Berci, George

George Berci was born March 14, 1921 in Szeged, Hungary, and when he was a toddler his family moved to Vienna.  They stayed there until 1936, when the family returned to Hungary.  By this time antisemitism was obvious on both sides of the border.  Hitler took Austria in the 1937 Anschluss, and Admiral Horthy took Hungary into the Axis alongside Hitler.  Young Jewish men like George were no longer allowed to attend school, and they were forced into work camps during this time.  The conditions were difficult as the men were forced to build a defensive line in the mountains along the Romanian border.  George recalls limited food and especially tough living and working conditions during the cold winter months.  Eventually they were loaded on to cattle cars, part of the deportations that were taking place in Hungary in that part of 1944.  The train stopped in Budapest in the middle of an American bombing raid, and George and a number of other men took advantage of the chaos to escape.  They arrived as the decorations to Auschwitz-Birkenau were taking place – and also as diplomats like Wallenberg and Lutz were doing their utmost to save Budapest’s Jews.  George was also able to reunite with his mother at this time, and the two of them hid in a house as the Red Amy closed in and liberated the city.  After the liberation they made their way to Szeged and George ended up attending medical school there as he found his way in Hungary’s new communist regime.  George chafed under the restrictions of this new system, and as a young doctor he saw the appalling violence of the 1956 revolution enter his ER.  George resolved to get out, and he escaped, ending up in Australia.  He worked to develop his surgical skills at this time, and he became interested in the possibilities of endoscopic surgery, a field he would later help to revolutionize.  With that the Holocaust survivor would save many lives.  George eventually left Australia for the United States, and Crestwood students were able to zoom with him at his office in Los Angeles in February 2024.