I am the child of a Holocaust Survivor. My father, Miklos A. Stein came to the United States as a Survivor of the concentration camps of World War II. Two weeks prior to his eighteenth birthday he was officially classified as an “Orphan of The War”; if it had been two weeks later he would have been left on the streets of Europe on his own. Along with US soldiers on a military vessel he headed to a land where he did not know anyone nor speak a word of the language, but he knew that America was the place where his parents had hoped to come someday, it was the land of opportunity, of freedom and famous movies.
My father was Hungarian. When he was thirteen years old word had spread to his village that there was trouble in Europe, that Jews were being killed and that Hungary would be invaded. His mother sent him into town to find out about transportation arrangements to America. By the time he returned his entire neighborhood had been taken away, (later he would find out that everyone had been taken to Auschwitz.). He hid for awhile and eventually the Austrian Nazi came through looking for anyone that the German Nazi’s had missed. My father was taken to Mauthaussen, a concentration camp in Austria, infamous for two reasons, it was in Linz Austria hometown to the German Chancellor and notorious for being the only concentration camp where every American Solider who landed in this location during the war was killed.
When the war was over and the concentration camps were liberated my father was still alive at almost six foot tall he weighed ninety pounds, but he had survived. He was never taken back home to Hungary, he was never given back his former life instead he was taken to a Displaced Persons Camp. American associations came to Europe to help unite family members and to provide assistance to Survivors. My father found out that no one from his entire family had survived, not his father, not his mother, not his sister, not his brother, not his grandmother, no one from this neighborhood had survived. No one he knew before the war was still alive. He was literally all alone in the world, his entire family had been killed, he was the only survivor.
Before being taken by the Austrian Nazis to a concentration camp my father had gone back into his family’s house; at thirteen years old the one thing that he thought to take from his home were pictures of his family; he knew in his heart then that he would never see them again. He held onto those pictures throughout the war. His journey from Europe to America brought him out to the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in his life. He had no idea how strong winds were at sea. He took out the tattered, ragged, torn and worn out small black and white photographs that he held on to throughout the war to look at them again. A gust of wind came and blew the pictures from his hand overboard and into the ocean. Perhaps it was a way to bury the dead at sea and to realize that this voyage would start life a new for him in a new place with new hopes and new dreams and a tremendous gratitude for being given a second chance in this new world filled with visions and memories from the old in a place where he knew no one, but knew America was the one place his mother had hope the family would be together.
My father started a new life in the land of hopes and dreams and never went back to Hungary. Hungary was no longer home and he knew that seeing a house that was once his home in a town that was once his entire world would never be the same again and should not be revisited anywhere but in his mind’s eye, when life for a child was full of friends and school and playing soccer.