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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives



DATE:                     SEPTEMBER 23, 2014



Jon Galambos was born on October 9, 1921 in Budapest, Hungary, where his family had lived for seven generations. His father, Aldar Ganz, was a shopkeeper and changed their last name to Galambos because it sounded more Hungarian than Jewish. His parents had divorced before the war.

Jon was 21 when the Hungarian government sent him to labor camps scattered throughout Hungary. In 1944, the Germans occupied Hungary and all Jews were concentrated in ghettos. Towards the end of 1944, Jon was sent with most of his family to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. There, most of his family—including his mother and most of his father’s family—perished. In April 1945, the Germans began to evacuate Bergen-Belsen. Jon was put on a train bound for the Theresienstadt concentration camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia with about 2,500 other Jews. Unable to reach Theresienstadt, the train roamed for days, trying to avoid the advancing front lines. Hundreds of prisoners died from starvation. On April 13, 1945, American troops liberated the train near the village of Farsleben, which is close to the city of Magdeburg, Germany.

After recovering from malnourishment, Jon returned to Budapest, where he reunited with is father. Unhappy with the Communist government that had been installed in Hungary, Jon and a friend migrated to Munich, Germany, which was in the American zone of occupation. Jon was recruited by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Salzburg, Austria to relay information about Soviet activities in displaced persons camps. While working for the OSS, Jon used the money he earned to attend the University of Munich. In 1946, Jon and a friend obtained visas to immigrate to the United States.

Jon arrived in New York City, New York in January 1947 and was soon attending classes at the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, Georgia with a scholarship provided by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). He graduated in 1948 and applied to Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. On October 8, 1949, Jon married Eva Cohn, whom he had met while attending UGA. Jon then did his internship at the Washington University School of Medicine’s Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, followed by a residency and fellowship at the University of Chicago in Illinois. After fulfilling a two-year service commitment stipulated by a scholarship Jon received from the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), his family returned to Atlanta.

Jon worked for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at Grady Hospital, and as a professor. He went on to become an internationally renowned physician and researcher in the fields of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. His family settled in the Sandy Springs area, where Eva and Jon raised their daughter and two sons. Jon and Eva became members of Temple Kehillat Chaim in Roswell, Georgia. The family enjoyed sailing on Lake Lanier and in the Caribbean. Jon and Eva have six grandchildren. Eva died in 2015.

Scope of Interview:

Jon Galambos recounts his life in Hungary before the war and discusses his family’s history in Hungary. He describes his time in labor camps scattered throughout Hungary. Jon details his transfer by train to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany and his life in the camp.  He discusses his liberation from a train that had been evacuated from the camp by the Americans in 1945. Jon traces his return to Budapest and his decision to leave. He talks about his work in displaced persons camps for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Salzburg, Austria. He recalls his decision to attend the university in Munich, Germany and later his decision to go to the United States. Jon describes his trip to America, arriving at Ellis Island, and his trip to Athens, Georgia to attend the University of Georgia. He recounts his life in Athens and later Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia where he received his medical degree. Jon shares a story about an interaction with Albert Einstein. He outlines his internship at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, his residency and fellowship at the University of Chicago, and his two-year service commitment with the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). Jon discusses working for the Centers for Disease Control and at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. He explains his motivation and drive for a successful career in Gastroenterology and Hepatology. He describes his home life in Sandy Springs with his children and his wife.

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