August 4, 2002

Tomas Kertesz: Thanks to Wallenberg I’m Alive!


”I was among the people that they were going to put on the trains, and he himself took care of saving those of us who had Swedish passports”, remembers the Hungarian architect Tomás Keretesz, at his Belgrano apartment. It was the year 1944 and Tomás was 16 years old. His sight blurs when he tells how Raoul Wallenberg moved among the platforms of Budapest railway station to save thousand of Jews who were being taken to the Nazi concentration camps.

Tomás, today a 73 year old with white hair and serene face, recalls, ”Thanks to him I am alive”. Through a friend of his father Tomás obtained, from the hands of the diplomat, a Swedish passport that saved him more from death more than once. On another occasion he was also close. It was when he was coming back from working in a field on the outskirts of Budapest with his father and they had walked under the rain for a whole day.

”Those who could not follow the pace or sat down, were shot”, remembers Tomás and points out that he fell asleep standing supported by a shovel. The following day a person appeared asking whether I knew any Swedes. ”I showed him a negative of my passport, measuring 24 by 36 millimeters, and that was enough. It saved our lives”.

Tomás gave out hundreds of safe-conducts with his own hands. He says that, in order to offer greater protection, Wallenberg employed him as an office boy at the Swedish Embassy and thus Tomás himself delivered passports to Jewish families signed by the diplomat.

But in spite of Wallenberg’s huge work, the Nazis continued slaughtering people. Tomás says that he was removed from the building where he lived together with his parents under the excuse of identification. He was able to escape from the line to hide in a telephone booth and later in a house of some friends where he spent a few weeks until the Soviet troops arrived in Budapest. He never saw his parents again.

Tomás is one of the ”Children of the Shoah”, the surviving children of the Holocaust, some 100,000 around the world. After spending some time in Transylvania, he came to Argentina to work with an uncle who had settled here in 1930. ”I survived the war because that was my destiny. And that destiny was helped by my Swedish passport”, he points out.

About the mysterious disappearance of the diplomat, Tomás says ”It is an irony: Wallenberg saved thousands of lives, but no one could save him”.

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