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[Page 21]

Completion of High School
– Beginning of Burdens

By Leah Ma'or

Translated by Martin Goodman

The year 1944. How we dreamed about this year! Throughout all the years of study, we wanted to push time [forward], so we could reach the age of 18, so we could finally be “Eighteeners”, the oldest girls from the female students in the school, the ones who were finished. This period seemed to us like an actualization of all desires. Here and there, there was perhaps a thought of 'what after this?', “Numerus Clausus” in the university, and war in the world. But all this was outside of our thoughts. We were certain that by the time that we would complete final examinations that all problems would be resolved and the whole world would be as wonderful as we could wish for. We did in fact have problems with the school – a war problem for all the female students, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. Our school, “the Gimnázium for girls named for Count Albert Áponyi”, was placed at the disposal of the army [for use] as a hospital [starting] from the year 1943, and we studied in the boys' Gimnázium in the afternoon hours. None of this bothered us, the opposite is true. This was an extra teenage adventure, letters in the desks from the boys and everything associated with it.

March 1944 arrived. Spring temptations while we were approaching the end of studies. Final exams, leaving school and going out into the real world92, the world of grown-ups. There were many plans: perhaps we would study medicine or something else in Budapest. In any case, we would study; this was clear because we were all distinguished students!

This [previous statement] refers to the [female] Jewish students. The war seemed far away to us and we were certain that “our” Hungary would not be hurt, and of course, neither would we. We had not heard of concentration camps, starvation, [or] actual persecution of Jews; and if some rumor snuck up on us, it seemed like a fiction that could not reach us. However, [even] if we did not want to know what was happening around us, events were approaching us.

March 1st was the first day of Spring. However, the year 1944 did not bring us tidings of the beginning of Spring. On March 18th, Saturday, we were still studying, still speaking about the Latin exam next Monday, and no one imagined what was going to happen that day. On March 19th, Sunday, we woke late as usual, like on a day without studies, we were discussing going on a hike with our girl-friends in order to enjoy the nice spring weather. A strange noise was heard from the main street, the main road between Vienna and Budapest. We approached the direction [where] the noise [was coming from], and in front of us there was an uninterrupted convoy of vehicles loaded with German soldiers, [they were like] children almost. They waved their hands at us, still not discerning between Hungarian girls and mere Jewish girls. We smiled back at them and we did not feel how that with the galloping vehicles, an unbelievably difficult future was approaching us that we never had imagined even in our worst dreams.

News on the radio. The German government decided for various reasons to man important strategic locations, like the Post Office, the Police Department, train [stations], etc. with Germans. We still did not appreciate what was happening and what this had to do with us.

The next day, we went to school as usual. Monday afternoon, stores were closed; few persons were in the streets. German soldiers in black uniforms were standing around the banks, the post office, etc., and in spite of this, we [went] with our briefcases to the Latin exam. At school, there was the usual pre-exam excitement, [for an exam] that never took place. In place of the teacher, the principal entered with a German escort and announced that the school had been assigned to the German soldiers for lodging. We took our briefcases and went home, perhaps a little pleased from the unexpected freedom. However in the desolate street, when we saw the German soldiers in black uniforms, I suddenly felt that catastrophe was approaching. I started to run home in fear, I opened the door, and I broke out in sobs. “Daddy, Mommy, this is the end, let's flee, they will finish us [off]. I cannot explain what frightened me, but I felt the situation was bad.

News followed news. Many Jews had been arrested in train stations in Budapest and no one knew where they had been taken, anti-Jewish statutes were planned, etc., etc.

In the meantime, we continued with studies. Once again, another school – a school of nuns, we had to keep going, we will take the graduation exams, come what may. The Hungarian Education Ministry decided to move the exams up to the month of April because of the new situation caused by the entrance of the Germans. However, the month of April also brought [bad] tidings and edicts. Starting from the 5th of April, all Jews were required to indicate their Jewish identity with a yellow Star of David on [their] clothing. Everyone had to be able to recognize us from a distance. We simply didn't understand how we could go out on the street, to walk among the students this way. Still, it was all done, the 5th of April arrived, and we went to school as usual. They pointed at us in the street, but we still hoped that this would change, that it would pass. Passover, the evening of the Seder, the last one with the family, the last at home, while simultaneously, written graduation examinations were starting. Once again, we were in the boys' Gimnázium.

Wednesday, April 12th, the exam in [the] Hungarian [language], everything went fine. That evening was the night of the second Seder. In the middle of reading the Haggadah, [there was an] alarm. We all went down to the [bomb] shelter in the house. “Be calm” – [let's] continue in an orderly fashion with the festive meal. The airplanes merely flew over our city and again there was “quiet”.

Early in the morning, April 13th, I hurried to school – [for] a written graduation examination in Latin. Outdoors, it was a Spring day. The windows were open in the auditorium of the examinations, and we sat and focused on the work. Suddenly, at about 11 [o'clock], [there was an] alarm. The teacher requested [us] to immediately hand in the work and to go down to the [bomb] shelter. I handed in everything, and running, I arrived at home. If something should happen, then I would be together with the family. And truly, [something] happened, for the first time, they bombed our city, explosion after explosion, but all [the bombing] was in the industrial zone that had virtually no Jews, a fact that caused us no little trouble. The bombing finished, we went up to the house and rapidly heard the outcome: about 1000 killed, most of them in the industrial zone, and of course, [there were] “only” four Jews93 among them. Rumors: Jews [had] guided the bombardment, the Jews were guilty for everything, [evidenced by the] fact, [that] they weren't hurt.

The next day, graduation exams continued. I did not go; I did not dare to go out on the street. The doorbell rang, the school custodian came. He had been sent to bring me immediately because examinations were taking place, and if [even] one exam was missed, [then] all of [my] exams would be void. We finished the exam in [the] German [language] and went out into the street in the blue uniforms of our school, with the “yellow Star of David” prominently visible on them. And for the first time, I experienced a personal attack. A woman with a dog sicked her dog at me [saying] “Get the dirty Jew[ish girl].”

The exams continued, oral exams were conducted in one day in all subjects, student by student. That is to say, not according to subjects, rather by students, a different method than [the] accepted [method] in the land [of Israel]. The exam was staged in the presence of an examination committee that consisted in part of teachers from the school and in part of other teachers and a chairman appointed by the Ministry of Education. Our chairman was a priest, Dr. Job Bánhegyi, the head of the Benedictine Order, and we sat in our blue uniforms with the yellow patch in front of this committee which did not include one Jewish member. All of them related to us in an unusual fashion, taking into account our emotional condition; they tried to help us and not to make things difficult for us. Especially, the chairman; there are no words to describe his tact and his understanding. We finished [our exams]. The results were made public the week after the exams. All of us, meaning six Jewish girls from the class of 30 [girls] passed with very good grades; all [of us received a grade of] excellent or “at worst” – good.

This was the moment we had foreseen – a diploma in hand with grades like these, everything was open in front of us, even “Numerus Clausus” [edicts] would [not prevent] us [from being accepted] in the universities. The important thing was the diploma, so we thought, but Hitler and his entourage decided otherwise.

The month of May. There was talk of abducting girls from their families, of work in places far from home, of concentrating Jews into ghettos, much talking, and still we were foolish, still we did not realize what was happening. They, referring again to the six graduated Jewish girls, decided to request from the chairman of our graduation exams that he should take us to work on the estate of the Benedictine Order. These priests [were] very rich, with large estates that required manpower, especially now in wartime. He received us very nicely and was quite willing to help us; we had only to inform him when we wanted to start to work. It was hard for us, spoiled girls from the study benches, to imagine working in the fields. How would we be able to do this? We still did not know what we were capable of and what would have to be done. We thanked him and promised to contact him later.

In the meantime, there was news. We had to move to the ghetto in the Jewish quarter “Sziget” and from there apparently, we were to go to work with all the Jewish families. We [the six Jewish girls] chose of course to go with our families, and the plan to work on the farm of the Benedictine Order fell through. A new blow, Jews were arrested without any violation of the law, for things they had never said, or simply because they were Jews. In the middle of the night, our neighbor was arrested and the following morning, it became known that my friend from the class, who had even managed to take the graduation exams, had also been arrested for writing an article against the treatment of the men/women of the “Jewish Labor Service”. We felt that the end was near, but we were also optimistic because what else could be done to us? The end of the war was apparent to us although we no longer heard the radio – the Jews had to hand over all the [radio] receivers – but news continued to sneak [in]. The Russians approached the borders of Hungary. Everything will be all right; they will not be able to impose additional edicts on us. We handed over our spacious apartment in the middle of the city in exchange for a room together with another family in the [Sziget] quarter of the city that had been assigned to be [the Jewish] ghetto. We took with us a few [pieces of] furniture and beds; everything [else] was left with the new residents [of our old apartment], because this was [supposed to be] only for a short time and then everything [was supposed to] return to its former state; we would receive the apartment, the furniture, the clothes, and the rest of the apartment's contents, all as we had left it. No one thought that such times would ever arrive. Then we rented a cart to move our possessions and we were in the ghetto. Dense, hot, but the important thing was that we were all together and what can happen when we are all together?

Additional news, they snuck a newspaper into the ghetto, the 6th of June, the invasion began, the English and the Americans entered onto European soil. The Russians from the east and the invaders from the west. In a little while, we would be free. However, the Germans in cooperation with the [Hungarian] authorities were very busy. We were in the ghetto for just a few days, and [then] again on the road. Once more, we left behind our meager possessions, we were permitted to take only a few garments and food with us, only what we ourselves could carry. We moved to barracks that served in the past as poor workers' accommodation; we never used to come near them, [because] they told us frightening stories about this place, about the filth and contamination. This place was the place assigned to us for lodging. We underwent body searches so that we wouldn't, God forbid94, smuggle gold or possessions, not even a watch; all this belonged to the conquerors [occupiers]. The body searches were humiliating, unendurable, but in spite of everything, we were all together.

We went by foot to our new place, bundles in hand. A long line of humiliated Jews that a number of weeks ago were respected persons, loyal citizens. We passed by our home on “Árpád” Street, heavy hearted, unable to go on. Mother cried, and we continued to comfort her: “It's not important, it's all temporary; soon we will return to here”. Again we found ourselves without beds, only mattresses or even no [mattresses]. How will we be able to live here? Friday, the Rabbis of the congregations that were gathered in this place decided to organize Friday [evening] prayers. Everyone came, even the Germans [who said], “By what right is an assembly organized here? Who granted permission? Who authorized it? Those responsible will pay for this”. All of the Rabbis were arrested, and on Sabbath morning by German orders, they were given a “haircut”. And in order that they [i.e., the Rabbis] should not think any more about prayer; they had to clean the lavatories. It is difficult to imagine the psychological and physical hardship that we endured in this place, and we did not yet know what would follow, and how things would be resolved.

Sunday, more news. All men up to the age of 45 years were required to stand with their families until afternoon with all of their possessions. They left to go to work. We were happy, my father was exactly 45 years old, we all went to work together; if… if we can work, everything would work out for us, they pay for work, if not with money, then with food, with humane accommodations. Those who were above the specified age and who were unable to go out [to work] envied us. Everything was ready, we gathered, we left, we parted from those who were to be left behind and we did not know that we would see these persons from whom we were separating within a number of days. A freight train arrived, they loaded us by families [into freight wagons], person by person, sitting on [our personal] possessions. But so what? We were together and we would certainly reach our desired destination in a number of hours. They closed the wagons with lock[s] so that we would not flee. The train remained at the temporary station for hours, and [then] we left, traveling and traveling to we knew not where. From time to time, we looked through the train's window [to find out] where we were. My father, who during his life had traveled throughout Hungary, concluded, “We are traveling northward, this is wonderful, soon we will meet the Russians”. In Aszód95, they opened the wagons and allowed us to go to the bathroom; in the interim, all of this had [to be] done in the wagon. We moved away a bit and we heard the screams from the nearby institution for young criminals, “Flee!, they are taking you to be killed!”. We laughed, what did they know? We were traveling to our work. The road was long, three days and three nights. In a crowded wagon, dirty, everything was spilled! Along the way, our guards took the opportunity to enter the wagons and to “request” us, if we still had anything, to hand over to them money, jewelry, watches, in other words if we had succeeded to smuggle anything until now. We already knew that they had taken us out of Hungary, [and] that we were already in Poland; we saw the sign “Krakow” in the train station. And still we traveled.

The 14th of June, 1944. The train stopped, we looked through the window – We read “Oswiecim”96 on the station sign. What's this? None of us had heard of a place like this, in any case none of us in the wagon. However, the train continued for a while and stopped again, a final time.

Cries [from] outside, the window aided us again and we saw many persons. Most were German soldiers and people in clothes with stripes. We wondered who they were, but they all seemed lined up and the [meaning of the] sight was not clear to us. My father said, “In any case, wear a lot of clothes because anything on our person will certainly remain with us”. The door of the wagon opened. A German escorted by a man in striped clothes entered and shouted, “All Jews, Get out [of the wagon], Leave everything, [your] things will be brought immediately after you”. We jumped out, dirty with three layers of clothes and with a jacket on a summery day. Sweating, even so, we were all together. “Men and women to line up separately” – came the new command. I went with mother, my eight-year old brother with my father, but quickly he came to us, a small child must stay with his mother. And rows of women and men advanced past a tall German officer who surveyed the arrivees and directed them to the left or to the right. We did not know who he was and based on what he chose direction [left/right]. Later, they informed me that this was the well-known Dr. Mengele. Our turn came; he turned to my mother and asked, “This is your child?” – meaning my brother. My mother answered, “Both of them”. However, he decided “No” and told my mother to go to the right and he directed me to the left. I did not even have a chance to say goodbye, my mother waved her hand and cried, “Take care of yourself”; she did not know that I had been selected to live and that they had sent her with my brother to die. This was the final farewell. I went out into the wide world, the world of grownups, in accordance with the edict of the Germans.


[Page 27]

Community Institutions

Translated by Martin Goodman

Number of inhabitants in the city of Győ:55,000
Number of Jews in the city of Győ:6,000

Life of the Jewish Community in the City

The RabbiHead of the Community
Spiritual LeaderResponsible for Maintenance of Institutions
JudgesOld Age HomeCouncil of Community Representatives
CantorKitchen for the PoorSynagogue Collections
ShochetVisiting the SickContributionsAccountsTaxes
MohelCharity 
Responsibility for the Mikveh Chevra Kadisha
Matzah Baker  
Torah Teachers  


[Page 28]

The Final Days of the Jews of Győ
and the Surrounding Area97

By Hanna Spiegel

Translated by Martin Goodman

Each time that I remind myself of the dark days during childhood, I tremble to the depth of my spirit98 and soul and I relive the horrifying experience that befell us then. No detail is forgotten and I see before my eyes all of the individuals that surrounded me in those days as if they were alive and acting today. I will try to revive a tiny fraction of those impressions for you (children) so that you children of the eternal people will remember what the “Amalekite people99 did to us in this generation.

When I come to place a marker and a monument for the six thousand Jews of the city of Győ and the surrounding area, I remember the six million who were murdered in Europe during six years of the evil German rule.

Life of the Jews in the city of Győ was conducted by still waters100 for about 70 years. Life was not different or [more] special than [in] other cities in the European Exile. The Jews lived with the non-Jews as a tolerated minority for many generations, they were involved in the general life of the land, spoke in their language, absorbed the spirit of their culture, conducted business and were involved in all of the [types of] work that were [considered to be] worthwhile to the people of the land. However, they observed the heritage of Israel, kept Mitzvot and customs of Israel; they lived and grew101 and built homes and families.

In order to guard their independent character, they created frameworks and boundaries for themselves, they established Jewish public institutions and education in a community framework, at the head of which stood the Rabbi, the spiritual leader, and at his side, there were men of action selected by the community, who saw to the running of the institutions. They provided services to the synagogues in the city; they established schools for Jewish children, a mikveh for family purity, a slaughterhouse for Kosher slaughter [of animals], etc.

Like other cities of central Europe, the city of Győ included two separate [Jewish] communities. One was called the Orthodox community and the second was called the Neolog (progressive) community. Each had a separate Rabbi and leadership. The first [Jews] concentrated in the neighborhood of Sziget near the Rába River. Formerly, this area was the ghetto, the restricted area of the Jewish settlement. The later [Neolog Jews] chose a settlement for themselves in the inner part [of the city] outside of the old Jewish quarter. This separation was more external than a separation in [their] hearts, because one fate tied them together against the outside world. So the Jews lived in two communities for about seventy years. Generations of orthodox Rabbis that came from Yeshivot102 and descended from rabbis, as well as rabbis who graduated from schools for Neolog Rabbis, provided religious service in the two communities mentioned above, Rabbi Snyders and Rabbi Dr. Roth were the last in the period that preceded the Holocaust.

The thrust of Orthodox education consisted of strengthening foundations of faith in the hearts of youths [and] avoiding activities of assimilating Jews; whereas the thrust of Neolog education consisted of safeguarding the relevance to the Jewish framework without excessive strictness regarding observance of routine daily Mitzvot [and] blurring of external boundaries that separated Jews and non-Jews. Neither of them became Zionist until the 1930s. An important change in the thinking of the generation occurred only in the years before the Holocaust, when Rabbi Dr. Emil Roth was chosen. He brought with him a new spirit and poured new blood into the veins of his congregation.

Rabbi Roth arrived in Győ in the year 1935 from the city of Eger in Hungary. He was a graduate of the rabbinical school in Budapest, and he continued his studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. From there, he brought a spirit that changed the face of the generation in the city from end to end. In his regular sermons in the synagogue to the public and to the youth in study groups, he preached Zionism and called for Aliya103. He established study groups for the Hebrew language [and] study groups for the Tanach104. Youths from all of the movements [of Judaism] came to listen to his teachings.

Of course at the beginning, he had difficult struggles with the members of his Neolog congregation as well as with ultra-Orthodox factions in the city. They attacked him because of his preaching on behalf of Zionism, and he stood up to them like an iron wall and he did not weaken and he did not concede to them until the difficult days rapidly came that proved the correctness of his path. Also, in the most difficult days, his conduct was a wonder. When the men of the Zionist underground came to save him, he did not want to abandon the members105 of his congregation and chose106 [instead] to remain with them in [their] trouble.

In the first days, when only rumors had arrived about the harsh decrees against the Jews in all of the states of eastern Europe, and even [later] when rumors arrived regarding plans for extermination [of the Jewish] people by the Germans, and until the year 1944 when most of the [Jewish] communities of Eastern Europe were already destroyed, patriotic Jews in Hungary still quieted themselves because such a thing would not happen in Hungary.

In fact, it did happen, and it was like thunder on a clear day. The day was 19 March 1944; the Jews that lived in Hungary woke from their slumber and from their illusions. They were awakened by hobnail boots of the German [soldiers] and by their army divisions that swept107 the entire land of Hungary in a single day. About 850 thousand Jews were trapped in their net. The difficult struggle of every Jew began for his life, for his very life. Likewise, the Nazis and their Hungarian collaborators cooperated to destroy, kill, and obliterate108 the entire Jewish people where ever they were. They had tried and true methods. [The methods were] in accordance with the written Torah109 that was in front of them and in accordance with the practical legal decisions110. They knew how to use pacifying techniques on the multitudes [of people], they knew how to anesthetize the will against rising up, by means of lies and falsehoods and innocently pretending that they were only seeking the welfare of their victims. And the innocent Jews, believing that was what they [the Germans and Hungarian collaborators] truly wished, did their final will [by] extending their necks to their murders.

Step by step and at a rapid, hastened rate, the Nazis implemented their “Final Solution” on the Jews in the land of Hungary. First, they concentrated the tens of thousands of youths in work camps; in exchange for the essential work that they [the Jews] would perform there, they [the Nazis] would guard them there. (The intention was to concentrate the youths in remote camps far from their homes, so that they would not discover the power of opposition while at home.) [Only] elderly individuals, women, and children remained at home.

They established a Jewish Council with authority (this also was for their good) so that they [the members of the council] would execute the commands of the Germans: Gathering and recording of Jewish property and handing it over to German authority; Abandoning homes and concentration of the entire Jewish population in a closed district, completely cut off from the outside world. All that was required now was to transfer them to “safe” locations due to the danger of the war.

The German destruction machine functioned with precision and according to plan. In contrast, the Jews did everything with dulled sensibilities, as if [they were] hypnotized.

Those days were the Spring of 1944. The German war machine was already creaking and they [the Germans] retreated on every front, east and west. However, [enough of] their power remained to complete the task of exterminating more than 800,000111 Jews who remained alive in Hungary. Within 50 days, the Counting of the Omer112 between Passover and Shavuot, the Germans and their Hungarian collaborators [deported and] destroyed 600,000113 souls, in front of the entire world, and no one objected114.

Also on the Eastern front, the Russians halted their advance to give the Germans time to execute their plot. The British also closed the gates of the Land of Israel so that some Jewish refugees that had fled for their lives should not, God forbid115, find refuge. Only one road was still open to them; it was the road that led to the fiery furnaces of Auschwitz, and the road of afflictions of burdens and death in the wilderness of the peoples of Europe.

The turn of the Jews of Győ arrived a week before the Shavuot116 holiday. We were already crowded into the Ghetto by then, all five thousand Jews, in a narrow tight area. Two/three families in one room. We were sustained by a feeling of shared fate and a very weak hope that the Lord's salvation would come at any moment117. However, it [salvation], was delayed and the Hungarian Gendarme118 force and the S.S. soldiers came to beat us with their bayoneted rifles. They rushed us to come to a school building in the middle of the ghetto so that each of us should hand over articles of silver and gold and [other] valuables that were still in our possession. From there, began a journey by foot through the city streets, a long, long journey in which they all marched, elderly individuals who supported [themselves on canes], sick individuals that carried themselves and [sick individuals that] were carried by others, children and day-old infants carried in the arms of their mothers. The journey of separation from the city was escorted by the Gendarme force and the S.S. soldiers from both sides, with careful guarding so that no one would be lost. The non-Jewish population also escorted us; standing in the windows and peaking full of pleasure, some openly and some secretly, because their city had also finally been cleansed of these foreigners, because they knew that they [the Jews] would never return here.

We arrived at the Buda Road, which was an intermediate station. There were rickety wood shacks there, and already about one thousand Jews awaited us that had been brought here from cities adjacent to Győ and Moson. Now, we became one large camp for a number of days. It was Friday. In the evening, the Welcoming of Sabbath prayer service was conducted outdoors119. [As] the ministering angels and the host of heaven above came out to greet the Sabbath Queen, [so] we also went out to greet the Sabbath. The song “Le-cha Do-di Li-krat Ka-lah120 was recited in the lament melody of Tisha B'Av121, and also the words of Rabbi Roth in his sermon concerned current events, how to remain human and to protect His image122 in conditions and circumstances when the law has no power and the law [becomes] might makes right123.

Also, early on in the morning [that] Sabbath, a big Kiddush124 was conducted in the area of the shacks… “a public sanctification of the name of God”.. when the S.S. and the Gendarme force assembled Rabbi Roth, the judges, and some elders of the community, shaved their beards and peyot125, and after they had beaten them with murderous blows, they transferred them to the area of the shacks in the sight of the entire community and congregation so that they would see and fear126.

And so on the day after this Sabbath, we went on the first transport, stuffed and pressed in closed freight cars, in inhumane conditions, on the final journey. When we arrived at Auschwitz after four days, it was the 23rd of [the Hebrew month of] Sivan [in the Hebrew year] 5704 [14 June 1944]. The second transfer arrived after it on the 26th of [the Hebrew month of] Sivan [in the Hebrew year] 5704 [17 June 1944].


[Page 32]

The Men of the Work Brigades

By Yitzchak Sternfeld

Translated by Martin Goodman

The Nazi movements in Germany and Austria spread127 their negative influence on Hungary and on the nearby128 city of Győ. Already in 1938, they removed the Jews from the Hungarian army and inducted them into work brigades. The primary function of these brigades was to perform tasks for the army that involved physical work.

At first, they inducted only young men of [military] draft age. In a later period, this service was extended to all men up to age 42 [years]. By 1940, they gathered Jews who were subject to the draft from Győ and from the surrounding area into the old fortress of Komárom. The situation there was reminiscent of Auschwitz principally “thanks” to the infamous Captain Ag129.

After Hungary joined the war, the Hungarian army fought on the Russian front and a large portion of the Jewish slave laborers [from the work brigades] was taken there. While the regular army was equipped with winter gear and matching supplies, the [Jewish] slave laborers worked in summer clothes without suitable supplies and housing, in a cold of 30 to 40 degrees [Celsius} below zero, in point of fact on the front line, exposed to the tortures of winter by the cadre and the sadistic officers. Obviously, these men who were not accustomed to physical labor, were not able to endure the physical and psychological tortures, and most of them perished.

[The slave laborers were] separated from home and family without being able to receive packages (letters also arrived very late and irregularly) , with [only] a little [bit] of inferior food. Their clothing and shelter did not suit the Russian winter. They were cold and were not able to maintain personal hygiene. They weakened both physically and psychologically and finally fell victim to maladies such as typhus, cholera, and famine. We do not have precise figures; however the number of Jewish victims on the Russian front is estimated at 60 to 70 thousand.

After the breaching of the Russian front, the [Jewish] slave laborers were employed inside the borders of Hungary in conditions that were slightly better130. The purpose was to separate working men from their families and thereby to cause their [i.e., the families] financial collapse.

In the spring of 1944 when the deportation of the Jews began, most of the Jewish families had no young men. This greatly eased the work of the authorities. At the end of 1944, the Russian army crossed the Hungarian border. As a consequence, all of the Jews who had been inducted into the work camps were transferred to Germany, together with the retreating German and Hungarian armies. Most of the expelled [Jews] were unable to endure further test of famine, cold, diseases, tortures, and forced marches. Very few had the fortune, [being] sick and weak, to see the day of liberation.

Deportation of the Jews of Győ was executed in June 1944. However of the 6000 Jewish inhabitants of the city and the surrounding area, almost all of the men were lost, and most of them did not even know the fate of their families.

After the liberation of Hungary (April 1945) , those few men who had the fortune to return from this awful [work brigade] service, extended help to the feeble shadows of men that arrived from the death camps.


[Page 33]

After Liberation
– Reorganization of the Community

By Yitzchak Sternfeld

Translated by Martin Goodman

It is difficult to imagine our psychological state when we arrived after the liberation of Győ, in April 1945, in a freight train from Budapest to our city. We came to the city where we were born, grew up, and were educated, and it was empty for us; empty, without Jews. All 6000 of the Jews were deported. Our homes, our furniture, our shops, our places of work, synagogues, community institutions were all robbed, smashed, destroyed. We passed the first night in an empty basement; sleep did not come to our eyes.

We recognized the inhabitants of the city. We grew up with them, but we could not forgive what they had done to us. Anyone who had not been a Zionist; what he had seen and felt had converted him to be a Zionist. It was clear that there was no reason to start over again in that place, to restore and to build amid uncertainty. However in spite of all of this, we were compelled to begin a new life.

At that time, we still hoped for the return of our deported families. And in fact, the first liberated persons began to arrive from the nearby Austrian border (about 60 kilometers [away]) . The trains were not yet operating. There was no food, clothing, fuel, or medicines. There was nothing except for poverty, sickness, unlimited exhaustion; only a strong desire to return home as rapidly as possible. Unfortunately, this did not always succeed because the weakened impoverished men could not always withstand the vicissitudes of this second migration of nations, and many died after liberation on their way home.

Our function was to extend help to our brethren that passed through our city, first and foremost warm food, lodging and clothing, medical care and hospitalization to those who required it. This was a huge mission in a city where all the shops were closed, a city without food, transportation, or fuel. However, necessity is the mother of invention131. We managed to acquire a horse and wagon and we went out to the surrounding villages to bring food. Every day, we fed 500 to 800 persons, we cleaned the community school building and we set it up [to be] a habitation [for individuals in] transit. We hospitalized the sick in the restored wing of the city hospital. Luckily, there were some doctors among the first returnees that dedicated their energy to this work for many months. In the first period, [only a] few of the members of our community returned. Later with restoration of the railroads, liberated persons from Germany began to arrive. We received132 them all with joy and brotherhood, every returnee and his problems.

Since they were all weak, destitute, psychologically broken – the fate of their loved ones, only this was known to them – it was necessary to take care of them: housing, clothing, food, medical care, adapting to new conditions, sources of livelihood, all of these required much work, activity, and lots of money. The last problem was solved by the American JOINT133 which immediately supplied us a large stock of clothing and food when regular transportation was restored. The main share of the assistance project in our city, as in the rest of the cities, and in the center, in Budapest, was done by veteran members of the Zionist movements whose ultimate purpose was to direct the Holocaust survivors to the Land of Israel.

This was the long-term purpose, but until then it was necessary to live, to reside [in a dwelling], to eat. After the first waves of “transit refugees” passed in the first six weeks, we began to organize the survivor community of our city, about 450 persons out of 6000. In Győ, like everywhere in the Exile, we organized a new life in a community framework. Dedicated, passionate comrades cleaned the little synagogue and within two weeks, regular prayer services began, and later on, community life. Afterwards, with the help of the JOINT, we repaired the big synagogue, we elected a new chief Rabbi, Dr. Eizenberg (currently the chief Rabbi in Vienna) in place of Dr. Emil Roth of blessed memory134, who died a hero's death in the Holocaust. Our cantor returned and so we developed an intense community life. This was the only family that remained for most of us. We organized lectures and gatherings with the help of the Zionist Histadrut135 and the JOINT, and the public participated in them with great awareness. The community even organized a very successful Passover Seder.

A serious problem was the return of the Jews' apartments to their lawful owners. All of the homes were occupied [by non-Jews] and it was not easy to have them returned. For this purpose, we organized a housing office in cooperation with the municipality. These homes also had to be furnished. All of the furniture [that belonged to the] Jew[s] had been stolen, robbed, and it was very difficult to trace what had become of it. Also for this purpose, we cooperated with the municipality and we organized a division of lost property, and in fact, we succeeded to find homes, furniture, and other essential things for most of the returnees.

In the meantime, the national and municipal authorities began to function, stores opened, transportation was restored, and industrial production started. Holocaust survivors who had recovered began to work, they started businesses. After a year or two, widowers married widows, and in 1947 the first Jewish child was born after the liberation.

Adapting to the new conditions was difficult. First and foremost, the youths were dissatisfied, and at the end of 1946, emigration began.


[Page 35]

Organization of Aliya
(Immigration to Israel)

By Yitzchak Sternfeld

Translated by Martin Goodman

In the meantime, preparations began for establishment of the new Jewish state, and it was desirable to direct Holocaust survivors, as much as possible, to immigrate [to Israel]. This was a renewed migration of returnees, [although] now in the opposite direction and by regular means of transportation [cars, buses, trains], but once again [it went] through Győ to Germany, in order to continue from there to the Land of Israel. The road was long and fatiguing and took a year to two years, through camps in Germany and Cyprus [British detention camps], until they arrived in the Land of Israel.

Before we left the city, we erected a magnificent monument in the Jewish graveyard in Győ to the memory our brethren. Within the monument, we signed the names of our martyrs in a magnificent memorial book. (A photograph and plan of the monument appear in this book.) Those who remained in the city conduct a memorial ceremony every Memorial Day136 at the monument. The monument was dedicated in a national memorial ceremony with the participation of the President of the State at the time, the Minister of Education, and representatives of the state and municipal governments. Heads of the Jewish organizations and almost all of the Rabbis also participated. We succeeded in bringing a copy of the memorial book [with us] and we gave it to the Yad Va'Shem137 archive in Jerusalem.

With the passing of time, about a half of the Győ survivors arrived in Israel, and they are with us today [at the time of publication of this book]138, about 240 persons.

In the meantime, we have become Israelis. However, we shall never forget our dear brethren who perished in the Holocaust. Since we are unable to pray and say [the] Kaddish139 [prayer] on Memorial Day at the monument [in Győ], we meet every year in a different city140. However, we are growing old, and our ranks grow shorter. That is how life goes. We desire that when we are no longer among you, that a portion of Israeli youth will unite on Memorial Day with the memory of the Jewry of Győ that once was a flowering community. And our children and our grandchildren, who speak and read only Hebrew, will know where their forefathers came from.


Notes:

1) The word for "high school" in the Hebrew text can refer to what are sometimes referred to as middle school and high school 9th - 12th grades) or just high school (10th-12th grades) , depending on context. In Hungary it usually refers to years 7 to 12 and in most cases herein, I have simply translated this as "high school". Return
2) Literally 'one-half a Jubilee' Return
3) Literally, 'dressed themselves in the form of …' Return
4) The 10th of Tevet is a Jewish fast day that commemorates the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in the year 586 BCE. Return
5) The corresponding date using the modern calendar is 28 December 1971. Return
6) One of the leaders of the Magyar tribes. So called since the city was surrounded by a round fortress, gyűrű meaning ring in Hungarian. Return
7) Also known as Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary 1458-90. Return
8) Sziget literally means island. This is an area across the Rába river from the old city of Győr and takes its name from the fact that it is surrounded on three sides by rivers. Return
9) In 1826 the cemetery was inaugurated. Return
10) Literally, 'Holiness Society'', i.e., the group responsible for funerals and burials. Return
11) Academies of higher Jewish study. Return
12) Actually Judaism was initially divided into three groups – Orthodox, Neolog (Reform/Conservative) and Status Quo Ante (communities not associated with the other two) . Return
13) A single-room school where a rabbi teaches boys. Both factions managed an elementary school recognized by the City authorities. Return
14) Comforting mourners is regarded to be a religious duty by traditional Jews. Return
15) The Hebrew text is unclear, but the 6,000 includes the number of Jews living in Győr and the surrounding area. Return
16) Rabbi Ya'akov Snyders also served the community until 1944. Return
17) When the Neolog congregations were formed in the 19th Century they were considered progressive, but generally practices are conservative and should not be confused with current reform/liberal movements. Return
18) Deuteronomy (7:26) . Return
19) Avigdor Bar-Hai adds another opinion - Later, in my boyhood (1939 and on) the relationship between the Orthodox and Neolog communities were improved, maybe thanks to Dr. Roth. Many of the Orthodox community, (including my late father) used to go after the Friday evening prayer to the Neolog Synagogue to listen to Dr. Roth's sermon. Return
20) Literally "Aunt Rosa". Néni is the formal/respectful way of addressing an older woman. Return
21) The term used is the Yiddish "naches" – joy, gratification, especially from children. Return
22) Annual commemoration of the passing away of a close relative. Return
23) The period that commemorates the interlude between when the Romans entered Jerusalem and when they burned the Second Temple. Return
24) This custom is based on the Lamentations (2:19) , " Rise, cry out at night at the beginning of the watches, pour out your heart like water before the face of God, lift up your hands to Him for the soul of your infants who are wrapped in famine …" Return
25) The discussions of the Rabbis of Babylon dating from between 1600 to 1800 years ago. Return
26) A sarcastic slur of the name Ephraim. Return
27) Hungarian being their day-to-day language. Return
28) Literally "hairs". Return
29) A high school with emphasis on technical and practical subjects. Students attended for eight years after completing four years of elementary school. Return
30) High school. Return
31) To their credit the Benedictine school accepted Jewish students and one of them, József Schmideg, even became a rabbi, a fact proudly acknowledged by the Order. Return
32) Presumably, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, October 1917. Parallel with the there was a Communist regime in Hungary for a short period. Return
33) Literally, 'new' Return
34) Literally 'people'. Return
35) Well know writer (1882-1953) , who also established the magazine "Múlt és Jövő". He is the father of the historian Raphael Patai. Return
36) Theodor Herzl was the founder of modern political Zionism. Return
37) Yehuda HaLevi was a medieval Jewish poet from Spain. HaLevi wrote about his religious yearning for Zion. His writings provide a religious counterfoil to the political Zionism of Herzl. Return
38) The Hebrew word transliterates to Macoy, but it might be Makai, a Hungarian writer who translated the works of medieval Spanish Hebrew poets. Return
39) Likely to be Manoello Guido ca. 1265-1300, who wrote Hebrew poetry and his established name is Immanuel ben Solomon. Return
40) Hugo Grotius (Huig de Groot) 1583-1645 Dutch statesman and historian. He had a protective role in Amsterdam for Jews that escaped from Spain and Portugal. His main work is Remonstrantie. Return
41) A quarterly Jewish publication still in existence. Return
42) Literally, 'The Hope'. Return
43) Miklós Horthy became Regent of Hungary in 1 March 1921. Return
44) Literally 'still-born'. Return
45) A communist government was established for four months during 1918-9. It was headed mostly by converted Jews, but was very anti-Semitic. Return
46) Presumably, the miracle of deliverance of the entire Jewish people in the days of Mordechai and Esther. Return
47) The date of the Purim holiday. Return
48) Literally 'The Youth That Studies'. Return
49) Tomasov was an active Zionist who traveled around the country visiting congregations. He was an important and influential person in Transylvania among young Zionist. Return
50) The 'Numerus Clausus' edicts in 1920 limited the Jewish enrollment in universities to no more than their relative part of the population, 6% of the total enrollment. Return
51) The 'shekel' was basic currency in Israel during Biblical times and the coin of ˝ Shekel was used as a tool for Census of the Population, since counting the people was prohibited. Return
52) A place where Jewish men gather to study the Torah. Return
53) Bath for ritual immersion. Return
54) Flat unleavened bread eaten during Passover. Return
55) In the 'Tashlich' ritual, which is performed between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, breadcrumbs are cast on the surface of a body of water to symbolize the casting away of sins. Return
56) Literally “Forward!”. Return
57) Theodore Herzl. Return
58) German newspaper published 1874-1942. Return
59) Jewish historians. Return
60) Modern Hebrew language poets. Return
61) The meaning of this name is unknown. It could be a nickname or an acronym. Return
62) The name means Spring (Season) in Hebrew. Return
63) Women's International Zionist Organization. Return
64) Seems to be a reference to the leader or controlling Zionist organization in each region. In the Talmud “Galil” means area or region. Return
65) 'Assimilated Jews' may be closer to the intent of the author. Return
66) The head of the Jewish Community. Return
67) The Numerus Clausus Return
68) Unable to determine the meaning of this word in either Hebrew or Hungarian. Return
69) Jews are required to observe 613 mitzvot or commandments listed in the Torah. Return
70) A style of printing Hebrew letters traditionally used for the Biblical and Talmudic commentaries of Rashi, as well as for other religious texts. Return
71) See Song of Songs 3:11, “Go out and see, O daughters of Zion, how King Solomon was crowned by his mother on his wedding day, the day of his heart's joy.” This verse and other verses from Song of Songs were deeply loved by Jewish mystics, and also in modern times, by secular Israelis. Return
72) See Song of Songs 2:1, “I am the rose of the Sharon [valley], the lily of the valleys”. Return
73) Literally, 'steps'. Return
74) European Jews typically pronounced Hebrew in Ashkenazi fashion. However, by the 1920s, the Sephardi pronunciation had been adopted by Hebrew speakers in Palestine and by other Zionists. Return
75) Jewish prayer book. Return
76) Old Testament, from Hebrew acronym for Torah, Prophets, and other Writings. Return
77) Babylonian Talmud, Ta'anit, folio 29a. Return
78) 'Purim play', Yiddish. Return
79) Literally “Aunt Klara”. Néni is formal/respectful way of addressing an older woman. Return
80) The first wife and queen of King Ahashverosh. Return
81) A long coat worn by Hassidic (ultra-Orthodox) Jews. Return
82) Long locks of hair grown from the vicinity of the temples and sideburns, a custom of Hassidic (ultra-Orthodox) Jews. Return
83) The title of this Yiddish song is “small room narrow and warm” and it begins with the words “auf dem pripicsek brent a feurel”, which means “on top of the cooker burns a flame”, referring to the small single flame burner used in poor households to cook meals. Return
84) Where the Torah scrolls are kept in the synagogue. Return
85) No romantic relationship is implied. Return
86) Translation of this name is uncertain. Return
87) Older Aviva. Return
88) Younger Aviva. Return
89) Literally 'new'. Return
90) Translation of this expression is uncertain. Return
91) The group is named after the Maccabees, the priestly Cohenite family that ruled the Land of Israel between 160 B.C.E. and 70 B.C.E. This was the last independent Jewish state in the Land of Israel before the State of Israel was established in 1948. Return
92) Literally 'the big world'. Return
93) Two of these people Rozsa Eckmann (nee Lowinger) and Ilona Eckmann (nee Koch) were from my mother's family (Stephen Schmideg) . Return
94) This expression is intended to be ironic. Return
95) A small town north-east of Budapest. Return
96) Polish spelling of Auschwitz. Return
97) Much of this section is written in present tense even when past tense is clearly intended. Return
98) Literally 'I am stormy to the depth of my spirit'. Return
99) According to Exodus (16:8-16) and Deuteronomy (26:17-19) , the Amalekites ambushed the Jewish people shortly after they left Egypt. Return
100) See Psalms (23:2) . Return
101) Increased in population. Return
102) Academies of Jewish religious study. Return
103) Immigration to the Land of Israel. Return
104) Old Testament, from Hebrew acronym for Torah, Prophets, and other Writings. Return
105) Literally 'children'. Return
106) Literally 'preferred'. Return
107) Literally 'that swept and passed like a current of mighty waters'. Return
108) See the expression used by Haman regarding his attempt to commit genocide against the Jews of the Persian Empire, Esther (3:13) . Return
109) Ironic reference to the written books of the Torah. Return
110) Ironic reference to the Responsa Rabbinic literature. Return
111) Literally '80 myriads'. Return
112) See Leviticus (23:15-16) . Historically, the period of the counting of the Omer has been marked by customs of mourning because in the days of Rabbi Akiba, one of the greatest Torah scholars of the 2nd century, thousands of Torah students died in a plague. Return
113) Literally '60 myriads'. Return
114) Literally 'no one opened his mouth and whistled'. Return
115) This savage irony is not a mistranslation. Return
116) The Shavuot holiday, which is celebrated 50 days after the beginning of Passover, commemorates the announcement of the Ten Commandments and the giving of the Torah to the Jews at Mount Sinai. Return
117) Literally 'in the wink of an eye'. Return
118) Police Return
119) Literally, 'under the canopy of the heavens'. Return
120) “Come m beloved to greet the bride”. Return
121) The 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, the day on which Jews commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Return
122) God's image, i.e., human beings. Return
123) Literally 'he that is [most] violent [shall] prevail'. Return
124) Kiddush is the sanctification/blessing recited over wine prior to a festive meal; the use here is ironic. Return
125) Long strands of hair that some Orthodox Jewish men grow from the area of the sideburns. Return
126) A similar expression is used in Deuteronomy (21:21) to describe a boy who is executed for disobeying his parents. Once again, the cruel irony of this passage is not a translation error. Return
127) Literally 'radiated'. Return
128) Close to Austria, that is. Return
129) Uncertain about correct spelling of this person's name. Return
130) Literally 'slightly less bad'. Return
131) Literally, 'Necessity awakens the ability to improvise'. Return
132) 'Greeted' may be a better translation. Return
133) American Jewish Distribution Committee. Return
134) Literally 'the memory of a righteous man is a blessing'. Return
135) The umbrella organization of Jewish workers in the British Mandate of Palestine. Return
136) Holocaust Memorial Day, celebrated in Israel on the 27th of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Return
137) Holocaust Memorial Museum. Return
138) Since then many members have passed away. Blessed be their memory. Return
139) Prayer of sanctification of God's name recited by Jewish mourners. Return
140) Nowadays (2004) the memorial service takes place in the small synagogue at the Dvora Hotel in Tel Aviv. An annual memorial services is also held at the cemetery in Győr. Return

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