When we arrived at the border, the soldiers on duty informed us that our papers were not valid proof to allow us into the country. My mother refused to take no for an answer and argued with the soldiers, telling them that her husband was in Hungary and that she, too, wanted to be a Hungarian citizen. The soldiers took my mother to the next town where she had to repeat her request. They agreed to send a telegram to my father, informing him that he should come to the headquarters with the proper ID papers and then they would allow us to remain in Hungary. In the meantime, my mother told the soldiers that she left her four children at the border and she wanted to return to them. The soldiers were amazed that she left her children and allowed her to return to the border to retrieve us. Then we were taken to a prison in Galante where we were left to wait for my father to arrive with the proper documents.
The Jews of Galante were extremely kind to us. The Galante Rav himself came to visit us in prison. They brought us kosher food as well as other necessities.
My father used his connections to obtain the documents needed. It took about two or three weeks for my father to arrive with the correct papers and, of course, a sum of money needed to gain our release.
Once you were released, where did you go?
We left the prison without a single thing. My mother brought along just the immediate necessities. My father hadn’t brought anything other than the money needed to bribe the officials. Poverty was rampant. A Jew could not get a job.
We headed to my father’s parents, who lived in a town quite far away from Galante, Nove Zamky. When we arrived in town the occupants were quite upset with us and told us in no uncertain terms that we could not settle there for there were not enough jobs to go around. They allowed us to remain over Shabbos. When Shabbos was over, my father was offered a job as shamas in the shul. Naturally my father accepted the job and we remained in Nove Zamky for 2 1/2 years. We even went to school there. Some time later, when the Jews of Nove Zamky were transported to the ghetto, we were allowed to remain since my father was a veteran of WWI and his hand was impaired. We lived off the pension that he was still receiving.
One of the townspeople being taken to the ghetto offered my father his house and then handed over his five-year-old granddaughter whose father was taken to Auschwitz, begging my father to watch over her. My father was stopped by soldiers on the way but he claimed the little girl as his and continued walking. We watched her for a while, but when the situation worsened, my father went to Budapest where the little girl’s mother was hiding and let her know that the situation in town was not safe. We arranged to meet at the train station. My sister and I took the little girl to the station and handed her over to a gentile couple arranged by the mother.
When I returned home with my sister our house was surrounded by soldiers. Although we had permission to remain there, we did not have permission to hide other Jews and they came to inspect. They warned my father that if they found anyone hiding in the house, my father would be sent straight to Auschwitz as well. We had one other man who was hiding but he managed to escape unnoticed.
A law was passed that every household had to allow three German soldiers to live with them. We viewed these soldiers as three malachim who were there as a shemirah.
My parents and my brothers had a “Jewish look.” However, my sister and I were fair-skinned and could easily pass as gentiles. We used to go out to the farms to collect potatoes and other standard ingredients that my mother needed for cooking.
Although everyone in town knew that we were exempt, we tried to stay low-key. Every day my parents had to go to the police headquarters to sign in. One day my parents did not return home. The four of us were well prepared for this eventuality. My mother had sewn little rucksacks for each of us, in which all our important things were kept. These rucksacks were meant to be taken in an emergency, in the event we were ordered to leave without notice.
We went in search of my parents and we found them in the cellar of the police station. My parents told us that they were being deported and we should try to escape. But we refused to leave. The Germans were fighting the Russians very close by and the bombs could be seen as the sky lit up with flames.
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.