My membership in the Hehalutz (pioneering) Zionist youth movement… enabled me to seek escape routes out of the hell that our native country had become… Its ideology was like a small candle burning at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel. It gave hope and strength during these barbaric and hopeless times… to trust each other, go underground to escape our pitiless enemy, forge thousands of identification papers, smuggle ourselves over borders, and rescue ourselves and thousands of other Jews, especially children, from Budapest.
Born in 1916 in Holič, Slovakia, Peretz Révész was forced to abandon his medical studies with the onset of the anti-Jewish policy in that country in 1938. After joining the Zionist youth movement Gordonia–Hamaccabi Hatza’ir, he became one of its leaders in 1941, engaging in smuggling members of his movement to neighboring Hungary, where the Jews still enjoyed most civil rights, and playing a significant role in the rescue activities. Upon illegally crossing the Hungarian border with his wife, Nónika, Peretz approached Zionist institutions in Hungary, seeking assistance to aid the many refugees. Fearing the legal implications, they refused to help. He then contacted activist Joel Brand, whom he assisted in establishing the Relief and Rescue Committee, and participated in the smuggling of Jews from Poland in 1943. After Germany invaded Hungary on March 3, 1944, the Zionist underground was organized. Révész assumed a leadership role and undertook several rescue operations. Following the Soviet occupation of Hungary, he continued his activities, including attending to the children and sending them to Eretz Israel. He himself immigrated to Israel with his family in May 1949.
Standing Up to Evil is an authentic and fascinating memoir that describes the author’s many valiant rescue activities and his undaunted efforts to advance this objective with prominent Jewish and non-Jewish figures. It also offers another perspective on the “Kasztner Affair” and the contacts with SS officials and German counterintelligence, providing an invaluable account of the Holocaust in Hungary.