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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Holocaust survivor welcomed back to A&M

Photo by Noah Simpson

Thomas Gabor is the only living Holocaust survivor in the Aggie family today.

The room of more than 800 students, faculty and community members gave a standing ovation as Thomas Gabor, Class of 1961 and Holocaust survivor, finished his chilling story of surviving the Holocaust and a communist regime.
Gabor spoke Wednesday night in Rudder Theatre about the fear he grew up in and life as a Jew in the Budapest ghetto before eventually graduating from Texas A&M with a chemical engineering degree.
“I remember always being afraid to go to school and pass the Anti-Semitic poster,” Gabor said. “I would run home only to be tripped by someone throwing a book down in front of me.”
After fleeing from the gestapo multiple times, Gabor was sent to a Budapest ghetto and separated from his mother.
“My mother was the only thing that got me through it,” Gabor said. “She escaped the police and made it to the ghetto, shouted my name at every building until she found me and then bombs hit the ghetto, but we survived.”
Once the Nazis were defeated, Hungary became a communist regime where Gabor’s father joined the party as a way to keep his family alive.
“[The communists] obviously weren’t smart because they made my father president of a chocolate factory when he didn’t know how to be a president or make chocolate,” Gabor said. “They would all spy on each other because you only got ahead if you sold the other person out.”
After fleeing Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution, Gabor landed in College Station and began classes at A&M. Gabor said the university had roughly 7,000 students when he attended and looks vastly different now, but he will never forget what A&M did for him.
“I’ll never forget the kindness and the helpfulness I got here and from the Hillel,” Gabor said. “Texas people are truly friendly.”
Gabor was invited to campus by kinesiology sophomore Josh Williams after Williams met Gabor on a trip for Jewish students called “March of the Living” when he was a junior in high school.
“I thought it would just be a cool experience for everyone especially considering the strong roots of Texas A&M and World War II,” Williams said. “Honestly, I think it would just be meaningful for all students to hear how generous the university is.”
Rabbi Matt Rosenberg of the Hillel said he hopes the stories of Gabor’s life in a ghetto where food was scarce and typhoid was rampant will change the lives of current students.
“I hope the impact of his speech will be that students have a better awareness of the horrors of the Holocaust and the life under communism that Mr. Gabor experienced growing up in Hungary,” Rosenberg said. “I hope it better builds the Aggie family and knowing the history of one of the former students who went through so much to become an Aggie and moved on to do great things.”
During the speech, members of the audience sat silently while Gabor explained what his family had to do to avoid the gestapo and the air raids.
“It’s not often that you see everyone in the room of hundreds of people just pause and accept that something happened that is so serious that it can’t be questioned,” Jude Magaro-Padilla, Class of 2013 said. “I hope that if the student body gets one thing from this talk is that being aware is paramount because we have the power to stop these kinds of things from happening before they begin.”
Gabor said it is important for Holocaust survivors to gives talks like this to preserve the story and tell it while they still remain alive.
“We are old and slowly disappearing,” Gabor said. “I hope it will give them some things to think about because to me the important thing is to have some legacy for people to remember.”

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