Mrs. Esther Greenwald (Part III)

How was your family personally affected by the onset of the war in other countries?

In 1942, two of my brothers were taken away to working camps. We tried to get them released, but they were healthy and strong and the Germans wouldn’t let them go. They were taken to work in the fields. They had to dig ditches for the Germans.

My sister-in-law gave birth to a little boy, and they allowed my brother to come home for a day or so. He told us about a man who came from a nearby town that was always very nice to him. A little while later, a letter came from my brother requesting that I pack up a package for him containing salami and cheeses that wouldn’t spoil so fast, and deliver it to this man’s house. From there the man would bring him this package. We packed up the requested items along with hats, scarves and gloves, since the weather was really cold. I used my brother’s bicycle and I traveled to the neighboring town to deliver the package. We never heard from my brother again. I can only assume that he never received the package.

My oldest brother found a doctor who gave him some sort of medication which made him act as if he was psychologically unstable.When he went to be examined by the German doctors, they felt he was unfit for work, and they didn’t take him to work.

I had a fourth brother as well, who bribed the doctors not to send him to work. At first he was taken away, but 24 hours later he was sent home. At this point I had two big brothers home, and one younger brother who was about 12 years old.

My father was still home; they hadn’t arrested him yet. He was only 50 years old, but his beard was all white from the tzaros.

We still had everything we needed.We had a farm and we were able to live off of it.We had milk and cheese.We had hired a man who took care of the sheep.When this man was taken into the Hungarian army, his assistant took over.We knew that the assistant was a big anti-Semite.

My brother used to go pick up the mail from the wife of this assistant worker. One time there was a letter that seemed a little bit larger than the usual. My brother opened it up and there was a letter from the original employee who was in the army. He described what was being done to the Polish Jews and he said they were going to do the same to the Hungarian Jews. My brother never gave the letter over.

In 1943, my cousin’s wife, with whom we were very close (she lived near us and we were like sisters), went back to her parent’s house in Munkacs to have her baby. I accompanied her to the train to help her transfer trains with her two small children. We thought she had gotten onto the train, but in the meantime she was sent back, because they didn’t allow Jews into the town of Munkacs if they didn’t actually live there.

How did life change once the Nazis invaded?

In 1944, a law was passed that the Jews could not use the railroads. For Pesach that year my aunt sent her three small children to spend Yom Tov at our house. It was too dangerous to stay in the town where they lived. During Pesach we heard that the Germans were marching on the highway already, heading in our direction.

The Seder was something I will never forget.Everyone was scared, the adults were crying, we were absolutely petrified!

to be continued

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.