My name is Edith Reichman, née Weinberger. I grew up in the Carpathian Mountains, near the town of Seilish. During World War I, the area was considered part of Hungary; after that it was transferred to Czechoslovakia. My town and the neighboring ones were very frum.
We were Satmar chassidim. There were only one or two other Chassidic families in our town. Both sides of my family are of rabbinical descent. My grandparents lived in Siget. The Siget Dayan was my uncle, as my great-grandfather had been. I still have sefarim that he wrote. Many Dayanim today use his rulings on different issues.
I had two sisters and three brothers. My parents owned a grocery store and we were considered well-to-do by European standards.
I attended a Czechoslovakian school. In 1939, when our town became part of Hungary once again, I attended a Hungarian school for about two years. Once a week, on Sundays, we went to a Talmud Torah. Everything else, we learned at home. My brothers attended a cheder and then continued on to the Siget and Satmar yeshivos.
Did you experience anti-Semitism prior to the onset of the war?
We got along very well with our gentile neighbors. As a matter of fact, they were happy to have us, because they made a livelihood from the Jewish community.
Did you know what was happening in other parts of Europe?
We did, since many unfortunate Polish Jews who fled from the Germans came to Hungary to find refuge. They reported what was happening but we didn’t want to believe what they were saying. We didn’t try to escape because the Hungarian Rabbanim didn’t think the war would reach us.
In March 1944, the tzaaros began. All Jews were ordered to wear a yellow star. Men were taken to forced labor camps. My father was 55 years old and considered too old to go; however, my married brother, along with my two single brothers, were drafted into labor camps. My father was with us, but most women and children were left alone to fend for themselves. My sister gave birth to a baby boy but the authorities did not allow my brother-in-law to return home for the bris. Instead, he was sent to Serbia.
Once, we received a postcard from the Red Cross stating that my married brother was still alive, but he never saw his youngest child.
All licenses to own stores were revoked and transferred to gentiles. We were not poverty stricken, for even after our store was confiscated my father figured out other means of parnassah. But most people had tremendous tzaaros and many were starving.
Did you spend time in a ghetto?
We were taken to the ghetto in Seilish, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from our town, right after Pesach, in April 1944. When the troops arrived, they ordered us to take whatever food we could carry. Since it was the day after Pesach, however, we didn’t have any chametz in the house yet. We went to our gentile neighbors, begging them to sell us some bread to take along.
We were ordered to gather in the shul at the center of town. We were about 50 or 60 families. They loaded us onto horse-drawn wagons and took us to the ghetto.
Nobody in the ghetto worked. We were starving; there was no food. One family was granted permission to remain outside the ghetto because the Germans needed those people to operate their flour mill. These people smuggled food into the ghetto for us. We shared a room with many families. We slept on the floor.
We remained in the ghetto for four weeks. After four weeks, we were put into cattle cars. It was the first day of Shavuos. My father, who was an experienced baal tefillah, davened for the amud in the cattle cars. We began our journey to Auschwitz.
To be continued.
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.