HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR Emery Fahidi was the Liverpool football team’s interpreter in the 1970-71 season, writes Lennie Isaacs.
BornImreSchonberger,hewas17and about to train as a teacher, like his parents, when Germany invaded Hungary in June 1944. With his family, he was put on a cattle truck for Auschwitz.
They were then moved to Strasshoff camp near Vienna, where Ukrainian guards piled up corpses. They were saved by a request from local Austrian civilians for a group of 25 labourers. The family was picked out by the guards and taken to an experimental horticultural centre at Mistelbach-an-der-Zaya.
They expected the worst but townspeople brought food to the camp and local police protected the prisoners from the SS. After the war, Imre took the Hungarian name Emery Fahidi.
Returning in 1962 to thank his saviours, he found no-one left. With his son, Paul, he wrote a book dedicated to those who remained human and helpful during the dark days of the Nazi occupation. Fortuna’s Children was published by Vallentine Mitchell in 2003.
In 1947, influenced by a visiting Zionist, he left home to train in combat warfare. After two months in Austria he walked over snow-covered mountains to Merino in Italy and continued training at night near Lake Como.
He then boarded a rickety ship for British-mandate Palestine. Three days into its voyage the boat was intercepted by the British and escorted to Cyprus, where he was interned from March to April 1948. But as he looked under 18, the British allowed him to proceed to Palestine, where he received false papers from the Jewish Agency and trained in Beit She’an.
In his unit of Romanians with some Poles the common language was Yiddish, which he spoke in addition to Hungarian, German, English, French, Hebrew and Flemish. He also served in a tank division responsible for bomb disposal.
His first civilian job was as guard for a generator in Eilat from 1949-53. He sent his generous salary to his family in Hungary, now under Communism. His two sisters survive him there.
But he left Israel, travelling the world. After marrying Irene Gibbins at Childwall Synagogue in 1967, he went to Canada but finally settled in Liverpool in 1969. Known locally as Eric, he worked on a factory production line. He ensured his sons’ full Jewish education and preparation for professional life.
He interpreted for Liverpool when it met the Hungarian soccer team, Ferencvaros, in the European Fairs Cup. The teams played their first leg, a round one match, on September 15, 1970, at Anfield. Liverpool won 1-0 and drew the away leg in Hungary on September 29.
A very private person, he declined an invitation to be guest speaker at Liverpool’s 2008 Holocaust Memorial Day but attended the event.
He is survived by his wife, four sons and three grandchildren.
Emery Fahidi: Hungarian survivor