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Lajos Cśeri

Lajos Cséri (name at birth Lajos Klein) was born on January 22, 1928 in Hajdúböszörmény, Hungary, in a secular Jewish family. Lajos had a brother, Gyula, and a sister, Anna. He attended a Protestant school in Sárrétudvari, where he spent most of his childhood.

In 1940 his father, Viktor, was conscripted to forced labor and sent to Hajdúhadház, where he fell ill and died in 1942. In the meantime, Lajos moved to Szentes, in the county of Csongrád, to live with his aunt. When anti-Jewish measures were enacted in Hungary in 1942, Lajos had to perform forced labor for Levente—a paramilitary youth organization of teenagers serving in Hungarian auxiliary forces. On May 9, 1944 Hungarian authorities forced the Jews of Szentes into a ghetto established in the town. The ghetto was evacuated on June 16 to a brick factory in Szeged, from where Lajos was soon deported to the Auschwitz II-Birkenau death camp in Poland. From there, he was subsequently transferred to the Dachau, Kaufering, and München-Allach concentration camps in Germany. Lajos was liberated by the U.S. armed forces in München-Allach on April 30, 1945.

Lajos and Gyula were the only survivors of the entire Cséri family. After liberation, interested in fine art, Lajos graduated from the College of Art in Budapest and became a renowned sculptor. His plaque of Dürer is exhibited in Nuremberg and the one of Van Gogh is in Amsterdam. Lajos taught technique of portraiture, small sculpture, and medal art at the State University of New York, Cortland. From 1959 to his retirement he worked, in significant positions, at the Adult Education Institute, the Arts Fund, and the Hungarian Ministry of Culture.

The interview was conducted on December 7, 1998 in Budapest, Hungary; interviewer: Peter Aradi; videographer: Zoltan Tokaji.