The ancient city of Budapest, with its spires, its fountains, the rippling Danube. Not long ago, dark times swallowed it up. Janos Cegledy lived there, a small boy. The police pushed him into tighter and narrower corners of the city with each passing year, and he got smaller still due to malnourishment.
Yet there’s a brightness to him, now 86, as he stands waiting outside Nerima Station in Tokyo. He’s still small, and surprisingly fast, and almost recalls a boy in a different time and place.
Eighty years ago, Janos and his family lived through the depths of World War II. They survived in a walled-off ghetto, packed in with the assimilated Jews of Budapest — doctors, lawyers, financiers, academics. Hungarian regent Miklos Horthy had defied the Nazis to this point. But now with one son mysteriously dead and another held captive in Germany, Horthy had little choice. The Holocaust, in all its ungodly brutality, was coming to Budapest.