Marianne describes the arrival of the Red Army and the flight of the German guards. She explains that her father then decided to bring the family home to Hungary. They returned, dirty and covered in fleas to find their house looted and empty. They began to rebuild their lives.
INT: Tell me about the liberation by the Red Army, what happened after the Red Army arrived?
ML: Now you see what happened, when…just before the liberation, a few days before the liberation, we were transported back by lorries to Strasshoff, which is outside Vienna; it’s another small town, and there was a concentration camp as well and we were transported back there. And that was, it was outside on the…one side of the camp was a cornfield, the other side of the camp was a pine forest and we could look out to the pines. We looked out one morning when it was the day of the liberation; we looked out and there were no guards at the gate and then we looked out to the pine forest and we saw the Germans were bending down and running, running away in the pine forest. And we looked out onto the other side of the camp, it was a cornfield, and I saw the Soviet Army came with their…how do you call it?
ML: With the rifles, marching, the Infantry, they [the Soviet Army] were marching through and they get to the camp and they started to cut up the wires, open the wires, and they came through the camp. And the people were very happy and they went and they cuddled them and kissed them; they kissed their feet and everything. And they didn’t know what was happening to them because they never saw this, this army, the Soviet Army, they didn’t know what was going on with these people; what are they doing with them, and they were afraid and they pushed us off.
And then they went away, they went through the camp and they went to the… through the camp and to the other side to the pine forest where the German Army was but by this time the German Army was away and then they[the Soviet Army] said well we’re free, we can go wherever we want now. And of course we were starving because there were days and days where we didn’t have anything to eat and then we went out and, as children, we ran out to the pine forest and we picked up this open tin of sardines which was the, the German Army didn’t have time to finish their breakfast or something and there was still fish in the tins and that’s what we were eating, it was marvellous.
But the day [in more probability, it was the day after] before there was a big air raid and then we were asked to go into the railway station and put into the, to the station, into the wagons and there was three lines of ammunition from the German Army and they put us to the middle of the…in the cattle wagons, they put us in to there, and then all night there was a bombardment. It was just days before the actual liberation and there was a bombardment and then the two lines of train with ammunition was all bombed and but all the middle wasn’t so we just felt the detonation had just, just moved. And then, then the air raid finished, the, well the grown up people, they forced the door open and we went out and there were barrels of herring and potatoes and everything just burned on the, in the bomb, during the…?
ML: Explosion yes. Then of course we were starving and we started to eat these phosphorous tasting baked potatoes and barrel of… you know, the…
ML: Herrings. And I remember my father brought up a blanket and put a lot of herrings in it and put it on his back and said ‘That will be some food for us for the way back home.’ We started to go back home, of course the salt herring was all stuck on his back, the hard salt. And then after…we started, we started to move back to the nearest place, the nearest station to get a train back to Hungary because my father just wanted to go back to Hungary.
And then on the station there was a lot of soldiers and a lot of people were sitting there and of course we didn’t have any chance for hygiene or anything. We still had the same clothes on what we took us from home a year before; we never had a chance to change it or wash it or anything and everybody was covered in fleas. It’s not ordinary flea like what you have in your hair but it’s flea what you have in the clothes. It’s a different type of flea. I just, I noticed soldiers were taking off their jacket and taking off their hat and they were killing them with a tool, nails, picking, picking off the flies and … not flies and killing it.
INT: Killing the fleas.
ML: Killing the fleas. And then there was not much, not much train but eventually we managed to get the train and then we went back on to Hungary and then back to our house. And then there was of course…it was all looted, there was nothing in it. There was only a big sideboard that was too heavy for them to take out the house; otherwise it was absolutely empty. So my parents started to, started life again from nothing…to build up their life.