February 2, 2021
Survivor Portraits – Peter Reismann
This month we introduce Holocaust survivor Peter Reismann. Peter was born in 1939 in Budapest, Hungary.
After the Germans occupied Budapest and persecution intensified, Peter’s father was captured and taken to a forced labour camp. Peter’s father was later released from the camp.
At four years old, Peter remembers a hurried departure into a dark and small bunker. His mother had secured safety for them in a bunker on the property of a Christian friend.
Peter’s memories of this year in confinement are shaped by darkness. During this time they did not have sunlight or electricity and had very little contact with the outside world.
Peter remembers, “For twelve months we stayed hidden in a dark bunker, forbidden from making a sound. This was particularly difficult for me. My mother had to bribe me to be good by promising me a spoonful of apricot jam at the end of each day”.
There was no way of knowing that, while they were in hiding, their family was being killed in the German concentration camps.
After his release from forced labour, Peter’s father visited his family in the bunker. He was later arrested again and taken to Bergen-Belsen via cattle wagon. He and his friend escaped from the cattle wagon through a loose floorboard. They escaped to a German village and the village residents hid Peter’s father and friend. They walked back to Hungary over the course of three months.
Two days before liberation, on 23 January 1945, Peter’s mother gave birth to his sister.
Miraculously, his father managed to return two weeks later, although so many of their extended family had perished.
Peter says, “After liberation, we emerged from hiding and I looked up and saw the sun. I’ll never forget what that felt like”.
Peter immigrated to Australia in 1957 with his parents and sister. Australia has afforded Peter many opportunities for which he is very grateful. Without Australia offering them a place, Peter doesn’t know what would have become of him and his family. As a result, he wants to give as much back to the country as he can.
To read more from our Survivor Portraits blog series, click here.
To explore the personal stories and anecdotes of Holocaust survivors, click here for our first online exhibition.
Photograph by Katherine Griffiths.