Marianne describes what happened to her and her family when the Germans invaded Hungary. She speaks about the ghettos set up in her town and her time in the local brickworks before being put into cattle wagons. She goes on to explain that she and her family were selected to work in Austria, though many others – the young, the old and the sick were sent on to Auschwitz. We hear about her experiences as a child slave labourer and the behaviour of the guards. She also tells the interviewer about the events just before liberation by the Russians
ML: And then I planned to go to the Jewish secondary school as well but meantime in 1943 the Germans came into Hungary and the political system changed completely and became national socialists. And they started to bring all sorts of unpleasant rules and regulations against the Jews and people lost their, Jewish people lost their jobs, professionals lost their jobs, they sacked them. Professors, teachers, universities…they were not allowed to go to teach and then most of the university teachers’ only chance to teach was in the Jewish secondary school. And it was lucky for the Jewish people because of that generation who left, who survived the Holocaust, have all became famous, famous professional people all over the world. But myself, it was a normal life, just a child, happy children…
But then 1944 and the regulation came that they rounded up the Jews in Hungary and then we had to, they rounded us up and put us into ghettos. They sectioned off part of the city were most, most Jewish people were living. And there was a small ghetto and a big ghetto; the small ghetto was in the smaller part of the city and the big ghetto was where the big Synagogue was.
And a few days, days not weeks, a few days after all the people from the provinces, from the villages, moved, Jewish people were moved into the ghettos, either the big ghetto or the small ghetto in the city. And after they rounded us up again from the ghettos and we had to march to the brickworks, which was outside the city, and that’s where all the Jews were staying for a few days until they put us into the cattle wagons.
And the railway was beside the, the brick factory so that was very convenient for them and they pushed us into the, into this cattle wagon and started to transport us to the extermination camp. And for about two weeks we were travelling. You couldn’t see out anywhere because, you know, the cattle wagons, you can’t really see… just a little, little hole. But as I was a child I couldn’t even reach up to the hole, to the air hole so…. While we were marching from the city to the brickwork people were, the Hungarians, people were standing at the, at the pavement just watching us as if it was a circus or something. And it was a hot, very hot May, April/May, a very hot day and we didn’t have any water or anything with us and I remember my father was asking one of the women who was standing at the pavement for some water and as she went and brought a bucket of water for us and before she managed to give it to my father her husband kicked her on her side and kicked the bucket out of her, with the water, out her hand.
So she couldn’t help us. Because that’s how the Hungarians were behaving because they were all, most of them, were fascists, you know…no, they weren’t very friendly with the Jews. And then they transported us to the extermination camp. But before the extermination camp we were selected in another town in Austria and they ordered…able-bodied people were selected to one group. The other, the other people: old people, sick people and young children, they were put back on to the cattle wagon and they went on and I suppose they were transported to Auschwitz.
And we were selected to go to work and we went to another group. And then they took us into work camp, they called them Lager, and they transported us to Vienna. And then again there was a selection and they put grown up people in, to send them to work in factories or different places and they made a children’s group as well to go to work.
And I was selected to go with the children’s group in Vienna, to go… and our job was to go out at night time, only night time when the people didn’t see us, we had to go out to sweep up the snow from the pavement or if there was an air raid the previous day we had to clear up the debris from the pavement. And…well that’s the, most of the vivid memories I have, and then I was in the…in the labour camp or slave labour/children’s group, and then we had to go to work.
INT: Marianne, can you tell me who was in the camp with you? What happened to your father and mother? And to the rest of your family?
ML: We were, we were all together, we were all selected to go out together. We went together, we never separated; the family was all together. At the camp where we were; it was… I think it was a disused school, maybe it was an old Jewish school, I don’t know because we were put in the classrooms but there was no furniture, nothing in it. Just straw on the ground, on the floor and they supplied us some grey blankets, two blankets. They put the blankets on the straw…and we were sleeping on that and all together, everybody: men, woman, children in a classroom on the floor. And then always at…we were rounded up during the night, after nightfall and went, marched out onto the street to work. And then we were working there all night and then daybreak we were marching back to the camp.
And then our leader, our leader of the group (it was my ex-German teacher), she could speak German to the guard, and she was asking the guard to be a bit more lenient for the children and then (she) he made her bring back a bucket of water and they made us to stand in a row and he picked up the bucket of water and poured it over her and then it was just…. the whole thing was to humiliate her because she was only asking to be lenient with the children. That was their system I suppose.
And then…Now what happened? You see the grown up people were sent to factories to work. I had four…three sisters, the four of us, and my older sister was old enough. And then we were sent to a, one of the German Officer’s, SS Officer’s, household to be a maid, as a maid.
And his wife was very kind and one day when we were bombed out and there was nowhere to go she asked us to go and stay with them. So we stayed with this, with this family, with the woman, the wife of this SS officer, for a few days and then one day they told us, she told us, it’d be better to go back to the camp because (his) her husband and her son is coming home on leave from the army so then she didn’t want us to be around the house. But she was very helpful, very kind. It was an Austrian lady and she didn’t want (his) didn’t want her husband to know that she was helping the Jews.
And there was an air raid I remember…
INT: Carry on, it’s fine.
ML: And then there was an air raid during the day – it was in Vienna, and it was 1944…’44/’45… beginning of ’45. And we were working together with political prisoners, grown people, and I think the…as I remember, they were Italian political prisoners and then the air raid…these people were shaking and they were very afraid but I didn’t have any fear; it was very interesting for me. I didn’t know what was going on.
I looked up at the sky, a beautiful blue sky, and lots of airplanes. It looked like hundreds and thousands of stars, silver stars, on the sky and then I was happy; I was looking up and saying ‘Have you seen this before?’ And then suddenly I had, I had a hard push. I felt a push on my back and I fell down then when I got up again I saw a big dust cloud behind me and I turned back and there was a house got a direct hit.
And that was the house where there was an air raid shelter and all the people from Vienna and even the guards as well, or they called it Kapo, who was guarding us, the German…they went in to the air raid shelter as well. And we were not allowed to go into the air raid shelter, neither were the political prisoners, these Italian grown men, and they were all shaking and very afraid. And then, since it was a direct hit, everybody (including all guards) was…was disappeared…nobody was there anymore.
And then we went back to the camp and we had, we’d been bombed out three times during/while we were in Vienna and the people were listening; they were lying down and were putting their ear on the ground and were listening to the resonance of the, the airplane, when it was an air raid.
And when… you would know when the American planes were coming or when the British, or the Russian or Soviet Army. When the Americans, they usually come during the day and the British heavy bombers came during the night and the Soviet airplane came day and night, all the time with the phosphorous bombs and when they bombed the houses – just went up on flames. And then one day all the guards disappeared and left the camp. They left the camp without any guards and that was very near the time of the liberation and we were liberated by the Red Army, by the Soviet Army in Vienna. And so….so that was my war experience during the Holocaust.