have three daughters and twin sons.

He searched for his parents and grandparents and discovered that they all perished in Auschwitz.

Interview information:
Interviewer: Jacqueline Zeff
Date: 5/29/97
Length: 1:21
Format: Video recording