Hindi Merlin (Part III)

So all together, we were taken by foot through the fields from one town to the next. Overnight we were put into prison cells. The conditions in the cells were terrible. It was as dark as night with nowhere to sit. The walls were full of crawling insects. The six of us stood hugging each other to keep warm. In the morning we continued on our journey until we arrived in Dunaszerdahej, located deep in Hungary. There was one other Jewish family in this house that we were taken to. The rest of the occupants were all people who had converted from Yiddishkeit and intermarried. However, they were confined to this house as well because even though they had converted, Hitler considered them to be Jewish.

We slept 25 people to each room with a bit of straw strewn on the floor. We remained huddled together in our winter coats because it was extremely cold. They brought a big kettle containing water which was supposed to resemble soup. In addition, those people who had converted were allowed to have visitors. My father paid these visitors to bring us food.

Each day my parents and siblings were taken out to the fields to dig trenches for the soldiers. My younger brother Hershy, who was eight years old and I, who was 12 years old, remained behind with the soldiers. We spent the day entertaining them and taking care of their needs. My parents lived in constant fear; they always worried that when they returned home from work they would not find us. We waited on the other side of the fence each day, with trepidation, awaiting my parents’ return.

Then it happened. One day when my parents arrived home from work they found us lined up against the wall. Soldiers with their guns drawn were standing in front of us, screaming, “Who needs these useless people!” Suddenly, two S.S. stormed in, demanding an explanation. When they heard what the soldiers were planning to do they forbade them to continue, stating that these workers are needed to dig up the dead. It was clearly an instance of Yad Hashem where malachim were watching over us.

How long did you remain housed under these conditions?

We remained at this house for a year until the end of 1944. One day we were informed that the Russians were very close by and therefore we were being moved. We were told that we were going to be taken to Auschwitz. The soldiers led us; we walked while they rode on horses. Overnight we slept in animal barns and the next morning we continued on. We found ourselves between the Russians and the Germans, literally at the war front. We saw the war planes overhead as the bombs kept falling. We passed a farm and the farmer allowed us to take shelter in his barn. It was definitely better than being in the open fields. Our guards were paid off and we were set free. We went to meet the Russian army.

Suddenly, one morning before Pesach, all became quiet. A Russian officer arrived. We had to be very careful, for the Russians were known to bother the women. When the farm owners heard that the Russians were coming, they allowed us into their homes. They began treating us well, in the hope that when the Russians arrived we would tell them how much these farm owners had helped us and in that way they would be saved.

However, it didn’t take long before word spread that the Germans were fighting back. Now these farm owners got scared and decided that if the Germans succeeded in overtaking the Russians, they would soon find out that they were hiding Jews and they would be punished. We had to leave immediately at 4:00 in the morning.

Once in a while we got a lift from a farmer but most of the way we walked. The walk was very strenuous and scary. We finally reached Nove Zamky. Very few people from our town survived. Our house was occupied by the local gentiles. At that point we were more afraid of these gentiles than of the Germans. We lived with fear for quite a long time. For example, we had to attend school on Shabbos.

What message can you impart to today’s generation?

We certainly only survived because of our emunah and constant aim to preserve our Yiddishkeit. We felt protected in the worst circumstances and were saved through lots of nissim.

We need to continue to be aware that we are in galus and should keep a low-key posture. Holding on to our mitzvos and minhagim will always be the way to our future. Daven that Hashem should save us from misfortune and send Moshiach speedily.

Yisroel b’tach baHashem Ezram uMaginam Hu.