Shaya Fried (Part III)

As told to Mrs. Chaya Feigy Grossman

What do you recall about the weeks leading up to Pesach of 1944, and then the Yom Tov of Pesach?

Although we didn’t see it in our town, we heard that the Germans had already invaded. We were trembling.

On Erev Pesach a whole group of Germans arrived from the front. One officer came to our house. He made himself appear very pleasant and requested of us that we give him one room in which to stay.

My parents acquiesced. He was very friendly to us, showing us pictures of his family. The same scene took place in many houses in town.

Every window in the house was covered over with dark paper, due to the planes that were flying overhead. Although we had everything we needed for Pesach, the Sedarim were downplayed and the mood was not as festive as usual.

Can you describe what took place on the morning after Yom Tov?

On Motzoei Yom Tov an announcement came from the “drummer” who was a local resident in town. He announced an order from the Germans. Everyone was to pack up a small amount of clothing and food; the gendarmes would be arriving in the morning to escort us to the ghetto.

We didn’t even have a chance to put away the Pesach dishes. When the gendarmes came, we were ordered to gather in the shul. About 250-300 people assembled together.

The Rabbi, whose house was attached to the shul, was brought into the shul first. The Hungarian officers were waiting for us when we arrived at the shul. They checked through our belongings to see if we had any valuables.

I recall one family that had cake that was baked after Pesach. Inside the cake the mother had hidden all her jewelry. As soon as she arrived at the shul, the officers cut open the cake, found the valuables and confiscated it.

The Judenrat was a group of Jews who were chosen from the town of Ungvar. Allegedly, they knew what was going to happen, but they didn’t tell anyone.

In the early afternoon we were piled onto trucks and our transport was taken to a brick factory in Ungvar. Living conditions in the brick factory were awful. The gendarmes guarded it heavily to make sure that no one escaped; however, there were still those who managed to get away.

There was one incident where a group of Germans came to take people to work. Most people were afraid of the Germans, but there were a few who went along with them. I was one of them. They turned out to be Austrians, and our group was taken to a nearby ammunition factory.

Our job was to load the ammunition onto trucks. We were treated very well. Occasionally, we were given a little extra food and they even allowed us to make small purchases in a nearby store.

The day before deportation, I was still working. Suddenly I realized that the truck that was taking us back to the brick factory was leaving. I ran after it and jumped on. I was so scared to be left behind. I didn’t dream of escaping because I had nowhere to go. For me that wasn’t a solution.

Did anyone try to escape at this time?

Not that I know of, and let me explain this. In the small cities, no one dreamed of running away or hiding. There was nowhere to hide.

There was a bunker where a few people were found hiding. I knew this family well, the boys had gone to yeshivah with me. They built a bunker and stocked it well with food and other necessities. One night they opened the bunker for some air and a neighbor spotted them and reported them. When the family members were brought in they looked awful. They had been horribly beaten.

Although my father was not so young, he was summoned to serve in the munktabor labor camp. He served there for a short few months before they sent him home.

In April of 1945, he was brought into the camp where I was, in Dunrow near Waldenburg. There were hundreds and hundreds of sick people there. This was the eastern part of the camp. Anyone who was considered healthy was evacuated to the west.

At this point the Germans didn’t care anymore. I myself was in very bad shape. That is when my father said to me, “I see my end is near. I don’t have any strength left. Promise me that you will do anything to stay alive, to perpetuate our family’s name.”

I promised him. A few days later he passed away. This camp was the only one that had a cemetery close by, and I buried him there.

In this camp no one went to work. However, a few people were needed to do some jobs. Anyone who volunteered received a double ration of food. I went out to work every day.

to be continued

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.