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1. Index Number : P.III.h. (Auschwitz) No. 864.

2. Title of Document : A Woman Survives Auschwitz and the Death March.

3. Date : 1944 - 1945.

4. Number of pages : 22.

Language : English.

5. Author or Source : Gertrud Deak, London.

6. Recorded by : as above.

7. Received from : as above, March 1958.

8. Form and Contents : Mrs Deak, whose father was a Jewish doctor, grew up in the Hungarian provincial town of Szombathely, where antisemitism was traditional. Anti-Jewish measures were introduced already before the German Occupation in March 1944, but then conditions deteriorated. In May the Jewish population of Szombathely was moved into a ghetto; in June they were rounded up for deportation. Mrs Deak was sent to Auschwitz, where she got separated from her parents, whom she never saw again. She was taken to Camp B Birkenau-Zigeunerlager.

She gives a very detailed description of the conditions in the camp. Particularly bad were the roll calls, during which they had to stand for four hours from 4am onwards while it was still extremely cold. For showers they were taken to Auschwitz proper, which was 5 km away. At the end of August they were taken to a camp near Kassel, Hessisch-Lichtenau, where conditions were much better in the beginning but soon deteriorated, with food becoming more and more scarce. One group of girls had to work in a sulphur factory; many of them died after terrible pains from sulphur poisoning. Mrs Deak had to work in a munitions factory together with French voluntary workers and Ukrainian and German female prisoners. Some organised a sabotage group, which succeeded in rendering some of the shells harmless. Once she was included in a group of 200 workers selected for the gas chambers, but since on counting they were found to comprise 201 she - since she looked healthy - was taken out of the group.

When the Russian army approached, the prisoners were moved first to a camp in Leipzig, which had a humane commander. But the camp was bombed and the prisoners were taken to another camp outside Leipzig, called Tekla. After a few days, on 7 April, the Americans approached and about 15,000 prisoners were marched off on a death march, which after ten days reduced their number to 4,000. Mrs Deak was unable to walk any more and was left lying in the road. She crawled to a village, where some German women gave her food. She hid in a barn, where she was found by some Russian soldiers who were on a foraging expedition on the American side of the demarcation line. After their withdrawal she joined up with a group of French prisoners. One of them proposed to her. She agreed to marry him. But when she got to his home in Toulon she found that he intended her to work for him as a prostitute. When she refused he denounced her to the French police as an SS-woman. She was put into prison in Marseille and was only released in October 1945 after having met a young Frenchman who had been a fellow prisoner on the death march.

9. References : Escapes and shooting of recaptured prisoners (p.14).

A Woman Survives Auschwitz and the Death March

I came from a Hungarian provincial town Szombathely (Steinamanger). My father was a gynecologist and general practitioner of Hungarian origin; my mother came from Vienna, a language-teacher. I have one brother, five and a half years my senior.

I was born on 23 April 1924; all the Jewish children in town attended the Jewish Primary School from 6 to 10 years’ of age. My hometown always had very strong antisemitic tendencies. My first memories as a Jewess are from the age of six (that is to say 1930), when, during an afternoon walk at the outskirts of the town, the children were throwing stones at me and calling me a “stinking Jew”. After the first four years at school we attended mixed High Schools; in the so-called better schools there was a “numerus clausus”, i.e. only a restricted number of Jews were admitted there: the girls’ Lycee, the boys’ Gymnasium and the boys’ Real - school.

To be admitted as a Jew one had to have a very high standard Primary-School leaving Certificate. For the non-Jews there was no such distinction required to be admitted. At the high school hardly any non-Jew mixed with the Jews; the teachers constantly required a higher standard from them and at a later stage (I was 13 then) in our history-lessons I heard mainly stories in praise of Hitler and about his greatness and territorial advances. Some of the teachers regularly called us names.

I spent most of my holidays with my mother's relations in Vienna, from where my grandmother was later

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taken to Theresienstadt. From time to time we still had some contacts with her and then the letters ceased and we heard no more of her.

As we lived very near to the Austrian border, we felt very strongly Hitler's movements. At times it was dangerous to go out at night; people were beaten up. After the first anti-Jewish laws were brought into operation - I do not remember in what year this was - we were more and more restricted. My father, who had been employed up to then by the Railways, by the Post Office and by the National Health Insurance, was first warned, that if he remained a Jew, he would lose these posts. The first thing he lost was the Railways, later the Post Office and finally the Health Insurance job.

In 1940, for two days, we were “occupied” by German troops on their way to Romania. That passage of the Germans was followed by pogroms. The Hungarian population of the town was more and more incensed against the Jews and the situation became worse and worse until 1944, when the Germans finally occupied the whole country.

The persecutions were specific to Szombathely for about two years. We were only allowed to shop at the market after 10 o'clock in the morning, when only the worst merchandise was left. From the half-amateur, half-professional town-orchestra, of which many Jews were active members, among them my father (a very good amateur violinist and viola-player), all the Jews were expelled, but were allowed to form their own orchestra. Many hotels did not allow Jews; the tennis-courts and the sports-grounds were all closed to us. It was forbidden to listen to foreign broadcasts.

As there was no hope for me to be admitted to the University, on the advice of my relations in Vienna - most of whom managed to get away to various parts of the world - at the age of 16 I was taken out of school and went to a milliner's workshop for training. I continued my school-studies privately at home.

My brother, who was (and is) a very gifted pianist, was studying at the time in Budapest at the Francois Liszt Academy of Music, and was exempted from military service, being a student, during the first years’ of the war. But when the laws were intro-

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duced, which compelled every young Jew of military age to go to forced labour camps, he too had to interrupt his studies and ‘though he is considered to be lucky, as he escaped with his life, he suffered a lot. (Most of the young men were taken to the Ukraine, where they were used as guinea-pigs on the minefields, or died from starvation. They were taken from Hungary during the summer, walked hundreds of miles, threw away their heavy clothes and wore without their shoes; by the time they arrived in the Ukraine, it was Russian winter already and they mostly froze to death.)

My father, who during the 1914-18 war had served as a doctor in the front lines and had then attained the highest distinction possible in the medical services, received a letter in 1942, summoning him to return his medals and depriving him of his Hungarian nationality.

In 1942 I went to Budapest, where I attended a “Mothercraft and Nursery School Training College”, established by the Jewish Community of Buda. In 1943 I got my diploma as a qualified nursery-school teacher and worked in various jobs in that capacity. In January 1944 I was put in charge of the newly established nursery-school attached to the College.

On a Sunday morning, 19 March, Hungary was suddenly occupied by the Germans. About a week later we were all ordered to wear the Yellow Star and people started to be arrested in the streets. We did not dare to go outdoors anymore. My parents asked me to return home. I applied for permission, as Jews were not allowed to travel without a special “laissez-passer”. It was granted to me on the 22nd of April for the 24th. In the meantime, the American bombardments were starting all over the country.

When on 24 April I travelled with the Yellow Star, a yellow armlet and a yellow railway-ticket, I was not allowed to speak to anybody, or to enter a restaurant or convenience... Bombardments were interrupting the journey, which lasted 24 hours instead of the normal 10-12 hours. I arrived in my home town at 6.30pm; after 6pm no Jews were allowed to be in the streets; also no Jews were permitted on the tramway.

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I had quite a long walk from the station to my home and was stopped and questioned and I had to show my permit a number of times to anybody who cared to ask for it. When arriving at my home, I found the flat in a complete upheaval due to a search, made by the Gestapo, amongst all our books and papers. I only found my mother (who had suddenly turned grey), as my father had been arrested 48 hours before. His arrest was amongst the first 19 in Szombathely, him being an active member of the Socialist Party.

After my arrival every day new laws were promulgated against us. We had to hand in our bicycles, then our jewels, and finally our money. On 7 May we were ordered to move to the ghetto, which was situated in the middle of the town, up to then inhabited by the extreme-religious Orthodox Jews. My mother and I were taken to a small room with two other families. Within a few days we organized the life in the ghetto. Two friends and I collected all the children and kept them occupied in the synagogue grounds. The food was very scarce and it was brought to the wire fences - surrounding the ghetto - at exorbitant prizes. Every morning and evening some people were fetched by the Gestapo, beaten up, and brought back half dead.

About 27 June we were told to collect some of our belongings, which were then searched, and everybody had to undergo a complete body - search. Anybody, who was found possessing any valuables was again beaten; later we were taken to an old and unused motor-factory, where at the same time the Jews of the whole country were headed together. We were about 4,000. The hygienic conditions were terrible. We slept on the floor on our blankets, which we were still allowed to bring with us and some communal kitchen was put up, at which we were served with some concoction.

Two days after our arrival at this camp I heard somebody shouting for 50 volunteers to go to a neighbouring town for work. My mother and I applied and were taken to a place called Sarvar, 15 miles away from Szombathely. They led us to another deserted factory, where a camp was situated. There were 28 barracks, separated by barbed wire from each other. We were led

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into one immense room and there we met my father, of whom we had no news, since he had been taken away. For two days we had food regularly three times a day; on the third day we were all, herded together and were told that we were going to be taken to another camp. At the last minute they separated the medical people and the lawyers and their families, to which I belonged. From the other detained there were 120 people in that group, for which they chose the smallest cattle-wagon (the other inmates were being grouped per 90 in bigger wagons); they said, that they offered “special treatment” for the intellectuals. All of us had some luggage with us.

When they locked us in, we first took it calmly, and after a discussion we decided to build a row of seats of our luggage and then sit back to back, so as to enable everybody to have the same amount of space. Next to the door, a bucket had been placed for sanitary reasons. There was no place for anybody to lie down. We all had some food with us, but nothing to drink. The only ventilation, that we had, came from two extremely small barred windows.

The train started with a terrific jolt and we all fell on top of each other. Then we settled down calmly. Thus we travelled the first two days. In the meantime the heat and the stench became unbearable; everybody suffered from thirst. The bucket was overflowing and we had no means of emptying it. People started to fight, losing all their self-control.

In the afternoon of the third day the train suddenly stopped. The Germans shouted into the wagons, giving instructions to collect all our luggage, as we were going to get out. We heard, that we were in Kassa. We stood with our luggage, ready to scramble out, for two hours; it had become dark in the meantime, when the train suddenly started with a terrific jolt again and we all fell on top of each other. People went into hysterics, beat each other, screamed and the fights went on during the whole night; an old man died during that same night in the wagon and we had him with us during all our travelling until the end of the journey. By that time my mother, with a few others, had become insane and was in constant hysterics. The farce of the night before (when we stopped) was repeated three times; the last stop being Cracow. A few hours later the doors opened; we were told to leave our luggage and were pushed out of the wagons. We had arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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The men were separated right away from the women; that was the last time, that I saw my father. I was supporting my mother, who could hardly stand on her legs and anyway did not seem to know, what was happening to us. We were told to get into rows of five and while marching, or, better, dragging ourselves along in front of a group of SS, who were separating our lines into various groups, my mother and I were soon parted. I saw my mother being led to a building, from which smoke was rising; I learned later, that this was the crematorium. I never saw my mother again!

I have been was led with thousands of other women into a hall, where we were ordered to strip naked. From there we were forced to go into another hall - a freezing cold one - where we were shaved by men on every spot, where there was hair on the body. Then disinfected with an extremely painful disinfectant. We were left to stand, shivering, for at least half an hour, then we were clothed with a piece of garment: no underwear was given. For some unknown reason most of the women started having their periods: obviously we were not given any sanitary towels or anything.

Whilst we were standing naked in the hall, the lights went out and some SS pinched, hit or pushed us in the dark, and when people were screaming hysterically, they shot into the hall. We were put into rows of five, herded out of the hall, and led to a barrack. Wherever we looked, the sight was the same. Two enormously long barracks on the yellow mud, separated by a ditch and surrounded by barbed wire. On the corners of the barbed wire-fences, there were watch-towers and guards with machine-guns and trained Alsatian dogs. Not a tree, not a blade of grass anywhere. Inside the barracks the yellow mud continued. This was Lager B. Birkenau-Zigeuneriager. There were open latrines behind the barracks and German guards were stationed next to them.

The programme of the day was mostly regular: at 4 o'clock in the morning (at that time it was freezing cold) we had to stand in rows of fives; straight without a word one behind the other. Thus we stood for four hours; at 8 o'clock one pot filled with so-called coffee was given to the first of the line of every five; she had to drink a fifth part, pass the pot on to the next and so on. To be the fifth in the row meant, that one did not get any-

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thing, which obviously caused a fight. Our nearest-in-charge was chosen from amongst us and, unfortunately, this person was usually the worst element. She was our immediate “Kapo”. Above her, Polish-Jewish women were in our charge (or rather we were in their charge) as Chief-Kapos. They were mostly girls of 18 or 19 years of age, who had been there for 3 or 4 years and could only survive by turning into ruthless animals. We had very little contact with Germans, except for special occasions. We only saw those in the watch-tower. Our Kapos were already sufficiently trained, to cope with us.

After an inspection at 9 o'clock, we were allowed to disperse; we sat on the ground, which at this time was usually damp, but by 11 o'clock the sun became extremely strong for our shaven unprotected heads, and the ground was almost burning. And this, when we had for a week or ten days our periods and no washing facilities! The dust stuck to our feet. Within a few days many of us developed typhus and dysentery.

At 12 o'clock came the second Zaehl-Appell (roll-call) for lunch. This only lasted for two and a half hours, during which time we had to stand again in rows of five in the burning sun. The pot with a so-called vegetable was passed round in the same way as in the morning. There was no drink given at this meal and there was no water available; in the burning sun we were scorched and dry. The only drink we had during the whole day were the few drops of so-called coffee in the morning, if one was lucky enough to be amongst the first three! We had an hour of further lying on the ground; at 4 o'clock another Zaehl-Appell were given and we received 2 small loaves of bread for five persons (and what fights we had to have for their, at least in some measure, equal distribution!) and a piece of excellent, but extremely salty kvargli cheese.

At 5 o'clock (by the way, at 4 o'clock it was extremely cold again) we were hearded into the barrack, 1,200 of us, and we took up our positions for the night, sitting on the floor, back to back, making up rows and pulling up knees, touching the knees of the person opposite. By half past 5 o'clock it was completely dark inside the barracks. Anyone (and there were so many, who had

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dysentery), who had to go to the latrines and therefore had to give up her place, would kick and scramble overhead, not seeing in the dark, to get to the door, thus causing hysterical fights and outbursts, which always resulted in the German guards shouting into the dark barracks, ordering: Silence! Whoever thus had to leave her place could be sure that she would have to stand during the rest of the night: somebody else would have stretched her legs.

This was the regular routine of the day. The exceptions were, when on about the 10th day we were called out after the morning Zaehl-Appell had just finished. It was a day, when it was raining; we were told to strip and go in our rows to another part of the camp. We were some 5.000 of us, standing there naked in the rain from 9 o'clock onwards. We were told there was going to be a medical inspection; we had no lunch this day; at 6 o'clock some SS officers arrived and marched through our lines, examined our throats with a torch and the palms of our hands. For that, we had to stand during nine hours in the rain and we had no supper either that day.

A few days later they started to inoculate us against typhus and dyphteria; we were going to have three shots, but the series were never finished. Two weeks after our arrival they took us to the showers, which were in Auschwitz proper. The road was about 5 kilometer long, mostly covered with very sharp stones: we had to walk (or rather run) very fast, but still to keep in straight lines. Once, when the sharpness of a stone made me get out of the line for a step or two, I was hit on the back of my neck by an SS with such force, that I fell.

In Auschwitz we were led through the village into a building, where the showers were, but before they led us there, we were taken into a hall, where enormous heaps of fur, silver and jewellery were lying. They made us look at them and told us, that for those hoarded Jewish things we were suffering. The showers, that followed, were the one and only morale-raising act during our stay in Birkenau. Then we were again shaved; new clothes were given; again only one single piece and then we were led back to our barracks in Birkenau. In this last week that followed, our food was reduced to the half. One day we were taken out to break and carry enormous stones.

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A week later - this was the end of August - after the morning Zaehl-Appell we suddenly heard some music; we all run towards the sound and there was at one part of the camp a stage erected and an orchestra played some light music. It was a wonderful experience for me, as my whole life was wrapped up in music. The next Zaehl-Appell arrived and SS women and men came and started to select people and separate us into various groups. The first criterion was the kind of figure or legs one had; we later heard, that that group (the pretty ones) was taken to the frontier for the soldiers pleasures.

The group to which I was assigned was led to a different part of the camp: the “A” Lager. Here we stood from about 1 pm until 6 pm, then we were led into the showers, shaved and suddenly we heard the sound of aeroplanes. The lights were turned off and we were left standing naked and freezing for some four hours, while the raid lasted. We were then told, that there was no more time to tattoo us - as their intentions had been - due to the air-raid. When the alert was over, we were handed grey - flannel underclothes, one dress and shoes, on which was written, that they were made from the skin of Jews. The shoes had wooden soles.

At about 11.30pm we were led out into the open, where about one and half hours later in the dark we were served with extremely good sauerkraut-soup. We stood there until 5 a.m. and then we were herded into wagons. We were told, that those, who were not with us, were gassed during the same night. We had a three days’ journey; bread and other food were given regularly; and we were not crowded. We had one German guard in the wagon, who was extremely decent to us (he was a regular soldier of the Wehrmacht).

Three days later we arrived at a place called Hessisch-Lichtenau, not far from Kassel. At the camp there were small barracks, consisting of 6 rooms each, with stripes of beautifully tended grass and trees as well as a beautiful shower-room, which was at our disposal and where we could wash ourselves once a day. We had bunks with straw-stacks to sleep upon and though it was quite warm, there was a radiator in every room and we had central heating. Soap was handed out; again marked, that it was made of the fat of the Jews. We received a blanket each, and an overcoat and a number on an

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enormous white square, nearly covering one's back, which had to be sewn on everybody's clothes. My number was 26,600 something, - I do not remember any more. We had three extremely good meals and the Zaehl-Appell twice a day lasting half an hour only in the morning and in the evening.

During the first four days we could sleep, eat and wash and sing to our hearts’ content. Life seemed to be a paradise. On the fifth day, the shower-rooms were locked and we were told, that as we are pigs, we did not keep them clean enough and we therefore did not deserve to have showers at all. The barracks were overheated and bed-bugs appeared in the straw-stacks. Sleep became nearly impossible.

On the sixth day we started work: we were divided into four groups. The first group was working quite separately from us in a nearby factory of sulphur products. Their work was very light; they were extremely well-fed; within two weeks they acquired a yellow skin and occasionally one of them would suddenly - obviously on account of terrible pains - burst into screams which were heard for 3-4 days and nights, and then the person would pass away from sulphur poisoning.

The other three groups, to which I belonged, were taken to a munition-factory some 6 kilometres away from the camp. We had eight-hours’ shifts: from 6am to 2pm; from 2pm to 10pm; and from 10pm to 6am. On Sunday we were taken by train, but mostly we were walking to work. We always walked back. The work consisted of preparing the mixture for the granates or, in another part of the factory, mines. After that, we had to pour the mixture into the shells and then the shells came down onto a tape and were sealed through various phases. Finally, the granates were loaded into a flat, four wheeled iron-wagon, which was led through an iron-door onto rails; those rails led about 100 meters down a hill, where another iron-door opened outwards, but which was always closed, and had to be opened every time. The wagon led into the store-room, where it was off-loaded; then a few days later it was loaded again into railway carriages. All that had to be done with great speed. One granate's weight was 20 kilos and we had to learn to handle two at the time. The first two days I was consid-

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ered to be one of the luckier ones, as my job was to sit at the ribbon-tape with two plyers and to tighten up every screw on the arriving grenades. I am afraid, I did not consider myself lucky and begged the German foreman, who seemed to be kindly disposed towards me, to put me on to any other job, but not to leave me on the tape; he fulfilled my request and put me like a horse on to the wagon. Up to then (I mean, when I started this kind of work) it had never been done yet by a woman, as it was dangerous.

One had to lead the wagon in the dark; it weighed 40 tons, plus the unloadad 50 granates. I had to run in front of the wagon and at the back there was another person, who could control it slightly by a brake. But minute precision in movement was necessary to avoid being squeezed against the iron-door, or by the sheer weight of the wagon itself, or by the down-falling granates, if the loading was not skilfully done. Soon the snowing started, my shoes wore out and I was doing my work barefoot.

The foreman's pleasantness became rather unpleasant; he knew, that unlesss I agreed, he could not do anything (because of the laws forbidding Aryans to have anything to do with Jews) for fear of being arrested. But he tried to be as unpleasant as possible. For instance, every day, when we arrived, if we were on morning duty, he would order me to collect all the human excrements, which were around the factory

In the same factory there were French voluntary workers, Ukrainian female prisoners and German female prisoners as well. They all were paid for their work; we were the only ones, who did not get any money for our work, except once, when each of us got 3 (three) Reichsmarks, which we were allowed to spend on lipstick or some writing-paper. Some of us organized a group for sabotage, and this at least helped us morally. We increased the factory's production to three times of what it was before we came there. The result was, that control practically ceased; in the mixing-room one or other of the explosives were forgotten and when this was not possible, the granates were marked and it was my duty to smash up at the off-loading certain parts, which were hardly visible, but assured us, that the granate would be harmless.

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Bombardments became more and more frequent; occasionally one or the other of the necessary materials would not arrive in time: production had to stop; it was hope for us, but it made life even harder. The Germans took their revenge on us for such delays: they would make us collect heaps of stones, carry them into piles at another far-away spot, put them into regular heaps there and when all the stones were deposited, we had to carry them back and this procedure we had to do occasionally 5-6 times a day. On other days, when there was no work, they would make us clean the factory, then distribute the dirt again and we had to start all over again. Another irregular task was that of carrying enormous bags filled with damp salt and carry them back again. We usually were commandered to sing when marching back from work.

In the meantime, the life in the camp became less and less bearable. Food became more and more scarce; the “Zaehl-Appelle” in between work lasted longer and longer. With the cold increasing, our central heating stopped, but then occasionally for one or two days the heating would come on again and the barracks were this time terribly over-heated, which, I suppose, must have been in order to give a sporting chance to the bed-bugs to keep alive.

The shower-rooms once closed were not opened again; for some time we still had some taps with cold water at our disposal, then this washing facility was reduced to half an hour a week, when one had to do one's washing of one's clothes and oneself in about 2 or 3 minutes each; but even that was stopped later on. After dark we were not allowed out of the barracks, except when on work; but quite a few of us nevertheless risked their lives to get at least a washing in the snow during night-time. Those who worked during the night had to work in the camp during the day-time. Four hours of sleep was an exception when on night-term. On the other hand, for certain work in the camp they asked for volontary duty. For that kind of work the volontary workers were treated very decently and acquired quite a respect and very often they were rewarded by an extra plate of soup, occasionally even from the German guard's mess. Quite a number of the deported had occasions to acquire privileges; for instance, those who spoke German, could become groupleaders, which meant very often exempt-

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ion from work altogether. Their duty was to spy on the others, to push them on with the work and they certainly were not the best liked people by us.

As a matter of principle, as soon as we were taken to Germany, I denied any knowledge of the German language, even though I spoke it fluently. One day our bread-rations were stolen. It happened on a day, when our commander, who did not really assert his authority in a sadistic way, was away from the camp for the day. The commander was quite a just man, who occasionally even called us up to place complaints, of which offer we did not usually take advantage, not knowing, whether it was a trap. The day after the bread disappeared, two SS-women, thinking, that I do not understand German, discussed in front of me the way they had sold the bread. For safety's sake they later on again asked one of my inmates, who was one of the group-leaders, whether I really did not understand German. She told them, that I knew it very well indeed.

The next day, when we were going to work, the SS-women came up to me (they obviously were afraid, that I would tell the commander, and he might believe me or at least check up and find out the truth), and told me, that they knew I spoke German and therefore I lied to them, when denying it before; but nevertheless they would forgive me; anyway, they needed another German-speaking person as a group-leader, and would appoint me as one. I refused. That day they obviously gave instructions to the German work-leader in the factory to make me work even harder. This went on for two days.

By that time everybody was showing signs of exhaustion and starvation and when the call came, that 200 people were wanted for light work in some other place in some paper-factory, many wanted to join. But rumours came also, that it was just a trap and the 200 people were going to be gassed. They started to select people: the first to be fetched and put into the line of those, who were going to be taken away was I - the two SS women obviously did not forget, that I overheard them. Many people volunteered. Finally, 200 were selected; then we were disbanded: a few hours later the wagons arrived and and the 200 were called to assemble. The commander came and counted us: we were 201. The last minute somebody still slipped in, believing, that we were going to be taken for

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light work. The commander looked through the lines and picked me out: I always had very red cheeks; he thought that I was healthy enough to go on with the same heavy work as heretofore. - A few weeks later two Jewish nurses were brought into the camp from Auschwitz, where during the last few months they worked in the gas - chambers. They mentioned, as one of the last groups gassed, some names, who were among the 200 people taken from our camp.

The food became scarcer and scarcer. We were frequently visited by a second commander, who came from Buchenwald, as in the meantime our whole camp had been transferred under Buchenwald command. This second commander came to ascertain, that everything was carried out according to Buchenwald regulations. Our Zaehl-Appelle owing to these regulations became longer and altogether, especially during the day, while that commander was present, his presence was made obvious every minute, that he spent with us. He would think up the most sadistic tasks and abuse us at every possible occasion. Encouraged by him, the SS-women, who guarded us, became nastier every time. One morning, following the visit of that commander, at Zaehl-Appell they found, that two girls were missing: they escaped during the night. They were from the “yellow group”, who had access in their work to Italian and French workers, as well as Germans, who had provided them with civilian clothing. We were kept standing for hours and in the evening, when finally they left us off, they warned us, that if by the morning the two girls were not found, then every fifth of us would be shot. The morning came; the SS captured the two escapees: we had to stand and watch, while the two girls dug their own graves, then were shot and we had to bury them.

Rumours reached us, that the Russians were outside Berlin and the Americans were at Koeln. Air-raids became frequent and on several occasions, when we were taken by train to work, there was a bombardment with very low-flying airplanes and two or three times the engine of the train was thus burned, whilst we were sitting in the train. The German guards became more and more restless at the factory: materials were missing and production was stopped for longer and longer periods. By that time we rarely had any other food than once a day a soup, where even the salt and a kind of vegetable (a sort of turnip generally given to oxen) were missing. We were

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told by the SS-women, that it did not matter, if we felt weak, as we would be soon taken to Buchenwald and gassed anyway. Then one morning we heard gunfire quite near us; the Americans were 25 kilometres from us after having taken Koeln and approached Kassel.

The same day we were loaded into wagons and we were told that we were taken to Buchenwald. We had no food, we had to stop quite regularly because of the bombardments and on the second day we had to stop altogether, because our engine had been destroyed. When 36 hours later another engine came, they told us, that they would not take us to Buchenwald, as it was already occupied by the Americans.

Two days later we arrived in Leipzig in a camp, where 500 other Hungarian women stayed; they had only been a few weeks in that camp; they came from somewhere near the Baltic Sea and hardly believed their eyes, when they saw the state we were in, as they had an exceptionally good commander, who provided them with food regularly, light work and perfect hygienic conditions. We had an extremely good meal, showers and were led into very clean barracks, where we were allowed to take a rest. This camp had, up to only a few weeks before, been an SS-officers’ camp; probably that is why about three hours after our arrival a bombardment, with low-flying ‘planes, occurred: within 10 minutes the camp was in flames.

We had no shelters; only our guards were allowed to use the dug-outs, which were on the premises. We lay on the floor, I was holding my best friend's hand and suddenly something fell and at the same instant my friend's head was split in two. The barrack was in flames and the bombing still went on: I picked up my best friend's body and ran with it to the dispensary, even though I knew, that she was dead. Everybody ran from all the barracks. Finally, the bombardment stopped. Most of us were only in a shirt, as we were having a rest at the time of the bombardment.

In our very little spare time, a few of us collected some paper leaflets in the factory; one side of these leaflets was empty and one of us, being in possession of the only pencil, wrote down everything she remembered: words of a beautiful poem, or a song, etc. We all made books for ourselves, tied with some strings, which we procured with great difficulty. If any of us remembered anything worthwhile, she dictated it to the others. Some of us thus had a collection of books, which

- 16 -

kept us morally with the illusion of being still human beings. Our few possessions: tin-mugs, the clothing and my books were all burned. After the fire finally faded away, some people went back to the burnt-out place, where the barrack had been. To my amazement suddenly somebody called my name and handed me, pulling out from under the ashes, my books! It seemed, that that was a symbol: that little bit of humanity and culture was saved; some rags were found also and about an hour later we were marched through bombarded Leipzig towards another camp outside of the town, which was called Tekla, and that was the same camp, whose inmates had been brought from Buchenwald.

As the men had been there for some time, they had some contacts with the outer world and so, though we were not allowed to speak to them, we managed to get some news. Soap, onions and bread and some clothing was distributed by them. We stayed there for about 3 or 4 days, when we heard the guns quite near. It was 7 April and the Americans were on the outskirts of Leipzig. The same day more and more people came: Ukrainian gipsies, men and women from various camps and in variedly bad conditions. We were put into lines of five, some 15,000 people. Our German guards loaded their belongings into wagons, which we had to pull and the deathmarch started.

During the night we had to walk barefoot in the snow without any food; the guards shot anybody, who stopped for lack of strength. Occasionally they would let us rest for 2 hours and then on again! In that most terrible conditions, we still could rejoice, when the Americans with their ‘planes dived down and with precision would shoot upon the German guards. Soon the guards put on Buchenwald prisoners’ jackets, or when we stopped, would hide under the wagons. On the fourth day our line of five found a raw potato; we cut it into 10 slices, ate one each and kept the other slice for next day. How wonderful it tasted!

On the 10th day we crossed the Elbe at Klingenheim, somewhere between Strehla and Riesa. On the other side we were led into a sort of a thicket; by that time we were about 4,000 left and then they brought up 2 horses, killed them in front of us, cut them up in bits, and threw them at us, also handed out

- 17 -

handfuls of raw rice, which we all chewed up, while Russian aeroplanes lowering themselves to a height, where we could easily distinguish even their faces, circled and shot all around us without touching anybody of us. We knew that both the Americans and the Russians knew about us and it would only be a matter of a very short time, when we would be free, if we could only stay alive until then! The guards must have realized that too, and they knew the end was near; they decided that it was safer for them to be caught by the Americans, than by the Russians; they got us again into our lines and back over the Elbe.

It must have been about half past 5 in the morning and though from hunger, weariness and cold we could hardly drag ourselves, some human hope and spark must have been present still in some of us, as I shall never forget the most beautiful sunrise, which was like a Duerer landscape. It was the morning of my 21st birthday. We crossed the bridge, which I still managed to do, but already suffering, apart from starvation and all else, from a terrible disentery, and I could go on no more! I fell down, was noticed by a guard, who kicked me a few times with his boots, struck me with his gun, but as I could show no more reaction at all, he did not know, what to do. I still heard him saying: “Sie ist keine Kugel mehr wert”, with that, he gave me a final kick, and the troupe went on.

I lay there on the roadside for hours, envelopped by the dust and then I started to crawl. Some German women passed me, who told me very kindly, that I should get to the nearby village, and go into their stable, about a quarter of a mile from the place, where I was. They promised, that they would give me something to eat; they also said, that I would be very unsafe on the road, as there were lots of army cars all around that zone and it was not safe at all. I did as they said, and crawled towards the stable as indicated. When I managed to get into the stable I was horrified to find, looking out into the court-yard, an army lorry, but they were much too busy to prepare and to change and to flee. I heard voices in the stable, tried to hide even more, but then found, that not only did they speak Hungarian, but they were from my hometown, a mother and her

- 18 -

daughter, who were thrilled to see me, as they were sure, that I was shot. They managed to slip into the stable, when marching through the village. The two Germans I met on the road brought us each a plate of food and bread, but they told us, when we finished, we would have to leave, as these were the horses of the troops and the soldiers might came in any minute, so we crawled out again and after a few minutes we managed to find a barn, in which we hid. It started to get quite dark; we climbed into the straw and went to sleep.

Suddenly I woke up: I felt some lights shining into my face; a man with a torch and a knife in one hand and a revolver in the other was standing there. I managed to pick up during camp-time a few words of the Russian language for just such an occasion. I told him - actually it needed very little explanation, considering the state we were in - who we were. He understood, hugged us, and then lay down on the straw with us. He tried to make advances on us, but as he did not mean it very seriously and he saw, that that was not what we wanted, he got up and walked away. A few minutes later he was back with a Russian officer in uniform, who spoke fluent German. They brought us sweets, meat, bread, fruit and then helped us to a farmhouse, where they provided us straight away with a bed each and more and more food.

The officer explained, that the rest were ex prisoners-of-war and they already joined the Russian Army, which stood on the other side of the River Elbe, as this part belonged to the American liberated territory. The Russians only came back for the night, to plunder and hunt down some German farmers, under whom they had been working, who ill-treated them. The night did not pass very pleasantly, as all the soldiers one after the other tried their luck with me; they let my two colleagues sleep in another room. In the morning the Russians told me, that they had to leave and report to their troops very early. They told us to come with them, but we were not so very keen on it. I myself had anyway no intention of going back to Hungary. Before they left, I managed to hide away in the hayloft and finally I heard them leaving.

- 19 -

A little while after that I heard French voices and as my French was quite fluent, I managed to speak with them. These men were a group of eleven French prisoners of war and they told us, that they are going to Wurzen, some 29 kilometres away, for that was the American liberation center nearest to us. They said, that we could join them. In the meantime we would stay for a couple of days together. A Frenchman brought us food and they were very good to us, particularly one of them, a man from Toulon. Two days later they decided to leave for Wurzen, but as we were not in a state to be able to walk yet, the man from Toulon stayed behind with us to look after us. He also asked me to marry him and as any human gesture was incredibly marvellous to me then, I was so grateful for all he did for me, that I consented to marry him and to follow him back to France. At the end of April we decided to start our walk towards Wurzen. About 20 minutes after we had started to walk, we saw a tractor approaching, pulling two open lorries, which were loaded with French prisoners of war and women, who escaped from concentration camps; also a French flag was pinned on the lorry. Our friend stopped them, and we got on.

A short while later we arrived in Wurzen, where I met the remainder of my troop of the death-march. My two Hungarian colleagues joined them, but I remained with the French group. We were officially liberated; we had an enormous party, which was marred only by the news of the death of President Roosevelt, which we heard only then. As we were an organized group and had our own conveyance, the American authorities gave us a priority-paper to proceed towards Metz (or Mainz, I do not remember properly), where the nearest French liberation center was. We got papers also authorizing us to get food and lodging at every place where we stopped in between.

Wonderful ten days followed and then two more at the liberation center, where ten French women present and myself were the first women, who returned from concentration camps to France. Special parties and receptions were held in our honour and my French friend signed as my fiance everywhere and so held himself responsible for me. From Metz we were taken into Paris where I knew I had an uncle, but I found suddenly, that my memory was badly damaged and therefore I could not remember neither his address nor his name, so I could not possibly contact him. (At this time I

- 20 -

did not remember the names of any of my other nearest relatives either.) From Paris we were taken to Lyons, where I was received with special interest by the Jewish community there, being again the first Jewess coming from a concentration camp.

We then proceeded to Toulon; at the station we went through all the necessary formalities: my fiancé being my guardian. He left me at the station at a Red Cross center, saying, that he would call for me in a short time, so as to announce my arrival to his family. After a few hours’ waiting, when he did not turn up, the police contacted him and only then he came to fetch me. This was a very unpleasant incident, but I did not know then, that some even more unpleasant ones were going to follow very soon.

When we arrived at his home, I found an extremely primitive lodging and family; my bed had to be shared with his very beautiful, 16-year old sister. Some uncles and cousins were around, all sailors. The toilet consisted of two buckets in one corner of the kitchen, which were emptied during night time through the back window.

In the evening we were told, that we are going to celebrate and go dancing, the thought of which I very much enjoyed, being 21 years’ old, free and in France! But I soon was to understand, that I had fallen into a very dirty trap. My future family-to-be explained very kindly to me the way I was expected to earn my living within the family. My fiancé apparently also expected me to do my duty by responding and making money of the advances of the men. Five nights I spent in “strike”; I sat during the whole evening in the dancing-places, did not speak to anybody, did not eat and drink at those coastal “pleasure-places”.

Then finally I had a big talk with my fiancé and we decided, that the thing was better to be called off. I wanted to go to the Red Cross to try to find a situation as a nursery-school teacher. As I had no papers, he accompanied me. When we arrived at the station, my fiancé told me to wait for him outside until he would find out how to go about it. He returned after a few minutes with two police-men, to whom he handed me over.

- 21 -

They took me and locked me in a dark cell, and told me, that they would call me soon for questioning. I was left alone in that dismal place; a broken mirror in my pocket, which I found very convenient, as at that moment I felt, that that was more, than what I could endure and with that broken mirror I started to cut my wrists. (The scar is still visible.) Anyway, before I finished, I was called in for questioning. Apparently my fiancé decided on a good story for getting rid of me as a revenge for my letting him down in his “business” calculations. He told the police, that he found out, that I have been an SS woman, also that I have been sterilized and obviously by marrying me he could not do his patriotic duty of having a family.

The police fell for his story bait, hook and sinker, and my lack of memory and lack of documents and lack of the tattooed concentration-camp number even made it impossible to defend myself. In Lyons, I was given some money and clothing, all that remained with my ex-fiancé and I never saw any of it again. Later in the day I was taken in a police-car to Bandol, where some 300 German men and women French collaborators, Italian Fascists were kept. Appearing there in my striped Buchenwald jacket, I was not particularly welcomed among my campmates. I remained there 3 weeks, during which time I somehow managed to recall certain names and data from my memory, - ‘though nobody was particularly interested to hear them.

After 3 weeks we were taken to the prison St. Pierre, in Marseilles, where I was given the chance to prove, that I was Jewish, by reading the Shma Israel to a representative of the Hicem-Hias; also to give names of my varios relatives. A French worker, whose address I suddenly remembered, and who worked with me in the same factory in Hessisch-Lichtenau, testified for me. The police made inquiries, and within a week it was found, that all what I said was true. I was officially set free by the prison, but on the on the condition, that my file would arrive from Toulon, where I was originally detained.

- 22 -

Unfortunately, according to rumours, the Prefect of the Department of Var hated foreigners and would not hand out these papers. So I had to stay in jail, where my position was rather peculiar and not very pleasant either. I was the only one there, who had no money, which meant, that I was completely thrown on the prison-food. The prison guards quite willingly let the Germans or the French collaborators out for a bath on the beach or to have a nice meal, - provided, of course, that they have bribed little bit beforehand. So occasionally I was the only one, who stayed inside and who ate the prison fare solely. On the other hand, the police-women treated me with special kindness as much as they could, which again did not ameliorate my contacts with my prison-mates.

This situation lasted until the beginning of October 1945, when one of the police-women took me out of the prison, to go to the prison's dentists. We had to wait and in the waiting room two patients were sitting already, one of them was in a very bad condition; he seemed to me very familiar. I overheard their conversation, which was about Buchenwald and with the permission of my guard I asked him, if he had not been in the Tekla camp and on the “death-march”. As soon as I said the first two words, he recognised me as well: it was the same young Frenchman, who in the Tekla camp presented me with bread and soap and with whom at every stop during the “death-march” we had a friendly conversation.

When he heard my story, that I was in jail, he grew most indignant and promised to do everything in his power to set me free. Next morning a lovely food-parcel arrived from the Convalescent Home of the former deported some miles out of Marseilles, in Chamoins-les Bains. The young Frenchman was really a man of his word: at the Convalescent Home he collected a group of 50 young people, who all dressed up in the concentration camp's jackets and with the French banner marched first to Marseilles, brought the food-parcel to the prison, went down to Toulon and the same afternoon the 50 of them came with my documents, freed me and took me triumphantly up with them to Chamoix-les-Bains. I heard later, that the Prefect of Var lost his position because of my case. I only stayed in the Convalescent Home for 3 weeks, then went to Paris, where I took a job in a “Wizo” Children's Home in Montmorency, near Paris.

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