Parental Love and Grief: The Letters of Dr. Andor Arató

Who was Dr. Andor Arató?

Dr. Andor Arató was born in 1885 in Sombor, then Austro-Hungary. During his service in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I, he was taken captive by the Soviets. He returned from captivity in 1919. He married Rózsi nee Kraus. They had two children, János, born in 1920, and Ági, born in 1927. Andor had a Doctorate in Law. In March 1944, Andor was taken to a concentration camp in Bačka Topola, from where in late May, via Szeged, he was taken to Strasshof camp and Bergen-Belsen camp. He is a survivor of “The Lost Train,” which left Bergen-Belsen at the end of the war, headed for the gas chambers at Theresienstadt. The train stopped in Tröbitz, where the inmates were liberated. Andor returned to Sombor, then Yugoslavia. His daughter Ági also survived. His wife Rózsi and his son János were murdered. Andor remarried and made aliya to Israel. He died in 1951. 

He wrote a diary during the war. In the spring of 1944, as he was separated from his family, in this diary he wrote farewell letters to his wife and children. He wrote two letters to his son, one during and one after the war.

Here is the translation of the letters that vividly express parental love and grief.

May 29, 1944

My dear good son,

They took you away from me, from me who guarded you always so carefully. Maybe I’ve never felt so close to you, as on the night we’re lying under the same blanket, hugging each other. Do you remember? When we were saying goodbye to each other, I didn’t know, that Mom and Ági would go with you. I can imagine how shocked you were, and if you were lucky, you might be taken to the same place, so you’ll be able to see each other sometimes. I curse my destiny, that I didn’t go with you. I stayed completely alone here. The camp was turned into a completely German institution and the treatment did not improve, it even became more severe. The work became harder and becomes unbearable, on top of my illness.

My hope, that we will see each other, diminishes from day to day. Whether we will be able to survive temptations, it is the secret of the future. I pray to God that you come across a good doctor and be the one who will survive. Be strong in life, be a support to your mother and sister. Complete your studies. Popovics and the institute will help you be active and progress in life. Passivity is poison. Don’t become rigid.

Receive these advices, my dear son. Write them to yourself and put them in a notebook and carry them with you. In that way, I would follow you through life, even when I am not around anymore.

If you are completely healthy and the doctor supports this decision, get married. Choose smartly a life partner and live peaceful, beautiful life and raise smart, beautiful children, as you were. It would hurt me not to experience that. But knowledge that you will listen to my advice, gives me the strength to reconcile with my destiny. And that I will have more time, to write about my feelings in this diary. I believe you will be looking forward to reading these rows.

Just another thing that I want to point out: my love for you is infinite and if I ever caused you pain when I was nervous, forgive your father, who loves you greatly.

Dr. Andor Arató and his son, János.
– late 1930s –

Letter to my son, Novi Sad 15.03.1947

You left my life. You left me with a painful memory and with lost hope. They officially stated – you died in the massacre. They threw you as a sacrifice in front of evil people, to execute a wish of the sick sadist full of hatred. And, I, grey-haired, with dilapidated soul and body, am still here. I participate in work in order to survive, without any hope that I will ever live my old life with all its joys. I work to have bread and make life easier for my only daughter, which was left to me. At this age, I would already deserve to have together with Mom, just the two of us, a peaceful old-age filled with memories. We would evoke that nice, harmonious life, which we once had. We would cast our future hopes. Our son got married, we will soon become grandmother and grandfather. What will our grandson be like? Who will he resemble? After a small quarrel, we will agree with our mom, that our grandson will get best traits from both of us. Strong, healthy, wonderful stature, fine soul and capable like you. Soon our daughter will choose someone and our joy and care will increase even though we thought that no more love could fit into our hearts.

I was scared of harsh reality, of old age without joy, and I got married again. Before I did that step, I asked Mother for forgiveness. She is gentle and knows that I have to accept the unchangeable and that in this way I will remove part of the burden off my daughter’s shoulders, of caring for her old father. I got a hard-working and caring wife and I hope I won’t be disappointed. For a few remaining years, I will live with great sadness in my heart because of my terrible loss.

There is, however, one bright spot, which gives strength to my dilapidated body and gives purpose to my loneliness—your sister Ágika. I concentrate on her, she is the hope for the future and the only goal that I set for myself. She gets lost in the daily routine and we only see each other during the times of leisure, both tired, but every moment we spent together is a new joy and full of incentives.

Now that I am writing you this report, if there is a world outside of this one here, then you will hear my message. I promise you that I will look for you often, not as often as my thoughts are with you, with these letters, which will unfortunately remain unanswered.

The author of the article is Dr. Olga Ungar.


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