Today continues the story of the Hungarian teenager Bandi, who returned to his hometown in Miskolc and though he survived the Holocaust, he was a displaced person – homeless, orphaned, and penniless, without a high school education. In Miskolc, his home was uninhabitable and after he waited seven months, he realized that his family and friends would never return, as they had perished. He became aware that there was nothing left for him in Miskolc and that he needed to leave. But where would he go?
After leaving Miskolc, the first place that Bandi went was to visit a former classmate of his who worked as a teacher in a Jewish orphanage in Budapest. While visiting the orphanage, the kitchen supervisor asked Bandi to look after her nephew, Gyuri, who lived at the orphanage prior to the war and then for two years after the war.
As an orphan, Gyuri had had horrific experiences during the Holocaust, and had been a prisoner in the Birkenau (Auschwitz II) and Dachau death camps, among other unspeakable experiences. Somehow he managed to survive.
When he was still 17, Bandi went to a displaced person (D.P.) camp for those 18 and younger. Not having completed high school, Bandi studied on his own from 1945 until 1949. Gyuri was two years younger than Bandi and looked up to him like one would to an older brother. Bandi meanwhile was going to and from the D.P. camp, traveling about, searching for a place to call home.
The D.P. camp which was his home base was called Kinder Heim, located in Prien am Chiemsee, Germany. The housemother of Kinder Heim was a Greek Orthodox young woman named Jackie, who had been trained as a nurse. In the fall of 1947, when Bandi was 19, he was en route to collect Jackie’s mother from Yugoslavia when he stopped first at the Budapest Orphanage. This time he took Gyuri with him on his adventures.
For some time, Bandi got a job as an assistant driver, delivering aid through the United Nations Relief (UNRRA). Gyuri came along with him. Because of Gyuri’s age, they both ended up back at Kinder Heim. Gyuri relates that Bandi took care of him like an older, caring, street smart brother.
Bandi made sure that Gyuri emigrated. He did this before arranging for his own emigration. Gyuri went to Canada because he was sponsored by the Canadian Jewish Congress. He took the name of George and eventually the last name of Scott.
In 1947 Bandi married Jackie. In January 1949, their son John was born. In 1949 Bandi was admitted to University in Munich: the esteemed Technische Hochschule. At the same time, Bandi’s Uncle Gyuri (coincidentally the same name), who had left Hungary in 1923 and lived in Miami, Florida, sponsored Bandi, Jackie, and John to come to the U.S.
Since he had received his U.S. immigration visa at the same time as acceptance to the University, Bandi gave up the opportunity of going to school in Germany. Bandi, Jackie, and John arrived in New Orleans on Thanksgiving Day 1949. Bandi was 21. John was 11 months old.
Despite his new small family, Bandi arrived in the U.S. as a displaced survivor with the Holocaust ever present as a backdrop. When he came to these shores, he was a refugee without his birth family, with almost no English and almost no money. He also had no formal high school education. Therefore, there was no choice but to do manual labor.
Bandi got a job as a dishwasher in a “cafeteria” called “Super Duper Sandwiches.” During this time he went to school at night to get his high school equivalency. This, while not an actual diploma, carried weight, at least for entry into community colleges.
One of Bandi’s co-workers in the cafeteria where he worked, Bill Roth, lived both in Miami and also in New York, where he was a taxi driver. When they worked together, they would chat about life. Since Bill was the elder, he acted in a fatherly role to Bandi. Bandi told Bill that he (Bandi) wanted to go to university. Bill used to say – “If you want to make a good living, don’t work with your hands; work with your mind.” and “If you want to get a good education and a free education, go to New York City.” In 1951 Jackie and Bandi separated. And, in 1952, Bandi made his way to New York.
City College of New York (CCNY) was at the time thought to provide an excellent education, and they didn’t charge tuition to city residents. It was known as the “Poor Man’s Harvard.” The entrance requirements were tough, however, and a high school diploma was a definite requirement. A GED was not a high school diploma, and Bandi had to be persistent with the Dean (Dean Morton D. Gottschall, at the time), who was not entirely welcoming.
Bandi’s persistence paid off and he was admitted. They required that he pass a special exam, which was not required for the “average” student. He willingly agreed, saying to himself, “I came here to go to the City College and I am not going to miss my goal.” Bandi worked exceedingly hard to meet this goal.
This persistence – never taking a closed door at face value – courage, and the ability to make effective requests of those in authority – served him well and was a skill he passed on to his children and all those he mentored. Tomorrow will continue the story of the Holocaust survivor who had been displaced through horrendous circumstances, and how his true grit and ingenuity propelled him in the areas of career and family.
By Fern Remedi-Brown
Fern Remedi-Brown writes on global social justice issues (human rights, LGBT, health care and education access, immigration, refugees, Nazi Holocaust) for Guardian Liberty Voice.
Previous articles on the Holocaust, fascism, and Nazism:
Hungary Post-Election Woes and Rising Fascism
Passover Changes since pre-Nazi Time
Palestinian Empathy for Holocaust Victims Is Called Treason
Holocaust Repeated in Ukraine?
Ukraine Jews Flee?
Holocaust Remembered by Whom? Yom HaShoah is Sunday
Holocaust Denied Can Be Repeated
Holocaust Survived 1944
Holocaust Survived Through a Door in the Woods
Ukraine Separatists Seizure of Capital Reminiscent of Nazism
Holocaust Sole Survivor
Personal conversations with Alan Brown, PhD
Ten-minute video of Alan Brown’s personal account
Personal conversations with George Scott