Testimonies

Here is a selection of testimonies submitted to us via e-mail or Facebook, and originally published on our Hungarian-language website. These testimonies were selected and, unless stated otherwise, translated into English by Gwen Jones. To submit a story, please write to bertalan@ceu.edu.

2014. March 27., Thursday

VII. Akácfa Street 59. - Dr. Márta Bárdos

The house was designated as a yellow-star house on June 21, 1944. Since the twenties, Henrik Vajda and his wife, Andor Bárdos and his wife Jolán Vajda and their son Zoltán born on January 13, 1924, lived at Akácfa Street 59, first floor, apartment no. 2. Among the old residents, Henrik Vajda, Bárdos Andor and his wife Jolán remained in the apartment. Mrs. Vajda died years later.

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Zoltán was on forced labor service, in division 101/99. His division was stationed at the Scottish school on Vörösmarty Street. They went to work in the Hős Street military base. Later, after a long series of hardships, he was liberated at Mauthausen-Günskirchen, and returned home to the apartment. Andor Bárdos was taken away during the Arrow Cross reign, together with the other residents, to the highway to Vienna. He was shot in December at the “Ilona farmstead” near Hidegség [at the border with Austria]. I learned this from Géza Kertész, born 1928, a ground-floor resident who had been taken away with them.

During the summer forcible relocation [into yellow-star houses], the family’s distant relatives moved into this apartment.

Aunt Ida (Mrs. Baumöhl), and Aunt Emma Erdély, who had been a teacher in the orphanage.

Aunt Nelli Erdély and her daughter Olga, József Mattát and his wife Elza, also ended up in the apartment. From August until the end of October, Éva Bárdos and I (Márta Bárdos) went over to see them for lunch, from Eötvös Street 2.

On January 4, 1945, after an Arrow Cross attack, I ended up at the Swedish protected house at Pozsonyi Street 12 in a first-floor apartment, where there were already 36 people crammed in together. I registered with the house supervisor, Dr. Emil Hermann, who added me to the list of residents. The daily ration of bread was 50 grams per person.

During the siege, bombings and shootings, the residents spent most of their time in the coal cellar. In the middle room, Uncle Vajda and Aunt Jolán slept on a set of twin beds. Laid across the end of the beds was a divan where Aunt Ida slept, and which she shared with me after I moved in. Until the very last day, I refused to go down into the cellar.

On January 17, Red Army soldiers broke through the back wall of the refuge at Nagyatádi Szabó (today Kertész) Street and immediately pulled out the telegraph lines. A Soviet soldier shot through the window at the German air-defense guns erected in the empty plot opposite, and they shot back. The solider died and was laid out on my divan. On that evening, I went down to the cellar.

There was no electric lighting, and there was an oil lamp burning in the middle of the front room so we could find the way to the WC. We used some of the existing oil to burn in the lamp, and the rest to roast potatoes in a skillet.

Bearing in mind that Aunt Jolán and family had been living in the apartment before, there were some food reserves in the pantry which, because of the lack of supplies, ran out very quickly.

On the last day, Uncle Vajda opened a tin of liver conserve, cut it into four, and that’s what we ate: him, Aunt Jolán, Aunt Ida and I, with a slice of bread.

The next day, Soviet soldiers brought potato pasta (“grenadír mars”) in buckets, which we gladly ate with our hands. They asked for girls to come forward and peel potatoes.

I would have volunteered, thinking that they had to fight and had better things to do than peeling potatoes. But Aunt Jolán didn’t let me go. She knew from experience that they wanted the girls not only to help out in the kitchen.

After the liberation, most of the family moved back into their own apartments, but József Mallát and his wife Elza stayed and rented the far room next to the street.

In the middle of summer 1945, Uncle Vajda died. Uncle Bandi (Andor Bárdos) was unable to survive the experience of the highway to Vienna, and so it was just Aunt Jolán who greeted their son Zoltán returning from Mauthausen. On May 1, 1946, Zoltán married Lívia (Lili) Grósz in the Heroes’ Church. On February 24, 1950, their daughter Judit was born. After a long illness, Lili died and Zoltán remarried. Aunt Jolán and Judit lived in this apartment until the summer of 1981.

On January 18, 1945, the plank boards surrounding the ghetto were knocked down, and Uncle Misa, who lived at Akácfa Street 20, came to get me and together we went through the demolished gate on Wesselényi Street back to our Eötvös Street 2 apartment. Aunt Annus (Mrs. Weiner) also joined us.

With Uncle Misa, I went back to Pozsonyi Road 12. There had been much shooting on Lipót (today Szent István) Boulevard, and the “battle of the Víg Theater,” which Béla Illés wrote about in one of his novellas.

The Pozsonyi Road apartment had been completely looted, we found nothing from the stuff we’d left behind. However, in the middle of the courtyard, there was a huge pile of dried peas. We stuffed them into an empty briefcase, and lived off these for days. There was a large stove in the kitchen of the Eötvös Street apartment, and lots of residents came to use it to cook. For fire wood, two of my uncles (Misa and Emil) used the beams of a house that had collapsed to light the fire. The only water was from a tap in the courtyard, and people queued up here for water.

The Soviet soldiers learned that Uncle Misa was a tailor. He used Aunt Annus Singer’s sewing machine to mend many uniforms, and in exchange they gave us the square soldiers’ bread.

They also bought a large piece of black leather to make gloves from. But the leather was too thick for the sewing machine. Later, the leather was used for my first pair of shoes, the sole of which was made out of car tire scraps, by Ignác Dániel, the shoemaker from Dombóvár.

A few days later, Uncle Emil walked into the Kőbánya Maternity Home, and I went with him too. We walked out there in heavy snow. On Teleki Square, we found ourselves under fire from a low-flying airplane, but luckily, the bullets missed us.

There were two rooms in the cellar of the Kőbánya Maternity Home. One was the ward where women gave birth. One woman had been brought here by relatives in a wheelbarrow. In the other room were rows of berths for the doctors, babies, and nurses, and a stand used for bread in bakeries. This is where the little babies in swaddling lay in rows, like loaves of bread. There was no space for me, and I so lay across the highest shelf.

Once, a Soviet soldier came with a beautiful horse who had a shrapnel injury.

“Vrach, vrach!,” he shouted. For want of a doctor, they called my Uncle Emil, who was a gynecologist.

Seeing the horse’s serious injury, he said “Kaput,” whereupon the soldier shot the horse in the head. The house supervisor immediately cut up the fresh meat. Finally, the midwives and workers had something substantial to eat. They prepared it with a tomato sauce.

My Uncle Emil received a nice piece of boned and trimmed meat, which he had sent with someone going into town to Misa and family at Eötvös Street 2 so that they too had something to eat.

One or two weeks later, we arrived home. Misa asked Emil:

“Where did you get that piece of beautiful beef?”

Laughing, Emil confessed:

“It wasn’t beef, but horse meat.”

And Misa started retching because he’d been forced to eat that “wasn’t kosher.”

Ever since I was a little girl, I’d had long hair almost down to my waist. During the many hardships, I managed to keep it clean. However, in the Maternity Home (a hospital!), I caught lice. Then I went back home to the Eötvös Street apartment. A nurse who lived nearby came to see me regularly. She rubbed my head with petrol, and used a fine comb to get rid of the lice. It worked.

My long ponytail was cut off in the summer of 1947, after my high school matriculation exam. I still have the hair wrapped in newspaper! They told me: “university students shouldn’t have ponytails.”

Later, I grew my hair long and wore it in a bun.

After we moved back in, the glass in every window had been smashed, and we stuck waxed wrapping paper up in the frames.

The surgery was lined with dark green linoleum. It was thick and filthy, and it fell to me to clean it. It wore me out, I wasn’t used to this work.

On March 15, 1945, I walked with Uncle Emil to Veres Pálné Girls’ Grammar School. The headmistress, Ilona Haitsch, allowed me to continue my studies. I finished Class VI that academic year. They issued me with a copy of a certificate that I’d completed Classes I-V.

Epilogue

In 1945, we started to live again, adapting to the changed circumstances.

We didn’t know anything about those who had been snatched away. Dr. Emil Komlós returned to his apartment at Eötvös Street 2, and continued to work as a gynecologist. Miksa Komlós returned to Dombóvár. He found nobody from his large extended family.

As I remained without parents, Uncle Emil took me into his care. I continued my high school studies at the Veres Pálné Girls’ Grammar School and graduated from Class VI in 1947.

For a while, Aunt Annus Weiner took care of our household. At weekends, she brought her grandson, Tibi Lichtmann, from the orphanage to be with us. Tibi’s father had been killed during forced labor on the Eastern Front, his mother in Dachau.

In 1950, the apartment was split into two. The room facing the courtyard was turned into a small kitchen, bathroom and entrance hall, with an entrance into the far room on the street side. In January 1951, I married my classmate, Elek Fehér. In 1955, we attached the room from Aunt Weisz’s apartment next door. And so the Eötvös Street 2x3-room apartment became a 3x2 room apartment, looking onto the street.

We lived here until March 1960. Our son András was born on October 13, 1954.

In March 1960, we exchanged apartments and moved one block down. I still live now at Teréz (formerly Lenin) Boulevard 12. I am now a widow, and live with my youngest son Zoltán, born January 9, 1963.

VII. Akácfa Street 59. - Judit Bárdos

I would like to supplement what my aunt, Mrs. Márta Bárdos Fehér wrote. I was born in 1950 and did not experience life in the yellow-star house. I’d only like to add to what others have written or will write, with what I heard from my grandmother. 

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My grandmother, Mrs. Andor Bárdos, was born Jolán Vajda (1901-1983) in what would become a yellow-star house, at Akácfa Street 59, first floor, no. 2. She lived there before the war, during fall 1944, and up until the Liberation. The house was part of the ghetto. During this period, there were 36 people living in that one apartment. Cousins and relatives (such as Aunt Emma who will be mentioned latter) moved in together, as well as others. For the last two weeks, January 4-17, a cousin of my father Zoltán Bárdos was also there, and who was 15 at the time: Márta Bárdos (later Mrs. Elek Fehér). She described in detail how they lived, how they settled in, and what they ate in those last weeks. She also drew a floor-plan of the apartment (which I am also sending to OSA Archivum).

But how could my grandmother, “Aunt Jolán,” who was then 40, live there until the end of the ghetto? How did she survive the Holocaust?

I’d like to tell this story personally in honor of preserving her memory. Naturally, in the fall of 1944, after her husband Andor Bárdos and father, Henrik Vajda were taken away by the Arrow Cross (she never saw her husband again, or, as people would say, “he never came back”), she too was taken to the brick factory in Óbuda. They spent one night there. The next day, a man with an Arrow Cross armband started shouting a (false) command for all the people from Akácfa Street 59 to come with him, and then he took them back to Akácfa Street. On the way, they looked at one another and then recognized a boy from their house disguised as an Arrow Cross man: “this is the Blumenfeld boy.” In order to save his own parents, the boy took all the female residents of the house back with him: the men were on forced labor service. My father, Zoltán Bárdos, had earlier been on forced labor service at the Scottish school on Vörösmarty Street, and then ended up in the Günskirchen and Mauthausen camps in Austria, from where he returned home in 1945. This story is also described by another survivor, Erzsébet Sós (later Mrs. Sándor Bihari), whose memoirs have also been submitted to OSA Archivum.

She recounts: “In Kertész Street they stood us up against the wall again, and we stood there for a long time before the line set off, and they escorted us to the Vörösvári Road brick factory… The next morning, Laci Budai arrived in gendarmerie uniform, and gave a public order for us to be taken away from there. And then they let the girls of the house be taken away by him. He escorted us as far as the first streetcar stop, and that’s how we got home. As we learned later, the rest of them were taken to Auschwitz.”

I’ll cite another account of this same story. The writer, critic and journalist Ármin Bálint kept a diary after his son was taken in 1942 on forced labor service with the 2nd Hungarian Army to the Don River. He wanted to record his political and family memories precisely, for his son. (By this time, György was no longer alive. He had died in January 1943. Bálint died in 1945.) The surviving parts of his diary, the 3rd and 4th notebooks, are preserved in the Petőfi Literary Museum.

“November 1, 1944. Today I was with Aunt Emma from whom there were no signs of life for three weeks. Resulting from an individual action, she had endured terrible things. On the morning of October 16, a large crowd invaded the house. All the residents were driven down into the courtyard and all valuables and money were taken from them. On the way down, Vajda and Bandi B. were badly beaten. The men were force-marched to the Tattersaal racing track, the women to Óbuda. The men had to march with their hands in the air for the three-hour journey. They spent 24 hours outside, starving and thirsty, and then repeated the journey back home on the evening of October 17. They found the entire apartment ravaged. All Bandi’s clothes and underwear were missing, and so when he had to sign up on October 20, all he had was a thin overcoat.”

“Aunt Emma” was Emma Erdély, a teacher at the Jewish orphanage, and Ármin Bálint’s cousin, who was living in the ghetto as a relative in my grandmother’s apartment. Henrik Vajda (who died in the summer of 1945) was my grandmother’s father, and “Bandi B.,” Andor Bárdos, was my grandfather. Bálint Ármin was unaware of Blumenfeld’s rescue action (did he later go by the name of Budai?). But he gave a faithful picture of what happened in the yellow-star house during an Arrow Cross raid, and the state of the house that people found when they returned.

It would be good to know what happened later to the “Blumenfeld boy” and his parents. We never heard anything of them. Perhaps over the course of this “yellow-star house” action we will learn something of them.

VII. Damjanich Street 54 - Peter Haas

On June 24, 1944, we had to move into the yellow-star house at Damjanich Street 54. We lived on the third floor in apartment no. 3, with my maternal grandparents (Gyula Dembitz), my great-grandmother (who was 92 years old at the time), my aunt and the three of us, my mother, older sister and me, aged four. My uncle, his wife and their two daughters probably moved in here too, although sadly there's nobody left who could confirm this. On September 16 a bomb fell on the house, and there were corpses in the basement next to us. Our family managed to escape in one piece via the neighboring house's basement. Next day, we went back to collect anything that could be saved in the apartment and from the wreckage. I can still remember that elderly women in headscarves were sitting around the front gate in the sunshine.

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The next apartment was on Juhász Andor Street 28, fourth floor, apartment no. 4., and naturally this was also a yellow-star house. The street was called Falk Miksa Street until 1943, and is again today.

After this we lived in many apartments, something like 8-10 houses in two months, but I don't know where or when. When the Margit Bridge was blown up on November 4, we were living with Swiss protection letters on Sziget (today Radnóti Miklós) Street. We had come here without our grandparents, since when my mother and her sister had to report to the Óbuda brick factory, I had to cross Szent István Boulevard with my sister (who was seven) to move in with them on Dalszínház Street. Luckily, my mother and aunt managed to escape from the brick factory with the help of a decent policeman, and a few days later, they returned to us.

Of course we too were liberated from the ghetto, and after a long period of starvation, the poppy-seed pastry brought by the Soviet soldiers was very memorable.

One more thing on the Hungarian justice system at the time. My father had disappeared as a forced laborer at the Don bend in January 1943. On May 2, 1944, the mayor of Budapest informed my mother in a letter that "the apartment at Csengery Street 64, fourth floor, no. 7 was more than sufficient for Mrs. Sándor Haas, who qualifies as a Jew," and so she had to move in there with her two children, and hand over her apartment on Hunyadi János Road to the tenants, because "it is more suitable for them." My mother refused the apartment allocated to her, as her parents' apartment was large enough for all of us to fit in.

2014. March 25., Tuesday

VII. Barcsay Street 11 - András Szász

In June 1944, per the decree, we entered the yellow-star house at Barcsay Street 11. I was 8 years old at the time. We had been living in Buda on Kanizsai Street, and there were no yellow-star houses in our area. My aunt and uncle lived at Barcsay Street 11, and they told us we could move in with them. My uncle, Jenő Galambos, was one of the directors of the Congregation on Sip Street, and head of the Israelite Children’s Holiday Camp Association. They had a three-bedroom apartment. The Kramer family moved into one of the rooms, the Galambos family were in the second, and we were in the third with my mother, since my father was on forced labor service. Over 100 Jewish people lived in the three-story house during these difficult times.

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The house supervisor, “brother” Sándor Szalai, watched over us. In the beginning, for a few weeks, we were allowed out for a short time to the greengrocer’s on the corner of Wesselényi Street and Rózsa Street to buy meager rations of groceries. The grocer wrote down everything we bought into the purchasing book. This opportunity did not last long. After that, we were not allowed to leave the house.

I remember that every Friday evening, we prayed in one of the apartments. Every afternoon the ladies sat together to make predictions.

There was a large piece cardboard with the letters of the alphabet on it, and in the middle they placed an upturned glass which every lady placed a finger on, and the glass started to slide from letter to letter. Sentences were formed from the letters, for example, “the war will be over soon,” “the Russians are drawing closer”…

It’s more than likely that the lady who led the game was moving the glass, unnoticed.

After a time, we were not allowed to leave the yellow-star house. Brother Szalai took great care to ensure that the gate was permanently closed.

One morning, my mother whispered to me that we would be escaping from here today. I remember that she had a small bag in her hand. We didn’t meet anyone in the stairwell. The front gate was closed. There was a small peep-hole window in the gate. My mother opened the window, put her hand through, and rang the bell from outside. She then grabbed my hand and we ran to hide behind the lift. Hearing the bell, brother Szalai went out onto the street to see who had rung the bell, but saw nobody there. He said it must have been those stinking kids having fun again. As the house was on the end of a block, he went to street corner to see where the kids were. When she saw that Szalai had left the house and left the gate open, my mother said, “Quick, let’s run.” With all our strength, we ran in the direction of the Boulevard.

My parents had already spoken to a Christian couple they knew, who said they would take us in any time if there was a problem. We turned onto Rákóczi Road and then into Szentkirályi Street. The Gyurácz family lived at no. 26. This is where we lived until January 16, 1945, when we were liberated. We owe our lives to this family.

My father managed to escape from forced labor. He also came to the Gyurácz family, since he knew the address, and we lived through liberation together with him.

My parents kept in touch with the Gyurácz family until the end of their lives. They are dead now, and I have tried for years to find a trace of their children, but unfortunately without success.

I was a child when it happened, but it has been present for the whole of my life.

András Szász

2014. March 19., Wednesday

V. Jászai Mari Square 1. - Iván Baranyai (Blum)

Iván Baranyai (original family name Blum) was born in Budapest on May 18, 1934. He was the only child of this Budapest Jewish Hungarian family, and was not yet 10 years old when the Germans came to Hungary, but even as a young child, he was aware of the things that happened, which are still incomprehensible today. He lived and continues to live as a person who is proud of his Jewishness, but does not practice his religion.

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Many parts of his life are connected to this district. He was born at Váci Street 8, and lived in designated yellow-star houses on Hollán Ernő Street, then Pannónia Street, and today lives in a former yellow-star house. After his father was taken into forced labor service, he lived in the small second-floor apartment with his seamstress mother, who took on cleaning for a rich Jewish family so she could provide for her son. The father’s rare home visits were very important for the family, and now, approaching 80, he remembers how his father knocked at the door saying he was an old engineer. In the summer of 1944, they had to move. The family spent the first 1-2 difficult months in a house which is no longer standing at Jászai Mari (then Crown Prince Rudolf) Square 1, then later at Hollán Ernő Street 9. Before the Budapest ghetto they had to move once more, and spent a longer time at Pannónia Street 30. There were three of them living in the two-story apartment with a maid’s room. The family was “lucky” because the father managed to escape from the Óbuda brick factory, the mother escaped from near Győr, and so they managed to stay together in the ever-worsening situation. In the increasingly anti-Jewish atmosphere, the family’s survival was helped by the fact that the lover of the Jewish lady overseeing the house was the district Arrow Cross leader. The family ended up in the Budapest ghetto relatively late, at the end of December, in the Gozsdu Courtyard. They were forced into an apartment on the second floor of the fifth building, into even narrower surroundings, if such a thing were possible. Because air raids were increasingly frequent, they didn’t spend much time in the apartment but in the overcrowded “safe” shelter. Buildings 6 and 7 had already been taken over by the Gestapo. One day, they came for Iván, who was not even 10 years old, they wanted him to polish shoes,  and didn’t harm him. The bread he received in exchange for his work helped the family to survive until liberation. After they left the ghetto, his father got a job right away in the former Conti Street prison as a guard, because he had sabotaged a German airfield during his forced labor service. Later he worked as a major in the Detainment Unit at Markó Street 27 and it was there when Béla Imrédy and Ferenc Rajniss were executed.

It is impossible to forget what happened, especially for a survivor, but important that we remember so that nobody will have to be afraid any more.

The story was recorded by Réka Guth, neighbor. 

XI. Bartók Béla Road 20 - Gábor Kovács

The selection of stories concerning the yellow-star houses brings up painful feelings for me. Between June 24 and October 17, 1944, I lived with my parents in the yellow-star house at Bártok Béla (then Horthy Miklós) Road 20. Our apartment was on Bártok Béla Road and so we wanted to stay in the area. We moved on Saturday evening, hours before the deadline on June 24, after the air-raid commander and house supervisor took an inventory of the things we were forced to leave behind.

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We moved into a two-room staffed apartment facing the courtyard on the second floor at Bartók Béla Road 20. There were three families, seven people locked up here together. The room facing the street was occupied by the original tenants, two middle-aged teachers, who were very distrustful of the new residents. The biggest arguments were always over who could use the kitchen and bathroom when. Having to go through the kitchen into the next rooms was also unpleasant for the others.
Weeks and days passed in fear and uncertainty. We learned that our relatives in the countryside had been deported, and of various ominous events that could change our fate. The authorities limited the number of hours we could leave the house to three, which greatly restricted our movements and ability to shop. We were not allowed a radio but my father regularly brought the newspaper. The papers were full of Fascist and antisemitic propaganda, but you could follow events on the front. Another aspect of the discrimination was that we could only travel in the last supplementary carriage on the trams.

In early June, we received the harrowing news that my aunt and cousin Tamás, escaping Budapest to Slovakia, had been handed over at the border by their “escort” to the gendarmes, who took them to the Sárvár internment camp. From there they ended up on the last transport to Auschwitz, which happened after the deportations had “officially” been halted. My uncle Emil, who had escaped Košice, sent a “reassuring” letter saying that he was in Waldsee with his four-year-old daughter Zsuzsika and an elderly relative. At the time, we didn’t know that this meant the gas chamber.

I was twelve years old in 1944, and soon made friends with the other children living in the house. But our noise-making and apparently careless games did not go down well with our parents and the other residents living in that tense atmosphere. I spent a lot of time with Pál Takács, the young rabbi from Lágymányos, who was my religion teacher at the Petőfi (Werbőczy) Street grammar school. Apart from the concierge, only a few Christian residents remained in the house, including our next-door neighbor, Adorján Losádi Fekete, who was one of the leading Arrow Cross Party organizers in the 11th district. We met the non-Jewish residents mostly in the basement air-raid shelter during the bombings. There was no communication between us. Some of them didn’t even return greetings. Despite the curfew, a Christian friend of mine visited us regularly, and often brought with him illegal Hungarian Front flyers, reproduced on typewriters. One evening, we escaped from the house and distributed the call for peace on the street.

Later, the news spread that the Budapest Jews would be gathered up in rural camps. Following the Romanians’ departure from the war on August 23, the formation of the Lakatos government in Hungary somewhat eased our tense situation. The curfew was relaxed a little, and for the fall holidays, the authorities allowed us to pray in the Jewish elementary school building on Váli Street. Although the front was moving closer, a call was issued for school enrollment. On the morning of October 15, my mother and I went to an office on Erzsébet Boulevard, where I was accepted for the third class at the Jewish Grammar School. After we got home, around midday, the concierge switched the radio on, which was broadcasting Miklós Horthy’s ceasefire proclamation. We listened to the program in the courtyard. We breathed out in relief and hope. A friend of mine, Gyuri Schwartz, removed the yellow star from the entrance to our building. Some hours later, an officer came over from the neighboring Hadik barracks and who, with a gun, ordered that the emblem of discrimination be replaced immediately on the house. The Arrow Cross leader and his family were not at home at the time, but earlier, it had been “rush hour” at their place. The striking presence of so many “guests” may have been connected to the Nazi-assisted putsch. We saw everything, because the visitors passed under our window.

October 16 passed in an atmosphere of panic and fear. Two or three people who snuck out onto the street were snatched away by the Arrow Cross. Losádi Fekete’s wife returned, and her husband, the concierge, greeted her by shouting, “Perseverance, long live Szálasi!” On October 17, the house was occupied by Arrow Cross and police. Everyone was frisked and valuables were confiscated. We had to leave the house immediately. We could take undergarments and a little food with us in a small package. We waited, terrified, for what would happen next. The armed men took us and a few other families on foot to the yellow-star house at Budafoki Road 26/b. The building was mostly empty, because the residents had been taken away earlier. We didn’t know the area at all. The Arrow Cross and police regularly carried out raids in the house. They took my father away on October 23, and that is the last time I saw him. We were liberated on November 8, when the Jews had to leave Buda immediately. We set off for Pest, but my mother had to hurry back for her coat which she’d left behind. The Arrow Cross caught her and wanted to take her away. It is thanks to the concierge’s wife who opposed these armed striplings that my mother could finally leave the house in one piece.

We had only one chance left, to go to the yellow-star house at Vörösmarty Street 69/71, where my grandmother lived in a small room. They took us in. My mother was taken to the Óbuda brick factory on November 15, and escaped from there five days later. You could only go out onto the street between 1.30 and 3.30 pm. Our situation became even more bleak and hopeless. My father was deported at the end of November from Józsefváros railway station to Germany, even though he had a Swedish protection letter on him. Our ordeal continued on December 12 when we were “escorted” to the ghetto, and ended up at Dob Street 12. Of the hunger, fear of death and constant threats from the Arrow Cross, the most tragic was the fact that my dead grandmother’s body lay on the bed next to mine for days, as we could not bury her right away. The only hope during the weeks spent in the ghetto, and the immeasurable suffering, was that the Soviets would arrive and liberate us.
(I’ve been able to mention the precise dates because I have preserved my 1944 diary with me to this day.)

2014. March 09., Sunday

XIII. Hollán Ernő Street 12 - Tamás Halász (Translated by Judit Gervai)

My mother’s 13-year-old nephew spent weeks in the yellow-star house of 12 Hollán Street, first with his grandparents then alone. Later the grandparents (my great-grandparents) were moved to 54 Pozsonyi Road, and afterwards they were liberated in the ghetto. We have postcards sent to and from these addresses describing the situation briefly.

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The attached postcard was sent by my great-grandfather, great-grandmother and their grandson, to my Uncle, who was my great-grandparents’ son-in-law, and the father of their son. The postcard was returned; Béla Polatschek, conscripted for forced labor service, was certainly not alive by this time.

I am citing here an excerpt from my conversation with the grandson, my uncle, who talked about his time in Hollán Street.

- Did your grandparents end up in the ghetto from Hollán Ernő Street? Did they have to move in there?
- Yes, they were moved from Hollán Street.
- Was the yellow-star house evacuated?
- No, not completely, a few of us could stay there, there was a roll call, and besides me perhaps ten others were allowed to stay on.
- So few in the whole building?
- Many people were taken away.
- And then you remained there alone?
- Yes.
- With strangers in Hollán Street?
- Yes, there was a room, and all around the wall there were mattresses on the floor. We stayed in there, fifteen to twenty in a room at the beginning, and everybody had their own mattress. And we were sleeping there side by side with Grandma, Grandpa and me. And then they were taken away and I remained there alone.
- And then, alone as a young child, what did you do?
- Now, it was like this: with the [yellow] star on, one could go out for only two hours a day. The building next door on the corner was not a Jewish house, the concierge there was a rotten Arrow Cross man.

It was daytime when they rang and came… When they rang the bell on the gate, I jumped over to the courtyard of the Christian house at a frantic speed. There was a wire fence between the courtyards; it could not be too high as I knew I could get across. I quickly took off the [yellow] star and left through the gate of the Christian house.

I didn’t know how the concierges moved around. I always returned when leaving was allowed, so the gate was open. Thus, I left through the Christian house when our gate was locked and returned through our own gate. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know where the concierge was. This was the way I moved in and out. I regularly went to see my grandparents in the ghetto, I smuggled in bread for them.

I always took the tram and at the corner of the Boulevard and Rákóczi Road, where there was the café…

- Café Emke?
- That one, maybe. There was always a check-point. I took the tram because it went past there, and I got off at the National, the National Theatre was still there. Then I was beyond the identity check area.
- So did they not board the tram?
- No. I always got off there, and went to the ghetto.
- And so there were a few weeks while you were roaming around in the town on your own?
- Yeah.
- And what did you do?
- It was impossible to do anything legally, because one had to stay indoors all day.
- Was there anybody in the house whom you knew?
- I know that there was a classmate from secondary school, Jancsi Pataki, together with his mum. I can’t remember if they stayed longer or were also taken to the ghetto.
- Did you have a small suitcase, a bundle with your personal belongings?
- Yeah, I had a small bundle.
- Weren’t you afraid of coming and going on you own? Weren’t you caught?
- Once a really tough thing happened. There was a tram-stop in front of the Víg Theatre. I was going there to board the tram and get downtown. I was standing and waiting, and saw that the tram was at the foot of the Margit Bridge (where there was another stop). Then a Levente patrol [interwar paramilitary scouting organization] came, and asked me to identify myself. I did not want to, as I did not have Levente papers, only an address registration slip on which I had written “r.k.” [Roman Catholic].

So I was chattering away, and waiting for the tram to arrive. I can still remember that it was the no. 66 tram. I know that it was not line 6, as the 66 looked different. The tramcars were different.

I thought that when it arrived, I would board at the last door of the last car, and if these guys wanted to get on after me, I would kick them off. But the tram didn’t come…

Then a man in civilian clothes with an SS armband came close and asked what the matter was… “Heil Hitler”, “Heil Hitler”… The Levente patrol says that I don’t want to identify myself. Then the guy says, leave it, I will take care of him. They left, the man also got on the tram, which had finally arrived. He disclosed he was a Jew too, saying that he is also “on télak.”

- On télak?
- This was kind of slang… that he was a fugitive, in hiding. We talked quietly, so only he and I could hear, how lucky I was…
- The patrol were frightened by him…
- Of course, he had an SS armband on. And so then we went in town and he got off somewhere. Before me, I travelled further. I was so shocked, it lasted for a while. But then one was shocked continuously. As a child, I didn’t really understand these things…
- Did you get news of what was going on outside? For example, that the Russians were drawing closer?
- News was coming all the time: I remember that once I looked down and saw that a child with ginger hair, Pisti Róth, my classmate in primary school, was being ID checked. “My God, this is a Jewish child” – Arrow Cross guys were checking his ID. In front of the house, on Hollán Street, on the other side. Then they left. We met again after the war, I went to see him, I knew where they lived. I said Pisti, I remember… He answered, “I was lucky, I’m not circumcised."
- Did they get him to pull down his pants?
- Yes. They got him to take his pants off. His red hair had caught their attention. Another morning, I looked out one morning and saw that there were soldiers on the corner. Next to them was a small thing with food in it. But it was not a Hungarian uniform and their guns were different, and all that. Everybody began looking outside… “The Russians are here…”
- And the Russians were there all of a sudden, under the window?
- That’s right, all of a sudden, the Russians were there under the window. In the first few days, nobody dared to show too much joy, because in many places, the Russians had entered and then the Germans drove them back… Everybody kept their mouths shut. But after a couple of days, the gates were opened. I remember going out to the Boulevard, but then I retreated, because there were still shooting coming from [Margit] Island. There were still Germans there. Shooting with machine guns…

VIII. Bacsó Béla Street 19 - Tamás Halász

On November 10, 1944, my maternal great-grandparents, my grandmother and mother (who was a baby at the time) were forced to live at Német (today Bacsó Béla) Street 19, the “Liebermann” house: they had “exchanged” their apartment on Rákóczi Square and were made to live here in this house which had a total of two apartments in it. After the war, family members lived here who had survived the war and who couldn’t return to their own homes which had been stolen from them.

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The photos of my family members were taken in the spring of 1946. In the pictures are my mother (Zsuzsanna Kramer), her cousin (Péter Müller), and their grandparents (Jónás and Róza Müller) at the front gate entrance to the house, and at the doors to their apartments. In November 1944, my mother was taken away from this house (to a protected children’s home), my grandmother and her sister (to the KISOK playing fields and from there on a forced march to Vienna, and from which they escaped). I attach an letter requesting official details, sent by my grandmother to the Red Cross, concerning her younger brother who had been taken on forced labor service. At the time she filled out the form, her brother had already been dead for three and a half years, but they only learned of this many years later.

Excerpt from an interview with my uncle, Tamás Halász:

- During the war, we moved to Német (today Bacsó Béla) Street, that was the yellow-star house. That apartment had been “exchanged” by my mother’s family. They had lived at Rákóczi Square 10, and at no. 9 there was a pub, and they exchange with the pub’s owners. That’s why it was impossible to get it back after the war, because it was an “exchange.”

- But was it a forced exchange?

- Of course. That house became Christian, this one Jewish.

- The yellow-star house was a small, ground-floor building.

- Yes, it was a ground-floor building with two apartments, the Liebermann family (the kerchief manufacturer) lived on the right, and we were on the left. The Liebermann family had two small children, a boy and a girl. The boy was called Laci, he was on forced labor service together with my father.

- Which apartment was yours?

- As you came in through the front gate, we were on the left, and the Liebermann family were on the right. There was a plain, empty courtyard, a window onto the street and the front gate.

XIII. Hollán Ernő Street 12 - Tamás Halász

My mother’s 13-year-old nephew spent weeks in the yellow-star house of 12 Hollán Street, first with his grandparents then alone. Later the grandparents (my great-grandparents) were moved to 54 Pozsonyi Road, and afterwards they were liberated in the ghetto. We have postcards sent to and from these addresses describing the situation briefly.

The attached postcard was sent by my great-grandfather, great-grandmother and their grandson, to my Uncle, who was my great-grandparents’ son-in-law, and the father of their son. The postcard was returned; Béla Polatschek, conscripted for forced labor service, was certainly not alive by this time.

I am citing here an excerpt from my conversation with the grandson, my uncle, who talked about his time in Hollán Street.

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- Did your grandparents end up in the ghetto from Hollán Ernő Street? Did they have to move in there?

- Yes, they were moved from Hollán Street.

- Was the yellow-star house evacuated?

- No, not completely, a few of us could stay there, there was a roll call, and besides me perhaps ten others were allowed to stay on.

- So few in the whole building?

- Many people were taken away.

- And then you remained there alone?

- Yes.

- With strangers in Hollán Street?

- Yes, there was a room, and all around the wall there were mattresses on the floor. We stayed in there, fifteen to twenty in a room at the beginning, and everybody had their own mattress. And we were sleeping there side by side with Grandma, Grandpa and me. And then they were taken away and I remained there alone.

- And then, alone as a young child, what did you do?

- Now, it was like this: with the [yellow] star on, one could go out for only two hours a day. The building next door on the corner was not a Jewish house, the concierge there was a rotten Arrow Cross man.

It was daytime when they rang and came… When they rang the bell on the gate, I jumped over to the courtyard of the Christian house at a frantic speed. There was a wire fence between the courtyards; it could not be too high as I knew I could get across. I quickly took off the [yellow] star and left through the gate of the Christian house.

I didn’t know how the concierges moved around. I always returned when leaving was allowed, so the gate was open. Thus, I left through the Christian house when our gate was locked and returned through our own gate. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know where the concierge was. This was the way I moved in and out. I regularly went to see my grandparents in the ghetto, I smuggled in bread for them.

I always took the tram and at the corner of the Boulevard and Rákóczi Road, where there was the café…

- Café Emke?

- That one, maybe. There was always a check-point. I took the tram because it went past there, and I got off at the National, the National Theatre was still there.  Then I was beyond the identity check area.

- So did they not board the tram? 

- No. I always got off there, and went to the ghetto.

- And so there were a few weeks while you were roaming around in the town on your own?

- Yeah.

- And what did you do?

- It was impossible to do anything legally, because one had to stay indoors all day.

- Was there anybody in the house whom you knew?

- I know that there was a classmate from secondary school, Jancsi Pataki, together with his mum. I can’t remember if they stayed longer or were also taken to the ghetto.

- Did you have a small suitcase, a bundle with your personal belongings?

- Yeah, I had a small bundle.

- Weren’t you afraid of coming and going on you own? Weren’t you caught?

- Once a really tough thing happened. There was a tram-stop in front of the Víg Theatre. I was going there to board the tram and get downtown. I was standing and waiting, and saw that the tram was at the foot of the Margit Bridge (where there was another stop). Then a Levente patrol [interwar paramilitary scouting organization] came, and asked me to identify myself. I did not want to, as I did not have Levente papers, only an address registration slip on which I had written “r.k.” [Roman Catholic].

So I was chattering away, and waiting for the tram to arrive. I can still remember that it was the no. 66 tram. I know that it was not line 6, as the 66 looked different. The tramcars were different.

I thought that when it arrived, I would board at the last door of the last car, and if these guys wanted to get on after me, I would kick them off. But the tram didn’t come…

Then a man in civilian clothes with an SS armband came close and asked what the matter was… “Heil Hitler”, “Heil Hitler”… The Levente patrol says that I don’t want to identify myself. Then the guy says, leave it, I will take care of him. They left, the man also got on the tram, which had finally arrived. He disclosed he was a Jew too, saying that he is also “on télak.”

- On télak?

- This was kind of slang… that he was a fugitive, in hiding. We talked quietly, so only he and I could hear, how lucky I was…

- The patrol were frightened by him…

- Of course, he had an SS armband on. And so then we went in town and he got off somewhere. Before me, I travelled further. I was so shocked, it lasted for a while. But then one was shocked continuously. As a child, I didn’t really understand these things…

- Did you get news of what was going on outside? For example, that the Russians were drawing closer?

- News was coming all the time: I remember that once I looked down and saw that a child with ginger hair, Pisti Róth, my classmate in primary school, was being ID checked. “My God, this is a Jewish child” – Arrow Cross guys were checking his ID. In front of the house, on Hollán Street, on the other side. Then they left. We met again after the war, I went to see him, I knew where they lived. I said Pisti, I remember… He answered, “I was lucky, I’m not circumcised.” 

- Did they get him to pull down his pants?

- Yes. They got him to take his pants off. His red hair had caught their attention. Another morning, I looked out one morning and saw that there were soldiers on the corner. Next to them was a small thing with food in it. But it was not a Hungarian uniform and their guns were different, and all that. Everybody began looking outside… “The Russians are here…”

-And the Russians were there all of a sudden, under the window?

- That’s right, all of a sudden, the Russians were there under the window. In the first few days, nobody dared to show too much joy, because in many places, the Russians had entered and then the Germans drove them back… Everybody kept their mouths shut. But after a couple of days, the gates were opened. I remember going out to the Boulevard, but then I retreated, because there were still shooting coming from [Margit] Island. There were still Germans there. Shooting with machine guns…

2014. March 06., Thursday

VI. Eötvös Street 29. - Annabella Horányi

We were “lucky.” Two streets away from us, the Interior Ministry chief mufti Péter Hain moved in, stating that he could not bear the smell of Jews within a few kilometers from his apartment. And so we had to move on April 9. That day was my ninth birthday. First we spent a few days with the family of a female friend of mine at Torockó Street, and from there to Eötvös Street 29. This is where the famous opera singer Mária Basilides lived. (The plaque to her is still on the wall of the house.) She secured us a decent enough apartment, where the whole family including my grandmother moved in. Later, the house became a yellow-star house. Auntie Mária helped us a lot, and as a small child, I felt life was bearable. You could walk around on the corridor, there was food, and my mother, brother and grandmother were there too.

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