Mrs. Edith Blaustein

Can you tell me where you were born?

I was born in the town of Pest in Budapest [Hungary]. At that time the town did not have a thriving Jewish community.

What memories can you share with us about your family?

We were five children. Three died when they were very young. I remained with one sister. My family was not very religious.

Was there anti–Semitism in town prior to the onset of the war?

The town was very anti-Semitic. Although my father did try to go to shul, he went secretly. We were not able to keep kosher.

What kind of education did you receive?

I attended a public school. There were no Jewish schools. The schools were very harsh and punished harshly as well. They were definitely not sympathetic to the Jews.

When did you begin feeling the pressures of the war?

Until 1943 it was extremely anti-Semitic. We lived a secret life, hiding any traces of Yiddishkeit. However, the Germans knew who was Jewish even if they tried to hide their outward appearance.

Early on, my father, who worked as a painter, was taken to a forced labor camp. One day in 1944, toward the end of the war, we were told that my father had been shot by a German. My mother went out to look for him and found his dead body.

One day the Germans marched into town with their rifles drawn and ordered us all out of our houses. We were instructed to wear yellow stars on our clothing. We were gathered in a large area together with many other Jewish families from neighboring towns and taken towards the Danube River. Although I was only six years old, I vividly recall witnessing the Germans shooting people into the water.

I held tight to my mother and older sister. I remember when the S.S. soldiers who were roaming around noticed someone wearing earrings. They ripped one out of her ear, without giving it a second thought.

Those who were not being killed were taken to the Yellow Star house. Our family was given one small room. We slept on the floor. People walked in and out of the rooms without knocking; there was no privacy.

There were some non-Jewish people there as well and they asked me to watch their children. I went with them to their apartments and, while I was away, the Germans arrived and my mother and sister were taken away.

When the gentile woman realized what happened she immediately took me back to my room. She wanted no part of it. I was a six-year-old little girl left alone in a room, sitting on the floor and crying.

In an adjoining room was a Jewish woman who worked at the home of a German, cleaning and cooking for them. She returned from her job to her room during the day to pick something up and she heard my cries. She took off the yellow star that was pinned onto my clothing and quickly took me to the Duhynutza ghetto where my mother and sister had been taken.

Can you describe ghetto life?

We were given practically nothing to eat. We stood in line with our bowl to get a tiny bit of soup. There were constant selections. We were all taken out in a big group and then the Germans divided us up. One day my mother, my sister and I, along with a large number of people, were taken by foot about 300 km to the border.

My mother and my sister dragged me along so that the Germans wouldn’t notice me. The Germans were not in favor of having the children come along. Many times, if they saw them lagging behind, [the children] were taken away and made to sing for them. When the entertainment was over they murdered these children.

What happened when you arrived at the border?

We arrived at the border and were divided up onto cattle cars. Some cars were headed to Auschwitz and others to different camps. The three of us sat on the floor awaiting our fate.

Suddenly, a German came up to my mother and told her that he was a partisan and he was going to take back a few people to Budapest. He took us back by wagon to the ghetto. We were saved from going to Auschwitz; it was a real miracle.

What awaited you once you returned to the ghetto?

There were constant selections. At one point we were ordered by the S.S. down to the basement. It was extremely cold and we stood without coats. The S.S. stood with their rifles drawn and a large dog, planning to shoot us all. Suddenly and very unexpectedly, the Russians arrived and the S.S. fled.

When did you leave Hungary?

My mother wanted me to leave Hungary. However, in order to leave one needed to be married; so I married and then traveled to America.

Did you ever return to see your hometown?

Since I have two cousins living there I went back once to see them.


 

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.