When Soros spoke with Steve Kroft in 1998, the huge question was whether Soros had felt any guilt over his acquiescence to the Nazis. It was Soros’ denial of any survivor’s guilt and his nonchalant “If I hadn’t been there doing it, then someone else would have” excuse that caught the discerning public eye at the time. And details added in his biographer’s ear did nothing whatsoever to diminish Soros’ inhumane diffidence regarding the sufferings of his fellow Jews during the Holocaust.
In fact, in the biography — aptly titled Soros, the Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire — are scads of details that make Soros much more culpable than the Kroft interview. At age 72 — with 58 years for reflection — George Soros described his year of living under Nazi rule as “the most exciting time of my life.” That was the same year Soros’ own uncle, along with his wife and children, were “deported” to Auschwitz. But as Soros glibly recounted, his family had long ago abandoned Judaism — for a “cosmopolitan” pseudo-religion, for Esperanto, and for watching their fellow Jews, including family members, get carted off by the Nazis. It caused George no real grief. “We were somehow above them,” he told his biographer, his family having abandoned their “tribal” loyalties long ago.
No, neither the young George Soros nor his family were unaware of what was happening to their fellow Jews. Though the full extent of the Holocaust would not be known until war’s end, Soros confided to his biographer that “word of mass shootings, slave labor, and the Jewish rebellion in the Warsaw Ghetto became more and more frequent.” So when Nazi tanks rolled into Budapest in the spring of 1944, George and his family were not caught unaware.
When George’s family had traveled on holiday to Hitler-controlled Bavaria in 1939, they saw the “No Jews allowed” signs in restaurants and hotels for the first time. But George’s father answered his mother’s fears and protests with the nonchalant, “You’re a foreigner. It’s not for you.” Even so, George recalled, his mother was not reassured and continued to become more and more wary of the Nazis.
As well she should have been. Putting the plight of Hungary’s Jews in proper perspective requires a look at the numbers. Even though the war was all but lost in 1944, Hitler sent Adolf Eichmann himself to deal with Hungary’s “Jewish problem.” Eichmann arrived in Budapest a mere four days after the German tanks. In the span of only two months, German efficiency coupled with Hungarian collaboration managed to “deport” 437,402 Jews, and all but 15,000 went to Auschwitz. A full ¾ of all Hungarian Jews perished in the Holocaust; one in every three killed at Auschwitz was a Hungarian Jew.
Yet, even knowing all these gruesome details after the war, George Soros still described that year of the Hungarian Holocaust, during which his own hands had delivered “deportation” notices and confiscated Jewish properties, as “the most exciting time of my life.” Soros also told his biographer that for his family, the worst suffering had been their inability to obtain their preferred Titleist tennis balls. Concealing his Jewishness from the Nazis with forged identity papers? Why, that was “exciting,” a year of facing “danger, yet “getting the better of it,” of “being in command of the situation,” “maneuvering successfully” and feeling “inviolate.” As George added, “what more could you ask for” at age fourteen?
Fourteen. Yes, it’s a young age. And George’s age at the time has been his best excuse for what most people would regard as a callous and inhumane lack of guilt over his own Nazi collaboration.
However, modern people ought not judge Soros’ 1944 actions by the level of maturity exhibited by American 14-year-olds today.