Andrew Martin

"The state of Israel should stand strong for its Jewish people and not depend on any other country’s promises.  The democracies of the United States and Israel should be blessed and live in peace and friendship forever.                                                       "

Name at birth
Ignac Mermelstein
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Carpathia, Czechoslovakia
Name of father, occupation
Benjamin, Worked at mineral water bottling plant
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Jolan, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and nine children: Esther, Joseph, Malka, Ignac (me), Helen, Basha, Mindel, Rose and Israel
Who survived the Holocaust?
Four children: Joseph, Malka, Helen and me
In the fall of 1938, Czechoslovakia was taken over by Germany, Poland, and Hungary.  In the Spring of 1939 the part of Czechoslovakia where I lived, the state of Carpathia and part of Slovakia, was taken over by the Hungarians.  The Hungarian army marched in by foot.  The Hungarian authorities had an immediate effect of the Jewish community.  Jewish stores were closed.  Jewish men were taken to labor camps and were badly abused.  Food was scarce.  My sister at age 16 was already a seamstress and farmers paid her with food.  
At 13½, I went to work at the water plant for two years.  Then I worked in the woods and had various jobs including chopping down trees, building roads, and planting trees.  In 1943, I left for Budapest to learn a trade.  After a few jobs, I started to work as a cabinet maker apprentice.  For the year, my apprentice wages with the Jewish Center assistance gave me a good existence in a beautiful Jewish environment.  In March 1944, we heard our families were taken to the ghetto in Mukacevo.  
In May, 1944, the Jews of Budapest were ordered to the ghetto.  I had to report to Vahc to a labor camp.  We were put on trains and ended up in Bor, Old Serbia.  In Bor, was the second largest copper mine in the world, 5000 Jews working there.  We were divided into different camps to dig a railroad.  One-third of the 5000 Jews working in the mine were marched toward Hungary and all of them were killed.  Three days later the second group was killed and three days later, the third group was killed.  Those of us remaining in Bor were sent to march toward Hungary with a Lieutenant Nagy and about fifteen soldiers with two horse wagons of arms and bullets.  Later that day an order came to return to Bor.  Lieutenant Nagy did not obey.  The second day on the march we were intercepted by Partisans.  Lieutenant Nagy gave an order to his soldiers not to shoot.  That’s how we were captured by Partisans.  
After spending a few weeks roaming the hillsides, I was discharged from the Partisans.  Because the war was still going on, we left to go toward the Romanian border, which was the Danube River.  In a small town by the border, we worked a few days clearing the rubble of bombed out houses for food and a little pay.  Sixteen of us got together and paid for a boat to take us across the Danube into Romania.  After about three days of walking, we arrived in Oravitse that had a small Jewish community.  After two days of receiving royal treatment, we sixty, “hungry vultures” were sent with a military escort on a night train to a larger city, Timisoara.  There for a short while, we were put up with Jewish families.  Then I went to Bucharest and volunteered for the Czech Army.  
In 1945 I was reunited with my brother and learned that my parents, a brother, a sister, and many other relatives were murdered in Auschwitz.  I rented a farm which allowed me to be discharged by the army.  
In the spring of 1946, my brother and two sisters left Czechoslovakia.  In August 1948, I married Margaret Klein.  We agreed to immigrate to Israel but in the spring of 1949 I couldn’t obtain a passport from Communist Czechoslovakia so we went across the border to Austria across the border.  In Steyr Displaced Person’s camp, I finished learning to be a carpenter at an ORT school and received an English carpenter’s license.  We came to the United States in 1951. 
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
Where did you go after being liberated?
Rescued by Partisans in 1944
When did you come to the United States?
Where did you settle?
Detroit, Michigan
How is it that you came to Michigan?
My wife Margaret had a brother and sister in Detroit
Occupation after the war
When and where were you married?
August 1948 in Czechoslovakia and 1977 in USA
Margaret Klein (deceased); Judith Robins
Three with Margaret and three with Judith
One grandson and two great-grandsons from my children with Margaret Two grandsons and three graddaughters from my children with Judith
What do you think helped you to survive?
G-d. I saw so many people smarter and stronger than me who were killed.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
The state of Israel should stand strong for its Jewish people and not depend on any other country’s promises.  The democracies of the United States and Israel should be blessed and live in peace and friendship forever.                                                       
Charles Silow
Interview date:

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