Outcasts: a Love Story

By Susan Papp
Dundurn Press,
301 pages, $29.99

(Canscene) — Coinciding with the premiere screening of her OMNI financed documentary, Outcasts: a Love Story,
Susan Papp’s book details the moving story of the love of Gentile Tibor Schroeder for Jewish Hedy Weisz.

It is also a tribute to love on many other levels: brother for brother, friend for friend and Carpathian Hungarians for their country, taken from them first by Czechoslovakia after World War I, then by Nazi Germany, then Soviet Russia and finally by Ukraine. The principal figures in this book remain outcasts from their true home.

It goes without saying that a 300 page book can hold much more information than a 60-minute documentary and wisely, the director, married to Bela (Bill) Aykler, Tibor’s younger half brother has adhered to the main story in the film. But in the book we find much detail accentuating the background to the story.

Tibor’s and Hedy’s love began at a time when Carpathia’s Jews and Gentles lived peacefully, side by side. They lived in the town of Nagyszollos where Tibor’s family were landowners and wine-growers and Hedy’s were employees of Baron Perenyi whose enormous vineyards they helped manage. At first the German conquest of Hungary had little impact on Nagyszollos but in 1944, with Nazi Germany beginning to realize its defeat Jews were forced into a ghetto prior to shipping to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Even Baron Perenyi could not save his former employees from being herded into the ghetto.

At this point a truly remarkable odyssey begins: that of Suti, Hedy’s younger brother of frail build but with extraordinary powers of resistance to adversity. He survives Auschwitz and eventually winds up in Israel from which he returns to help Bela and Tibor in the search for Hedy.

The search is long with a surprising result that brings the story close to Canada.

Under the Soviets, the town’s name was changed to Vinogradiv. A bombed-out shell, it exists to remind thousands who prefer to remain Hungarian outcasts dreaming that one day their true Carpathian Hungarian personalities will finally be recognized. Many young exiles have unified in a new alliance that operates philanthropically and socially as a reminder that their sense of heritage remains strong.
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