Holocaust Prisoner #42821
January 20th, 2022
George L. Pál is one of the Holocaust writers featured in Out of Hiding: Holocaust Literature of British Columbia (Ronsdale, 2022) due out this spring.
Within the first half of the 20th century, while growing up in Mukachevo in the Carpathian Rus, a city now in Ukraine, George Pál variously lived under the rule of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Germany and Russia. As he noted wryly, “At the age of seventeen, “I had already lived in several different countries, without ever having left town!”
George Pál’s self-published memoir Prisoners of Hope: Rising from the Ashes of the Holocaust: An Eyewitness Account of Life in the Auschwitz Extermination Camp and Two Slave Labour Camps (1944-1945) describes his internment in two Nazi camps, including Kittlitztreben, and his arrival at Auschwitz, in May of 1944, as Prisoner #42821.
Pál soon learned English; he was already conversant in Czech, German, Hungarian and Hebrew and he had a smattering of Russian. He became Dean of Engineering at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario in 1962. In 2006, to be closer to his daughter, he moved to Victoria where for ten years he shared his stories with students in Holocaust studies courses taught by UVic’s Helga Thorson. An earlier version of his memoir was entitled From Whistle to Smoke.
As Sam Margolis has reported, in 2019, Pál began working with Vancouver editor Lisa Ferdman, who has also edited Silvia Foti’s The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather Was a War Criminal (Regnery 2020). In one of the later chapters, Pál states: “I have often been asked, ‘Do you hate the Germans?’ My emphatic answer is always, ‘No! If I were to blame the entire German people for everything that happened to me, my family and all those who did not survive, I would be making the same mistake that the Nazis made in blaming the Jews for all of Germany’s woes.’ Such generalizing, or demonizing, is dangerous.”
Pál died in 2021 at age 94. “Having survived one of the most monstrous events in human history,” Pál wrote, “I believe that it is my duty to testify. This is crucial especially because Nazi sympathizers and followers continue to exist throughout the world.”