Mrs. Judith Mandel (Part I)

Can you tell me where you were born?

My name is Judith Mandel, née Schick. I was born in Mishkoltz, Hungary, in 1928. However, I have no recollection of Mishkoltz because when I was two years old my family moved to Budapest for parnassah reasons.

What memories can you share with us about your family?

My father owned a textile store and my mother was a housewife. After a short while my father realized that a yeshivah bachur does not know too much about business and he took a job as a mashgiach in the kitchen of a Jewish hospital. In addition, he made sure that there was always a minyan in the shul at the hospital. I grew up in a house that was steeped in klei kodesh sensibilities that are somewhat different than those of a businessman.

I have one sister a year older than me with whom I was always very close. She is presently living in Eretz Yisrael. We were very close with my cousins because we spent many summers together. My maternal grandfather was niftar before my mother got married. My maternal grandmother lived in the countryside in Serench and very often we spent the Yamim Tovim with her.

My paternal grandparents lived in Onod near Mishkoltz. I do not have a clear picture in my mind of them for they were not young and quite ill at the time.

What kind of education did you receive?

We went to school in Budapest. Budapest had different kehillos — the Orthodox kehillah and the chassidishe kehillah. My father would probably have preferred the chassidishe school; however, being that he was employed by the Orthodox kehillah, we attended that school. The schools in pre-War Europe had four elementary classes and then eight high school classes, which included the gymnasium. Before the war we attended the four elementary classes. My father was very insistent that we learn the German language. There was a Bais Yaakov seminary in Vienna where my father would have liked us to go after completing four years of high school; however, that wish never came to fruition. Yet, my father did not give up. He wanted us to become professional in some area. He told me to take a course in accounting.

Did you know what was happening in other parts of Europe at the time?

Yes, of course, people spoke about it. In addition, we had relatives living in Eretz Yisrael who wanted us to escape way before Hitler invaded Hungary. Although my father tried different tactics, he was not successful because we did not have the correct connections and influence, nor did we have money. There were some people who managed to escape from Auschwitz. They brought back news of the atrocities that were taking place. My parents were very frightened. I had one uncle living in Serench. He was a Rav who, with his long beard, portrayed the image of a religious Jew. When he walked the streets the gentile boys would stone him. After suffering a heart attack, he came to our house, insisting that he must leave town. In 1940 he managed to escape to America. He left behind two married daughters and their children, who perished, and two military-age sons, who survived.

My father shared the information that he had heard about Auschwitz with someone in our building. The man warned him not to spread this tale for he was frightening the rest of the people. He threatened to report him to the authorities.

I had already completed the four years of middle school. My father understood that I was never going to become a professional, so he suggested that I take a course in shorthand, typing and bookkeeping. When Hitler closed the schools I went to take a course for another year and a half.

To be continued…