Eva Aigner

Eva was born in 1937 in the small town of Kosice, Czechoslovakia. The first two years of her life went smoothly until her father’s business license was revoked because he was Jewish. It grew increasingly difficult for him to find employment, and soon the family moved to Budapest, Hungary to join other family members.
Eva enrolled in school in Budapest, but by the end of 1943 she had to leave the first grade due to worsening antisemitism. Eva’s father was later taken to a slave labor camp where he was killed.
In Budapest, Eva, her mother, and her sister lived in Jewish housing that was marked with a yellow star. From there they were forced into the Budapest Ghetto, where soldiers from the nationalist and antisemitic Arrow Cross selected Eva’s mother for deportation to a concentration camp. Meanwhile Eva and her sister were taken to the Danube riverfront to be lined up and shot by the Nazis. Eva’s mother was able to save her children by bribing the guard only after she had escaped the train and made her way back to Budapest. The family was moved back to the Ghetto where they remained until the war ended. They were liberated by Russian troops on January 18th 1945. Weak from starvation and sickness, the family returned to their apartment only to find it completely empty. Eventually Eva, her mother, and her sister were reunited with an aunt and cousins. They discovered that none of their extended family in Czechoslovakia had survived the Holocaust.

Eva eventually finished school and in 1956 she married her husband Leslie. During the same year a revolution broke out against communist Hungary, and on Christmas Eve Eva and Leslie escaped over the Hungarian/Austrian border. They boarded an American troop carrier with numerous other refugees and came to settle in Portland, Oregon. Eva worked in cosmetology for many years and later operated her own salon.

After local Holocaust deniers became vocal in the late 1980s, Leslie and Eva began sharing their story with audiences far and wide. They have worked with the Holocaust Memorial Coalition since its inception in 1994, and Eva was the vice chair of the project to build the Oregon Holocaust Memorial. Eva says of the project, “Besides giving birth to my children, my proudest moment in my life was when the Oregon Holocaust Memorial was dedicated in 2004."