Preserving The Oral HistorIES of Combat Veterans

COMBAT STORIES FROM World War II

Bob Ratonyi | Hungarian Civilian

4:18   |   When Bob Ratonyi was a child in the Budapest Jewish ghetto, he had an older cousin who had a dangerous job. He went out without his yellow star to scavenge for something that could be traded for food. Decades later, that cousin would recollect some of those dire circumstances when Bob was writing his book.

More From Bob Ratonyi

Keywords   :     Bob Ratonyi    Bob Reichmann    Jew    Jewish    Holocaust    ghetto    Yellow Star    Arrow Cross Party

Videos ( 17 )
WWII
  • Bob Ratonyi  |  WWII  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  5:28

    Bob Ratonyi was growing up in a large Jewish family in Budapest. He had lots of aunts, uncles and cousins but he was born in 1938, which was not a good year for a European Jew to be born. Two events in that year shook the continent. He recorded all of these stories and more in his book, "From Darkness into Light: My Journey Through Nazism, Fascism, and Communism to Freedom."

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  WWII  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  7:21

    Bob Ratonyi was four years old when his father was sent to a labor camp. He was taken after Hungary became a de facto ally of Germany and, since he was Jewish, he was among the earliest victims of the forced labor system. No one told the him his father wasn't coming home until a year or two later, and his uncle divulged the details of his fate decades later.

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  WWII  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  7:01

    When his father was taken for forced labor by the Nazis, Bob Ratonyi's mother managed to support herself and the boy by working in a factory. The overwhelming poverty kindled a desire in the young Hungarian Jew to never be poor again.

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  WWII  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  6:15

    His father was already in a concentration camp and when his mother was taken, Bob Ratonyi was cared for by his grandparents, who also took in other relatives. One uncle managed to get most of them Schutz-Passes which gave them some protection them from deportation.

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  WWII  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  7:08

    It is difficult for Bob Ratonyi to talk about seeing his mother taken away at gunpoint when he was six. The Hungarian Holocaust had taken his father when he was four and now they were getting around to the women. He was very fortunate that a neighbor knew where his grandparents lived and took him there.

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  WWII  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  9:06

    As soon as Bob Ratonyi came into the care of his grandparents, they began a series of moves trying to stay ahead of the Hungarian fascists who were rounding up Jews. First they moved into the Jewish ghetto, then, after getting some coveted Schutz-Passes, they moved through several so-called protected houses. The final move was back into the ghetto because it was actually safer there.

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  WWII  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  6:06

    How could a continent populated with Christians stand by as their Jewish neighbors were murdered? Hungarian Holocaust survivor Bob Ratonyi has given this a lot of thought. He survived the Nazis and their successors, the communists. He wrote of these experiences in his book, From Darkness into Light.

Cold War
  • Bob Ratonyi  |  Cold War  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  5:27

    His family was not very religious, but they followed all the Jewish traditions and holy days. Bob Ratonyi had barely survived the Holocaust and then he was faced with more oppression of religion when Hungary became a Communist satellite of the USSR.

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  Cold War  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  8:38

    It was near anarchy in Budapest following the fall of the Nazis. Many were starving surrounded by rubble. Bob Ratonyi was overjoyed when his mother returned from a labor camp but then he watched as communists turned Hungary into a Stalinist dictatorship.

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  Cold War  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  6:00

    It was all propaganda, everything on the radio and in the newspapers. That was life in communist Hungary as Bob Ratonyi was coming of age. He urged his mother to take an offered post as the party representative at her factory so she could take advantage of it.

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  Cold War  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  10:45

    For Bob Ratonyi, living in communist Hungary meant only one inevitable outcome, moral decay. When you have to lie, cheat and steal, just to have a decent life, it begins to affect your soul. Still, there were true believers in the utopian fantasy.

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  Cold War  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  8:11

    It began as a simple student march in Budapest permitted by the communist government. Overnight, it became a bloody uprising. Bob Ratonyi was an eighteen year old freshman who was swept up in the moment. It began a course of events that would lead to a brutal crackdown and to his eventual escape to the West. Part 1 of 4.

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  Cold War  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  8:23

    The student led march to the parliament building had been exhilarating for Bob Ratonyi and he got up the next morning to go to his classes but there were no streetcars running. Then he saw two dead Russian soldiers in their vehicle. The peaceful march had turned into the bloody Hungarian Uprising. Part 2 of 4.

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  Cold War  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  6:46

    When Bob Ratonyi heard that a good friend had fled the country after the Hungarian Uprising, he decided to do the same. He recruited another friend and they began to plan their escape. Their group of two expanded to seven and they naively set out for the Austrian border. Part 3 of 4.

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  Cold War  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  7:32

    It was a shakedown. Bob Ratonyi saw that he had to go off the trail and around the soldier collecting the money. Along with six others, he was making an attempt to escape communist Hungary after the brutal putdown of the Hungarian Uprising. He stumbled through the dark and found a group of peasants, but they were part of the operation, too. Part 4 of 4

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  Cold War  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  6:35

    He was free. Bob Ratonyi had made it out of communist Hungary into Austria. His first stop was a refugee camp, which was overcrowded. He made it to Vienna with the help of a Catholic charity and, once there, he made straight for the American embassy. Unfortunately, the quota for refugees had been met. He had three choices, Australia, Sweden and Canada.

  • Bob Ratonyi  |  Cold War  |  Hungarian Civilian  |  4:32

    On the spur of the moment, Bob Ratonyi sent a transcript to MIT. He'd never heard of it but one of his professors said it was one of the best engineering schools in the world. As a Hungarian refugee in Canada, he was unaware of it's reputation and he surely could not afford it. When he was accepted, he faced a hard choice. (Caution: coarse language.)

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