CSM stu­dents re­live hor­rors of Holo­caust through guest speaker

Holo­caust Mu­seum vol­un­teer shares his sto­ries about hid­ing in Hun­gary dur­ing WWII

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com

The Holo­caust ended in 1945 but that tragic page in his­tory is still re­mem­bered to this day. By see­ing the faces and hear­ing the sto­ries of sur­vivors, many are able to un­der­stand the geno­cide and per­se­cu­tion that mil­lions of the Jewish pop­u­la­tion in Europe faced for years dur­ing World War II.

On April 14, a speak­ing en­gage­ment held at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land La Plata Cam­pus showed the col­lege’s sup­port for the U.S. Holo­caust Me­mo­rial Mu­seum’s “Never Again” theme by invit­ing Holo­caust sur­vivor Peter Gorog to share his re­mark­able story and shocking ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing such a tragic time in his­tory.

CSM com­mu­ni­ca­tion, arts and his­tory pro­fes­sor Chris­tine Arnold-Lourie said this is the fourth year that CSM has brought some­one from the Holo­caust mu­seum to speak to stu­dents. She be­lieves it is im­por­tant to ex­pand stu­dents’ un­der­stand­ing of the mean­ing of di­ver­sity.

“Hav­ing a speaker come here to tell their in­di­vid­ual story makes it real for the stu­dents. It is im­por­tant to be able to con­nect a per­son with the event and the lit­er­a­ture that they are study­ing. The stu­dents will also re­al­ize that words mat­ter, ac­tions mat­ter and they can learn from Mr. Gorog’s ex­pe­ri­ence,” Arnold-Lourie said.

Gorog, 75, is a Holo­caust mu­seum vol­un­teer who grew up in com­mu­nist Hun­gary. Gorog was born Péter Grün­wald in Bu­dapest, on March 10, 1941, but in fear of an­ti­semitic dis­crim­i­na­tion, he changed his fam­ily name from Grün­wald to Gorog in 1962.

Gorog ex­plained to CSM stu­dents how the in­crease of op­pres­sive an­ti­semitic laws, forced la­bor bat­tal­ions and la­bor camps that were es­tab­lished in Hun­gary af­fected his own life. Gorog’s fa­ther was forced into a la­bor bat­tal­ion where he was given lit­tle food or cloth­ing, and then was de­clared dead af­ter Gorog’s birth.

In March 1944, Ger­man forces in­vaded Hun­gary and the Hun­gar­ian govern­ment or­dered the Jewish fam­i­lies in Bu­dapest to move into houses marked with a yel­low Star of David. Fear­ing fur­ther per­se­cu­tion if they moved into that par­tic­u­lar hous­ing, Gorog and his fam­ily found refuge with a Chris­tian friend.

Gorog spoke about how his mother was ar­rested by the Hun­gar­ian po­lice and taken to a street jail. His mother es­caped two days later and then Gorog’s fam­ily fled to a Bu­dapest ghetto, where they spent most of their time in the base­ment dur­ing the fre­quent air raids.

“When my mom was taken, I was 4 years old. I was left be­hind with a fam­ily that hid and they took care of me so I was well fed, told a story and then put in bed. If your mother dis­ap­pears for one or two days and at the same time you are well taken care of; it’s not a big deal in many peo­ple’s lives. But as a child I had no idea what was hap­pen­ing in pol­i­tics. I didn’t even know there was a war,” Gorog said.

How­ever, the fu­ture had a lot in store for Gorog. He later earned a master of sci­ence de­gree in elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing and par­tic­i­pated in the de­sign of the first Hun­gar­ian-made com­puter. Gorog came to the United States in 1980, where he worked on var­i­ous NASA projects such as the Land­sat pro­gram, the Hub­ble Space Tele­scope and the James Webb Space Tele­scope.

“There is so much false in­for­ma­tion about what hap­pened dur­ing the Holo­caust and I want to make sure that peo­ple are well in­formed and hear from those who lived through the Holo­caust,” Gorog said. “I also want to make sure peo­ple can use this in­for­ma­tion when­ever they see signs of wrong do­ings in eth­nic groups, or peo­ple who look dif­fer­ent from us, and are picked on, bul­lied or dis­crim­i­nated against, hope­fully peo­ple will not stand by, but will do what they can to pre­vent hav­ing an­other geno­cide.”

Gorog re­tired in 2014 and has a wife, five daugh­ters and two grand­daugh­ters. It was ap­par­ent to the stu­dents that Gorog’s des­tiny was far greater than the tragic events that sur­rounded him in Hun­gary.

“I truly ap­pre­ci­ate the stu­dent who asked why the Jews were picked on for so many years. That was an im­por­tant ques­tion be­cause the Holo­caust didn’t just hap­pen overnight and her ques­tion showed that the stu­dents re­ally got my mes­sage about never again al­low­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion to pre­vail,” Gorog said.

Lan­guages and lit­er­a­ture in­struc­tor Rachel Hein­horst said that shar­ing sto­ries with oth­ers is pow­er­ful and in­flu­en­tial. The power of lan­guage had a pro­found ef­fect on the stu­dents who heard Gorog’s story.

“I hope that this first­hand ac­count of the his­tor­i­cal era will help the stu­dents and oth­ers re­build an em­pa­thy that is def­i­nitely needed in so­ci­ety,” Hein­horst said.


Peter Gorog, United States Holo­caust Me­mo­rial Mu­seum vol­un­teer, speaks to a group of more than 50 stu­dents at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land La Plata Cam­pus last week about his ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing the Holo­caust.


Peter Gorog, United States Holo­caust Me­mo­rial Mu­seum vol­un­teer, showed CSM stu­dents photos of the forced la­bor bat­tal­ions and camps that were es­tab­lished in Hun­gary when he was a child dur­ing World War II.

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