Survivor Profiles: George Brent
I always felt that it’s important that you shouldn’t forget — that you should remember. Also, if you run into people who deny it [you] should be able to answer them and bring up facts that will show that this really happened — that 6 million Jews were killed.
In 1929, George Brent was born in Téscö, an area of Czechoslovakia that was later turned over to Hungary. His father, a pharmacist, was secular, while his mother was quite religious. When the Jewish community in Téscö was forced into ghettos, George’s family was able to remain in their home until a non-Jew was brought to the town to take over the pharmacy. George’s family was taken to the ghetto on May 21, 1944, and was put on a train to Auschwitz-Birkenau three days later.
Upon arrival at the camp, George and his father were selected to work, while his mother and brother were gassed. With the help of an uncle who worked as a Schreiber (office worker in the camp), George was able to avoid selections and continue working. He and his uncle were sent together to a camp in Upper Silesia, where George was chosen to work in the SS barracks shining shoes and doing other chores for the officers. Here, he was protected from the winter weather and was able to obtain slightly better rations, allowing him to remain alive.
As the Soviet army advanced in January 1945, George was sent on a death march, then taken by coal train to Mauthausen. After two weeks, he was sent to a smaller camp in Austria, Ebensee, where he labored outside and received little food. On May 2, 1945, the SS abandoned the camp, and on May 5, George was liberated by American soldiers. As he was in somewhat better health than other prisoners, he worked as a nurse’s aide, which allowed him access to extra food. He was eventually repatriated to Budapest, where he stayed with two of his great-aunts, who had remained in their home throughout the war.
George learned that his father had survived and was in a sanatorium in Germany suffering from tuberculosis. George smuggled himself into Germany in September, 1946, and joined his father. In a children’s camp, he attended an ORT school and learned to be a dental technician. On October 1, 1949, George arrived in the US, and his father soon joined him. George was later drafted and served in the Air Force Reserves during the Korean War. Upon his discharge, he attended dental school and practiced dentistry until his retirement in 2011.
Photos of George, his father, and other men from Téscö appear in the Auschwitz Album.
George tells his story in the Museum’s virtual reality gallery, The Journey Back: A VR Experience, through the film Don’t Forget Me.
Learn More:Coffee with a survivor facebook live session Journal & Topic article
Photo credits: John Pregulman