Trust and Deceit
This autobiography describes the dramatic events in Slovakia and Hungary between 1939 and 1945 seen through the eyes of a Jewish child/teenager, Gerti. The rise of fascism in Slovakia destroyed the peaceful co-existence of the Jews with their Slovak neighbours and demoralized both groups. The threat of deportation of Jews from Slovakia to Auschwitz forced Gerti and her parents to flee to Hungary, where deportations of Jews to Auschwitz had not yet begun. There the family lived under an assumed identity. The dangers and isolation associated with this existence plunged Gerti into depression and forced her to learn skills of deception to survive. As Hitler's grip on Hungary tightened and the dangers for Jews in Hungary increased, Gerti's father was arrested. Gerti and her mother had to flee to Slovakia in the spring of 1944, where they assumed yet further false identities. During the summer of 1944 Gerti met her childhood friend Walter (Rudi Vrba), who escaped from Auschwitz and told Gerti about his first-hand experience of witnessing the mass murders there. With time the remaining few Jews in Slovakia were rounded up. Gerti and her mother were denounced and taken to the Gestapo. The knowledge of the death factories waiting for them encouraged Gerti to take a serious risk and escape. Her mother, however, gave up hope and stayed to perish in a concentration camp. Gerti, then on her own, returned to Budapest and lived through the round up of Jews and the siege, assuming the identity of a Hungarian refugee from Russian-occupied Hungary. To survive, she had to use her hard-learned skills in assessing who she could trust and whom she had to deceive.