Mayer grew up in a rural town that was occupied by Hungary in 1940. After Germany occupied Hungary in March 1944, Mayer and his family were forced into a ghetto. They were then deported to the Auschwitz camp in Poland, where Mayer's parents and brothers perished. Mayer was selected for forced labor, and was later transferred to a satellite camp of Dachau, in Germany. He was liberated from Dachau in 1945. Sponsored by a children's committee, he immigrated to the United States.
We knew we were gonna be deported and it was a question of trying to prepare yourself for that deportation. And to our knowledge we were, or at least...I...from what I recall, we felt we were going to go as a family to a...to a camp, and being used as labor camps. In other words, to do labor...uh...physical labor. And...uh...we had family gatherings and meetings about that as to how we should handle that and how we can handle it. After it became used...sort of a fact that we were gonna be deported, we were really trying to prepare for that. And also you baked and you prepared and, like my mother, rest in peace, she used to make, she made all kinds of things, including small pillows we can take with us. So we'd have, in other words, all...whatever we can carry we should have a new home. And it was really...I remember one of the discussions my...my mother used to complain to me that I'm not preparing for wherever we're gonna be deported to. And I said, "Don't worry about it. I don't need pillows. I can sleep on the floor and my arm is going to be as a pillow." And that didn't go...didn't go over too well because, as I said, they were baking cookies that would last a lifetime, those real hard kichel and all those things. And those are the things that I remember.