(Born: January 9, 1923 (96 years old) In a little town in Romania)
Bela lost his father at the age of 15 months old. It was his mother’s job to take care of raising the children. Family members helped the Mark family, which included his brothers and sisters.
He attended school through the 6th grade and then found a trade to help support the family at such a young age. His twin brother was a tailor and Bela repaired shoes.
Bela and his brother joined the military at the age of 18 (1941) in Transylvania, Romania, which later became a “gift” from Hitler giving Transylvania to Hungary. He was able to get the uniform but he had to purchase his boots. The family pitched in to make this happen. Eventually they went to Budapest.
He got word that his mother was picked up and that was it. He had no idea what happened to her.
The German’s didn’t bother the Hungarians but eventually the Germans captured the Romanian soldiers. Bela and Daniel were sent to Buchenwald, Germany.
They were given old clothes to wear. Bela and Daniel were always together during this time. Buchenwald was a working camp. Bela and Daniel “dug holes so that the Germans could hide.” The work was brutal with very little food. Bela remembered having soup but sparingly. Once in a while peels were put in the soup. The hardest was that people were dying around him. If people didn’t die of starvation they died of disease. He remembers sleeping in the barracks crowded with people and by the next day someone in his bunk would be dead. He doesn’t even remember having water to drink. He can’t remember how long he was there but long enough to know this was holocaust hell. Time stood still and so did thinking.
It was the miracle that the English Army liberated Bela and Daniel. German soldiers were nowhere to be found. Covered with lice, he remembered being striped of his clothing and covered in white powder. Bela and his brother were hospitalized in Germany because they had typhus. “ As Bela told me, “everyone had typhus.“ All Bela could think about was returning to Hungary now because this was home.
Bela knows he is Jewish but this was not the reason for going into the camps. They were prisoners for being soldiers. Chances are he would have been killed. Even today at the age of 96, Bela is able to recite his Jewish prayers. This is something that is not forgotten.
Bela and Daniel recovered from typhus and returned back to Hungary (his home which used to be Romania.) He returned to Germany and registered to come to America but who know how long this would take. Bela wanted to be in a free land. Bela joined the United Nations Relief Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). The miracle came that the two brothers boarded the USS Eisenhower and set sail from Germany to New Orleans in 1947. From New Orleans they took a train to California near Oakland/San Francisco because of friends that his mom had. They sponsored Bela and his Daniel. As they got settled Bela was looking for work. He had shoemaking skills and his brother was a tailor. He found a job repairing shoes for $24.00 a week. To Bela he thought this was great money.
Daniel saved every dime so that he could purchase a car and no longer need to take the bus. He worked 10 years in San Francisco but he got tired of the East Bay life. Single and care free he saved enough for a Chevrolet and went to Chula Vista along with Daniel. They worked for other people but eventually they became shop owners. Both gentlemen owned businesses in San Diego, Bela owned Mark Bros. shoe repair in downtown San Diego and Daniel worked for a tailor shop and did custom tailoring. The brothers have lived in Chula Vista since the early 60’s. Bela lives in downtown Chula Vista and overlooks the city from his towering room. His twin brother, Daniel, also lives in Chula Vista. Maybe this is why Chula Vista is so safe.