Holocaust Memorial Day 2015 – Quotes from Auschwitz Survivors in British Newspapers   Leave a comment

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From The Independent, 26 January:

Tadeusz Smerczysnski, now 91, remembers the day he heard strains of an aria from the opera Tosca coming from a camp barrack room. The SS just went in and shot him – just for singing. He was the star tenor in the Brussels opera. His entire family had been gassed that morning, he said.

Tadeusz’s other memories are no less distressing. He still sees ditches in the camp piled high with burning bodies, as he did during the 1944 Nazi attempt to exterminate all Hungarian Jews who had arrived en masse. The Crematorium couldn’t keep up, so they burnt bodies in the open. 

From The Daily Mirror, 27 January:

005Witnesses to the worst crime scene in human history are dying on us, which is even more reason to ensure the testimonies of men like 88-year-old David Wisnia are never forgotten. In late December 1941, the Nazis rounded up David’s family in the Warsaw ghetto and shot to death his father, mother and younger brother. With the help of friends the fourteen-year-old escaped to a Jewish ghetto in Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki, but in 1942 he was captured and transported with 1,500 Jews to Auschwitz. The SS selected David and 570 other young men to be labourers. The rest, almost a thousand women, children and elderly, were instantly executed. Of those 570 young men, only eight survived. At first his job was to build the Birkenau gas chambers and remove the corpses of his fellow inmates who had been shot or hanged. Because of his fine singing voice and fluent German, he was chosen as the camp’s entertainer, singing at concerts for the SS. His voice saved his life…

I003n January 1945, shortly before the Russians reached Auschwitz, he was evacuated on one of the infamous death marches, where tens of thousands died of hypothermia or starvation. He eventually made it to Dachau. Two months later he escaped while being transported to another camp. 

From The Guardian, 27 January:

006Irene Fogel Weiss was born in 1930 in Bótrágy, a small town in Czechoslovakia, with approximately a thousand farming families, including about ten Jewish families. When she was eight, Czechoslovakia broke apart and her area became part of Hungary. That was when our problems started because the Hungarians were allied with the Nazis. It was a difficult time for Jewish families, as suddenly the law no longer protected us and overnight we lost our civil rights. My father’s lumber business was confiscated and given to a non-Jew. Jewish children were thrown out of Hungarian schools, so right away we had no choice but to concentrate on trying not to bring attention to ourselves.

We couldn’t ride the trains and had to wear the yellow star. It was a free-for-all. With no law to protect us, it was common for Jews to get beaten up or thrown off the train… 

Hungary didn’t give up its Jewish population until it was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1944. The very first task the German government gave the Hungarians was to round up Jewish families and deport them to Auschwitz. There was a huge rush to take half a million Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz and it was completed in just six weeks, in 147 cattle trucks. So in the spring of 1944 my family – my parents and six children, the oldest of whom was seventeen,… found ourselves in the Munkács ghetto… from there being taken on cattle-carts to Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland…

The reality of where we were struck home fairly quickly. I was stationed near crematorium number 4, and we witnessed the columns of unsuspecting women and children entering the gate of the crematorium; they would have been dead within half an hour. When the Hungarian Jews arrived, they had the gas chambers going day and night.

Mordechai Ronen was born in Dej, Transylvania, in what is now Romania, with a population of about fifteen thousand in 1933, a quarter of whom were Jewish. He was the youngest of five, speaking Yiddish within the community and Hungarian and Romanian outside. His father was a merchant, a travelling salesman. 

I don’t remember any overt anti-Semitism, just my parents warning me to be inside before dark, “lest some Christian kids decide they don’t like the look of your sidelocks and pivk on you.” I just thought my parents were being over-protective. We had no daily paper, nor radio or phone, so the only news we got of the second world war was from newcomers to the town. 

The change started at the end of 1942-43, when people began expressing their anger toward us, especially our Hungarian neighbours. We’d hear, “Zsidók menjetek ki! Gyerünk haza!” (“Jews get out of here! Go home!”). I was in the synagogue singing when a rock shattered the stained-glass window. The rabbi tried to convince us it was just some drunk, but, even as a ten-year-old, I knew better… But by 1943 we started getting clearer signs. My father’s beard was shaved by some locals, who grabbed him. I stopped going to school. Then I wasn’t allowed out at all. One day the Hungarian gendarmes came to our house and ransacked it. 

In 1944, the Nazis ordered all Jews living outside Budapest to be rounded up and placed into ghettos… In the spring 1944 we were part of a contingent of 7,500 Jews who were coralled into a ghetto in the Bungur forest. We had to wear the stars of David… Two weeks into our ghetto life, we were sent to Auschwitz… I saw some soldiers toss a baby into the air and shoot it just for fun and from then on I had no doubt what awaited us here…

We were liberated by Americans and Canadians in Gunskirchen… Somehow I managed to meet up with my brothers, David and Shuli. We had no desire to return to Dej, to the people who had betrayed us.

002Susan Pollock (Zsuzsanna Blau) was born in Felsőgőd, Hungary, in 1930. She now lives in London: From the moment I arrived in Auschwitz with my mother and brother in May 1944, the terror of it invaded my whole being. My mother was taken away and I learned only later that she had been gassed… my father too. My whole world was turned upside down by the brutality of it.

We had not in any way understood what had been going on, only later recognising all the sources and streams which led to the Holocaust. In my small Hungarian village, information had been restricted… We were told by the authorities that we were being resettled, which is why I took my sewing machine with me! 

The process of losing hope was a very gradual one. We were transported in cattle trucks in which many babies and children suffocated, in what turned out was the last transport of Hungarians… I vaguely recall the death march to Bergen-Belsen. I was so weak by then. The conditions were appalling, and they put us in a barracks. I remember crawling out of it… Our British liberators were amazing – they were heroes for me in the real sense of the word.   

Posted January 29, 2015 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

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