One Friday morning there was a knock on the door. Two Russian soldiers were looking for my brother; they had orders to take him into the Russian army. Hashem put the words into my mouth and I said to them, “He already left to America.” They marked this information down and left. I ran to my brother’s business to inform him of what had just happened. My brother sold whatever he could and on Motzoei Shabbos right after Havdalah we said goodbye to my cousin and we were on our way. We headed to the highway and hid overnight. In the morning we took the bus toward the nearest town, headed to an unknown future, knowing that we would never return to Beclean again.
Did you end up making it to Germany?
We arrived in Retteg, where my uncle Mendy — my mother’s brother — had settled with his wife and daughter after the war. Here we found out that Mendy was not well and was in a hospital in Deizh. Shortly thereafter Mendy passed away.
From Deizh we traveled to Klausenburg. We checked into a hotel and then went out to obtain travel papers. One day when we returned to our room we found it locked. Upon inquiring further we were told that a man had come and taken our suitcases. We were given his address. We later discovered that this gentleman was the same lawyer I had accompanied to City Hall on Erev Pesach in Beclean. He had a beautiful home and insisted that we stay with him and his daughter as a way to repay my parents for everything they had done for the 200 Jewish boys who had been forced to work for the Nazis. We were treated royally. Once we had our papers, we thanked them for their hospitality and were on our way again, as our ultimate goal was to reach Palestine.
We had an uncle, Yitzchok Nussenzweig, who lived in a city on the Romanian-Hungarian border. We were welcomed to stay there as long as necessary. We found Russians who agreed to smuggle us across the border. Some of my brother’s friends joined the group and we made arrangements with the Russians to be taken across the border for $10 a person. We paid the Russians on Wednesday night and we were ready to depart on Thursday, when we were informed that the Russians had used the money to get drunk and were now unable to drive the truck.
Friday night during the seudah, the organizer of the trip arrived to inform us that the Russians were sober and were now ready to make the trip. Anyone who forfeited the trip would lose the money. My uncle advised us to grab our packed bags and leave. It was nighttime and we crawled on our hands and knees to stay out of sight. When we arrived at the truck we got on and had blankets thrown over us to make us inconspicuous. Arriving at the border, the Russians were asked what was in the truck. They replied that we had illegally entered Romania and they were taking us back to the border to dump us in Hungary.
The trip lasted a few hours. It was morning and we were then let out of the truck in the middle of nowhere. A few boys walked to the city and rented a van. We arrived in the city of Debrecen. We were given an address of a hotel and a secret password. We were six men and me. I was given a curtain to hang in the room for privacy. In the morning we headed out to Budapest.
Once in Budapest we headed to the home of a woman who had been arrested by the Nazis and taken to Auschwitz, where we met each other. We walked in to the delicious aroma of Shabbos cholent. After Shabbos we headed to the JOINT, where we waited for the bus to Germany and to the DP camps. The next bus was scheduled to depart on Shabbos, but this time we would not travel on Shabbos, and we waited for the Sunday bus which would take us to Austria, Strasbourg, and then to Germany.
To be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.