Alex, also known as Sandor, Kuhn was born in 1931 in Zalalovo, Hungary, and was one of nine children. Because of the anti-Semitic laws dominating the country from a young age, his father lost his job and the family moved around a lot. When he was young, he and a sister were sent to live with their grandfather, Yisrael Meir, in the town of Kisvarda—a small Jewish community. There, he studied at a yeshiva and learned from his grandfather the importance of living a Jewish life, which he would keep with him through the rest of his life. The town was full of extended family, and him and his sister would spend meals at the tables of different family members.
In May 1944, the Nazis occupied Hungary. My grandfather and his family, except for his older brother Erno who had been conscripted into the Hungarian army several years earlier, were sent to Auschwitz. At the gates, him and his father were separated from the rest of his family and chosen for the labor camps. The rest of his family were sent to the death camps and perished. My grandfather and his father were held in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they slept several people to a bunk bed and had only weak coffee, soup and moldy bread to live on. On Rosh Hashanah 1944, my grandfather and great-grandfather, along with a group of other prisoners, held a prayer service, with prayer books and a shofar that had been smuggled in. The Nazis discovered what was happening and broke up the service, sending some to the gas chambers and others to other camps. My grandfather and his father were sent to Mauthausen.
At Mauthausen, they walked the infamous steps of death, where they carried large boulders up 170 steps to the top of stone quarry multiple times a day, all the while eating very meager rations. After a few months there, they were sent to airplane factories near Vienna, and my grandfather and great-grandfather were separated. Alex worked building airplanes for the Nazi war effort, sometimes working 24 hour days. By April, the Nazis were beginning to lose the war, and they began shutting down their factories. My grandfather and his fellow prisoners were taken on an eight day death march back to Mauthausen. On this march, a few men who had been with his father told him that he had died three weeks earlier. They slept on the side of the road, and ate raw potatoes from the field. My grandfather said that others basically carried him the last few days. Of the 3,000 people who began the march, only about 300 survived. By the time he got back to Mauthausen, the Nazis had deserted. The next several weeks were a blur, until the Americans liberated them on May 5, 1945. Once liberated, my grandfather was sent to a refugee hospital, because he was suffering from dysentery and typhus.