History and Locations

Aaron’s Journey was both physical and emotional. He traversed hundreds of miles, from his home in Bilke, to the Russian battlefront in Voronezh, then all the way back on foot to Gerjen in Hungary. The journey required incredible physical stamina, as Aaron endured some of Earth’s harshest winters.

With the help of world-renowned historian Colonel David Glantz (ret.), the locations that Aaron described to his son, Howard, have been verified and the battlefields and important junctures recreated with as much accuracy as possible. Considered by many to be the world’s leading historian regarding the conflict between Russia and Germany, including Hitler’s axis partners during World War II, Col. Glantz was able to contribute resources, information and maps illustrating the campaigns. Because Aaron was conscripted by force as a slave laborer under the Hungarian army, writes Glantz in the Foreword to Aaron’s Revenge, Aaron was dragooned by the Hungarians and Germans eastward in the wake of Hitler’s obsession, in a ceaseless and senseless Nazi crusade to conquer Russia.

Czechoslovakia

Aaron’s country was betrayed by her allies at Munich in another failed bid to appease Hitler by ceding to the dictator the impregnable Sudetenland on its western border with Germany. In early 1939, the Hungarian army swept into Bilke, Aaron’s hometown, along with Czechoslovakia’s eastern province, Trans- Carpathia. The wayward town, once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, would now be part of Hungary, a gift from Hitler.

At first, many Bilke and Carpathian Jews were relieved that Hitler had designated the Hungarians to be their new rulers; after all, the Czechs had fought side-by-side with the Hungarians during World War I. Unfortunately, the new Hungarian government was virtually as fascist and anti-Semitic as Nazi Germany. Hungary had thrown in its lot with their German senior partners in hopes of reclaiming territory lost during World War I. Hitler then seized the remainder of Czechoslovakia.

Axis Europe

By the fall of 1942, the Nazis controlled most of Europe and North Africa (see maps to the right). Their satellite state Hungary bordered German-occupied Russia. In November, Aaron and his fellow slaves boarded a train in Hungary and headed east into the Russian winter. The journey lasted almost two weeks.

Under the Hungarian troops, Aaron marched to the Russian front, the site of many epic battles, from which Aaron miraculously walked away alive. As a Jewish slave of the Hungarians and Nazis, Aaron looked for ways to escape to the Russian side. That, too, proved perilous. Aaron’s facility with languages helped him to survive, enabling him to beg for food from villagers and overhear the murderous plotting of his captors, allowing him to defend himself against his would-be assassins; he also drew on his experience from his Czech military training and the paramilitary training of JuJitsu from Palestinian Zionists before the war.

The Russian Front
As they approached the Russian front in late 1942, Aaron and his fellow Jews experienced deadly airstrikes from Russian bombers, where both captors and slaves were decimated. Far to the southeast, Russian forces surrounded the German Army in Stalingrad. With this blow to their strength, the Germans were attempting a defensive line from Voronezh south to the Black Sea, while trying to rescue their doomed Stalingrad garrison. Aaron and his fellow slaves, having reached the front just south of Voronezh, were forced by their masters to buttress the axis front lines, as Hitler had ordered, “No retreat! Not one step backward!” This was in the event of a Russian attack, but rumors at the front lines indicated that Hitler actually intended to launch an offensive with his forces at Voronezh to rescue his Stalingrad garrison.
The Russian Attack
During the Russian breakthrough at Voronezh on January 13, 1943, Aaron and a few slaves hunkered down in a trench as bullets tore at the snow and bombs fell from the sky. It was the Russians attacking with their most destructive firepower. During this brutal assault, the Axis commanders were silent. Aaron, in a moment of spontaneous ingenuity, lifted his head above his trench, turned to face the axis soldiers, and impersonated their commanding generals by bellowing the order: “Retreat!” both in German and Hungarian. A panicked rout of the Axis forces ensued along the entire Don River front, as Aaron exhorted countless Jewish slaves to follow their fleeing masters to safety in the woods, saving the lives of all.