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Ernest Levy z”l - The Order of Service for Seder

Ki Lo Na’eh Ki Lo Ya’eh
Order of Service

Ernest Levy“I was born in Bratislava in 1925; my mother came from Holland and my father came from Hungary. My parents sung; the whole family sung except for one boy - he had the brains! There were eight children and I was the youngest. My father was a business man but also an honorary chazzan - chazzanut was in our genes. My grandfather was the greatest chazzan. He was from Hungary but my father ended up in Czechoslovakia because he married a Czech girl - who came from Holland! We were a typical cosmopolitan Jewish family.

On November 4th 1938, a Friday night, along with hundreds of other Jewish families I was thrown out of my home. We were sent to a nieman's (no-man's) land between Hungary and Czechoslovakia. From there the story goes on... we ended up in Hungary and then Hungary was overrun by the Nazis; the last country and then there was no more hiding place.

Ernest's father, aunt and paternal grandparentsMost of us ended up in the camps; half of my family perished in the camps – father, 58;, brother, 19;, sister, 28 - half of the family and hundreds of our relations.

I was in seven different camps. I started off in Auschwitz. From Auschwitz we were taken to a camp called Friedland and from Friedland we were sent to a concentration camp called Wustegiersdorf in Silesia. I was there for ten months and then we were marched to Belsen. That was January 1945 - very few people survived that march - it was called the death march. And then liberation came on the 15th April.

At first after the liberation from Belsen we all had typhoid and we weren’t allowed to leave the camp. We’d be shot. But I’ve always been a daredevil and with a Czechoslovakian friend we walked into the city, near Hanover, and we found a Jewish home, a tiny little house. We knocked on the door. It was an old Jewish couple. First we were chased away; it was night time already and bitterly cold. But I said a few Hebrew words and then they told me ‘tonight we are celebrating Seder night; possibly today it’s Pesach Sheni’. The food was absolutely minimal - and they sung this V’hi She’amda. It was unforgettable.

Ernest's mother, 1946I was repatriated to Bratislava and from there I went to Budapest because my surviving family were there. I lived in Budapest for 15 years until 1961, under the Communist regime. I was a mechanic and as a sideline I was a chazzan in the Great Synagogue. I never gave up the synagogue, never, even when Communism was raging and religion was taboo. I kept going to schul, doing the reading of the law, doing the singing, chazzanut, choir. I kept it up so that when I came here...

I got out; it was a miracle, but I got out. The price was that I lost everything, but everything. I came out like that. I was desperate to get out. I had a brother here in Glasgow. I like the people here; I like the Jewish community here. It was wonderful to see people here who are proud to be Jewish, free to be Jewish. After Hungary it was a revelation for me.

Ernest Levy as a young manI like the people in Scotland; an awful lot of decent, lovely, friendly people. Unfortunately I lost my wife a year ago. It’s a lonely old age but my daughter is very good, my son in London is very, very good. Years go by and you struggle to survive each day because after all that I’ve been through... I changed but I’m still part of the world, the beautiful big world. I learned my lesson.

For the last forty or fifty years I was teaching the world tolerance, I was teaching to make allowances and how to live in a free world without hatred. I can live without hatred; many people can’t. So that was my occupation since I’ve been in Glasgow apart from that I was a chazzan in different synagogues.

I ended up in Giffnock - in the big synagogue. It was a full time job but now I’m fully, fully retired! I did six or seven hundred weddings and I treated every one as if it was the wedding. I took it very seriously but enough is enough!”

(Sadly, since this interview, Rev Ernest Levy has died.)

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