Can you tell me where you were born and where you grew up?
I, Dolly Rabinovitch, née Spitz, was born in Bere-hovo (Beregszász/ Beregsaz) which, at the time, was a part of Czechoslovakia. In 1938, the Hungarians occupied Bere-hovo. This is an area which is constantly changing hands; today it is considered part of the Ukraine. We lived a tranquil and peaceful life in a beautiful large house.
Yiddishkeit in our town was quite strong. There were a large number of Chassidim in town, although they did not wear the traditional chassidishe clothing (i.e., shtreimel and bekeshe). There were several batei midrashos. My father donated the lot next to our house where a beautiful beis medrash named “Oseh Chessed” was built. The men’s section was situated on the first level and the women were on the upper level, which was decorated with magnificent plush velvet seats. I enjoyed going up to the shul. The building with its striking stained-glass windows still stands today and is used by the few remaining Jews in town.
There were a number of Rebbes (e.g., the Betche Rebbe) and Rabbanim in town, as well as yeshivos. There were no dormitories for the yeshivah boys so they would sleep and eat at the homes of the townspeople. My parents, as well, had several yeshivah bachurim eating at our house.
What memories can you share with us about your family?
I am from a family of 12 children. Before the war, my parents lost two children. One child died in infancy and one brother passed away at the age of 18 after he contracted typhus. Of the 10 remaining children, five survived the horrors of the Holocaust. Two married sisters, their husbands and 10 children were gassed in Auschwitz and other death camps. Three of my young brothers — ages 17, 19 and 21 — were murdered at the hands of the Nazis.
My maternal grandparents lived in the nearby town of Muzsaj along with uncles, aunts and cousins. I never knew my paternal grandparents; they passed away before I was born.
My father, Shulem Yehudah (Solomon) Spitz, was a Munkatcher Chassid. (The Munkatcher Rebbe lived in the town of Munkacs, which is located very close to Bere-hovo.) My father was considered a very baalebatishe Yid; we were considered an upper middle-class family.
My father was a successful businessman. He owned and operated a wholesale and retail florist shop and supplied our town and surrounding villages with flowers. He was also a wine manufacturer who employed many workers in the summer during the wine season. My mother was a real tzaddekes. She was extremely ehrlich and frum. My mother helped out in the business and took care of the house as well.
My parents hosted many distinguished Rabbanim who came to visit the town; the Munkatcher Rebbe, zy”a, and the Satmar Rebbe, zy”a, were among them.
What kind of education did you receive?
I attended the Hungarian public school in our town. During the day, we had what was referred to as “Czech hours.” These were a few hours during the school day when we received a Czechoslovakian education. My parents hired a Hebrew teacher. She would come to our house twice a week for a few hours and teach us Hebrew studies. The rest of our Jewish education came from our parents. Unfortunately, I do not understand the words which I daven, since our Hebrew education was limited.
Did you feel anti-Semitism prior to the onset of war in your town?
We actually had a fairly good relationship with the gentile neighbors and members of the community. My father was friendly with everyone, Jews and gentiles alike; tipping his hat to everyone that he passed, as was the custom of the times. At school the children were friendly and treated us well.
However, as soon as the war broke out, anti-Semitism erupted in all of Europe and our town was not spared.
Did you know what was happening in other parts of Europe before the German army invadWed Hungary?
Jewish people are very smart; however, it was not foreseen what was going to happen — that a Holocaust was coming.
Our first real introduction to the horrors which were taking place in Germany and Poland occurred when the Polish Jews who were trying to escape German hands tried to find refuge and a place to hide in various countries, including Hungary.
When did you begin feeling the pressures of the war?
I was 13 years old when the war began. Unfortunately, shortly after the Nazis invaded our town, our happy childhood life and the life of the Jews in our town and elsewhere changed drastically.
We personally felt our first blow toward the end of 1943, when the officials confiscated my parents’ businesses and property. We painfully watched as the S.S. took truckloads of our merchandise for their army. Needless to say, no payment was made for these goods. There was nothing we could do.
At this time they began rationing our food. Each family received a ration card allowing for a limited amount of food. We were instructed to wear a yellow star on our clothing. Travel was forbidden.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.