Being that my father was a shochet, he always carried his small challaf (knife) with him. He was with a group of very chashuve talmidei chachamim. At that point, the Russians were chasing the Hungarians and the Hungarians had to retreat. On Hoshana Rabbah, the Hungarians told everyone to return, to go back. However, they hadn’t shlugged kapparos yet. Those people that listened to the Hungarians ended up in Auschwitz. However, there were those people that went along with my father to do kapparos and then my father shechted the chicken properly and they cooked it. By the time they were finished, the Russians had arrived to liberate them. This one mitzvah saved their lives.
At that time the Faltichaner Rebbe, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe and others congregated in Bucharest, where Yiddishkeit was still thriving. My father was still in Bucharest for Pesach and many people came to the Seder of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe.
Our town looked like a churban. There were no women or children, no siddurim, no Chumashim — there was absolutely nothing left. I heard that Harav Moshe Neuschloss was reopening a yeshivah in Serdahel. My father took me back to the yeshivah in Serdahel. The nights were cold, the windows were broken and I was freezing. After a few days, when I could no longer tolerate it, I left. When the Nitra Yeshivah opened up, they were promising to send us to America. Going to America was considered the best possible scenario, so I joined the Nitra Yeshivah.
Can you tell us about your stay with the Nitra Yeshivah?
There was a small town called Lefantovce in the Slovakian mountains. (It is interesting to note that Harav Shaul Brach, the Kashau Rav, was born in Lefantovce.) It was a gorgeous town with a beautiful river flowing around its perimeter; its water was so clear you could see straight through to the magnificent stones at the bottom of the river. It was absolutely breathtaking. In the summer of 1946 the Nitra Yeshivah decided to go to the countryside in Lefantovce for two weeks. They rented a palace belonging to the city, situated on a small hill; every blade of grass was taken care of, portraying niflaos haBorei. Words cannot describe the beauty of the place. We were able to learn without stress because of our surroundings and I have very fond memories of this place.
There was a forest surrounding the palace. The trees were all the same height. On these tall trees were the idols belonging to the non-Jews. Two bachurim, who acted with zeal, decided to bust every one of the idols, as it says in the Torah to do. The people were fuming when they found out. They said, “When the Germans occupied us, they didn’t touch our idols; when the Russians occupied us, they didn’t touch our idols; and now a few Jews came in and in no time they destroyed our idols.” They held meetings in their place of worship, planning a strategy of how to kill the bachurim for their actions. Luckily, they had a priest who was a little bit enlightened and he was able to calm them down. He came up to the palace to speak to the Rabbanim that were with us. Some of them were able to speak Slovakian and were able to convince the priest that it must have been some anti-Semites who made a libel about the Jews. It wasn’t until much later, when we were already in Paris and two bachurim were learning in the Gemara about breaking idols, that the story of the broken idols was brought into the open and the real culprits were revealed.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.