Onti Lazar

Onti Lazar

Born: January 20, 1920

Sighet, Romania

Onti, the youngest of five sons, was born to religious Jewish parents in northern Transylvania, a region of Romania that had belonged to Hungary until 1918. Onti's family usually called him Usher, which was the diminutive of his Yiddish name, Anschel. As a little boy, he liked collecting figurines. Though Onti grew up in a Hungarian-speaking home, he attended Romanian public schools.

1933-39: At age 13 Onti quit school to help make ends meet. He wanted to become a watchmaker, but he settled on working as a glazier and picture framer. Making a living was his greatest challenge. Romanian rule caused them no problems even though his father had once fought against Romania in the Hungarian army. His family had a scare in 1937 when there was a one-day pogrom against Jews, but things quickly returned to normal.

1940-44: In 1940 Onti's province was returned to Hungarian rule. Hungary soon became an ally of Germany. The Hungarians revoked his father's army pension and his license to sell tobacco. Onti was drafted into the army's labor service. In 1941 he was sent to the USSR: In the summer they repaired roads and in the winter they shoveled snow. Most of their men were killed serving as human minesweepers. During their retreat some sick men in nearby units were burned alive in the barn where they were resting; those fleeing were shot while escaping.

Onti survived subsequent deportations to the Auschwitz and Flossenbürg concentration camps. Liberated in April 1945, he immigrated to the United States in 1950.

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