Alex Hacker was born in Budapest, Hungary on May 7, 1926. His father was a successful businessman in the vegetable oil business, and because of that – as well as Hungary’s alliance with Nazi Germany – Alex and his family and the Jews of Hungary in general were shielded from the immediate brutality of the Shoah. They did experience mounting restrictions and a loss of personal freedoms though, and Alex was called into the Hungarian army’s labour battalions, where he was involved in constructing concrete bunkers. In 1944 the war changed direction for Hungary, as Horthy’s government was toppled and replaced by the anti-Semitic Arrow Cross. Deportations to Auschwitz-Birkenau began that year, and Alex’s labour battalion was marched to Austria, where they were put under the control of the SS and shipped to the Flossenburg concentration camp. After a short stay of a few weeks, Alex was put on a cattle car and sent to Nordhausen-Dora, where he became a slave labourer in the Nazi camp at Dora Mittelbau, where the Nazis had built an underground factory to produce the V-2 rocket. Alex was there through the winter of 1944-45, and he credits his survival to his ability to use a slide rule; he was selected to work indoors, in conditions and weather much less severe. In April – with the war winding down and the fanatiacl Nazis still not willing to concede – Alex was transported to Bergen-Belsen, where he was starved and in very bad shape. Luckily the British army liberated the camp in short order, and Alex was treated in hospital. He chose to emigrate to Canada in 1951, after spending time in Palestine and England; Alex moved on with his life, marrying and raising a family and falling tinto the rhythms of postwar Canada. Mr. Masters’ Grade 10 history students were fortunate to be able to zoom with Alex in February 2022.
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