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[Page 47]

Chapter Six

The Destruction of the Jewish Community of Csenger

וְהָיוּ חַיֶּיךָ תְּלֻאִים לְךָ מִנֶּגֶד וּפָחַדְתָּ לַיְלָה וְיוֹמָם וְלֹא תַאֲמִין בְּחַיֶּיךָ

“And your lives will hang before you in the balance,
and you will be afraid day and night, and not believe that you are alive”

(Devorim 28:66)

The spring arrived, and the farmers returned to their work in the fields. The planting began, and everyone eagerly awaited the spring. In the Jewish homes, everyone was preparing for Pesach. Yet, the women were working with broken hearts, while they were silent with sorrow. Many weeks have passed and the families of those men who were taken for forced labor to the “Munka Salglat”, didn't receive any letter from their husbands and fathers, or sons, or even any indication that they were alive.

On Monday, March 19, 1944, at 11:00, the radio announced that the German army had entered Hungary at eight o'clock in the morning. I closed the radio immediately. I didn't want to hear anymore, knowing that this foretold the end. All hope that Hungary would not share the fate of the other European countries was gone! We knew that the end was coming. The question was only how and when? How many days or weeks would it take? The Jews met each other in the streets without saying a word. There was nothing to say. Everyone felt that they had no way of escaping.

In the course of time, the young people of military age, were called to go to the forced labor camps (and I was also among them). Their parents and relatives accompanied them to the train stations, and hardly wept. The families and their sons knew that they would not see each other again. There eyes met as they separated without any hope for a reunion.

In the meantime, the holiday of Pesach came with everyone awaiting the future, which was so full of sadness. The last day of Pesach the government summoned the head of the community, Shmuel Berger, and asked him to prepare for them a list of all the men of the community, from the youngest till the oldest within three hours. In the afternoon, the government summoned Dr Gargey Bartlan to the city council, and asked him to gather all the Jewish men in the large synagogue, and speak to them in Hungarian. In the shul no one held speeches in Hungarian. They wanted him to calm everyone down. At four o'clock in the afternoon, the men all gathered to hear Dr Bartlan speak, while the guards of the Hungarian police were on the premises. He tried to calm the audience, and asked them to follow all the instructions which would be given to them, in order to prevent a greater tragedy than that which befell the Jews in the smaller town. After he spoke, he began to cry bitterly, and the whole audience cried with him.

Thus the holiday of Pesach passed. After Pesach the government ordered all the young Jewish men to arrive at six o'clock in front of the shul. At the designated time, the boys arrived, and the Hungarian police was waiting for them. They commanded them to empty the shul of all its benches and furniture. All those who were present knew that they were lost. They began to remove the benches and the chandeliers, and the shelves with the holy books and Gemoros, and thousands of sets of Mishnayos. When everything was emptied, only the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) was left. They refused to touch the Aron Kodesh because that was their last hope. If the Aron would remain they would be able to return all the other things that were removed. They stood in front of the Aron Kodesh as if they were being nailed with nails to the floor of the empty shul. They told the police that the Holy Aron belongs to them! It was built one hundred and fifty years ago by holy Jews that did not use any nails. It was completely fashioned by their pure hands, and built into the wall, at a depth of two meters. Its height extended to the ceiling. They told the police that they will not desecrate the Aron.

The boys clung to the four pillars of the Aron, which had already been robbed of its white velvet paroches (outside covering or curtain) by the police. They held on to the wooden snakes that were wound around the pillars, and they turned their eyes toward the wooden lions that stood at the top of the Aron and guarded the luchos (tablets) on top of it, as if they were asking them to guard the Aron from being destroyed. A policeman summoned the shochet, Chayim Peketeh, and asked him to bring a hatchet. When the shochet arrived and saw what was taking place he kept quiet, and didn't react. His black, lively eyes didn't look upward, and he prayed silently. He couldn't move.

Then one of the policemen grabbed the hatchet from his hand, and started to break the Aron, and broke off its doors, thereby commanding the boys to remove the Sifrei Torah. They removed the forty two Sifrei Torah that were in the Aron, and in this procession they left the shul together with them. This was the march of mourning for the whole community of Csenger. The tears of the boys came down on the coverings of the Sifrei Torah, and the Rov's son, Rav Shlomo Tzvi Hirsh Yungreis, cried out hysterically. He grabbed his head with both his hands and cried out “Woe to us, we are lost, and this is our end”!

That same night, all the Jews from the villages of Oyfalu and Oar were rounded up together with the children and old people and herded into the large shul. They slept on straw on the floor. The next day they were loaded on to horse drawn wagons, and were taken to the Ghetto of Mátészalka. After all the Jews in the villages were rounded up and taken away, and after the shul emptied out, each time, they gathered the Jews of Csenger in the order of the streets that they were living in. Every transport was kept for one night and one day in the big shul, and then they were taken to Mátészalka.

The Jews from the villages of Gatz, Shima and Shmus Dara were assembled in the Christian school in Tutfaloo, and were taken to the Ghetto the next day. The wagons on which the Jewish families and their possessions were transported belonged to Jews who owned farms. The horses were led by a Hungarian man from the village. After he would take the Jews to the Ghetto, he would say in a loud voice “I got rid of you, and now the wagon and horse is mine.” In the course of one week, all the Jews of Csenger and the surrounding cities were transported to the Ghetto in Mátészalka. They were only permitted to take their clothing and food for a limited amount of time. From the city of Csenger, six hundred and two people were rounded up. Everyone else had already been taken to the forced labor camps. Only the women, children and old people were taken to the Ghetto.

This procession of horse drawn wagons was a long one. The wagons were loaded with the families of Jews who were humiliated to the biggest extent imaginable. As the procession passed through the main street, the Hungarian women and children were standing and watching on both sides of the road, without any pity whatsoever. They didn't hide their happiness while they witnessed the plight of the unfortunate Jews, and even clapped their hands. When the procession passed the huts of the Gypsies who lived at one corner of the city, they displayed pity toward their Jewish neighbors. Who, like them, knew what it felt to be humiliated?

The Jews in the wagons had a yellow patch on their clothing in the form of a Mogen Dovid, which every Jew from age three upward had to have sewn on his clothes since the Germans came to Hungary.

The procession reached the corner of the city, and suddenly was stopped. What happened? One Jewish person was missing. The police accompanying the procession were running around in fright. They had a list of all the people who were coming, and it seemed that one person was missing. While they were screaming, one Jew came close to the procession from the direction of the city, and it seemed that he was the missing person. He had forgotten his tallis, and he went back to get it. Without anyone noticing he went home and took his tallis.

In the Ghetto in Mátészalka, there were eighteen thousand Jews together with all the other Jews of the district. Four young German boys belonging to the S.S. were appointed to rule the Ghetto. It wasn't for nothing that a young S.S. boy boasted that he is only sixteen, and is ruling more than sixteen thousand people. Doesn't that demonstrate how powerful he is?

In the Ghetto two families had to share one room. In an average size room 25-30 men were crammed in. Now started the hunger, and the different hardships which they all went through, for a period of four to five weeks until they were forced into the trains that brought them to Auschwitz.

Certain people who were known to be wealthy were not assigned to live together with their families in the Ghetto. They were taken to the big shul in Matesalka which was near the Ghetto. Their names were recorded on a special list by the Hungarians who ruled Csenger, whose greed had no limits, and who wanted to rob them. These unfortunate victims were tortured and beaten till blood flowed from their wounds, in order that they should reveal where they hid their jewelry and money. Before the Jews were banished from Csenger they were ordered to give the government all the ornaments of gold and silver which they possessed. The Jews in Csenger were known to be wealthy and prosperous, not only in fixed assets such as land, but also but were also known to have an abundance of gold and valuable certificates.

All those people that were taken into the large shul in Matesalka were tortured by the officer named Jerry who was known for his bestiality. He prepared instruments of torture such as leather belts and large and small sticks that had iron on top. He ordered his victims to remove their clothing, and tortured them in a way that was probably done at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, in order that they should reveal where their money was hidden. (It is thanks to the efforts of Meyer and Binyomin Lichtman, may they be well, that the officer Jerry was hung in Budapest in 1945).

The young people in the Ghetto were ordered to guard the gates, so that no one leaves their homes, even to venture out into the streets. The Rabbonim of the large cities gathered together and fasted, and said special prayers to annul these evil decrees.

The holy Rov, the Maggid of Csenger, Rav Yitzchok Shatun Ztl refused to eat or drink. One day he disappeared, and his wife Necha, whose maiden name was Yungreis, said that he hid in the roof of the house, and refused to eat or speak with anyone. He slept on a sack, and died a few days later from weakness.

A few times a day the adults in the Ghetto were counted to make sure no one escaped.

On the 27th day of Iyar the Jews who were in the Ghetto of Mátészalka were forced to go into the trains that took them to Auschwitz. In the first transport those who were in the big shul were taken. They were crammed in like sheep taken to be slaughtered into trains that were used to transport cattle. Eighty or ninety men were crowded into one car. Each car had four windows which were enclosed in barbed wire. The congestion and suffocation was unbearable. In this manner they travelled for one week, without food or water. One pail was given to every cart for personal needs. The S.S. from time to time would throw in some loaves of bread and marmalade.

On this last journey of theirs, they found notes that were hidden in the cracks of the train's walls, and were written by the unfortunate Jews who were on the previous transports. The notes were telling them not to enter the trains. They said that they should either commit suicide or escape. The trains are destined for Auschwitz where everyone is killed. They were advising them to either escape or form a resistance, since the trains are taking them to their deaths.

The above transport reached Auschwitz on June 2, 1944. All its people were commanded to leave their belongings on the trains, and to start walking in a procession to the square. There the cruel Dr. Mengele was waiting for them, wearing his impressive uniform and polished boots even at such a disastrous time.

Dr. Mengele stood with his feet outstretched, thereby pointing to everyone who should go to the right and who to the left. (Whoever was shown to the right was supposed to be going to work, and whoever was shown to the left was supposed to be going to the showers). People didn't know which direction was the best. They didn't realize the purpose of these two different directions. They went wherever the finger of the wicked Dr. Mengele directed them to go. He decided the fate of all the prisoners.

Those who were in the column at the left turned to have one last look at their dear ones from whom they were being taken away, while knowing that this was the last walk they would be taking. They went to the showers to purify themselves before their holy souls would be united with the holy souls of their ancestors. Their ancestors were buried in Csenger. On their graves monuments of marble or stone were placed, and the names and dates of each deceased person were marked. However, unlike their ancestors, these unfortunate victims would not be buried.

[Page 52]

Chapter Seven

The Period of Time Following the Holocaust

In the spring of the year 1945, a few of us, who were the remnants of the city of Csenger returned to our homes. After the terrible atrocities which the Jewish people suffered, we were all filled with sorrow. We found our homes emptied of our dear ones. Our parents and siblings were gone, and only the walls were present. Our hopes that we would find our dear relatives were in vain. The young people that were employed in the forced labor camps, or that worked in the ammunition factories for the Germans, and were able to withstand all the different types of tortures, remained alive. From each family, one or two came back, while from others none remained.

We sat down on the ground and cried bitterly over the loss of our dear ones, mourning the slaughtering of our people. We cried over the loss of our parents that were burned in the crematoriums of Auschwitz, while sanctifying the name of Hashem. We cried over the destruction of our community which was now bereft of its members. We lamented as we recalled the holy martyrs who cried out as they were being buried alive in pits. We recalled our old people and young children. Everyone cried remembering their brothers and sisters and the plight of the Jewish nation victimized by the sword. We put on sackcloth and mourned, and refused to go on with our lives.

Little by little more people returned. We all realized that we could not continue to live in the ruins of Csenger. We decided to go to Eretz Yisroel and rebuild our lives there. That was the only place we could raise children while being free of the terror of the Gentiles, and live a life of liberty. Most of us went to Eretz Yisroel, and a few of us fought in the Battle of Liberation in 1948. Some were wounded. However, they knew they were fighting a battle for their own country and not for some foreign country. A bridge of fire was built between the crematoriums of Auschwitz, to the fire of the War of Liberation. This bridge led to the gates of Eretz Yisroel. It was through these gates, that we, the people of Csenger entered, with all the other refugees of the countries where the Holocaust took place.

cse053.jpg [27 KB] - The gate of the cemetery of Csenger
The gate of the cemetery of Csenger

Most of us, the former residents of Csenger live in Eretz Yisroel, and we number about one hundred people. We raised families here in Eretz Yisroel. One third of the Jews of Csenger are still spread out in the lands of the Diaspora such as Europe, America and Australia. In Csenger itself, not one Jewish person was left. The great and holy shul was destroyed in the year 1963.

A few of the old people of Csenger such as Dr. Kasovitz Laslo, Lazar Lautman and Martin Berger of Blessed Memory, who were directed by the last head of the community council, Dr. Berger Frantz, may he be well, sold part of the property of the community that was left. In the year 1962 they built a high enclosure of concrete around the cemetery in Csenger, which is the resting place of the great tzadikkim and founders of the community who passed away before the Holocaust. The holy martyrs of the Holocaust have no grave. In order that we, the refugees, should be able to gather together on their memorial day, we erected an eternal monument for them in Har Tzion in Jerusalem. Every year we gather there on the twelfth day of Sivan and say Kaddish for their souls.

[Page 54]

Yizkor Hashem

May Hashem Remember

As we gather, we say “Let Hashem remember the holy Jews of Csenger and the surrounding cities, the fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, children and infants, that were murdered, and burned alive and drowned, choked, and tortured to death, and buried alive because they were Jewish. May Hashem avenge their blood.”

May Hashem remember the dear, unfortunate victims whose blood he will avenge, and may their souls be tied to the bond of Eternal Life.

May Hashem remember our Rabbi, and the shuls, and the holy seforim that were destroyed, the great Yeshiva with its students, May Hashem avenge their blood.

cse054.jpg [32 KB] - The monument for the martyrs of Csenger
Portrait of the monument
erected for the martyrs of Csenger
in the Chamber of the Holocaust
in Har Tzion in Yerusholayim

Following is a prayer of Yizkor mourning the destruction of Csenger

“He destroyed Eretz Yisroel, destroyed all its palaces, and it's fortresses”

(Eichah 2:5)

The above possuk speaks about the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdosh.

This prayer written in Hebrew, is written according to the letters of “Csenger Bchurbonoh” – meaning Csenger at the present time which is desolate.

The palace of our miniature Bais Hamikdosh
And opposite it the house of the Rov

Their gates were closed forever
Everything was broken and destroyed

Infants and children, the old and the weak,
And fathers and sons

Were trampled in her midst
By insane and cruel murderers

A pile of ruins is in its holy places
Everything was trampled on and wrecked

Amidst horrifying tortures and cries of terror
Their honor was desecrated, and their lives were severed

Our beloved friends were led like sheep to the slaughter
They were pleasant during their lifetime and
Stayed together in death

The cemetery with all those that rest in it
Is still standing quietly in its place

What a pity that those who left, whose holiness
Can not be evaluated, who were the glory
Of this community (were so cruelly slain)

Woe to the generation, on whom it was decreed to suffer
And who can't even come to their parents' graves

Hashem who fights our battles, and judges our enemies
Will punish them in the way they deserve

Hashem, Give us the merit of visiting their graves
So that we may pour out our hearts and cry loudly

Guard for us the inheritance of our ancestors, the heritage
Which they passed on to us
When the emptiness will turn into freedom

Raise up the crown of your nation-and remember the sons
Of Amalek

Pour forth your anger on them in this generation.

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