My father was drafted into the Hungarian army in 1940. In 1942, Jews were no longer allowed in the army labor camp so he was taken to the Russian front. He became a prisoner of war and was taken by the Russians to work beyond Stalingrad to the Asian front.
On March 19, 1944, the Germans occupied all of Hungary. A ghetto was established in Kisvarda after about three of four weeks. About 7000 Jews were taken from the surrounding areas to the Kisvarda Ghetto. Kisvarda was a bigger community of about 4000-6000 Jewish families.
My mother, sister and I were sent to the ghetto for a couple of months. On the second day of Shavuos, the Germans sent us to Auschwitz-Birkenau. My immediate family plus other extended family members, including my great-grandmother, who was 96 years old, were all sent to Auschwitz. My uncle was with me and we were put in cattle cars. We started out on a Monday evening, then Tuesday, and then on Wednesday morning, we arrived at Birkenau. We were squeezed into a cattle care, about 120-150 people. At Birkenau, Mengele was there directing the separations who to the left, who to the right.
At Birkenau, conditions were horrible. The Germans asked for tool and die makers, 500 of us were taken to France. We went to Tihl Villarupts, France, near Luxemburg, where we built the camp. After the Allied invasion began, beginning in September, we were taken back to Germany, to Kochendorf labor camp. That’s where hell really started. Conditions were terrible; if you made the wrong turn, they would physically get at you, beatings were common. I’ll never forget, behind the kitchen, there was about ten foot area where they were throwing out the potato peelings in the garbage. It was isolated by a fence. Two of us reached in to get some of the remnants, the guard shot at us. It’s by luck that I’m here, the man next to me was shot and killed right on the spot. I was able to squeeze myself away. It was only by chance that I survived.
We went through the winter at Kochendorf where we worked in a salt mine. There was an elevator that held eight people. It went down 180 meters deep. It was damp and cold, conditions were absolutely treacherous. One day I put some cardboard on my back for warmth, the guard didn’t like that. He gave me six lashes with a wire cord.
From Kochendorf, we went to Munich to the camp there, Dachau. This was toward the very end of the war. Some people were taken in cattle cars, some were walking. My uncle was with the walking group of us for six or seven days on the death march. A lot of people died on the way. I lost track of my uncle, he jumped out of the group as they were walking. I lost him. Somebody who we knew saw my uncle hiding there.
From that point on we went to Dachau. The Americans were advancing; we vacated Dachau and went by train to a small Austrian village, Mittenwald. It was cold and snowing. Every morning we saw people not moving, half of the people died right there. One day, I woke up, I didn’t see any guards, they had thrown away their uniforms and were wearing civilian clothes. For a couple of days, we went up to an attic and dug ourselves into the straw to keep warm. We looked through a pinhole and could see Germans still fighting house to house. After a couple of days, we heard people speaking a language, but it wasn’t German, it was English!
I didn’t know about what happened to my sister and mother. There was a list of people coming back from Russia; someone told me that my father was on the list. I went back to my village and that’s where I was reunited with my father.
In 1950, my uncle went to Israel. My father stayed behind in Hungary, he had remarried. People were trying to leave Hungary. He later moved to Australia where his wife had family. I moved to Canada because I had five uncles living there. I went to Montreal, Toronto and later to Windsor.