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 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.


2014. March 04., Tuesday

VIII. Népszínház Street 25 - Judit Halmos

I was born in a yellow-star house on September 3, 1944. My pregnant mother had to move in with her ill mother to the yellow-star house on Népszínház Street 25 (mezzanine floor 1). She gave birth to me in an emergency hospital set up in the basement of Wesselényi Street 44. All our male Budapest relatives, including my Father, had been taken into forced labor service a long time earlier, and then to various concentration camps. A large part of our relatives from the countryside, around 80-100 people, had been transported en masse, with the help of the Hungarian gendarmerie, to Auschwitz, where there were gassed immediately. My mother, as the sole provider in the family, looked after my grandmother and me, I was in a clothing basket lined with eiderdown, my grandmother in a bed.


Although the clothing basket no longer served its original function, I kept it as a memento until the 1970s. Every day, my Mother went shopping with the rather flimsy typed certificate in her pocket (the address is where I was born), which was not at all without its dangers. She recalled that if she was stopped, she would show the letter and say that she was either going to the address or returning from it. It’s almost a miracle that it worked. The fact that it meant that all three of us survived. My father came home a few months after my first birthday, weighing 39 kilos and with typhus, returning from Mauthausen and Gunskirchen. According to family legend, I was so frightened at the sight of this emaciated, bearded stranger, that I burst into tears … which I still regret.

After a long time, when I first managed to travel to Israel in 1984, anyone who learned where and when I was born, clapped their hands in surprise that I am still alive …

2014. March 03., Monday

XIII. Hegedűs Gyula Street 14 - Paul Thomas

My mother and her 2 sisters and other family members lived in this house and I grew up here too. My grandparents and 13 members of the family were deported from there in 1944. My mother was one of the few survivors of the Holocaust. One day in November the “arrow cross” showed up and ordered all of the Jewish tenants to move to the Jewish Ghetto, during the march, there was an air-raid and the soldiers went to the air raid shelter and they left the Jewish people on the street unattended, my mother decided to go back to the house (the rest of the family was afraid to do the same), she removed the yellow star from her clothes and walked back to the house and asked help from a Christian family, Mr. and Mrs. Jeno (Eugene) Szallay. They did hide her in their apartment, shared their food etc. with her until the Russian Army liberated Budapest in January of 1945. Mr. Szallay was the driver for a high-ranking Hungarian army officer, so when the “arrow cross” soldiers did come, they left him alone, because of his uniform.

I did grow up in the same house, but unfortunately I never had a chance to thank them to saving my mother’s and consequently my life.

V. Nádor Street 19 - Mihály Vajda

In the Yellow-Star House

It’s only in the past few years that I’ve realized that the Shoah, the Holocaust, was that fateful event which has defined my whole life and way of thinking.


However, it’s not necessarily the case that there exist only two possibilities: either we are defined by things, or we define ourselves, as Fichte thought. For the Auschwitz prisoner, even if his belief in himself was unequivocal, he still lacked the means to remain independent from everything around him, to remain independent from “things”. And it wasn’t only him who didn’t have the means. Neither did I, on whose left breast was sewn a six-pointed yellow star, and who was forced to live with forty other people in a two-bedroom apartment. Who, day in day out, was ordered down to the courtyard, perhaps to be among those taken to the banks of the Danube. And all this happened to me when I was nine years old. It inscribed deep into me: I am not human.

It’s perhaps no accident that even today I still feel—although it’s not entirely true—that I don’t remember anything up until March 19, 1944. Yet from that day onwards—even though my memory never was very clear—my memories are continuous. For us naïve Hungarian Jews, that was the day on which the Holocaust began, and which lasted for ten months in all. It was on January 18, 1945, when the Russian solider opened the door on us in the “protected” ghetto's basement air-raid shelter, and chased us out of the cellar.

Of course, many years had passed until the suppressed memories suddenly resurfaced in a matter of moments, but my way of thinking and relationship to the world were probably shaped by these memories, even while they were suppressed. That frequently ridiculous endeavor of mine to “understand everything” was probably also shaped by my memories of 1944-45. Because although the adults didn’t understand anything either, they more or less carried on living as if nothing had happened. A child is probably incapable of doing this.

This is how the Holocaust came to be the determinant of my philosophy of personal memory. If the Holocaust really did become that.

However, before I try to conjure up my personal memories of those ten months which I am bold enough to call “my Holocaust,” I must say something about my childhood years that preceded it. As I have said, I believed for a long while that I don’t remember anything prior to March 19, 1944. It’s as if for me, the period when the child is growing up but still has no self-knowledge, was longer than the usual. In itself, this is perhaps not extraordinary: some have memories from very early on in life, while others only from later; some have continuous memories while for others, long stretches are missing. And I would add here that my parents were not particularly talkative, they hardly told me any stories: it’s not just that they never talked about what happened or what I did at one point or another, but neither did they talk about our shared memories either, or even their own childhoods or anything that happened before my birth, which may still, at the time, have provided a straightforward explanation. Most people’s childhood memories are fixed with the help of verbal repetition. The fact that nobody ever spoke in our family was also confirmed by my younger sister, who perhaps knew even less about our parents than I did. This is a great explanation, but I must handle it with certain reservations. My sister was more than two years younger than me—she was not quite three during the war—and her evidence for the fact that nobody ever talked about anything applies only to the post-war years. In light of this and what I’ve already mentioned (and which I will shortly detail), my own evidence must also be handled with suspicion. I only think I remember what I experienced after the German occupation of Hungary, my sharpest memories concern those ten months, which I lived consciously, and as someone persecuted. Only a few images remain from the pre-occupation period, from which it’s impossible to put together any sort of story, even fictive ones.

And here I must mention one other important thing. So far, I’ve only talked about family stories as a factor underpinning childhood memories. Such factors also include family photographs. My family took photos too, including a good number of my early years, which is surely how I can remember my grandmother who appears in many of them, as does the pre-1944 Kossuth Lajos Square, with me in the pram, or crawling along a park bench. I’m not now going to list everything in the photos. One thing is for sure, nothing indicates that a bad atmosphere reigned over the family. My mother compiled my photo album with great care and love. And then it just comes to a stop. The last pictures are from spring 1940. What happened after our spring 1940 trip to Pünkösdfürdő [swimming baths in north Buda]? Something must have happened. My mother wasn’t the type to suddenly give up on something she’d done with such enthusiasm and love. My sister was not yet on the way, and she was never, as far as I know, given a photo album. What happened? I have a number of explanations, but the most plausible appears to be the fact that Law IV of 1939, in other words the “second” Jewish law, made it impossible for her to maintain the family’s good mood.

My mother surely would have noticed that the stakes were now much higher. Since nobody in the family was religious, my parents didn’t convert to Christianity. What for? We hadn’t been good Jews until that point, and wouldn’t be good Christians either; ultimately, it doesn’t matter which denomination one belongs to. And if people were forced to convert out—that’s what the Jews called it, converting out—then we would have done so. The “first” Jewish law had already given rise to suspicions that this wasn’t about religion, but about race. By the time the second Jewish law was passed, nobody could make themselves believe any longer that differentiation was being made on a non-racial basis. I don’t know what was happening in my family, “behind the scenes.” My father had always wanted to be a good citizen, and if my mother sometimes suggested emigration, he surely opposed it. As I said, I remember nothing. Even if there were anything to remember. If they’d told me: “we are in trouble,” I wouldn’t have believed them. In any case, I wouldn’t have understood what they were talking about. “The Jews are in danger.” “Aha. But who are these Jews?” “Well, for example, us.” “And what does that mean?” (A long time after the war, the son of family friends left the room the children had been playing in, and heard the Jews being mentioned, who knows in what context. And he then said: “Will somebody finally just tell me, what does ‘Jew’ mean? Is it a profession or a pastime?”)

It’s possible that silence settled over us from this point on. It’s not impossible that until then, my mother and father had talked to us a lot. But if the silence of the approaching Holocaust settled like a shadow over my family, then the deathly silence that followed over the next four-five years is still sufficient in explaining why a small boy would forget what happened during that time. I’m not claiming that this was really the reason behind my personal “forgetting of existence.” But that fact that after March 19, 1944, my memories are continuous, very much allows this conclusion. From that point on, it was no longer necessary for stories told by others to help fix my own personal memories. Without any form of help, the events were deeply inscribed into my memory. From then on, my memory was truly personal.

So here we have March 19, 1944. The Germans arrived. In the present year, 2014, our government is erecting a memorial to that notable day. I can’t find any explanation for the latter apart from the fact that they would like to put everything that happened from that day, right up until April 4, 1945, onto the Germans. As if what happened hadn’t been in harmony with the Jewish laws proposed by sovereign Hungarian governments and passed by the Hungarian parliament. Although there are great organic continuities here. But I am not talking about this now, rather my personal memories. In which it is not the Germans, but the Hungarian Arrow Cross that feature.

I don’t know whether I knew anything at all about the Jewish laws. But I already knew by this time that I was Jewish, even if I didn’t know exactly what it meant. Of course I still don’t even know until this day. I knew I was Jewish because in school (I attended the Augsburg Confessional Evangelical Elementary School), I had to attend Jewish religious studies. Whether we learned anything other than the Hebrew alphabet, I don’t remember. We know that I didn’t yet have continuous memories. The other experiential source of my knowledge originates from my holidays in Dombóvár [a small town south of Lake Balaton]: my uncle took me once to the synagogue. It could have been more than once. And I already had enough brains to know that if Aunt Jolán and her family were Jews, then we had to be too. It’s also possible that I didn’t have to use my brains for this: I was a school pupil at the time of my Dombóvár holidays, and in school, as I’ve already mentioned, I attended Jewish religious studies. The sole aspect in my knowledge of my Jewishness where the fact of having been marked out as different stood out was—and it’s interesting that I remember this—the fact that I wasn’t allowed to call the Toldi Boy Scouts’ group, of which I was a cub, the boy scouts. We were youth members of the Hungarian Esperanto League. I knew therefore that Jews couldn’t be scouts, but I probably didn’t know why (but then who could give a rational answer to this question?). I don’t think I thought too hard about this. Strange, strange … But so one is a Jew, the other a Christian, one is an Esperantist, the other a scout. And?

On the well-known morning in question however, I had an experience that kick-started the process of my inner knowledge of my having been marked as different, my humiliation, my exclusion, and the denial of my human dignity. I could not have known any of these terms, and I don’t actually think that knowledge of them would be been taking shape. No. Rather, something started to be deposited at the deepest levels of my psyche. But I’m still on the subject of my memories.

On the well-known morning in question, we went out for a walk with the Esperantists. We met at Vértanúk Square where our leaders informed us that the walk was off, the Germans had arrived. Whether they provided us with any further form of explanation, I don’t remember, but I doubt it. Perhaps it wasn’t even mentioned that the best thing to do now for us Jews would be to stay at home. Rather, it was that we shouldn’t end up in the vicinity of fighting. We couldn’t yet know, although we could have suspected, that fighting would take place. What could the meek Hungarians have done against the German eagle?

And so I ambled home. We lived on Nádor Street, five minutes from Vértanúk Square, and as I stepped into the apartment, I heard my mother and Aunt Jolán, my father’s sister from Dombóvár, shouting loudly at one another. I might even have been pleased at this: finally, something had broken the silence. And then I heard what they were arguing about. At home, they already knew that the Germans had entered the country, they just strolled in, as I might say today, Aunt Jolán returned home; perhaps she hadn’t originally even wanted to travel, but upon hearing the news, she packed up her things and got ready to leave. She was thinking of taking me and my sister with her, and just as I entered the room, she was shouting at my mother: “Don’t be so selfish! It’s safer in the countryside.” My mother: “And how do you know that? I’ve no idea where is safer, but I won’t allow my family to be split up.” They shouted for a long time. In the end, Aunt Jolán irately left—for ever. I suspect we hadn’t yet heard (although we certainly could have known) that they, like the rest of the rural Jews, were locked up into ghettoes and then deported. I don’t remember whether they were mentioned to me before the liberation. I don’t know when we started to suspect that they had been wiped out. Nor do I know when the first news arrived of the existence of extermination camps. Perhaps it wasn’t before spring 1945, when the sole surviving member of the Dombóvár family, the eldest daughter, arrived back. What we definitely learned from her was that the rest of the family had been sent to the gas immediately upon arrival. It’s only her who could have known that her my aunt had lied that her strong 15-year-old son was in fact 14, and not 16. But I have no personal memories of Kató’s return home.

I’ve detoured here into the family chronicle, although it’s not my aim here to recount every detail, particularly not those that bring me to this or that conclusion. I only want to mine from my memory what I experienced myself over those ten months, so that I can make tangible (for myself as well) what it was that left imperishable marks in me. That which I was never able to forget, even if the Shoah was only generally spoken about in my family and environs when there was some inability, yes, simple inability to simply “bypass” it. It might be horrifying, or it might be just absurd if I state that the human in the remnants of Budapest Jewry also survived the human. I feel this is horrifying and absurd because Agamben’s “thesis”—“the human being is the one who can survive the human being”—summarizes the lessons of Auschwitz. And among the Budapest Jews, those who broke the silence only did so if they’d stuck their noses into the piles of corpses, and there were hardly any who’d survived “Auschwitz” in Auschwitz. Of course, the latter were silent too. If I’m right, there were four people I had regular contact with as a child who had de facto returned from there. I think that from these four people together, I heard one single sentence about Auschwitz, about the camp. But I didn’t ask anything either. And not only (or not explicitly) out of respect for their suffering. But because … I think I too wanted to forget. No, that isn’t the right word, “forget,” “suppress.” Or did I want to forget? How did Kertész put it? “…Forgetting is also part of the state of fatelessness.” So to forget, to suppress the “experiences,” the memories, to get over them. So that I may be able to live. Just like the two old men, the first people Gyuri Köves [the protagonist in Imre Kertész’s 1975 novel Fatelessness] meets on his return to Pest. Because everything that happened to me over those ten months would have actually been possible to bypass, it would have been possible to exactly forget it. Or maybe not? Is that not just the state of fatelessness, if we forget the unforgettable, or at least want to forget it? Without our most important memories living within us, day in, day out, do we have a fate? I wasn’t in Auschwitz, it’s true, but neither can what I went through at the age of nine or ten be regarded as a human state one bears with dignity. Not because at least in terms of the events, nothing more terrible could have happened to a child aged nine or ten, but because everything that happened in that period beat into me that I am marked as different, I can be humiliated any time, I am cast out from the world of normal people, and I do not possess human dignity. And it is my conviction that the harder someone tries to forget what happened to them, what “they” did to them, the deeper that what “they” wanted to make understood is carved into the unconscious. “…Survivors witnessed something that cannot be witnessed,” says Agamben. But the more reluctant one is to witness what was done, the less witness evidence there is about what cannot be witnessed. This is what Manès Sperber “reported” on: “Driven by a feeling of insecurity that destroys mental balance, they ask themselves again and again: what can their enemies think of them; they more afraid that their presumed enemies don’t like them, or that they hate them. In their fear that makes them subjected, they subordinate themselves to others: they hate themselves, and then their hope makes them despicable so that they thus avoid the hatred. They pledge their honor to the enemy, thus undermining their own means.” And then there’s the eternal bad conscience. But now I must continue my story.

March 19 was a Sunday, which is why we would have gone for a walk. The next day, my mother took me over to see Dr. Halmi at the Hungarian-Italian Bank, where my father also worked. Dr. Halmi was the bank’s physician and lived on its residential premises opposite the bank, just like we did. I don’t remember exactly what they discussed, but they did talk about the danger facing us. As a result of this conversation, it wasn’t initially the feeling of humiliation that implanted itself in my conscience, but just the opposite: this conversation terminated the humiliating feeling that my parents did not take me seriously or discuss the most important issues with me; until that point I knew, and had to know, that we were facing certain dangers. If from nowhere else, then from arguments between my mother and Aunt Jolán. And there were lots of other signs earlier on too, except I don’t remember them. It seems that far too often I heard: “Nicht vor dem Kind!”

Eleven days after the conversation with the doctor, the decree appeared which forced Jews to wear a yellow Star of David on their left breast from April 5. Even seventy years on, I remember the endeavor with which my mother and one other person sewed the star onto our items of clothing. What did I think of this at the time? I don’t know. I only know that looking back today, the feeling of shame arises within me that with the visible marking of our otherness, our difference forced us not to protest (ridiculous; how could we have protested against this?), but to zealously seek out the materials needed for making stars. I remember precisely how this had to leave a very deep mark on me. Next came the yellow-star house.

Why couldn’t we have stayed just by ourselves in our own apartment? Why do we have to live together with my aunt’s family? And my terminally ill grandmother? Why can’t we go out onto the street anytime we wanted? Why aren’t we allowed to do what others could? How are we different from the others? Did I articulate all of this? I don’t think so. But the feeling we were being humiliated bit into me, and maybe even today I still haven’t survived this wound. But I really should reach the end of the story!

The death of my grandmother is the only memory that remained of that summer. And that we children played, rushing around the wide interior corridors of the house that had been painted yellow. I’ve no idea what I knew of the deportations. Probably the adults didn’t even know that Horthy stopped the deportations. Except for the bombings—what does that matter? The bombs didn’t only fall on yellow-star houses!—it was a peaceful summer. And on October 15 came His Highness the Governor’s proclamation: a ceasefire. We were boundlessly happy because we didn’t know how much of a botched and unprepared attempt this was. By evening, we learned: the Arrow Cross had taken power. We knew not only that our humiliations weren’t over, but also, and even I knew, that our lives were once again in danger.

I remember two incidents from Nádor Street. The first was a raid in the house’s courtyard. We weren’t at home, my mother had gone to the hairdresser’s in the neighboring house, and of course, took us with her. Some neighbors informed us of the raid, and we stayed at the hairdresser’s, and when we stepped out of the stop, we ran into an enormous Arrow Cross man who tore all our papers up, including the protection letter, and then let us go. The courtyard was still full of Arrow Cross and Jews. We went to Kossuth Square where my mother tore the yellow star off herself and me, and then we set off back. The air was already clear.

Then one evening, our doorbell rang. The men were not at home but on forced labor service. Two Arrow Cross men entered, and without as much as a word, took the women away. I became the head of a family of four children. My aunt would return in a few days’ time—she was released from the brick factory—my mother only a few weeks later: she had been digging tank traps at Ferihegy airport, and then force-marched towards the German border, and en route she escaped. Even if it wasn’t particularly smart, her instincts worked well, and she hid in a haystack on the advice of a bribed squad member. When they set off, the squad member searched the stack with a bayonet. I don’t remember how she finally managed to escape. I was proud of my mother, but afterwards, was shaken by dread.

In November, they called us down into the courtyard by ringing the bell—we were at home again—to set off in one hour’s time. Where to? Who knew? Finally, we went to the “protected ghetto.” The next day, we found an “apartment.” There were forty of us in two rooms. I can’t say how many times they rang the bell for us to go down to the courtyard, and always took a few of us away, or whether we already suspected they were being taken to the Danube banks [to be shot into the river]. My family survived the Holocaust. But in what sort of mental state? It was here in Tátra Street that liberation reached us in January.

These are exciting, though dangerous adventures from which we finally, “triumphantly” emerged, even if the only reason for our persecution had not been that we counted as excluded, unnecessary, not human. They humiliated us with the ultimate intention of our destruction. And it would have been impossible for me not to perceive this, even at the age of ten. And these ten months left indelible marks in me.

If the main lesson of Auschwitz—the most terrible of the extermination camps and everything that symbolizes—is that the human is the sort of being that is capable of surviving the human, then this process does not start in the camp, even if Muslims of the camp witness the end result, those who were still alive, who really did survive the human inside them, and thus were not capable of witnessing nothing. In the camp, people were burned, thrown into lime pits, and the serial production of corpses represents the final result whose first step is to deny human dignity to those condemned to destruction. Mass genocide in human history did not start with Auschwitz and, unfortunately, did not end their either. Auschwitz is not unique because it is the symbol of the destruction of many millions of people. Auschwitz is unique because the Holocaust wiped out those who had earlier been deprived of their humanity. Not like in classic wars or pogroms, where one group of people kills another out of rage, fear, or well-worked out values, but because Auschwitz killed certain groups of people in cold blood with mostly well-prepared technical destruction, and with the unconcealed aim that these groups of humans should no longer exist and should not be able to exist, because they are not humans, just troublesome factors. And before they were destroyed, they were made aware of the fact that they could have no claim to human nature. And if there were survivors as a result of certain errors in this process, they too were made to understand, and to some extent they accepted, that they are belong to a lower order, and are excluded from humanity. We cannot overcome this sentence of exclusion—which is not a death sentence—with a shrug of our shoulders. Even if beyond our experience of exclusion, nothing actually happened to us.

Is it sufficient to bear witness to events so that we free ourselves of the knowledge of exclusion? Because yes indeed, it is possible to bear witness to this, and not only the experience of hell: this is perhaps what the camp survivors do not know. It's as if not even Agamben would believe in their traces. That even I could be a witness. The witness to the beginning of the end that did not finally come about. But I am convinced that it’s not enough—and sometimes even backfires—to declare in favor of revenge and vow that we will never allow this to happen again. What we experienced, we put in parentheses, excluding it from ourselves and the history of humanity. Yes, it often backfires, since the only revenge against humiliation is humiliation, and what happens then when the other is made aware: you are not human either? We won’t allow it to happen again? What a conceit! If God (who does not exist for me) allowed it to happen once, then why would He not allow it to happen once again, and many times over. And if I want to live with my head held high, I must be able to bear this thought.

I had to travel a long road before I understood that I will only be able to overcome my humiliation and exclusion—as much as one is able to do this—if I am able to give up the understanding of history which ultimately leads, sometimes by accidental detours, to a final state, or to the “true” history (the same thing), in which the “human,” the “indestructible human substance” triumphs. In which the true human being materializes. If I can accept that there is no such thing, that there is no such thing as the human being, that there is no such thing as human substance, that beneath the loquacious surface there is nothing, or, if it sounds nicer, that NOTHING is. And I can still be a human if it doesn’t happen to me again. Until I understood how I can understand the Nietszchean concept of eternal return.

I must bear this thought: what I went through can return at any time. With this knowledge, perhaps I can also do something against it as well, and not just by shouting that we should never allow this to happen again. Who doesn’t allow it, and to whom? I really don’t have to tell Nietzsche’s demon: “You are God and I have never heard anything more godly!” And yet the goodwill can still arise within me to bear witness to myself and to life.

This is how I could come to understand that I am indeed a human, exactly like the human could have shot me into the Danube. And out of coincidence or negligence, he didn’t. “Enlighten your child, brigands are humans” [Opening lines of the poem "Enlighten your child" by Attila József]. But the “human substance” is not indestructible, because it does not exist. The task of philosophy is not to console, but to see clearly.

2014. February 27., Thursday

XIII. Hegedűs Gyula Street 15 - János Rudas

My name is János Rudas and on March 19, 1944, the day the German occupation began, I lived with in a one-room apartment at Fiumei Road 21 in the 8th district of Budapest with my father, Béla Rudas, and my mother, born Izabella Grósz. A few weeks later, I turned 9 years old.

That spring, we had to move with my widowed paternal grandmother, Júlia Nádor, and her brother, Jenő Nádor, into an apartment at Baross Street 86. From there, my father was called up on forced labor service from where he never returned; by the end of the year, he had died in the Mauthausen concentration camp.


When the order came to establish the yellow-star houses, the apartment building where we lived at the time was not included on the yellow-star houses list. And so we had to move again, to the apartment belonging to my father’s sister and her husband at Csáky (today Hegedűs Gyula) Street 15. The house is still standing today. As far as I recall, the apartment was on the third floor facing the street on the right-hand side.

Three generations lived together in that apartment:

  1. Dr. Andor Huszár
  2. Dr. Andor Huszár’s wife, Irén Rudas, my paternal aunt
  3. My uncle Andor’s mother, Auntie Szerén (we called her Mamuka)
  4. widowed Mrs. Gusztáv Rudas, born Júlia Nádor, my paternal grandmother
  5. Jenő Nádor, my grandmother’s brother
  6. Dr. György Bing, a family friend who took us in
  7. Dr. Gyula Bina, György’s father
  8. Mr. Salgó, who also took us in as friends, I don’t remember his first name
  9. Mrs. Salgó who did not count as Jewish because she was born Christian, but stayed with her husband
  10. My mother
  11. Me

On the basis of the decrees in force at the time, the standard six-pointed yellow star was placed at the front gate of the house. Most people and families living in the apartments qualified as Jews under the “racial” Jewish laws. Among them were people who had converted to Christianity and who therefore were not Israelites by religion.

In a smaller part of the large house, there were people who had been living there earlier, but who did not count as Jews. They had to put the standard large paper sign by their doors. I don’t remember the precise wording of the sign, but I do remember that it meant that the residents were exceptions:  non-Jews.

I distinctly remember two apartments like this – although there were more white paper signs in our house. One of them was the house supervisor’s, Mr. Bana (I don’t remember his first name), who lived in the service staff apartment with his wife and daughter, who was the same age as me. The other was another ground-floor apartment where an elderly lady lived by herself, and who had to be addressed as “honorable lady.” (Thinking back, she must have been a déclassé woman who had seen better times, but who had now ended up in a small apartment facing the courtyard.) She didn’t really mix with the other residents, nor with us children, and we often ridiculed her as “Auntie Honor,” although whenever we were making a noise outside her front door, the adults told us to stop.

As far as I could establish as a 9-year-old, there were no conflicts or arguments between the Jewish and non-Jewish residents of the house. The house supervisor also maintained good relations with the original residents.

I recall one more interesting moment. Although Allied air forces had already begun bombing Budapest, the bombings intensified around this time. This may have been why we used the basement as an air-raid shelter. Whenever the air-ride siren sounded, usually at night, all of us had to go down into the basement.

But the basement, which had not originally been built for these purposes (perhaps according to the regulations), had to be fortified so that it wouldn’t collapse in the event that it was bombed. And so the entire basement had to be propped up with wooden columns and beams. These protruded into the courtyard where able-bodied men, both Jewish and non-Jewish, worked on them with chisels, hammers, saws and clamps. As I recall, the work brigade was made up of house residents although it’s also possible that there was external professional help too.

Thus the air-raid shelter was quickly shored up properly. The need for this became clear when a bomb destroyed one of the houses a few doors down which, as far as I recall, was next to the synagogue on what is today Csáky Street. Luckily, our house escaped.

Living together like this lasted until October 15, 1944. On that day in the morning, we were very pleased that Horthy had announced that Hungary would exit the war. But by afternoon, the Arrow Cross party led by Szálasi had already taken power.

The next day my mother packed some clothes, took me by the hand and we left Csáky Street 15 for good. We hid in various locations with false papers until liberation. But that’s another story.

Later, I learned that when the yellow-star houses were emptied out (“cleansed” of Jews), some of those who lived in our Csáky Street apartment moved to a “protected house” on Pozsonyi Road, while others—my aunt and her brother—ended up in the Pest ghetto. Although they were physically and emotionally ruined, they stayed alive and were liberated, and could then move back into their original apartment.

Arrow Cross men wearing the “Árpád” armband later dragged the residents of the overcrowded protected houses to the Danube, where they shot most of them into the river. Most of those from our apartment who ended up in the international ghetto managed to flee with false papers and hide with Christian families who took them in. Of the people named above, Dr. Gyula Bing was the only person who did not manage to escape; he was shot into the Danube by the Arrow Cross. 

VI. Zichy Jenő Street 37 - Anonymous

My father lived here with his family from 1939, at Gróf Zichy Jenő Street 37, second floor, no. 17. It’s from here he left for forced labor service, and to here he returned, from Bor. My mother moved in here after their wedding, and when I was born, I was brought back here too. Neither of them ever said anything about what they’d been through. I found photographs and papers among the things they bequeathed me. I attach a few of these that can be attached to the place. My father’s name was Ferenc Schachtitz (and from October 1945, Sándi).


2014. February 26., Wednesday

VI. Székely Mihály Street 10 - Joseph Rauch

In 1944, this was Kazár Street 10. We lived on the third floor and had a small balcony. We were forbidden from going out onto the balcony, but I wanted to see what was happening on the street, and when they would come to take us away to I don’t know where. A blanket was placed along the balcony railings, but I could peer through the tassels, which was forbidden.


Apart from the concierge, it was only Jews who lived in the house. One night, when we heard that people were being picked up on the street, we decided that we wouldn’t follow them like sheep. We hid behind the front gate and armed ourselves with all sorts of tools. I had a hammer. We decided to defend ourselves; whatever will be, will be. We stood there behind the gate in silence for the whole night, waiting for them to come, but they didn’t. At least not then. A few days later at dawn, they did come into our apartment, and took my Mother with her brother. I learned later that they’d been taken on foot towards Germany. When the Arrow Cross entered the apartment, I was sleeping next to my mother. She threw the eiderdown over me and said, be quiet and don’t move! So I did, and they didn’t notice me. I was 14 at the time.

But 2-3 weeks later, they came once again and took us to the Ghetto. Seeing the impossible “life” there, I escaped. I crawled from the Synagogue roof over the Ghetto wall to the roof of the building opposite, which was outside the Ghetto. I didn’t know what to do, so went back to our old house at Kazár Street 10. The only resident left was the concierge. I knocked, he was very surprised to see me but opened the front gate and gave me something to eat. We decided I could spend a night there, but “tomorrow you must leave.” In his apartment, I spotted my concertina and violin, my grandmother’s sewing machine, and a vast amount of other items collected from the other apartments. But I didn’t care. I’d had some food and that was the most important thing.

All I want to say about the house is that I went back after the liberation to take a look, but there was nothing left in our apartment. It wasn’t even easy to get in, because the stairwell had been bombed between the second and third floors. I found a ladder and climbed up it into our apartment, which had been completely plundered. The remaining family pictures were strewn all over the floor, and now I regret not gathering them up, because I have nothing left from my childhood. But I found a whole loaf of bread! That was so good. It was so hard that I couldn’t even take a bite without moistening it, but it was fantastic.

40 years later, in 1989, I took my wife to show her the house and the apartment. An elderly lady was living in the apartment, and when I told her I had spent my childhood there, she let us in. I remember that the rusty enamel washing machine from our kitchen was still there! Of course, the stairwell had been renovated, but the distempering, for example, was still there. It was difficult to show this house off.

My mother was taken to Dachau, but luckily she survived the war and came home afterwards. Our family returned to the yellow-star house, since that was where our apartment was. My father also returned from Ukraine, even though we’d already received a corpse-ticket saying he had passed away. One evening, about half a year after the liberation, someone knocked at the door, and my Father stepped into our Kazár Street apartment. He was so thin we barely recognized him, but it was an unforgettable joy to see him.

2014. February 25., Tuesday

VI. Székely Mihály Street 5 - Mrs. Tamás Havas (Zsuzsanna Antal)

When my mother’s family moved here, it was still called Kazár Street. Lots of goldsmiths had their businesses here. Before, we had lived at Szerecsen (today Paulay Ede) Street 3, but because my mother’s older sister died in that apartment, my grandmother wanted nothing but to leave.


My mother’s family lived at the end of the corridor on the second floor, in a two-room apartment. In 1939, my Mother got married and not long after was when the horror started. The Krammer family lived next door to them. On the first floor underneath us was the Gellér family, and one of my Mother’s best friends, Erzsi. Two doors down from them was the Schwartz family and next to them lived Andor Breitner and his wife Klári, in the most elegant apartment in the house. Auntie Klári was also a good friend of my Mother’s, and it is to her that my Mother and my older brother owe their lives. On the ground floor was the Luger family, and Auntie Luger was the concierge.

I lived in that house until I was 26, and heard many stories about the Jewish families who lived there during the war. When it became a yellow-star house, all material differences between the residents somehow melted away. Everyone had a space marked out for them in the basement, but somehow the Jews were always together and tried to help one another. The men were taken on forced labor service and could come home every 2-3 months, and the women basically had to take care of everything themselves. In September 1944, my mother fell pregnant with my older brother. Klári Breitner got food and drink to her. Klári was taken to Auschwitz in the last weeks of 1944.

In the first days of January 1945, the Arrow Cross came to take the Jews away. My mother’s family had just enough time to run from the basement, and everyone fled as fast as they could. My mother went up to the third floor, and when she reached the floor (while 5 months pregnant), she heard that the Arrow Cross had already entered the house. She lay down on the corridor, put her belly to the wall and waited for the end. Nobody knows why, but the Arrow Cross ran the length of the first floor, but didn’t go up to the second. After this, my mother didn’t return to the basement with my grandmother, but somehow they made their way to Pozsonyi Road and to another yellow-star house, where some acquaintances were living.

How they escaped the Arrow Cross from there is another story. By the time my brother was born in late May, my mother already knew that her husband had been liberated, but he died of starvation a few days later in a hospital. Auntie Luger’s oldest daughter left home at 15 and, in hazardous circumstances, managed to get on the EXODUS ship to Israel. She spent the rest of her life there.

My father married my mother in 1952, and adopted my older brother. My mother lived until the age of 60.

2014. February 24., Monday

VI. Ó Street 48 - Mária Magyar

I was born on September 24, 1933 in Budapest.

From June (?) 1944 (when the decree that made Jews live separately came into force), until July 1973, I lived at Ó Street 48, ground flat, apartment number 2.

I will share below all those “experiences” I survived during that period in the ghetto house, including the names of all the former residents and the details of their fates, which I witnessed there and at that time.
The details and events I provide correspond completely to the reality, I remember everything precisely.

Well, how could one forget those times?!


On March 19, 1944, the Germans occupied Hungary.

My mother had just arrived home from the countryside.

We lived in the capital, and our summer house was in Felsőgöd [about 15 miles north of Budapest]. Since it was difficult to get good quality milk in the capital, she would travel to Felsőgöd a few times a week on the morning train, where a local peasant would give her the 4-5 liters of mile that our family of four would need until her next journey.

On March 19, on her way home, she described in horror what could be seen from the train: the highway, where soldiers in green uniform—probably Germans—were marching along the road, and there was no end in sight to the column. “What could it have been?,” she asked anxiously. The answer to her question was provided by leading article in the next day’s papers.

My father was a lawyer, and he was 55 years old at the time. Our family enjoyed the average Jewish middle class living standards: my sister and I—who was six years older than me—had everything we wanted, as my father’s office secured all our material needs right up until the point that he was informed that as a consequence of one of the “Jewish laws,” he had been excluded from the Chamber of Lawyers, and that accordingly, he could no longer continue his practice. It was perhaps around the same time that a little hardback book arrived in the post—it could have been his military identity papers—and on the cover was stamped diagonally in purple (and I can still see it before my very eyes) the massive letter “ZS” [for “zsidó,”, i.e. “J” for “Jew”], which meant that he had been deprived of his military rank as lieutenant, because he was of the Israelite faith.

Even if my father had been prepared for this, this step was still a major blow for him, and he spent the whole day brooding over it, ruminating to himself quietly that he didn’t deserve this for his dedication to defending the homeland.

The final scene from my memories of the Teréz Boulevard apartment was Hitler’s speech. In the evenings, after supper, we would sit by the radio, my mother would hold me tight in her lap, my father leaning in close to the wireless, and both of them listened with ashen faces to the threatening, bellowed speech, of which I only understood the word “Jude,” and the crowd’s glorifying chorus of “Heil” at the end of his sentences.

After the Germans entered our country, they brought with them countless measures affecting us, the Jews. I was a pupil at the Scottish School on Vörösmarty Street (the Scottish Civic Girl’s School of the Budapest Calvinist Church). Its headmistress was Jane Haining, the Scottish teacher. I must have known that during those bloody times, many persecuted children were given shelter in the boarding school, because the Germans caught Haining and deported her to Auschwitz, from where she never returned. The yellow star sewn onto our upper clothing was aimed only at marking us out as different, and was followed in September when we went back to our class at the start of term, with the teacher telling us very kindly that we should go home, since we didn’t have to attend school any more.

In September 1944 (when we were already living in the Ó Street house), on the first day of the school year, I turned up wearing my yellow star at the local civic (higher) school to continue my studies. I was sitting in the classroom when the teacher appeared and said that all those wearing the yellow star should go home, and didn’t have to attend school any more.

I did as I was told and went home, and that is when my connection with school came to an end.

However, when the yellow star appeared on certain houses, that had already had more serious consequences, or rather, all those individuals who were considered Jewish and who were not living in a place not marked with a yellow star had to leave their apartment and move into a “yellow-star house.” Arrangements were left up to the individual, the most important thing was to move within the deadline, which was strictly supervised and there were legal consequences for any transgressions.

Our house was at Teréz Boulevard 38, which was not marked with a yellow star. But one of my mother’s siblings lived in the nearby house at Ó Street 48, where there was a yellow Star of David above the front gate, and the family reached the conclusion that we would have to move over there.

In an apartment on the ground floor of this house lived a lawyer, Dr. Dezső Kohlmann, who was willing to swap his two-room apartment for our four-room place on Teréz Boulevard. At the age of twelve, I couldn't have known whose material benefit this agreement favored, but one thing’s for sure, Dr. Kohlmann didn’t do badly in any respect. Just as we didn’t do badly either, because the impending deadline was dangerously close.

My father brought the chests with lockable lids down from the attic, with our possible move in mind, and once they had been filled with all sorts of things we thought necessary, he sat outside in the corridor, where the chests were lined up for the next morning’s journey, and began sealing them with nails and a hammer.

Because this took place late in the evening, the hammer blows resounded loudly around the house, which had fallen quiet for the night. I stood next to my father anxiously, and almost commanded him to “shush,” because you weren’t allowed to make any noise at that time of night. He paid no attention to my law-abiding remonstrations, and each blow of the hammer was stronger and louder than the one before. It was as if he wanted to satisfy all his bitterness and revenge with these blows, which were intended for somewhere else. Of course, I only understood this much later, as an adult.

Looking back:
In those happy days of peace, which appeared to be coming to an end in 1938, and the winds of war started to blow, my father would tell an anecdote whenever his colleagues occasionally came round to visit us:
“That war, that madness, which demanded the lives of an impossible number of young, healthy victims, would have been solved so much easier like this: sit the leaders of the respective countries down in one room, and let them work out among themselves the questions for discussion, without bringing anyone else in. Do you know what the result would be?”—and here my father got ready for the punch-line—“in half an hour’s time, they’d be playing cards!” He found this funny, but it was in fact the bloody truth, and we must have heard it many times (although later only among family, when Jews’ freedom of movement was severely restricted), and the emphasis still rings in my ears, and I can see his gesture of slapping a card down on the table, as my father would perform in those days.

And this is how we moved, with the chests nailed shut and heavy hearts, into one of the ground-floor apartments of the Ó Street ghetto house.

Yes, but my mother’s sister also lived in the sort of house where the family could no longer stay, because it wasn’t marked with a star (Lónyay Street 36). They were four: Lina, my mother’s sister, and her three children (her husband was subjected to the bitter and uncertain fate of forced laborers somewhere among the hills of Bor). There was only one solution available to them to, and that was in the Ó Street house.

On the first floor of the house in a two-room apartment lived my aunt (who also owned the house), and she was willing to take in her sister Ilona with her three children, but on one condition: she would provide somewhere to sleep for every family member, but all of us had to spend the rest of the day, and cook, on the ground floor.

Of course, we all accepted her offer, because it was better to go through this exigency with family members than with complete strangers.

Putting the solution in place went relatively smoothly, with the exception of a few minor squabbles, what with four adolescents and one tiny scrap of a thing locked up together (because the law prevented us from leaving our places of residence apart from three hours a day), we had to reckon with the pettiest of "hen-house" squabbles, and when the adults would intervene—each coming to the defense of their own little creature—that only aggravated the forced cohabitation situation we were in.

Most of the apartments in the Ó Street house were occupied by Jewish individuals, most of whom had already been living there before. The small number of non-Jews who had been living in the house before didn’t make a great fuss over this turn of events, they put on a good face for the whole thing, after all, the arrival of the Jews didn’t change their lives at all.

Thus Sándor Rigó, who lived on the second floor, and who turned out to be a very honorable and well-meaning person, took on the role of the house representative, and we could definitely count on him in most respects. In certain difficult situations he even defended those who were in need.

The first-floor resident Jakab Katzer spent the best part of the day in his furrier’s workshop on the street, and he didn’t rock the boat much. He greeted all of us politely, and would even stop for a couple of minutes to exchange a few words. Jewish compatriots appreciated this respect during those days when it had been withdrawn, in fact one could expect a direct spit in the face from almost every direction.

The woman who was the concierge, Mrs. Klinger? Well… in her case, it’s true to say that she was the sort who, with a minimal (?) amount of power in their hands, would sooner or later misuse it and, in the best case, would only exaggerate their role, and not resort to unjust measures based on trumped-up charges, motivated only by their antipathy towards us, the outcome of which could be fatal. As the consequences in war become distorted and extreme, so was the role of the house supervisor: during those times, they were the lords over life and death.

In one of the ground-floor apartments lived another recent forced arrival, in the person of Ernő Gondos, a well-known left-winger. Interestingly, despite the fact that he was a fairly young Jewish guy (around 30 years old), he didn’t share the fate of Jewish boys compelled to do forced labor service, and this was rare during that period; you didn’t really see men of that age in the yellow-star houses. I vaguely remember his pretty roommate called Hilda, and the presence of these two young people was like a drop of joy—or hope in the future?—for the many despondent and troubled Israelite residents.

In the other ground-floor apartment lived Mrs. Emil Baumel, a long-term resident, with her daughter Veronika, who was about eighteen months old. She was a sweet little thing, happy to be in everyone’s arms and play with their earlobes; she constantly wanted this soft contact, who knows what today’s psychological explanations for that would be. The point is that when her father, Emil Baumel, returned from forced labor service for a short break, she never left his arms. There was no ear-fiddling, as both her hands were locked around her father’s neck. After his brief stay, Veronika’s embraces ceased forever. No news of him ever arrived.

On the other side of our kitchen wall must have been the neighbors’ bedroom, because at around half one in the morning, an elderly man—another long-term resident—would ring at the door, because our tap was dripping and keeping him awake. (I call them long-term residents because they were actually residents of the house before it became a yellow-star house.) Uncle Kiss and Auntie Hevesi next door both attributed their lack of sleep to the sound of the dripping tap, and even in their dreams (if they had any), it never occurred to them that it was the exceptional circumstances that provided the onerous reasons for them tossing and turning in bed at night. In any case, the appearance of the old man ensured that it wasn’t just them who had a sleepless night.

Opposite our apartment lived the Fehér family, nomen est omen: they where white, in other words, they were free of all things Jewish. They kept their distance from us, but I didn’t see the reason for this as presumed antisemitism, but because perhaps they too were long-term residents, and may have felt themselves superior to us.

In November of that year, and the only one from my family, I was marched together with around 300 other people with yellow stars in a column along Jókai Street, escorted by two young men with rifles and Arrow Cross armbands. When we reached the corner of Ó Street, there was already a big crowd of people staring, and among them was the Fehér family’s tenant, the unmemorable Mrs. D. (perhaps this is why I forgot her name), who looked at the marchers with pity, her compassion was visible as she spotted me in the crowd among those condemned to who knows what fate.

On the first floor lived another long-term resident, the self-confidently Jewish Mr. Steiner, with his German wife. As a part of an “Aryan couple,” he probably enjoyed concessions regarding his situation and, clearly aware of this, he barely mingled with us and didn’t exchange any words with the newcomers, perhaps so that they wouldn’t regard him as pro-Jewish. Of course, I might be wrong, perhaps the confidence of being a long-term resident dominated for him. And yet he may have had his fingers burned by that era, because after the war he Hungarianized his name and also that of his wife from Steiner to Sós.

Mrs. Vadász also lived on the first floor, with her flame red-haired beautiful seven-year-old daughter. Zsuzsika was forever playing on the corridor and always alone, under the tight supervision of her mother. Her father, (to me) Uncle Vadász, would come home at around the same time as Emil Baumel, and also enjoyed a few days’ break from his forced labor group, and he too would carry his little Zsuzsika around on his neck with every step he took, since he was only on leave for a short period. He knew this, but not that it would be the last time he would be able to cuddle his freckled daughter. Who knows where and in what circumstances he could have summoned up his last memory of being together with his little girl?

Mrs. Berecz was another first-floor long-term resident, and there was no Jewish blood in her. Perhaps this is why she was so quiet and withdrawn, perhaps even a little horrified that the house was so full of Jews. I am comfortable using the term “horrified”: over the course of my long life, I’ve had countless opportunities to draw the conclusion that behind hatred of Jews lies fear which, once felt, then becomes hatred and then, in the form of a reaction, is transformed into the desire to attack. Where does this fear spring from? The answer to this is simple: the unknown always arouses fear in people. Well how could such a group not be unknown, one that views Saturday as Sunday, that enters church with covered heads, and even sits at the table in a hat, who mumbles their prayers in an incomprehensible language, whose writing is an unreadable mess that goes from right to left, and who starts flicking through a book at the end … isn’t this witchcraft?

At Easter, they don’t celebrate with “kalács” cake but with flat breads, which is compulsory for them, because they are forbidden from eating baked goods with flour. They cut the ends off newborn boys’ willies, which bleeds (fffff, and what if they need the blood??? Perhaps they drink it, or at least mix it into their flat breads?). What sort of thing is this? It’s not human! Perhaps they’re not even people, but the devil’s brood?

This is how the fantasy of the “everyday mortal” functions, and then fear of all this unknown becomes loathing and hatred.

Maybe in her lonely widowhood, Mrs. Berecz’s mind also traversed all these stations, the result of which was that she only rarely, and fearfully, appeared on the first-floor corridor.

Mrs. Székely, another long-term resident, also lived on the first floor. She was a rather anxious, bullying woman from whose apartment was often heard shouting, but then there’s a saying about the Jews: “if others don’t maltreat us, we’ll do it to ourselves.” I always react to this with an indemnity: if a group is nothing but condemned, pestered, maltreated and hounded its whole life, be it on religious, national, or ideological etc. grounds, and against which self-defense is impossible, then the individual reaches a degree of hyper-sensitivity whereby even without external pressure, s/he will seek in the individuals and events of their own kind the path that leads down to easing their own mental state.

Mrs. Székely was also standing there in the courtyard on October 23, 1944, by herself, with a rucksack with three days’ food, so that two snotty Arrow Cross boys could escort them to the brick factory, in line with the decree. I saw them too, as I’d gone out to see the fate of my 17-year-old sister, who belonged to the group of women aged 16-45 condemned by the decree to being herded together and then taken away, and I also witnessed how the house supervisor, Sándor Rígó, pulled my sister out of the line and pushed her aside, while informing the snotty Arrow Cross boy who went over to them that she was a “crazy one,” and it wasn’t worth bothering with her, just leave it…

Miraculously, Mrs. Székely came back very soon, and not from the brick factory, but from the road leading there, where she’d been brave enough to escape. And I always remember this completely clearly, not just because of my appreciation [for her escape].

My father died there and then; who knows to what extent the sight of his 16-year-old daughter lined up with a rucksack may have contributed to his heart failure. After his death my mother, according to our traditions, sat shiva for seven days next to her husband. The recently returned Mrs. Székely came down one day from the first floor and, according to the custom, kept the young widow company, naturally telling her about what she'd been through recently.

The Déry family lived on the second floor. Déry was in the theater, he was already quite old and I don't remember what happened to him. He died at home under normal circumstances, and his widow then continued living for a long time in the apartment with her sibling. It's worth mentioning something that happened after the war, once relations were consolidated.

The Party's representative lived in the house next door (Ó Street 46). Mrs. Buxbaum, who later Hungarianized her name to Mrs. Bence, would hold a meeting every year to report on the Party's opinions and decisions. She also conveyed the residents' requests and appreciation to the Party. I took part once in such a meeting—I was at college at the time—when the house supervisor complained that the Arrow Cross residents living next to the courtyard were always shaking their dust rag into the courtyard, and this was against the hygiene rules. Mrs. Bagi the concierge said she knew that nobody was shaking out their dust rags after ten in the morning—the Déry family had protested that this was only allowed until ten—but that in fact it shouldn't be done before ten either, because then there was no point in her trying to abide by the cleanliness requirements. Mrs. Bence responded by turning to Mrs. Déry and asking: "So tell me, isn't it possible to soak the dusty rag in water and wash it out?" I'll never forget it, as Mrs. Déry was well-known for her cleanliness, and her response combined indignation and mocking: "well THAT is certainly not possible... we're not THAT CLEAN that we need to wash the rag after shaking it out..." In a well-meaning way, I brooded over how anyone could presume that the rag had to be washed daily...? How could the Party's representative have given such stupid advice?

In the nicest apartment on the second floor lived Emil Szobl with his pretty, blond wife, and their daughter Kati. They didn't communicate much with the other residents of the house. Especially the wife, after her brother Csupi was forced to moved into the yellow-star house, thus increasing the size of their family. The head of the family was an easy-going, sober man, and if anyone had a personal problem, he always willingly tried to provide useful advice, and this meant a lot during those times. He was present when the pettiest disputes broke out and successfully played the role of peacemaker.

The elderly Uncle Dunajetz and Mrs. Székely also lived together on the second floor. We all knew that they hadn't got married so that he could keep his pension, and although they had both been widowed, they had lived together for many years. The old man was in charge of tenants' behavior during the air raids, but I can't remember what this duty was called. I do remember that one night, when the air raid siren went off, he had a metal military helmet on his head and some sort of stick in his hand that he used to direct people down into the basement which, for want of anything better, was designated a hiding place. On one of the cellar walls was painted a square in whitewash, where you'd have to break through in the event that the exit had been blocked up; is it possible that was what the stick was for? Pointing at the square, old Dunajetz explained that the children would go through first, then the elderly and the sick, and then the "normal" adults.

But this never happened - thank heavens! Ó Street 48 suffered shrapnel damage from the heavy shooting outside; this damage remained right up until 2012, and I am not exaggerating. When I was last there, maybe in 2000, the house still looked like it did in the winter of 1944. It's true that while Mrs. Bence announced at every residents' meeting that it was part of the general renovation plan, because there were other more important architectural tasks to be carried out, it would only be completed at some other time (and she always came up with a new deadline). I think it likely that there was serious shrapnel damage around our windows which allowed free passage to the whims of weather, all I know is how many decades passed before there were no other residential buildings in the city that still bore the gunfire marks of 1944. I left the country in 1973, and on my frequent return visits, could establish that the house's renovation had still not been taken care of. I went back there the last time in 2007, and still nothing had been done. Two years ago, in 2012, someone told me that the house at Ó Street 48 had finally been restored to its 1943 state.

Despite the iron jaws of time, the fact that the house sat there in semi-ruins for 68 years underscores the level of all-round professional perfectionism used in construction back then. The person who commissioned the construction, and who was also the owner, was my aunt, Mrs. Sándor Márkus.

Among the residents there's probably nobody left, but I can mention a few descendants in the house. Since I too am a descendant, moreover the niece of the house's original owner, allow me to make the following definitive testimony, for as long as I can still be called a survivor.

On the first floor, in the nicest apartment of the house, lived my aunt Mrs. Sándor Márkus, and she owned the entire building. Whoever is interested can learn the history of this lifeless (?) house.

I put a question mark after lifeless because I believe in the concept of "sunt lacrimae rerum" [there are tears for things].

My aunt was born in Drohobych, Poland, at the end of the 1880s. After one of the pogroms (of which there were of course many there), she fled with my grandparents and six siblings to Hungary, where my grandfather supported the family as a rag-and-bone man. Mrs. Márkus—Rózsi—was very talented and good at sewing, and had soon opened a women's clothing salon employing two seamstresses. Next, of course, she began thinking about finding a partner, preferably one of the highest social standing possible, but which wouldn't be easy given her Galician origins.

One day, a fire broke out at the Párisi department store on Andrássy Avenue. The firefighters tried to save people jumping out of the windows with a massive "canvas blanket." One of the people jumping out took her daughter with her, in her arms. They miscalculated the jump and left the son, Sanyi, by himself. He was getting ready for a career as a bank clerk, but the tragedy shattered him. Rózsika consoled him until their relationship ended in marriage, which benefited both of them: Sanyi became a bank manager and Rózsika's salon secured such a good income that they started thinking of investments in the form of buying a house.

Although it is almost in the heart of the capital (between the Grand Boulevard, Jókai Street and Vilmos Császár Road), Ó Street was not known for being distinguished. A small, single-story house on the corner of Nagymező Street was home and premises to many streetwalkers. When I was tiny, I would often come across heavily made-up, strikingly dressed women on the way to my aunt's house, and sometimes they would smile at me as they strolled up and down; after a number of years, I even recognized a few of them. Because this profession was not PUBLIC, the nearby house prices reflected that.

And this is how the house came into the possession of Rózsika Márkus, who had to rebuild it completely. My energetic aunt enthusiastically oversaw the work personally. She turned up every day and with her opinions, instructions and frequent arguments, to ensure that by the 1920s (?), the house was finally a lovely, two-story building containing 12 apartments, including the most beautiful one on the first floor, into which the family moved. Anyone who doubted my aunt's engineering and construction skills should go to the Ó Street 48 house now, and take a look at the exterior and interior, two years after renovation, to see exactly how the house looked originally.

Meanwhile, with the arrival of their son, both my aunt's family and the rest of the residents were completely content living there. Only the house supervisors changed frequently, but this is understandable given my aunt's strong-willed, passionate and perfectionist nature. The little boy's name was Richárd, but his nickname for the whole of his life was "Chi-pu," from the hero of a Chinese-themed novel, and I called him Chipu on the rare occasions when he picked me up.

The center of the apartment was taken up with a huge grand piano. Although Chipu didn't like to practice, my willful aunt say next to him and practically forced him with a stick to practice regularly. Although some of her acquaintances condemned her bullying, she didn't listen to anyone, as usual, and only followed her heart. In this case, the positive outcome was that her son, who later went to Switzerland (he found refuge there), and wrote his mother a letter in which he told her that his piano-playing skills had opened up the doors of the best families, from where, as a successful chemist, he had been able to find himself a suitable wife.

And this is where the life of Ó Street 48 had led to, when the diabolical anti-Jewish laws interrupted Life/Lives.

On the subject of the Jewish laws: when the first discriminatory law appeared, Uncle Sanyi and Auntie Rózsa put their 12-year-old son on a train and accompanied him to Zurich, where they not only chose an apartment for the "child," but also deposited money in the bank for his future. When the couple returned home, once again, their acquaintances only greeted them with condemnation, "how could you push a 12-year-old child out into the big wide world..." They didn't know that Sanyi and Rózsi had wept for the entire journey home. Their son, however, had escaped, and ensured the survival of the family name when he had his own children.

The Márkus couple remained in Pest, in their Ó Street 48 apartment, and lived the everyday life of the middle-class, right up until when my mother returned from Felsőgöd for the last time, with the last delivery of milk.

I've left out my aunt from the list of residents above and would now supplement what I've written with their "adventures" in the ghetto house. On October 23, 1944, among the women lined up in the courtyard was Aunt Rózsi: she set off along with the others, as she said, and the forced march ended up at the Brick Factory.

She knew that there was no return from where they were going.

Using her "senno del poi" [with the wisdom of hindsight], she was right, because Márton Ickovics and his wife, who took over as Ó Street house supervisor in 1949, spent the whole time I lived there waiting for their daughter Editke to return. She had been taken from another house at the age of 16, with a rucksack somewhere, from where... and if Auntie Ickovics was still alive today, she'd still be waiting for her daughter to return...
Rózsika returned to the house just three days after she'd left. How her husband, Uncle Sanyi, could stand the loneliness and what he felt then, I don't know. I only heard shouting, and on October 26, 1944, on the ground floor, I ran out to witness the "Great Meeting." My uncle was running down the stairs with open arms, repeating "my Rózsika, my Rózsika," while my aunt ran up the stairs with open arms. "My Sanyi, my Sanyi..."
I could finish the story of the Ó Street house residents here...

But unfortunately, there can't not be a "to be continued."

I can't leave it to anyone's imagination to finish the story. Quite enough written, film and verbal testaments exist about how these saddest of stories continued.

It is very difficult to read, watch and listen to these stories.

Yet it is not with our minds, but with our hearts that we learn about them.

And every year, this information puts ever great weight on our breast.

How much can we bear?

I don't know. But I feel that: WE MUST!!!

2014. February 20., Thursday

VII. Dohány Street 61. - Dr. Ilona Szabó

My mother—who is now 92 years old and was called Mrs. Lajos Csapó then—lived from 1943 at Dohány Street 61, third floor, apartment no. 7. First the next-door house, no. 59, became a yellow-star house, and then no. 61. My mother and her husband were the only non-Jews in the house. Their neighbors were [the composer] Rezső Seress and his wife, Helén Spiczer. Seress played piano in the Kulacs restaurant and my mother’s husband, who was a reservist lieutenant, organized permission for Seress to be able to return home outside the curfew hours.


Seress was later taken into forced labor service, and my mother brought him things to eat. Helén stayed in Budapest, and my mother brought her own mother’s (Mrs. Balázs Kovács, widow) papers from Mezőtúr to Helén. Using these, Helén hid in Buda, maybe on Bürök Street.

On the second floor lived the Feldman family, the father had a jewelry stand at the stock exchange. My mother took their daughter, who was 3 or 4, for a walk every day.

On the third floor right next door to my mother lived the Schulcz family, the mother was called Olga, with two sons, aged 10-12. Mr. Schulcz had been taken on forced labor service, and the rest stayed in the apartment.

When they heard that the Jews were being taken from Dohány Street 51, my mother hid Mrs. Schulz and her two sons in the windowless bathroom that opened off from the bedroom, and pulled the large bedroom wardrobe in front of the wallpapered door. The soldiers arrived almost right away and looked for Jews in my mother’s apartment too, they searched everywhere, even looking inside the bedroom wardrobe, but did not find the people in hiding. Apart from them, there were hardly any people living the apartment any more, and an elderly Jewish couple who lived on the ground floor were snatched away.

My mother hid the Schulcz family for a further two days. We don’t know what happened to them, it was said that they might have gone to Caracas.