Can you tell me where you were born?
I, Henna Feintuch née Zoldan, was born in the town of Chust, Czechoslovakia, on November 25, 1923. Chust was considered a very nice, balebatishe town. It was filled with frum Yidden, a large beis medrash and a shul. Although many men in Chust wore shtreimlach, my father did not; he wore a black hat and suit.
What memories can you share with us about your family?
My father, Shmuel Zoldan, was a strong Chassid of the Satmar Rebbe, Reb Yoel, zy”a. We were a family of nine children; however, two children passed away before I was born. My parents never spoke about it; whatever I knew came from gossip that our neighbors told me. We remained a family of seven children: four boys and three girls; I was the youngest child.
My father did secretarial work for a lawyer for 30 years. My mother, Shaindel, did not work out of the house. She stayed home to care for our large family.
When I was 17 years old, a neighbor of ours by the name of Rozinka, who was a dressmaker, agreed to teach me how to sew. One time my father arrived home and asked my mother where I was. My mother reported to him that I had gone to a neighbor’s house to learn how to sew. When he heard this, he immediately came over to Rozinka’s house to take me home. Rozinka protested. She explained to him that I was interested in learning a trade. My father asked me, and when I agreed with Rozinka, he allowed me to remain at her house. Every day on his way home from shul, he would bring freshly baked rolls and cake which he purchased from the shamash in the shul.
What kind of education did you receive?
My brothers went to a cheder and then continued on to yeshivah. They remained in yeshivah for a few years before going out to work. My sisters and I attended a public school. Every summer, leaders from a Bais Yaakov would come to our town. They rented an apartment near our house for two or three weeks.
The schools were closed on Shabbos and Sunday. My brother Ari went to a “gymnasium” where he was studying to become a lawyer. There, he had to attend classes on Shabbos; he left after a short while, for he saw that there was no future for Jews there.
Did you feel any anti-Semitism?
Although I was 20 years old, I was treated as a child because I was the youngest in the family. I personally didn’t feel the anti-Semitism that was building up in the town.
Did you know what was happening in other parts of Europe prior to the onset of war in your town?
Whenever my parents spoke about these serious issues, we children were sent out of the room. We were not permitted to listen or take part in these conversations. I was always sent out to socialize with friends, so I personally was not affected by the pressures of the war.
Chust did not have its own newspaper. My father received a newspaper from the town of Kosice once a month by mail, which brought us all the news.
Since your family did have some prior knowledge of the horrors that were taking place, did they try to escape?
Escape? Run away? Where were we to go? The whole world was against us. My father had four brothers living in America. They sent us all the papers and all the proper visas necessary to travel. However, the quota was already filled before we had a chance to pack up and leave.
When did you begin feeling the pressures of war?
In 1938, my father built a new house; life was relatively peaceful. In 1940, the Czechoslovakian government was taken over by the Hungarians. We were ordered to wear a yellow star, declaring us Jewish, when we walked out of the house. All businesses were confiscated from their Jewish owners and taken over by gentiles.
Jews were randomly called to the Hungarian police headquarters for no reason other than because they were Jewish. These people were put onto a wooden board and beaten with a belt. When my father was summoned, my older brother Chaim took his place and received the beatings instead. When he returned home, he had terrible blisters and his body was swollen. Every day they thought of a different cruelty to carry out. Unless it was absolutely necessary, people did not leave their houses. We lost our ability to lead a normal life.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.