When the Germans came in, they took my mom to a holding area, a factory, for the people they were taking away. My father was on the Russian side, a cook for the Russian army. After they took my mother away, I was with my grandmother, my brother, and two of her other grandchildren.
First we had to move to an area where Jewish people lived. We had to wear a Jewish star. A month or so later, we were then moved to the main ghetto in Budapest. It was horrible there seeing dead, bloody bodies in the street. It was the most horrible sight I ever saw when we moved into the ghetto. The Germans were shooting Jews. I saw people begging the Germans for their lives. They had no mercy, absolutely none. Some of the Hungarians were worse than the Germans. They were hitting, kicking, doing whatever harm they could do. I was 6 or 7 years old.
Conditions in the ghetto were horrible; there was one small bed for four or five of us. My grandmother was amazing in how she tried to help us through these horrible conditions. Without her we would have never survived. She tried to get some food wherever it was available. She nurtured us; we were all so very young. She tried to find food, blankets; she tried to keep us alive. She hugged us and encouraged us to be patient saying that things will change, that it was important for us to survive. Food was precious, I can’t waste food.
Few months later, the Russians came in. We were liberated and came back to our homes. Our grandmother was with us. My mother came back first. She was in Bergen-Belsen with her two sisters and her sister-in-law. All three of them died right next to her, my mother was the only one who did not touch the water. Then her brother came back, her youngest brother vanished, we still don’t know what happened.
It was a wonderful feeling to see my mother, but we could hardly recognize her how she looked, being in Bergen-Belsen, she never recovered from it. She was with us for almost sixty years, we never talked about it, we could never take her to any movies about the Holocaust, it left such a mark, seeing her two sisters, and sister-in-law, and all the rest of the people dying.
My Father and my uncle came back a few weeks later. After six to eight months, after everybody was back home, my grandmother died of a heart attack. It was the first dead body I saw up close, I slept with her all night long. I was 7 years old. I still refuse to go to a funeral home today; don’t want to see a dead body lying. My grandmother’s name was Etel Gutman.
I still take care of cemeteries in Hungary. I decided to put up new stones for my grandparents graves in Budapest.
After the war we started a new life. My father worked for a catering company and we went back to school. In 1952, the Russian government made a ruling that some of richer people, anyone who was successful, were to be taken out of the city. Again we had to leave everything behind. We were taken to a small village for the next two and a half years. We had to do hard physical labor to survive, so twice we had to go through this tzuris (Yiddish for troubles).
We went back to Budapest in 1954 or 1955. In 1956, the Hungarian Revolution erupted. That’s when I decided that this was the time for us to get out. I said to my brother, we will never have a life here. It was easier to get out to Austria; the Red Cross helped us to get to Sopron, a medium city, a border town. We hired someone to sneak through the area. We sent the same man to help our parents get over but there were complications but eventually they made it across and we were reunited six months later.
I went to night school and to work. I worked for a short time for a costume jewelry company; Tommy went to work with my father. My father became a butcher again.