Personal Reflections - Resistance

ANNA LAZAR - "Two Partisans"

In 1938, at the time of the Anschluss (Nazi Germany occupied Austria) my father felt that we had to leave Hungary. His name was in the “Gendarme book”. We emigrated to France. My father’s youngest brother, Béla Lazarovics had been living there for some time, in Grenoble. We stayed in their home at the beginning.

All along my father raised me to become what he was: a political leftist.

A short while after our arrival in France, I joined the illegal, leftist, anti-fascist youth movement. When I was fourteen – in 1943, the majority of our group undertook a more active involvement against the German occupiers, even armed guerrilla fight.

I became a contact person between these Austrian, Italian, Hungarian, Jewish and Spanish groups. A number of armed groups were formed – and these needed to be connected, information exchanged between them in a way that the people in charge should meet as seldom as possible, because meetings were a threat to an illegal movement. Armed members operated underground and came together for various actions only. French people in the neighbourhood supported people of the resistance. There were policemen who informed us that they’d be carrying the food ration coupons by a certain route to a certain village. They also said they’d be stopping at appointed places, which meant where to meet them. A lot of people in the villages gave food to the partisans or provided hiding places for them.

The armed groups drew up schedules of where to deposit the explosives. Their helpers had to be informed about the plans in due time. My daily assignment was to meet the leaders of the groups in question in order to inform them of the details. I jotted down the time and place of the planned explosions on cigarette paper and as I was good in mathematics, hid them into long algebra formulas – plus, minus, etc. I rolled up the paper tight and stuck it into the handlebar of my bike, under the rubber cap. When I had completed my duty I swallowed the paper. Cigarette papers were easy both to roll up and to swallow as well...

Once I was entrusted with doing an extremely dangerous thing: hand grenades had to be carried over the demarcation line. Who was to carry them? Obviously the girl of fifteen. But I hadn’t yet been a member of the party! Anyway, my elders decided that I, as a fifteen-year-old, was no longer a child, therefore suitable for accomplishing the task. I delivered the grenades in the luggage carrier of my bike. When I got to the German border, I was told to get off the bike and the German soldier asked me: “What are you carrying there on that bicycle, dear?” To which I answered with a poker face: “A bomb.” The German started laughing, slapped my bottom and let me through...

But I must tell you this is all a fairy tale!

My friend and companion in France, Gizi Révai has spread this legend about me in Budapest. When we returned to Hungary, it turned out that one was allowed to apply for party membership only at eighteen or older. And I was still only seventeen and a half...So Gizi invented this story with the explosives to get me into the Party with an age-appropriate permission. She told this story to everyone that I’d carried a box of explosives on my bike over the border...even Women’s Weekly wrote it up in an article.

I did carry a number of things to a number of places, but no explosives, as far as I know.

Hungarian leftist expatriates in Geneva regularly sent money to Hungarians in France. So I had to go there fairly often, as far as the French-Swiss border in the Alps, by bike – true, a packing-case on my luggage carrier with food in it to be delivered and mostly, of course, money. It was no picnic either! It is true that I went to Lyon by bike as my friend Gizi used to tell the story. But in fact, I didn’t carry terribly important secret materials. Because, you see, my elders had changed their minds and withdrew those tasks from me. They probably thought it was too dangerous for me, even if I was no longer a child: trains were being blown up all the time. Instead, they changed my commission to teach my boss, Ervin Gazdag – Gyula Gazdag film director’s father – to ride a bike...

I did teach him, but it was torture and agony: he had a real hard time! In the end he did manage to master it somehow and rode to Lyon, with the case on the bike. On the way back, his face was flaming, bright red. Obviously, he wasn’t used to the bright sunshine, all the way on his route there and back. He got awfully sunburned and blamed me for his exhaustion and for not telling him how difficult it was to ride a bike for so many kilometres in such a heat...

So that story is a lie.

However, there’s a true version of the story. We lived in an occupied town in France where the Germans closed down streets with wire fences at random. Those who got stuck in between these “borders” were controlled and checked for identity. I got into this closed zone once. My bike looked like it had the two cases on two sides with whatever I delivered in them, and schoolbooks and other stuff on top of the cases. Soldiers at the check-point asked me, “What are you carrying, sweetie?” To which I answered: “Bombs.” These border guards were young Polish lads with downy chins – Polish, Para-military youth were drafted to perform such duties from occupied the territories – so, they were about the same age as I was. “Right then, go ahead!” they said laughing and let me through...

Anna Lazar, after the liberation, returned with her parents from France.
She matriculated from high-school, completed her university studies, became a historian, a translator and interpretor. In 1982 her book was published on the role of Hungarians in the French Revolutionary Workers Movement.
Anna Lazar died in 2005 after a lengthy illness.

This article is published here with the permission of Dr. Katalin Pecsi, the Narrator of this story and the editor of the Esztertaska Blog where it appeared in Hungarian.

English editing: Judy Weiszenberg Cohen

© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2007.
All rights reserved.