Mrs. Eva Oestreicher – Part 1

I was born in the small town of Balkany, in Hungary. My maternal grandfather was the Rav of the town. I have very beautiful memories of my childhood years.

Would you share with us some memories about your family? 

My mother was from a family of 10; she had nine brothers.  She was the queen of the family. We were nine siblings; I was the second child. I had one brother who was born after the war, when we were still in Europe, and two siblings who were born after we arrived in the United States.

My father was a Chassidic Rav. He was very learned. In 1938, my father was offered the position of Rav in Jelsava, a town in Czechoslovakia [now Slovakia]. It was a beautiful community and we were given a beautiful house there.  However, this did not last long.

My father knew what was happening in Germany. He had meetings with different Jewish agencies in town and told them what was happening. He warned them that we would be next, but no one wanted to believe him. We didn’t believe it either.

What happened once the war broke out?

When the war broke out in 1939, we were forced to flee Jelsava. We relocated to the town of Revuca. My father became the Rav of Revuca and all the surrounding towns. He would travel to these small towns for shechitah and milah.  I had two brothers and one sister who were born in Revuca. We remained there until 1944.

The Nuremberg Rules were enacted. According to these laws, Jews could no longer have bank accounts, jobs, employ outside help or talk to gentile neighbors. All Jewish businesses were closed down. Jews were ordered to wear a yellow star on their clothing; yellow stars were mandatory even on baby carriages.

Curfews were enforced.  Jews were not allowed to leave their houses after 7:00 in the evening and before 10:00 in the morning, making it extremely difficult to shop, even for food.  By the time we were allowed out of our homes, there was nothing left in the stores to buy.

My father realized that the situation was not good; we lived in constant fear. We each had a small backpack prepared that held some clothing. Each week, my mother would bake fresh bread and put it into our backpacks in case we had to leave on short notice.

Did you attend school?

My sister and I both attended school. We were the only Jewish children. In addition, my father hired tutors to teach us Yiddish.

When the Nuremberg laws were enforced, the teacher of my class announced in front of the whole class that I should not come back to school the following day. My sister Edita’s teacher at least said to her class, “Today is a sad day because Edita cannot come back to school.” My sister was extremely smart and they were going to miss her.

I had a younger brother, Yehuda, who was also a brilliant boy. Since we were no longer allowed to attend school in our town, my parents decided to send him to yeshivah in Hungary, where my maternal grandparents lived, for there, the yeshivos were still open.

My mother obtained a passport allowing her to take him there. When other families in Revuca heard about this, they asked her to take their sons, too, and she went across the border to Hungary several times, bringing children to yeshivah. After the war, in Eretz Yisrael, my mother met one of the boys she had saved. His name was Benedikt. It was a very emotional meeting.

After Pesach 1943, my mother decided to return to Hungary to bring Yehuda back home. When she arrived at the border, they would not allow her to pass. She started to cry, begging them to allow her through to pick up her child.  The border patrol guard
asked her, “How many children do you have at home?”

“Five.”

“Go back to your children,” he said.

The next thing we heard was that my uncle, my grandparents and my brother had all been taken to the concentration camps. Yehuda did not survive. Someone told my mother after the war that he had seen Mengele send my brother to the left, to death.

To be continued.


These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.