Dear Travel-mates, dear relatives of Travel-mates, dear All,GaborEllmann

I’m Gabor Ellmann, a Hungarian born Danish citizen, who lives in the Netherlands but who was based with my family in the UK for several years. In other words, I am a European. This remembrance is important to me, because we, “train-travelers”, who are still alive, will soon depart. This is one of those important milestones, that may even be a last opportunity for us to acknowledge. Let us hope that similar events will continue to be organized for our descendants to attend. Thanks to Ron Chaulet, and all the Team, for reaching out and to coordinate the events today after much planning and postponement during the pandemic.

My daughter Esther who lives in London is here today with my son-in-law Andrew and my lovely granddaughter Amelia. Andrew has lost his grandparents in the camps. Andrew’s grandmother lies buried here at Bergen-Belsen, perhaps even in the same mass grave as my grandfather. My poor grandfather who swapped his boots to get me extra food and who died malnourished and beaten on his 62nd birthday, a few days before I was crammed onto that train with my dear Grandmother. I remain indebted to the 743rd Tank Battalion and to George Gross, whose men opened the doors of our wagons. By that I got freedom, youth, friends, a career. At 82, I have had a long life, not just those 5 short years.

Being here today, I honour not just all those who perished on the train or in Bergen Belsen, like my grandfather and Andrew’s grandmother, but also those who survived the camps. And, of course, I honour all the train survivors, all of you here today and all those, who couldn’t be here in person.

I’d also like to mention my recently departed dear friend, Laszlo Ungvari. We met at work in the early sixties. One day I entered his office and noticed he was eating his lunch using a black wooden handled knife. “I have the same knife!” I said. “Impossible”, he answered, “because this is not a Hungarian product”. “Well”, I said, “nor is mine. I brought it from a house in Hillersleben.” We were both in shock. After we spilled out of that train back in 1945, groups of survivors walked to nearby villages and spent the night in deserted houses. All we had was our filthy camp clothes and the tin mug for the watery soup. So some of us took a small memento, something useful. It’s possible that Laszlo’s and my matching knives were from the same table. We were both too young to remember the details or each other from the chaos of those days. But our friendship as adults was instant and remained deep for some 57 years. This speech is also my debt to him, finally paid off.

In 2016 the British Government pledged to construct and build a much awaited memorial and educational centre by the Houses of parliament to commemorate and conserve the horrific events and consequences of the Holocaust. Central to this was to record the testimonies of the remaining 100 or so survivors living in the UK. The production team was interested that Andrew and Esther’s family was bound by fathers, who were both affected by the Holocaust and so I was invited from Holland to give my testimony alongside Andrew’s father. I said then, what I have always felt: That I bear no grudge against the Germans today. They have shown remorse, and refrained from any denial of the actions that were taken by their fathers’ and grandfathers’ generations. I do, however, still bear resentment against the Hungarians. Those people, who put us into ghettos and on those trains. They were our neighbors, townsfolk, and work colleagues, who knew us. Those Hungarians have shown no remorse at all. Nor do their descendants. I am still struggling to forgive them, but I continue to try.

Thank you for your presence and attention!