Mandel, Joe

Joe Mandel is a Holocaust survivor from the central European region of Ruthenia.  When Joe was born in 1924, Ruthenia was part of Czechoslovakia, but following Chamberlain’s failed “Peace in our time” bid and the following wartime border changes, Joe’s town was ceded to Hungary (it has also at various times been part of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ukraine).  When Czechoslovakia was taken over by Hitler, Joe and his family had started to feel the weight of the Nazis’ anti-Jewish laws, but absorption into Hungary insulated them from the harshest realities of the Holocaust, at least for a few years.  During this time, Joe was often apart from his family, working a succession of jobs in Budapest.  His older brother had been conscripted into the forced labour battalions of the Hungarian army, and this same fate awaited Joe as the war reached its midpoint.  But in 1944, the Germans invaded and directly occupied Hungary, and the fate of Hungarian Jews became much more dire.  As Joe was in Budapest, he was apart from most of his family, and he was taken as a forced labourer, working in a number of different situations in and around Budapest.  Joe would later learn that much of his family was deported to Auschwitz during this time.  As the Soviets closed in from the east, Joe was himself transported to a number of camps, including Mauthausen, Dachau, and Gunskirchen, where he was liberated by the Americans.  After a period of recovery, Joe went to look for his family, and he managed to find several of his siblings.  They stayed in Budapest and began to rebuild their lives, but Joe chafed under communism, and he made the decision to leave Hungary, escaping in the wake of the 1956 Hungarian revolution.  With the help of a friend he found in Vienna, Joe came to Canada, where he started over, first in Regina.  Joe was interviewed for this project by Scott Masters, courtesy of March of the Living.  We met in Joe’s home in June 2015.  In January 2018, Joe met with CHC2D students at Baycrest, where he sat for a second interview.