June 20, 2008

Testimony of Julio Milko

I was born as a Catholic, since my father converted before my birth, and was raised as a Catholic .

Father: Elemér Milkó.
Mother: Erzsébet Gyárfás (Guttman). She was born Jewish but had converted at age 12 to the Lutheran faith.
My sister, Eva, born 1930.
According to Hungarian law, the boy follows the father in his religion, and the girl – her mother.

First anti-Jewish laws went into effect in 1938. Father was exempt from the anti-Semitic laws enacted in Hungary until March 19th 1944. On this date Nazi Germany occupied militarily Hungary, because the Horty Government was trying to make peace with the allies. The Germans imposed a Nazi friendly and virulently anti-Semitic Government. Father continued working in the paper mill firm for another two months into the German occupation. Then, he was drafted into a labor battalion, and released after two months; it was July 1944. The Nazi friendly Government was dismissed by Horty in June 1944. He was negotiating with the Soviets an extra peace.

Father had a lot of contact with Sweden, especially with regard to raw material purchased from Sweden for the paper mill industry. The firm, Hazai Papirgyár R.T. was controlled by the family Fellner it was the second richest industrial group in Hungary.
Father then offered his services to Raoul Wallenberg. There is a picture of the two that I saw in one of the Wallenberg exhibits in a castle in Buda, some 15 years ago. Raoul Wallenberg is receiving a committee representing the Jews of Budapest. My father is the last one standing up on Wallenberg’s left, behind him.

In 1941 I was a youth swimming champion, but when in 1942 the people discovered that my grandfather was Jewish; that is, that I was of Jewish descent (until then I did not know of it), I was removed from the swimming group. I then started my contacts with the illegal Communist party, and at the same time was allowed to finish my studies at the Gymnasium. In May 1944, my home became a ”White Star” home for Christians of Jewish origin.

Tátra street, number 6 was the center of Swedish activity in the International ghetto. My father was responsible for the organization of this Ghetto in every respect. He had several other people working with him.

Since October 15th when the Germans took Horty prisoner and imposed an arrowcross Hungarian nazi Government I went definitively underground. The orders we got was to manufacture false identity papers, birth certificates and so on. We had only one contact to the resistance movement. I don’t remember the name but I know he reported to Rajk, executed later by the Soviet controlled communist regime. In order to improve our cover we joined the Arrow Cross party and used their uniforms. We had some arms but were under orders not to use them unless discovered.

Mid November or maybe a bit later my Father sent a message to join him in Tátra-u. 6. I helped from then on with some paperwork, as a messenger boy, assisting wounded people as far as possible. I used to be a boy scout and had some First Aid training. In the summer of 1944 I worked during daytime in a Hospital – trained nurses and also Doctors were in very short supply. So I had some experience. I also sorted food and medicine and helped distributing it. I was somewhat safer on the streets then others, since my name does not suggest Jewish origin, my original birth certificate was catholic and I have not been circumcised.

While working with Wallenberg, in Tátra-u. 6 father used to go to the bank of the Danube River with a large book of the Embassy with names of persons on the Schutzpass list. I did not accompany him on these dangerous forays. He would return bringing along people with him, whom he saved from being shot; people with names or slightly similar to those in the book. The Arrow Cross bandits used to tear up the Schutzpasses when they could get hold of Jews taking their valuables and shooting them into the Danube. Gabor Forgacs in his book mentions my father as being with the Wallenberg operation.

One day, father received a handwritten note from Wallenberg. It stated: I cannot guarantee the protection of Swedish houses and others in the International ghetto. Therefore, distribute medicine and food to the people to have with them when the Arrow Cross people will come to take them to the Jewish ghetto (which was fenced or walled-off). In actuality, it proved to be a false alarm, since the Arrow Cross did not come to the Tátra – u. 6 location, but to another Swedish Protected house in Nagymezö u. Father organized the execution of the orders received from Wallenberg . In the early morning hours he committed suicide with my mother, me and sister. The morphine he had was not enough. We all survived. Father died later from a heart attack maybe connected with morphine poison or not. According medical men morphine will not cause a heart attack if the person survives. Father was at his desk trying to get in contact with Wallenberg when he had the fatal attack.

Why did father decide to commit suicide? Because he knew the exact location where Wallenberg was staying, and he was afraid that under torture he would give away the location. Or maybe he just lost control. Mother told me he was totally exhausted and disillusioned that he could not go on protecting the people entrusted to him. After all of us in the family swallowed the morphine, I was taken to a Lazaretto. There, they at first thought I was already dead, but I regained consciousness. Some time later, on January 7, 1945, father died suddenly of a heart attack, while Budapest was under siege and shelling by the Soviet army. He collapsed at his table. The Soviets were only 4 house blocks away.

Soon after the liberation of Pest, I believe it was January 15, 1945, I witnessed Wallenberg appearing in front of the Tátra u. 6 building. He was in a black embassy limousine, accompanied by two Russian officers in full dress uniform, and a NKVD agent. Wallenberg expressed regrets at my father’s passing, and said he was going to Malinovsky’s headquarters to get food, medicine and provisions. And not to worry; he would be back in two days. He spoke in German.

I left Hungary in 1948. In Brazil I was manufacturing screws. I have three sons; one heads a Staples outlet in the Boston region. I am married the second time my first wife having died from a cancer illness.

In 1973, while on a business trip to Geneva, I met in a restaurant Mr. Lindberg, a business associate from Stockholm. He pointed out to me Wallenberg’s sister sitting at his table. I did have a long talk with her I can not remember where. When I returned to Brazil, I sent her a copy of the Wallenberg note.