Pál was born into an established merchant family in Halas; his father was loved and respected in the town. "He was a good Jew and a good Hungarian at the same time. He fought for his king and the country in World War I and returned with several decorations, but at the same time he was active in the Jewish life of the town,” Pál later recalled. His early childhood years were also the years when anti-Jewish laws were enforced; Jewish shop-owners found it more and more difficult to run their businesses until their shops, including Pál’s father’s store, were ordered to be closed. Men in the family were conscripted into forced labor. Pál was nine years old when they were forced to move into the local ghetto, and his father was taken to forced labor again. This was the last time Pál saw his father.
In May of 1944 the Jews of Halas were deported to the Szeged ghetto – among them Pál, his mother, grandmother and other members of the family. From the ghetto in Szeged they were deported to the Austrian camp of Strasshof, where conditions were severe, but the families could stay together and adults were forced into slave labor. At the beginning of winter, inmates from Strasshof, including Pál and his family,were transferred to the Bergen-Belsen camp. Later, as a result of an inmate exchange, they got sent to the Terezin camp near Prague, established by the Nazis to deceive Swiss Red Cross delegations. In the last weeks of the war a serious typhus epidemic killed masses of inmates there. The camp was liberated by the Soviet troops on May 8, 1945 a little after Pál’s tenth birthday. "Two brothers of my mother never returned from forced labor in Ukraine...my father’s sister did not return from Auschwitz... and neither did my father. I kept dreaming of him for a long time...”