Ratonyi, Robert

Robert Reichmann was born on January 11,1938 in Budapest, Hungary.  He later decided to change his name to Robert (Bob) Ratonyi, hoping to escape the name-associated antisemitism that was prevalent even in postwar Hungary.  In the early part of the war, Bob mentioned that Hungarian Jews were an insulated group:  in November 1940 Hungary’s Horthy regime had joined the Axis.  Bob’s father was conscripted and left home at that time.  Bob was brought up Jewish but his family only celebrated holidays; he received a Jewish education and his Bar Mitzvah.  Later in the war – in the decisive year of 1944 – Bob said that he and his mother had to wear the Yellow Star mandated by SS Chief Adolf Eichmann.  That same year the Allied bombing of Budapest began, and Bob also has memories of being forced to live in the Ghetto.  His grandparents, the Spitzers, lived in an apartment at 106 Kiraly Street.  There were 8 of them in total: the grandparents, an aunt, 3 cousins, Bob and his mother.  Bob said that he was malnourished and lethargic during the time in the ghetto.  He reflected that on October 10, 1944 his childhood was shattered.  The Jewish women were separated and sent on a forced march, and his mother was sent to an Austrian labor camp.  They were not reunited until the summer of 1945.  In 1944 the Red Army encircled Budapest, and the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross accelerated its efforts to murder the remaining Jews.  Men, women and children were killed during mass shootings on the Danube River in those final days.  Bob’s family was lucky to survive: Swedish Schutz-Passes and a quick-thinking cousin made that possible.  Life settled into a new pattern with the end of the war, and Bob was able to see the return of his mother after the war.  Bob left Hungary with his her blessings in 1956, and in 1957 Bob became a Canadian immigrant.  He met his wife, also a Holocaust survivor, on a blind date in Montreal, and they married in 1963.  Later they emigrated to the US, living in Dallas and then Atlanta. In 2004-2005 Bob started writing his story From Darkness into Light. His family never talked about their experiences during the Holocaust.  He says that it is therapeutic. He also highlights his impressions of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, emphasizing that his new home is a  land of opportunity.  Crestwood students had the opportunity to zoom with Bob in April 2024.