Please tell me where you were born.
I was born in Budapest in June of 1936. Budapest held a tremendous Jewish community.
What memories can you share with us about your family?
I was the youngest of three children. I had one older brother and one older sister. My brother was taken away at the young age of 15. He was riding with friends in what was known as a streetcar and he wore a yellow star as all Jews did. Suddenly they spotted German soldiers. The others were quick enough to run away. My brother was caught. My mother was heartbroken, but she always believed that someday he would return — but he never did. My mother’s sister lived in town with us, too.
My parents were very well-off. My father manufactured men’s clothing. He had a store on the main street and we lived in an apartment upstairs. My father did a lot of business with the non-Jews, and he got along quite well with them.
What kind of education did you receive?
I attended a public school when I was young. There were separate classes for boys and girls. When I was a bit older, around the fourth or fifth grade, I attended a Jewish school in a different section of the city. I was a very good student and even received an award.
Did you know what was happening in other parts of Europe at the time?
We didn’t feel much anti-Semitsm prior to the onset of the war in our town. We didn’t know too much, either. My father would secretly listen to the radio, so we heard bits and pieces of news but not enough to make us panic. However, my father must have been privy to more information because he paid a lot of money to get Swedish identification papers for the whole family in case we would need them. He wanted to be prepared.
Please describe the scene that took place when the Germans invaded your town.
The Germans invaded on March 19, 1944. I was eight years old at the time. We watched from our third-floor apartment as the Germans hauled out the merchandise from my father’s store and loaded it onto trucks.
Then the announcement came: everyone was to assemble in the main courtyard. Immediately the men were separated from the woman and children. My father was instantly taken from us to a labor camp.
We were commanded to put our hands up high and begin marching. We marched for a long time to an open field, where we remained all day doing nothing. In the evening we marched back to find our apartments ransacked and empty.
In the meantime, we were transferred to “safe houses.” I was too young to really know what was happening; I spent the time playing with the other children there. We slept on the floors. The living conditions there were terrible. We were over 100 people squashed into one room. Food was scarce. The Arrow Cross constantly threatened to bomb the safe houses. We remained under these conditions until January of 1945.
Can you tell us about liberation?
It was January 1945 when we heard that the Russians were coming. Budapest had two parts, Buda and Pest. We were living in Pest, but we heard that in Buda they were still fighting. In February we were liberated. We returned home to find that all our valuables had been stolen. Gentiles had moved into our apartment, but we were able to get them out.
In June of 1945 my father returned. He had suffered in Auschwitz and many other camps. He told us many horror stories about what he had endured. After liberation, my mother received a letter from the Red Cross informing her that my brother had perished. My mother’s hopes were shattered.
My parents remained in Budapest for the rest of their lives. I was engaged to my husband and in 1963 came to the United States, where we were married.
What message would you impart to future generations?
Never forget the horrible atrocities that were done to the Jewish people.
To be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.