Cayucos resident Julius Royal remembers the Holocaust.
Born in Budapest in 1932, Julius attended a class for Jews at a Christian school. His father, Dave, Austrian from a British family, was a blond, blue-eyed mechanical engineer. About 1942, in the middle of the night, Dave was seized by German agents and taken from Budapest to Berlin to work on U-boat designs for the Hitler Reich.
Adm. Miklós Horthy served as Regent of Hungary until October 1944. Horthy was an anti-Semite, but stood up to Hitler on plans to deport Hungary’s Jews except in special cases where technical expertise was needed in Berlin.
Julius’ mother, Dr. Rosie Neumann Royal, only heard from her husband once or twice before he was killed by the advancing Soviet artillery at the end of the war.
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In March 1944, Horthy was forced to acquiesce to Adolf Eichmann’s plans for deporting Hungary’s Jews to Auschwitz. Julius learned his mother was being held at a temporary camp in a football stadium in Buda. He rushed to say goodbye.
“She cried, I cried. She said, ‘Go to Mary. She’ll take you in,’ ” Julius Royal recalled.
“Mary was our maid even before I was born — until gentiles were forbidden to work for Jews. ‘She lives here in Buda. Take the streetcar, knock at the door.’ When I rang the doorbell, she opened the door and hugged me and cried. She was perfect to me, like a second mother.”
Dr. Royal was sent to Auschwitz in a cattle car shortly after Julius saw her.
“Life was hell at Auschwitz for mom — assigned to a women’s barracks and forced to make bullets and bombs. A Jewish orchestra played as prisoners paraded to work in the factory. My mother served as a doctor to the prisoners, but ‘had only aspirin for this, aspirin for that.’ ”
When his mother’s parents had to move into a Jewish ghetto in October 1944, “my grandfather got a hold of me. He needed my help to push my grandmother in her wheelchair and carry the suitcase. I had to help them. They were my grandparents.”
One of his mother’s sisters was forced to live in another ghetto. Julius’ Aunt Magda was gassed at Dachau, along with her 5-year-old daughter. An uncle was transported to Ukraine and died as a slave laborer. Another uncle fought as a partisan against the Nazis.
“Some of the family paid Christians to hide them. Of course, it was a big risk for them to hide Jews.”
Dr. Rosie Royal survived Auschwitz and practiced medicine in Budapest until age 75. She begged Julius not to join the Israeli Defense Force.
Julius wanted to be a pilot. He attended the Hungarian Air Force Officer Academy from 1952 to 1954. He was co-pilot in a crew of four aboard a fighter bomber in November 1956, during the Hungarian Uprising. When his aircraft was shot down by a much faster Soviet MIG 17, they bailed out and fled across the Austrian border.
In 1959, Julius emigrated to Canada, and then to the U.S. in 1964. Despite all he went through, Julius still has a twinkle in his eyes.
Julius Royal will speak at the Holocaust and International Genocide Remembrance Program at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, at Congregation Beth David, 10180 Los Osos Valley Road in San Luis Obispo.
The public is invited.
Canzona Women’s Ensemble will perform “Even When He is Silent” and “Reflections from Yad VaShem,” the Holocaust Memorial outside Jerusalem.
“Times Past” is special to The Tribune. Dan Krieger is a professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly. Liz Krieger is a retired children’s library for the San Luis Obispo County Library.