Suddenly and unexpectedly, the great-grandmother herself, Mrs. Eva Weiss, asked to speak
The uniqueness of the occasion was not lost on those present.
When Mendel Weiss spoke at the sheva brachos of his granddaughter, he mentioned the zechus of having his mother, the great-grandmother of the kallah, present at the simchah.
Mendel spoke with great passion about how his mother, now 96 years old, had foreseen what was in store for Hungarian Jewry.
In 1944, she escaped with her mother and two brothers from Ungvar to Budapest and eventually arrived penniless on America’s shores. Mendel explained that the family had left their wealth behind when they left Ungvar.
It was truly a remarkable moment.
Bentshers were distributed, and Shir Hamaalos was sung to the niggun of “Od Yishama.”
Suddenly and unexpectedly, the great-grandmother herself, Mrs. Eva Weiss, asked to speak.
The women around her thought she was perhaps not fully aware that bentshing was about to start. It turned out that Bubbe Weiss was more in tune with the goings-on than many of those present.
In a halting near-whisper, the nonagenarian Holocaust survivor apologized for her somewhat unconventional request.
Sitting among the women, her voice filled with emotion, Bubbe Weiss began her speech.
“My son Mendel told you that my mother left her wealth behind in Ungvar in February 1944 when she fled to Budapest. He mentioned that she alone had the foresight of what was to come, and this saved her life.
“I am now 96, and I was 18, the same age as our kallah, when we escaped to Budapest with our mother. I have kept silent for more than 75 years about this, never telling a soul.
“After hearing my son relate what happened, I feel the time has come to tell my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren the whole story. The story will also serve as my brachah to the young couple, that they should know what is important in life.
“My mother did not leave any wealth behind in Ungvar. She had no money there, and she left with no money.
“She also was no more proactive or prescient than any other Jew in Hungary. She, like everyone else, felt that with the Russians advancing in 1944, the war would soon be over.
“No one had ever heard the cursed name of Eichmann at that time. She had no forewarning of all of the horrific events to come.
“Why, then, did she leave her city of birth as an almanah with three children?
“She was not running away from the Nazis, but from machlokes.
“Her father had passed away at the end of 1943. He was a man of means, he owned real estate and factories. When he died, there was terrible machlokes over his yerushah.
“My mother was his only daughter, and my six uncles were fighting bitterly over whether she should receive a cheilek or not.
“After a month of this feuding, she announced, ‘I am leaving. I don’t want any money, and I don’t want to be a part of machlokes.’
“And with that, she ran from Ungvar to Budapest. Ultimately, and certainly unbeknownst to her at the time, that decision saved her life, as the Budapest Ghetto was never liquidated.
“Among her whole family, she and her children were the only survivors.
“That is the real reason she left Ungvar. Not because of her foresight, not because she possessed ruach hakodesh, and not because she knew something others didn’t.
“The only thing she knew was that one must run from machlokes as one runs for her life.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 927)
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