My next and definitely most momentous encounter with William Apor took place three years later, in October 1944. Having been sent away from my relatively safe seminary in Szatmár, I criss-crossed the country to end up in Sopron at the western end of Hungary. There I attended lectures at the theological college of the Dominicans and lived in private rented accommodation with bed and board. On October 15 all hell broke loose. While the Russian army was approaching Budapest, the Regent of Hungary, Admiral Horthy, was removed from office and the leader of the extreme Nazi Arrow-Cross party was made head of state. In the circumstances, to remain on my own in Sopron looked foolish. I had to move eastward towards the approaching Russians, but how? Then I remembered William Apor. His episcopal seat in Győr was less than 50 miles from Sopron. I quickly packed my belongings and caught a train for Győr. I was directed to the bishop's palace, summoned all my courage and requested an audience with Apor. "Have you got an appointment?" I was asked, to which the answer was no. A thousand worrying thoughts passed through my mind. Was he there? Was he free? Above all, would he remember me? The secretary returned with a smile on his face: His Excellency would receive me at once. Of course he remembered me. He asked about my parents and expressed sorrow when I told him that they had both been deported and that I had no news from them. Then he inquired about me. I told him that I had been sent away from the seminary with an exemption certificate. He wanted to see it and and looked completely perplexed. In a mixture of legal and ecclesiastical gobbledegook it claimed that I was exempted from the anti-Jewish legislation because I was a deacon in the Church on account of having performed the role of a deacon at mass. I was, of course, not an ordained deacon, but it was hoped that the policeman reading the document would not know the difference. Fortunately I was never asked to produce it, so we will never know.
Bishop Apor in his noble simplicity would never have invented something so circuitous as my phoney document. Indeed, his inability to twist the truth led to the deportation and death of the only Jewish convert student at his seminary, the brother of Joseph Stiassny, my future colleague at the Fathers of Zion. It is on the record that later on Apor ordered his priests to provide Jews, if requested, with baptismal certificates. Did our meeting have anything to do with this?
At the end of a cordial audience, Apor inquired with a gentle smile whether he could do anything for me. Yes, I answered, please help me to get lost among the hundreds of students in the Central Seminary in Budapest. Without further ado, he went to his desk and wrote a longhand letter of recommendation, no doubt accepting responsibility for all the fees and living expenses I would incur. He signed the letter, sealed the envelope and gave me his blessing. I arrived in Budapest and was admitted to the seminary with no questions asked, regaining my freedom two months later thanks to the same Soviet army, some of whose soldiers assassinated my saintly benefactor.
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