Testimony of Armin Simonovits in 1999 and 2002. Armin was a Jew from Oradea
on forced labour duty.
In 1944, Toth Istvan was about 55 years old. His rank was lieutenant. He was from
Oradea, a musician by occupation, and before the war, he played piano in a brothel.
Armin met him in February 1943. He was the commander of the then formed Battalion
108/59, which was to be taken ‘out of the country’. From the first moment he assumed
command, Toth Istvan made everyone feel that Jews were also men, compared to the
opposite behavior of some “keretlegenyek”.
Positive ways by which Toth Istvan raised Jewish morale:
1. He empathised/sympathised with the Jews. For instance, a “karpaszomanyos lance
corporal” caught one the Jewish men, Tibi Kovacs, moving while under order to ‘stand’
and slapped him on the face. When Toth Istvan found out about the incident, he
personally saw to it that the lance corporal be removed from the unit.
2. The “keretlegenyek” took their meat portions first from the pot, hardly leaving
anything for the Jewish men. Toth Istvan called together all “keretlegenyek” and
ordered that first, it was the turn of the workers (Jewish men) to eat and if any meat
left, the “keretlegenyek” would receive their portions.
3.When the battalion was transferred from Palota Ilva to Szentkiraly Szabadja, the
train went through Oradea. Since about 60% of the men were from Oradea, relatives
were notified about the approximate arrival of the train and they filled the train station.
The Jewish men were not allowed to get out, instead the train was sent to a small
freight train station on the outskirts of the city, the Ossi station. Relatives went to
Ossi, but there, the stationmaster ordered the train on secondary tracks, over a
kilometre out of the station, in a very dirty, marshy/muddy area, just so that relatives
would not be able to walk there. Toth Istvan took four armed gendarmes with him,
went to the stationmaster and told him to bring back the train within 10 minutes or
else, he would place him under arrest.
4. Toth Istvan gave weekly one day off to the Jewish men and the possibility of taking
a few days leave.
5. Toth Istvan referred to the Jewish men in his unit as “the children”. For instance,
when one of the men stopped him for a word in the street rather than ask permission
to speak to him as according to orders, he told the unit secretary, also Jewish, “to tell
the children” not to stop him in the street, because if his superiors notice that, they
would remove him from command.
Armin was drafted into unit 110/10 in Nagybanya (Baia Mare). His company was lent to
the Kassa subunit (zaszlo alj) 108/59, but it was officially on record for Nagybanya.
Imre Reviczky, a gentle and well-meaning man was in charge of the Nagybanya unit. He
once paid a surprise visit to the subunit where Armin was, while they were
constructing an airport runway. Everyone was impressed by his humane feelings and
attitude toward Jews. He went unannounced to inspect the unit, as he wanted to see
for himself how the men were treated.
After liberation, the surviving Jewish men from the unit honored Toth Istvan and
Colonel Reviczky at a dinner party in Oradea and gave both men monies they collected
for them. After the war, both Colonel Reviczky and Toth Istvan had fallen on difficult