Missions between March 19, 1944 and June 30, 1944

The emissary missions to the country towns between March 19, 1944 and June 30, 1944

As soon as the Germans took over Hungary, on March 19, 1944, the country towns were completely cut off from the outside world, as well as from the Jewish center in Budapest. Jews were forbidden from traveling on trams, busses and trains, and steps were put in motion to bring all the Jews into the towns, in preparation for the mass deportations. The underground Zionist Youth Resistance Movement (ZYRM) leadership embarked on a daring operation to bring the information on the purpose of the ghettoization, on the impending deportations, and their destinations (the extermination camps). In the towns they visited, the emissaries encouraged the Jewish youth to flee to Budapest. The youths were given instructions and provided with forged documents and money, which the emissaries had brought with them for that purpose. The youth movement emissaries operated under borrowed identities, such as a Budapest University student (Efra Nadav), carrying the relevant documents, such as student certificates and official, hard-bound student records, with the signatures of their lecturers; a railway official (Efra Agmon), wearing the appropriate uniform and carrying the official documents; a uniformed Levente pre-army organization cadet (Asher Arányi), or a regular civilian, with Aryan identity papers; or as a Jew who had been drafted into a forced labor unit, and carried a draft notice. The young women emissaries did not arouse the attention of the inspectors who were hunting for army deserters.

There was no limit to the creativity and the desire to achieve the goal – to make contact with the Jews in the closed and cut off country towns, and bring them a means of rescuing themselves.

The welcome and the responses were quite varied. In a few places, the meetings with Jewish community leaders were successful, such as the mission by Tzvi Prizant to Huszt; the Fettmann-Golan brothers to Debrecen, Amy Samet to Miskolc. In other places, there were youth movement alumni who felt responsible for the fate of their families, to their mothers and younger siblings, after their fathers had been drafted to the forced labor units months before. Who would take care of the families? Sometimes the emissaries met with Jewish community elders who simply refused to believe. There were also emissaries who were captured, interrogated and deported to Auschwitz (Esther Vardi). In some instances, people would refuse to take advantage of the opportunity offered him to rescue themselves, such as religious Jews who could not adjust to the borrowed Christian identity or the underground conditions (Rosenberg Metzinger), and other youths worried that their sudden disappearance would be discovered by the authorities, and would endanger their parents.

The tally of the emissary missions does not include the many complex journeys undertaken during that period, to accompany youth movement members toward slipping across the Slovakian border via the towns of Kassa, Losonc, and Somorja, and across the Romanian border, as part of the “tiyul” operation, to the towns of Békéscsaba, Kolozsvár, Nagyvárad, Sepsiszentgyörgy and Szeged. Also not included were the border crossings by Peretz Révész and Baruch Robinson to Slovakia, to maintain contact and provide assistance to the Working Group there (Gisi Fleischman and Rabbi Weismandel).

Between March 19, 1944 and June 30, 1944 at least 77 emissaries undertook and succeeded in at least 141 missions.