Ben Géza Affleck’s middle name honors Holocaust survivor

"She told me six million Jews were murdered and that men like him were brave and selfless."
Actor Ben Affleck attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Live By Night" at TCL Chinese Theatre on January 9, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Everyone was buzzing about Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s Vegas wedding, but Internet sleuths also noticed something on their marriage certificate– Affleck’s middle name Géza.

Affleck’s middle name Géza honors a Hungarian family friend who was a Holocaust survivor.

“My parents named me after a Hungarian friend of theirs named Geza,” Affleck told Writers Guild of America in 2015.

“Now when I got to be in fourth or fifth grade, I accused them of being the worst namers in the world! I said, Everyone calls me Ben Gay!’ But she told me that Geza was a friend of hers who died right around the time I was born, who was a Holocaust survivor in Hungary and the most exceptional person she knew. He had left from a train during the Holocaust taking Jews to death camps, and he went back and saved several others returning to break them out. She told me six million Jews were murdered and that men like him were brave and selfless. That name has never been short of a tremendous honor to me since that day.”

The Holocaust in Hungary

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, Jews waiting in a grove near gas chamber #4 prior to their murder, May 1944. (Courtesy: Yad Vashem)

In May 1944 the deportation of Hungary’s Jews to Auschwitz began. In just eight weeks, some 424,000 Jews were deported. By the end of the Holocaust, some 565,000 Hungarian Jews had been murdered. At the time of the Nazi invasion, Hungary had a Jewish population of 825,000, the largest remaining in Europe.

A Hungarian survivor’s journey

Claire Grunwald at the No Fear rally in Washington, D.C., Sunday, July 11,2021. (Photo: John Kunza/Unpacked)

At a rally against antisemitism in 2021 in Washington D.C. Unpacked had the opportunity to speak with 89-year-old Holocaust survivor Claire Grunwald. Born in Hungary in 1932, Grunwald is a living testament to surviving what the end result of antisemitism is.

“I’ve been through the Holocaust and I hate what is going on,” she told Upacked. Referring to the rise in antisemitic attacks, she added: “I feel this is how it started in Hungary. I was born in 1932, and I grew up with more and more hate for the Jews. I don’t want this to happen here to my children and my grandchildren.”

For Grunwald the Holocaust started out “step by step.”

First, her non-Jewish friends did not want to play with her anymore. That turned into her being scared to say that she was Jewish because that would have gotten her beaten up on the street. That escalated into Jews not being allowed to hire non-Jews for work, that evolved into taking away business licenses from Jewish owners so they had to close up their shops.

“Then we had to put on a yellow star,” Grunwald said pointing to her chest. “Slowly, step by step.”

After that the Jewish schools were shut down.

After a brief pause, Grunwald’s voice changed to a more somber, serious tone.

“And I was lucky, we were lucky, I got on the right transport. Yes we were lucky baruch HaShem,” for a woman who’s seen so much pain and destruction she ended that sentence with a small smile.

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