Wiener, Max (Miksa)
Budapest (Hungary), Mindszent (Hungary)
Mr. Max Wiener was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1925. He lived with his parents, Jeno (John) and Olga (Steiner), and was their only child.
There were one hundred thousand people in the city with only about nineteen hundred Jewish families. He went to public school which was 99% Catholic, until he was eleven years old. He heard anti-Semitic remarks daily. At age eleven, Mr. Wiener left his parent’s home to live with his uncle to attend a Jewish Orthodox school until 1938.
His father worked at the scales in a flour mill owned by his uncle, who was highly respected. His mother taught him Hebrew and Jewish history and wanted him to be a rabbi, a doctor or a shoemaker. On the High Holy Days, his uncle brought ten Jewish boys for a Minyan and they held services in a grocery store across the street from their home.
They moved to a small town because his uncle, a doctor, gave his father a job in his mill. His mother baked challah for Shabbos. His father had to work at the mill on Saturday. They were poor and ate one chicken for five consecutive days.
Mr. Wiener was nineteen when the war began. At the time, he lived with his uncle. The mill went bankrupt so the family moved to a small town called Mindszent, Hungary (southeast of Budapest) and opened another mill.
Before Hungary was occupied, the Jews thought they were safe. Because there weren’t any radios or newspapers, they knew nothing about Hitler. In 1942, they began to wear yellow armbands.
When the town was occupied, Mr. Wiener lived in the bakery where he worked as the baker’s apprentice. This apprenticeship was a formal, three year program. At one point, during the apprenticeship, he quit his job as an apprentice and was sent to a Juvenile Home where he was assigned to work in the kitchen. His parents didn’t know he was locked up in the home. Later on, July of 1942, he returned to the bakery. Another assistant at the bakery was Paul Cohen, who became the caterer of Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, Michigan. In May of 1944, Mr. Wiener received a diploma/certificate.
When the Germans selected bakers, they chose four out of dozens to go to the work camp. It was like a draft. Ten days later, they were all put in groups according to their professions and/or education. It was May 25th when he was sent to a labor camp and opened a bakery within the camp.
On November 4, 1944, the Germans ordered three thousand extra breads to be sent to the armies. Mr. Wiener managed to sneak out of the camp. His original boss’s son had married a non-Jew and he stayed with them at first and later slept in different homes. In one “protected” house, there were about six hundred hiding there. He got in because his uncle was already there. They hid in the basement using candles for light. Now he was only three blocks from a bakery that made strudel loaves and the baker gave him a job. She supplied him with addresses of buildings where he could sleep in safety. The strudels were sent to the German hospitals.
During this time, he constantly tried to get to Austria but the borders remained closed. Two weeks later, the Germans stopped supplying flour and the baker took him to a very large bakery where he continued to work until the liberation.
Mr. Wiener washed and cleaned the floors to avoid showering with any other boys and men, hiding his circumcision. There were also twenty-one other Jewish boys hiding there.
Mr. Wiener was also working in the underground until the liberation on January 15, 1945. The shooting went on for four days until then. People tried to bribe him with rings and watches just to have some fresh bread.
After the war, Mr. Wiener went home to find his parents, but since they were gone, having been sent to Auschwitz where they were killed, he returned to the bakery in Budapest. He made his way to Austria, alone, getting a job in a kitchen (August, 1945).
One hundred and twenty five people signed up to go to Palestine but because of the Exodus, he was stuck in Austria.
Mr. Wiener met his wife, who was from Vienna, and married in November, 1945. They came to America in 1949, because his mother’s oldest brother lived in Detroit. His uncle, Shlomo Cutler, got him a job at the National Bakery. They lived on Fullerton and Linwood because it was near his work. Osher and Sylvia Goldberg found them a place to live.
Mr. Wiener visited Israel in the early sixties and again in 1986.
He was insulted when people didn’t want to hear his stories about The Holocaust. He risked his life, time and time again, to help others in hiding.
Date: May 4, 1993
Interviewer: Donna R. Sklar
Length: 2 hours
Format: Video recording