I was born in Papa, a city about two hours from Budapest a few years after the liberation of my parents from Auschwitz. My father lost his entire family, including his wife and one-year old son in Auschwitz. He was very religious. After my mother married him, she too became observant. My memories of growing up in Hungary are mostly pleasant even though we lived with a constant undertone of antisemitism.
While attending school, my Hungarian school mates never let me forget that I was a Jew and not really a true Hungarian. The teachers were no different. But I learned to make the most of my life. During the summer, I swam in nearby rivers, in winter, when they froze over, I skated on them.
My parents often traveled up to Budapest with me where I attended the Kazincy Street Orthodox synagogue. My mother took me to the opera and to the famous “English Amusement Park”. We observed the Sabbath and all Jewish holidays and ate strictly kosher. I remember being sent by my mother to the Rabbi with a live goose for “shechting” (ritual slaughtering) to make it kosher.
Although Papa was a “large” city of 30,000, it was small enough so that everyone knew everyone else. While our being Jewish seemed to be a constant irritant for our non-Jewish neighbors, I had many friends both Jewish and Hungarian. We played soccer together.