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The Odd Couple

A Brazilian couple engaged in Christian ministry were part of our Olympic outreach team. Here, E shares his testimony and recounts how his Hungarian Jewish mother and Romanian father, a former Nazi SS officer, became an unlikely couple before finally coming to faith in the Lord.

I accepted Yeshua as the Messiah through reading The First Steps of Christianity, a book that someone gave me at the beach in Rio de Janeiro. I used to play football with Christians at the beach and they invited me to their local Presbyterian church. They were young and different from other Christians I had met; they were in a music band and I thought they were cool. But much as I liked them, I didn’t want to become a Christian. I grew up knowing I was a Jew and I celebrated Jewish festivals with my mother in the home of my grandfather and grandmother.

For reasons that will become clear, my father didn’t like this. Through reading The First Steps of Christianity, I came to know Yeshua as the Messiah and was eventually baptised at the church. I like to say that I’m a Jew completed in Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel, and I still celebrate the Jewish festivals with my wife and children. I find no contradiction between being Jewish and believing that Yeshua is my Saviour.

When you understand something of the backgrounds of my parents, you will see that my coming to faith in Yeshua was a wonderful act of grace from above.

 

Escape from the Holocaust

My mother was born Ibolya Horovitz on 16 April 1933 in Budapest. As a young girl, she was often told in the streets of Budapest that she killed Jesus. She thought to herself, ‘I’m only a child. How did I kill Jesus?’ After World War Two she changed her name to Ibolya Horanyi. Her family was a traditional Jewish family who celebrated all the Jewish festivals, even in hard times when they had nothing to eat. They lived close to and attended the Great Synagogue in Dohány Street. The Jewish community in that part of Budapest numbered about 30,000 and my mother lived there until the family had to move in 1944 to escape the Nazi occupation.

At one point the family was caught and taken to the deportation, or ghetto, queue. Because my mother hadn’t given the few coins she had to the police, she was beaten around the face and knocked to the floor. A doctor who knew them took them from the queue and provided them with fake documents, in exchange for sexual favours from her mother in the presence of the entire family. Following their narrow escape, the family went into hiding and began moving from place to place and a Christian family hid them for a while. They eventually moved to a location in the city where they were hidden with other Jewish families. Conditions were extremely overcrowded and there was little to eat. They survived by eating horse meat and drinking snow, and my mother recalled that things were so bad that one man gave his wife and two children poison. By the time anyone found out, the family was dead.

 

An unlikely union

The family later moved to Brazil, where my parents met. My mother found out about my father’s past only after she moved into his flat in Rio de Janeiro. Similarly, he knew nothing about her Jewish heritage. He didn’t like the Jews and during my childhood years there were regular rows about my mother’s family.

My father was E V. He was born in Timisoara, Romania and his family name originates from the Austro-Hungarian royal family, an indication that there might have been nobility in his family line. He was an electrical engineer who graduated in Germany and served as an SS officer during the War. He spoke seven different languages fluently and his arm was marked with a Blutgruppentätowierung, the SS Officer blood group tattoo.

Although he told us that he had never killed any Jews he was, nevertheless, a great fan of Adolph Hitler and was very faithful to the Nazi party. He had seen Hitler close up and for most of his life he attempted to justify the Fuehrer’s motives for the atrocities he committed. He couldn’t, for example, see anything wrong with the horrific human experiments carried out by Josef Mengele, the ‘Angel of Death’, whose mission was to create a Master Race fit for the Third Reich. In later years, my father would react very angrily if we spoke against the atrocities committed by the Nazis. His Nazi badges and Iron Cross medal were kept in a box. After the War, following his arrival in Brazil, he worked as an engineer with a large German company.

 

Peace at last

Before they passed away, my father and mother became believers in Jesus. When my father accepted Jesus as his Saviour, my wife Marcy prayed with him. My mother looked on and later told us that while Marcy was praying she saw ‘white smoke’ filling the room and said the bedroom was full of a peace so intense that she didn’t want it to end. We believed she had experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit but at the time she refused to believe this, using the excuse that God is one! After my father’s death, however, she began to listen when we spoke to her about Yeshua. After reading the Gospels and watching a documentary about Holocaust survivors who found Yeshua as the Messiah, she eventually found the same peace my father had experienced years earlier. Both were completely saved by the grace of Adonai. When you consider the backgrounds my parents came from, this was evidence of a wonderful work of grace in both their lives and a great blessing in mine.

This article was first published in the Winter Herald 2012

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