FOREWORD
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FOREWORD John S. Schuchman IN BUDAPEST during the summer of 1997, I interviewed a dozen deaf Hungarian Jews who had survived the Holocaust. A couple of the interviewees mentioned that I should meet another Hungarian survivor who had emigrated to California. That survivor, Harry Dunai, and I met the next summer. Fluent in both Hungarian and American sign languages, he volunteered as an interpreter for the Gallaudet University sponsored conference “Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe, 1933–1945,” which I and a colleague chaired. Subsequently, in August 1999 at his home, I interviewed Mr. Dunai about his own Holocaust experiences. The next year, he accompanied a group of university students, deaf and hearing, that I and a colleague led on a three-week Holocaust tour of eastern Europe. The tour ended in Harry’s former home of Budapest where, in June 2000, we met with many other deaf Jewish survivors. Harry’s memoir, the text of this book, is a unique story of survival . Born as Izráel Deutsch, the young boy survived the devastating occupation of Budapest by the German army, the treatment of Jews by the native fascist Arrow Cross organization, and the city’s near destruction by the victorious Soviet army in 1944 and 1945. Subsequently , he grew to manhood under the communist regimes where the young deaf Jewish survivor changed his name to Imre Dunai, found employment, and eventually convinced authorities to allow him to travel to Sweden where he took advantage of opportunities to emigrate to the United States. Equally important, Dunai is a witness to the experience and importance that the Izraelita Siketnémák Országos Intezeté (Israelite Deaf and Mute National Institute) on Mexikoí Boulevard provided for deaf children and for the Budapest deaf community. The school ix FM_193032_Gallaudet_Dunai 5/14/02 12:02 PM Page ix building has survived the years and currently serves as a school for ambulatory and mentally disabled students. In the summer of 2000, we returned to this site, where our group of university students offered a prayer service in memory of the former deaf Jewish students. Afterwards, Harry shared his personal memories of the school with an audience of the current Jewish Deaf Association of Budapest. As is the case with all personal narratives, it is useful to place the individual story in its historical context. The Jewish deaf residential school in Budapest was not unique. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, European Jewish communities created and supported four boarding schools for deaf Jewish children in Berlin, Budapest, London, and Vienna.1 By the time that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had ascended to power in 1933, the four schools possessed excellent reputations as progressive centers of oral education for deaf children and of Jewish education, which allowed some of the successful students to prepare for bar and bas mitzvahs. Although the London school survived until the mid-1960s, each school suffered during the war. After Kristallnacht in November 1938, Alex Reich, the superintendent of the Berlin School, accompanied a very small group of German deaf children to England, where they remained at the London school to await the outcome of the war. Most of their classmates who were left behind in Berlin were transported to the camps. The Berlin and Vienna schools never reopened, and the communist government closed the Budapest school a few years after war’s end. Today, there are no residential schools in Europe for Jewish deaf children. At the beginning of the twentieth century, sixteen boarding schools for deaf children were operating in Hungary. With financial support from philanthropists, the Jewish community created a school for the deaf in 1877 and a school for the blind in 1908. Shortly after World War I, the Pest Jewish Council merged those two schools into one, which was located at Mexikoí Boulevard in Budapest. In his 1943–44 annual school report, the Mexikoí Boulevard school’s director, Dr. Dezso Kanizsai, listed fifty-seven student boarders .2 Izráel Deutsch (Harry Dunai) was listed as one of the students, FOREWORD x FM_193032_Gallaudet_Dunai 5/14/02 12:02 PM Page x and the annual report shows that he excelled in all of his studies at the highest level. When the German army occupied Hungary in the spring of 1944, the young boy was ten years old. The Germans immediately ordered most of the city’s Jewish educational and charitable institutions to turn over their buildings. Along with other Jewish children, Deutsch shuffled from place to...


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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Hungary -- Biography.
  • Holocaust survivors -- Biography.
  • Dunai, Harry I., 1934-.
  • Jewish children in the Holocaust -- Biography.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Hungary -- Personal narratives.
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