Dr. Gabriel Mayer came to our program after moving to Israel this past summer. In the United States he was an ER Doctor, with a mysterious family history in Hungary. After a long, successful career in medicine, Gabe began his MA in Holocaust Studies, and we are privileged to have him. His work was recently accepted to the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure’s upcoming conference: The Holocaust in Hungary, 70 years on: New Perspectives, which will be held March 17-18, 2014. Gabe tells us about the paper he will present, and the experience of being able to explore a topic that he has always felt obligated to pursue.
I am very honored to be presenting a paper titled “ What happened to the Jews of Kolozsvar in Spring of 1944” The opportunity to present this work is more than just an honor for me. It is a question that I have been asking over and over. The impetus for the subject is found in a laminated piece I carry around: a marriage certificate dated 1941 in which are four Jewish doctors- all graduates of the university of Cluj Medical School in 1938-two of them getting married, while the other two-one of which is a first cousin to the bride- are serving as witnesses. I know what happened to them.
Two were sent to Auschwitz, one managed to escape deportation by being in a forced labor attachment, and the woman getting married, escaped from the ghetto with an infant son and managed to hide out for the rest of the war. These people are my parents and brother. I am asking questions, many questions, which despite the well developed historiography of the Holocaust in Transylvania, are still not clear. So I will be examining the possible factors, which led these four people, standing so close together in time and location, to such varied destinies.
My opportunity to take a crack at the topic is entirely due to being part of the University of Haifa Holocaust Studies program. A phenomenal experience, it is allowing a diverse group of students to become scholars, educators and historians of the next generation! We are fortunate to have an outstanding faculty and going to lectures is like being in a think tank. It is also, in many ways, like setting sails into uncharted waters. Even though I grew up in a survivor family, my knowledge, or even curiosity regarding this past was incidental to practicing medicine and teaching sciences at local colleges. Then I signed up for a seminar at Yad Vashem, and got hooked; suddenly my future in academia was about to change from science to history. Although, more than history, I see it as a concept and an ideal we are being entrusted with. I hope we can all make some contribution to our families, our society and our heritage while at the university and for a lifetime after.