Devecseri, Ladislas ‘Laci’
contemporary of Kastner from Kolozsvár. A civil engineer like his father,
Emil. They owned and ran their engineering and construction firm with
branches in Bucharest, Romania and other cities in Hungary. Emil Devecseri
was a scion of a family of Hungarian patriots and of an assimilated Jewish
family. Emil proudly served his Austro-Hungarian Kaiser in World War I as
an officer, and the family counted prominent newspaper editors among its
members. Like many other similar families, their forbearers Magyarized
their names from the original Levy. One of their biggest clients was the
Hungarian army for which they produced prefabricated barracks, bridges,
and major buildings.
1944 on, Laci worked closely with Kastner, and among others, built the
barracks overnight to preempt Eichmann and to accommodate the people at
the Kolumbus utca camp.
wife Barbara was the niece of Joel Brand. Laci, his wife, two sons and his
parents, left on the first train from Bergen-Belsen to Switzerland. They
moved to Israel after the war, residing in Haifa. After a stint in private
practice Laci accepted a position with Solel Boneh Foreign Works
Department, Israel’s largest engineering – Construction Company and was
assigned to head their projects in Djibouti, then a French possession on
the Horn of Africa where Solel Boneh was carrying out a contract for the
divided his time between Paris and Haifa and after the fall of Communism
added an apartment in Budapest to his overseas abodes. His elder son
followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the engineering profession,
working on major international projects around the world.
Recruiting like-minded colleagues, passengers on the 1944 train to
Switzerland and former co-workers of Kastner from all parts of the world,
Laci was indefatigable in getting the true story of Kastner out, all the
time combating and stemming the flood of falsehoods and maligning
articles appearing in newspapers, magazines and books.
July 7, 2002, on the grounds of the great Dohanyi Synagogue in Budapest,
Laci, at the age of ninety-five, spoke at the unveiling of a monument to
Kastner and the Rescue Committee he initiated, organized and fought for
the past two years, in the presence of the Budapest mayor, government
ministers, noted scholars and a host of dignitaries.
Vaci utca 12, the building where Kastner lived during 1944, Laci had the
city mount a commemorative marble plaque on the façade and saw to it,
paying for it himself, that every year on the day marking Kastner’s death,
a fresh flower wreath was hung on a special hook reserved next to the
his final years, Laci appeared on many programs, was interviewed many
times by the BBC at length, wrote his memoirs and articles for the local
Hungarian press. He kept a lively correspondence with many institutions,
contributed to Steven Spielberg’s Shoah project and cooperated with Dr.
Rahe, the director of the Bergen-Belsen Gedaenkstaette, the former camp,
now a museum, where his mother, Sidonia’s diary, illustrated by the noted
artist Irsay, occupies a central place in the museum.
2005, ninety-eight year-old Laci passed away in Leanyfalu, a village a few
miles outside of Budapest, where he spent the last years of his active
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