By George Liebermann
Steve and I lived in the same city of Nagyvarad, went
to the same Jewish Elementary and High School, ended
up in the same concentration camp, where his father
was chief doctor of Rewier (camp hospital), and we were
liberated by the same U.S. Army, it was only natural
that we enrolled into the same Hungarian Medical
School in Marosvasarhely in 1946, and rented the same
His father asked me to look after Steve, since he
considered me more mature. Steve was shy around
women. I did not fully understand what he expected me to do.
The first post-war school started in April, 1946. The
teaching staff arrived slowly. They had been mostly
recruited from the University of Kolozsvar. The
attendance was facultative, the proof of knowledge was
given by a successful final examinations.
The city was charming and lively. No war left marks on
the buildings or the spirit of the population. A wide
variety of restaurants offered their tasty local
dishes. Pretty girls were enchanted by the many
students that suddenly invaded their city. Mothers
were hoping for a doctor for a son-in-law. Gynecologists
were busy with abortions.
Steve surprised me with his shyness. I never saw him
make eye-contact with a girl. At the same time he
nagged me to introduce him to a woman.
* * * * *
One day we ate lunch in the Sweet Nest
Restaurant. It was cheap and acceptable. We went late
and could eat anything we picked at a “fix-menu” price.
Across our table sat two women. They
were not bad looking.
They caught Steve’s attention.
“Do you like any of them?” I said.
He nodded and pointed his finger under
the table at the red head.
“Send her a rose,” I said.
The waiter politely took a rose to the
woman. She smiled.
“Smile you idiot.”
Next day was Sunday and I meant to go to a better
restaurant, but Steve insisted on the Sweet Nest Restaurant. The
two ladies were at their places. The red head smiled
“What next?” said Steve.
“Buy her a present.”
Next day, Steve carried a small box, wrapped in a red
silk paper. The waiter took it to the lady of his
heart; she gently opened it and smiled. I felt that
her smile was excessive. My suspicion was that Steve
wasted his money.
“What did you get her?” I said.
“I bought her a bracelet.”
”You are an idiot.”
Next day the ladies did not show. Neither did they
on the day after. Steve was desperate.
“I spent 100 leis for nothing.”
He was restless. “What next?
”Find yourself aaother girl.”
“You know me better than that.”
”Look Steve, I am tired of you. I'll take you
to Rose Garden,” I said.
He did not reply.
The Rose Garden was a little park with red
little pink cubicles in the middle. It was a nice
little meeting place with benches under oak trees.
Elegant ladies decorated themselves with inviting smiles. It
did not take long before Steve discovered the lady of
his heart from Sweet Nest Restaurant, with his gold bracelet on
“She is a slut,” Steve said. ”I spent one
hundred leis on a low life.”
“You will spend more on so called “decent”
He hesitated, but the lady got him by his
arm and carried him away. He was disappointed.
“From now on you find your own women,” I
* * * * *
Steve was the best student in High School and his
diligence did not lessen at the Medical School. He
took notes word by word, short hand and long hand. I
hardly ever attended the lectures, but went instead to the compulsory practical,
laboratory and dissection classes.
I was an avid reader from the beginning of
I had an interest in evolution since I was sixteen years
old. I read everything available in the library;
Thales, Empedocles, Anaximander, Aristotle, Linnaeus,
Buffon, Lamarck, Mendel and naturally Darwin, while
still in High School.
“What will you benefit from reading those books? How
will you pass your examination if you have no idea
what the professors are talking about? Girls and
books; you will never graduate as a doctor.”
I never doubted that he was right. Still, my bottom could
not sit restless, hours after hours and take notes,
memorize boring anatomy, histology, and microbiology.
I prefered to be a cab driver.
* * * * *
Most of the students had been approached by party
agitators and were talked into becoming communist
“I am politico-phobic,” I said. But there was no way
out. I gave in and became a candidate.
“How do you want to educate the masses, to prevent
“I'll go to America,” I said.
“Never say that aloud again,” was the reply.
School started in April 1946, ended in June. One final
examination followed the other; first was Biology with
professor Dr.H. Subject: Evolution.
On the fatal day, three hundred sixty students were given
a written test about Evolution. It did not take me
long to write my thesis. I even inserted some funny
aspects of my own theories and was the first in class
to walk up to Dr.H. and hand him my creation. Only
later did I recalled the long look on his face.
A few days later, Steve asked me if I wanted to go
to the Med. School to see what our grades were.
I declined and he laughed. He came home with a long face.
“You got a problem?” I said.
“I studied hard, you can’t deny that.”
I did not reply.
“You hardly attended his lectures and I never saw
you his book in your hands.”
“How could you explain that he graded me with nine
and your name does not even appear on the list. First I
taught that he flunked you, then I found your name on a
separate sheet, your name only, all by itself, graded
ten with a star atop of it. The best grade ever,
never saw one before.”
I did not understand it myself.
* * * * *
After an appendectomy, I found myself in the same
room with the director of the Sugar Factory, also a
dedicated communist and a good friend of professor H.
We began to chat, actually he did most of the talking, I seldom replied, but when
it came to the professor, he wanted to know if he was
popular. I described what a great scientist he was,
what a shame that he was a Nazi while a Biology
Professor at the Halle Medical School in the Nazi
His face turned red, his hands shook. There was
nothing that I could do. He contacted all the Party
Officials, the leadership of the Faculty. His Magyar
brother, his friend had been threatened by a little
insignificant Jewish student.
* * * * *
In 1948 at the party cleansing, my candidacy came to an
end, not without scandal and joy.
At a meeting with the participation of the entire
faculty, I turned out to be the biggest trouble-maker.
The Festivity Room of the Medical School
accommodated three hundred and sixty participants. It
was jammed with students, and naturally the staff of
At one end long table covered with a red flag or
whatever sat the omnipotent committee. I had no idea
that a gang of conspirators planned to exterminate me.
Only when I heard my name, the tone of voice of the
man in the middle of the table sounded threatening.
His initial questions sounded harmless:
”Comrade, where were you during the war?”
I wasn’t SS, did not teach at Halle Medical School,
haven’t been a Nazi, did not introduce my lectures by
commenting on the front-page article of the Nazi
Official paper the Voelkischer Beobachter, I thought.
“I was in five concentration camps including
Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau.”
“Good. Who liberated you comrade?"
Now I dropped the bomb.
“The victorious American Army, comrade.”
I looked around, did not expect such vociferation from
my fellow students and the Faculty. It was hard to say
if there were more sympathizers or adversaries.
The president at the read table shouted:
“The Americans did not liberate people, they occupied
them. The Glorious Soviet Army liberated you comrade.
Maybe you are too young to understand.”
“But the only soviets I saw were prisoners in the same
train with me, three thousand of us and we all were
liberated by the US Army.”
At that moment other adversaries went into fierce
A girl who was from my hometown, a survivor and classmate,
recalled the beautiful house my family and I lived
in. In other words we were rotten capitalists. We
lived there until the deportation.
Next, loud communist George Ch. shouted from behind
his thick brown framed glasses,
“Comrade L. (he meant me) dared to attack our
respected biology professor Dr.H; who just joined the
party. He falsely accused Professor H. that he was a
Nazi while on the faculty of Medicine in Germany and had
commented on front-page articles in a newspaper.”
“While I was not far away from Dr.H., I was just in a Nazi
extermination camp. As far as Miss Ibolya W.'s
allegation's are concerned, it seems like she forgot
her family’s vinegar factory.”
There was a whispering between the members of the
committee, and the president said,
“We must have had some distorted information about you
comrade L., we will check into that.”
I said only,
“Save your efforts, I don’t desire to be a member of
the communist party.”
The committee again whispered, one said.
“What did he say, what did he say?”
I inflicted a dangerous hiccup into the stomach of
professor of Biology. It started after he heard about
my allegation of his Nazi past. It went on non-stop,
day and night. Specialists in stomach ills,
neurologists, surgeons gathered around his bed, of no
avail. Finally when he admitted the truth, and
renounced to the offered membership in the communist
party, the hiccup stopped.
The remembrance of his commentaries of the Vlkischer
Beobachter, his fright of the possible consequences of
his eminent Nazi past, threatened his career as a
professor and a member of the communist party.
It crossed my mind to counter-attack the committee, a
bunch of uneducated newborn party agents, there was a
simple handy modality: Steve S. was not only my room
mate he was also my camp mate and was liberated by the
same U.S. Sherman tank columns that freed me. But he
was quiet, would not endanger his career.
I let it drop. His hiccup was over.