Many false claims circulate about George Soros. We have responded to some of the most common misconceptions here, to set the record straight.
How did George Soros survive the Nazi regime during World War II?
Adolf Eichmann, the German Nazi in charge of organizing the mass deportation and slaughter of Jews in Eastern Europe, planned to kill 650,000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.
In March of 1944 the Nazis invaded Hungary and began pursuing that goal. They occupied Budapest, home to the Soros family. George Soros was 13.
With other Jewish schoolchildren, he was summoned to work as a courier for the Jewish Council. His father, Tivadar, quickly realized the notices George was ordered to deliver were going to an alphabetical list of Jewish lawyers, and that they were being registered to expedite their deportation to death camps. He instructed his son to deliver the notices but to warn the recipients of their real purpose – and then to stop working for the Council.
Tivadar was also an attorney, and he understood it was only a matter of time before he received such a notice. (It was later found that more than 600 Jewish lawyers who responded to the notices were killed.) Having survived as a prisoner of war in Siberia during World War I, he began planning ways for the family to evade identification and deportation to the death camps.
By April, Tivadar had obtained false identities for each of the four members of the family. (George assumed the identity of a young Romanian man his age named “Sandor Kiss.”) They abandoned their apartment, leaving it in the care of Tivador’s secretary. Each moved to a separate location in or around Budapest. Tivadar and a friend built a windowless hideout in a building owned by his mother-in-law and lived there for the duration of the war. If family members needed to speak with him, they met him at a public bath. Tivadar continued to create false identities for other Jews and saved many other lives during this period.
Paid to hide George Soros
Tivadar paid an employee at the Ministry of Agriculture, Baumbach, to let George live with him in Budapest and pretend he was his godson. (Baumbach’s Jewish wife had found a hiding place in the countryside with Tivadar’s help.) One day Baumbach received an assignment from the Ministry to inventory the country estate of an affluent Jewish aristocrat who had given up his estate in return for permission to flee to Lisbon. Baumbach carried George along for the three-day project, unwilling to leave him alone in Budapest. George was watched by the staff, who accepted him as a young Christian named Sandor Kiss.
This is how Michael Kaufman describes the events:
Within days of arriving at Baumbach’s, George went for a walk into the Buda hills, where lost in a daydream he moved beyond the city limits. When he turned back, he was stopped by Hungarian gendarmes. “I remember it quite clearly,” he recalled. “I had just arrived at Baumbach’s…I had walked too far. I was frightened but nothing happened. It was the first test of my using a false name and I passed it.”
While he was living with Baumbach as Sandor Kiss, an event occurred that more than half a century later would become the basis of charges that George Soros, the international financier and billionaire, had somehow collaborated with Nazi occupiers of his homeland and had exploited his fellow Jews. The issue was raised in a bizarre television profile and interview of Soros aired on the CBS television program 60 Minutes in December of 1998. In the segment, Steve Kroft, the interviewed, noted with prosecutorial gusto that George’s father had “bribed a government official to swear that you were his godson,” and added that this survival strategy “carried a heavy price tag.” For, he continued, “as hundreds of thousands of Jews were being shipped off to the Nazi death camps, a thirteen-year-old George Soros accompanied his phony godfather on his rounds, confiscating property from the Jews.” Visibly dumbfounded by the line of questioning, Soros could only manage to say that he had no role in the seizure of property and was merely a spectator. To underscore Kroft’s point, film footage showed masses of Hungarian Jews being led away at gunpoint.
This is what actually happened. Shortly after George went to live with Baumbach, the man was assigned to take inventory on the vast estate of Mor Kornfeld, an extremely wealthy aristocrat of Jewish origin. The Kornfeld family had the wealth, wisdom and connections to be able to leave some of its belongings behind in exchange for permission to make their way to Lisbon. Baumbach was ordered to go to the Kornfeld estate and inventory the artworks, furnishings, and other property. Rather than leave his “godson” behind in Budapest for three days, he took the boy with him. As Baumbach itemized the material, George walked around the grounds and spent time with Kornfeld’s staff. It was his first visit to such a mansion, and the first time he rode a horse. He collaborated with no one and he paid attention to what he understood to be his primary responsibility: making sure that no one doubted that he was Sandor Kiss. Among his practical concerns was to make sure that no one saw him pee.”
(Michael T. Kaufman, Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire (Alfred A. Knopf: New York 2002) 36-38.)
After returning to Budapest he was recognized by a schoolmate living on the same street and had to be moved to another location.
By July of 1944 the Nazis had identified, rounded up and deported 437,403 Jews to the concentration camps.
Corpses Littering the Streets
On October 29 of that same year the Soviets began a siege of Budapest. This was a particularly chaotic and gruesome time. One day George passed two bodies hanging from a lamppost. Affixed to one was a sign reading, “This is what happens to a Jew who hides.” He spent most of his days carrying buckets of water to the new apartment where he was hiding.
The siege ended in early 1945 with the Soviets removing the Nazis from Hungary and establishing a communist government. The Soros family returned to their apartment. A bomb had destroyed the kitchen, so they cooked and ate in the living room.
In 1947, at the age of 16, George Soros left for London, where he would spend nine years studying and supporting himself as a waiter, porter and traveling salesman.
The Nazi’s persecution of the Hungarian population and the subsequent Russian occupation left him with an indelible impression of the threats posed by totalitarian rule.
It was in London that he began thinking deeply about the concept of open societies. He has since been quoted as saying, “Fascism and communism have a lot in common and both stand in opposition to a different principle of social organization, the principle of Open Society.”
The following resource is recommended for additional facts regarding George Soros’s childhood:
Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire, by Michal T. Kaufman (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002)