On Thursday, March 9th, guest speaker Agnes Vertes visited our Saxe students to share her experience of surviving the Holocaust and World War II. Mrs. Vertes is the President of the Child Holocaust Survivors of Connecticut, a running member of the Jewish Historical Society Board, and a documentary filmmaker.
Agnes Margaret Katz was born in September 1940 in Budapest, Hungary. She lived there with her parents and younger sister until 1944, when the Holocaust began. As German-occupied Hungary started its mass deportation of Hungarian Jews, Mrs. Vertes' parents were able to secure false identification documents for her and her sister. She would soon go by the name of 'Agnes Kovacs' and separated from her parents at just four years old to travel to safety with her sister.
During her time in hiding, Mrs. Vertez lived in a state of constant fear. Agnes and her sister were taken in by a woman who had promised her parents to keep them safe, but the family had no idea what was in store for them once they arrived. The house, which, according to Mrs. Vertez, was closer to a shack, had no running water, no toilet facilities, and sat lazily on a dirt floor. They stayed there until the shack was destroyed and were taken in by a friend of her father. They often had very little food, battled severe illnesses such as tuberculous, and even faced several run-ins with Nazi officers.
Luckily, in 1948, Mrs. Vertes and her sister she were ultimately saved and reunited with their parents back in Budapest, Hungary. Although they were together again, the family faced hardships the communist regime and were forced to flee yet again to the safety of Austria in 1958. Eventually the family moved to New York, where Mrs. Vertes enrolled in Hunter College, graduated with a bachelors in languages and mathematics, then completed an MBA from the University of Connecticut and started her career as a business-woman.
Mrs. Vertes' story is an important tale that helps our children understand the importance of history. She hopes that by sharing her experiences she will help inspire others to create a better better world for future generations to come.
Thank you very much to Mrs. Vertes for sharing your experiences with the students here at Saxe!