Protocol Nr. 3588

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Name: dr. K. I.
Gender: male
Place of birth: Fels?szopor
Date of birth: 1915
Place of residence: Újpest
Occupation: rabbi
Concentration: Budakalász
Ghetto: Újpest
Camps: Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Rehmsdorf, Theresienstedt

The person in question has given us the following information: Before the German invasion, the Jews led a relatively easy life in Újpest; it was a democratic city where many laborers lived. For the most part, they were social democrats and the Jews always played a role in the party too. However, at the time of the elections in 1939, the Arrow Cross member of the representatives of Újpest got in the parliament and from that time on the situation in Újpest changed dramatically. We would have never been able to imagine the political atmosphere of a city to change so significantly in such a short time. In 1942 László Endre became the sub-prefect and that completed the transformation. The life of Jews became worse and worse every day, their right to sell goods at the marketplace was withdrawn, and all kinds of restrictions were introduced wherever it was possible. We experienced various kinds of atrocities. Most of the attacks happened near the synagogue; there was a period when even certain criminal attempts against the synagogue were prevented. The circumstances of the Jews became totally unstable. After the German invasion, it had a terrible effect on people’s nerves that, apart from the official persecution their peace was also disturbed by robberies and break-ins all the time. The inhabitants themselves led the German soldiers to the houses of wealthier Jews, where they robbed them and even murdered people. A tradesman called Rosenfeld was shot dead. Passover was already horrible. Robberies and looting were an everyday occurrence. The antisemitic decrees were issued one after another. These decrees, especially making people move together, were executed the most cruelly by the councillor of the city hall called Bakó. The four members of the Jewish council were the ones to negotiate with the authorities about the setting up of a ghetto. The members of the council were chief rabbi Dr Dénes Friedmann; Dr György Székely, lawyer; Dr László Lengyel, lawyer; and János Szűcs. They proceeded in the most honest way considering the situation and under the circumstances. The Orthodox chief rabbi escaped to Pest with his family; the people of the religious community were very angry with him and condemned him for leaving the others there. Now we already know that we should have followed his example, as he and his family survived. The members of the Jewish council thought that we could get away with being locked up in the ghetto and that the deportation may not happen at all. Although we felt that there will be some trouble, we trusted in a miracle. The setting up of the ghetto began already in early May, and it went on till our deportation. They wanted to concentrate the Jews of the city partly on the place expanding from the Danube to Attila Street, partly towards Árpád Road and Megyer. Then, they narrowed it and finally the Jewry of Újpest, that is 13,000-15,000 people, was crammed into 70 houses. Many people were called up for labour service in Hangon# in the beginning of June, thus reducing the number of people in the ghetto. The ghetto consisted of yellow star houses spread all over the city. People lived in criminal circumstances there, 10-15-20 people crammed in them on top of each other. Watching the psychosis of people, they were not especially desperate. No suicides were committed that time. We thought that since we live near Pest we would not be dragged away. I only became certain that they would take us away when we heard the news: “Rákospalota had been emptied”. In the beginning we could leave for 2 hours a day, but later even that was prohibited. On the evening of 18th June, it was a Wednesday, we were sitting in the courtyard of the synagogue; it was a moonlit evening and we were talking. Suddenly a group of policemen appeared, it was terrible! They began to read out the decree according to which nobody could go in or out of the houses. The policemen said they did not know about anything. They would not say a word about where they were taking us. There were one or too benevolent people among the policemen. For example, a policeman took the letters that arrived at the post office on the following day and he let us look in them, although it was forbidden. I received a letter from an acquaintance of mine and they showed it to my sister. They did not give it to me, saying that it would only make me sad anyway. From Wednesday evening to Sunday morning we were locked up in the ghetto, which was in the building of the religious community. About 180 people stayed there. There was Chief Rabbi Friedmann and Rabbi Dr Wassermann, who was the judge of the Orthodox community, and many others. Friedmann and Wassermann were forced to cut their beards. The psychosis of those last days was peculiar. On Thursday evening we thought that they would take us away immediately, we were expecting it to happen any minute. On Sunday morning the gendarmes came to our flats and chased everybody out to the courtyard. There was an old man of about 80 with us, he was called Uncle Braun. He was unconscious, so we grabbed him and took him to the courtyard. There the gendarmes collected us and said: “Now we are taking you to a place from where you will never come back.” They said we could take with us everything: money, jewellery, valuables and papers and they gave us an hour to pack up. After one hour they chased us out of our flats very brutally. I wanted to drink a glass of water, but one of the gendarmes grabbed me and threw me out of the room. They left us standing in the sun; poor old, ill Uncle Braun was there too. They searched the whole crowd and meanwhile there was an air raid; we were waiting for a bomb to hit us, while the gendarmes were trembling from fear. That was an enormous air raid. The body search itself was relatively bearable. Although, it varied from courtyard to courtyard, because it all depended on the gendarme doing it. I heard that at other places they were very cruel during the searching. In the afternoon they put the old people and their baggage on 3 carts and we set off on foot. The derision of the inhabitants followed us the whole way. There were 2 rabbis with us, who were handsome, tall men and people shouted the nastiest words at them. They did not throw stones at us only because the gendarmes chased them away from there. We did not see regretful faces at all. It happened that a woman could not carry her baggage and the gendarme took it from her, saying that he would put it on the cart, but he threw it away. The local inhabitants took it away. Later he asked another woman: “Is the bag heavy for you?” He wanted to take it from her but I ran there, took it and carried it for her. We went along József Street and Árpád Street. Having left Apponyi Street we reached the Jewish cemetery. That was again a terrible feeling for us. There they pushed us up in the cattle cars. 80 of us got to a cattle car, old Uncle Braun was with us too, but he was confused since he had been senile and those things had a terrible effect on him. I heard that 2 gendarmes called the rabbi back, and they beat him up very much. They interrogated him about where the assets of the religious community were. We thought he would stay behind and receive exemption, but later he was taken after us. There were terrible conditions in the cattle car, but we arrived in Budakalász already in the afternoon. When we were getting off they were hitting and beating us to make it quicker. I lost my winter coat there and at that time I thought it was a great tragedy. We were not allowed to take anything with us and the enraged gendarmes and SS men were hitting us. My poor father and myself were also beaten up. In Budakalász we settled down in an open place, mixed with people from Újpest. We had to prepare our own food being exposed to the rain and the hardship of the weather. My sister’s eight- month-old baby was with us and we could not feed it, nor could we wash it. The circumstances were indescribable and we were staying next to the toilet, where the others were queuing up all day long. That environment had an awful emotional impact on us. The nights were especially terrible. Crowds of people went mad; they were shouting and yelling, we could not get hold of any water. People were standing in long queues for water. It often happened that the gendarmes or the SS men chased the queuing people away by beating them with rifle butts. There was no possibility to wash and meanwhile they kept bringing people there all the time. The Jewry of Kispest, Újpest, Rákospalota and Pestszentrerzsébet were there and a great many people from Pest too. About 30,000 people lived in that camp. A gendarme shot down somebody in front of us, because he had dared to contradict him at the unloading. We wanted to bring a doctor to him, but the gendarme did not let us do it. He had to die in sight of everybody. The gendarmes abused us continuously; the SS men, who were ethnic Germans, committed atrocities against us. The camp was enclosed at its four corners by gendarmes armed with machine guns. Masses of people committed suicide together; people poisoned themselves with their medicines. My father and I thought that we would be executed there, in Kalász. On Friday evening they entrained us and they never opened the cattle cars till we arrived in Kassa. They took away our knives and shaving sets. I think there was no order for that, only the gendarme liked my shaving set and kept it for himself. In Kassa, the SS took us over and they gave us water. We could go out in groups to have a wash. So, they treated us relatively more humanely than the gendarmes. In the cattle car the circumstances were horrible; we could not feed the little children. The hot sun was blazing on the cattle cars and there was no air in them. My poor mother was sick on the way. Our poor Uncle Braun died. I paid our last respects to him; it was a day of fasting and we hoped that after 3 weeks that the good Lord would set us free and we would get back home before Tisha be-Av. Finally the train stopped in Auschwitz. We saw a lot of people in striped clothes, which were marked with yellow triangles. A Polish man came to us; there was a letter P on his clothes. We heard them speaking in Yiddish, so I asked: “Who are you?” And he answered: “Jews, just like you.” Then they offloaded us from the train us and we had to leave everything there. Then we had to stand up in two lines: men in one and women in the other. The women were allowed to take their babies with them. I went with my father. We tried to put on warm clothes and take food with us. They selected the women first and I saw that my poor mother and sister with the baby were taken to the critical side. Then we were selected and my father was separated from me, he was put on the other side as well. My first impression was that there were Polish people there, which meant they let people live, since we knew that the Polish had been taken there earlier than us. I told my father: “Never tell them that you are ill, just go to work! You must work in Germany if you want to stay alive!” Then they took me to the bath, where they took away everything from me, only my shoes were left. They collected us in blocks and warned us that if we had jewels in our shoes we should give those to them, because they would examine us with X-ray. Many presented their jewels. The provisions were indescribable. We got very little bread and every five received a bowl of soup made of dried vegetables, which we had to eat without spoons. Our Gypsy foremen were cruel to us: they took away even that single pair of shoes from me and gave me a worn out pair instead of those. They chased us out in thin clothes at dawn; it was very cold and we were waiting to see what would happen to us. There was a child with me: Miklós Ernst, the grandson of Rabbi Lichtmann. His mother had left him in my care and I tried everything not to let him be separated from me. We wanted to be taken away with a transport of labourers. Indeed we went away with the first transport still that week. We got one third of a loaf of bread, a slice of margarine and a thin slice of sausage for the journey. We lived on that for no less than 48 hours in the cattle cars. We had no water. When we arrived in Buchenwald, they disinfected us again. They made us fill in a form on which we had to submit our personal data. Among the questions there were for example: why we had come there and from where, what are our professions. No kind of title, like Ph D degree could be written there. There I got the number 64757. In Buchenwald we received proper food. They did not hit us there, unlike in Auschwitz where they abused us a lot. They took a photo of everybody and they began to move us along in alphabetical order. They took us to Rhemsdorf. We worked for the Braunkohlen-Benzin-Gesellschaft BRABAG. We had to clear away the ruins caused by the air raids and to rebuild the factory, which was very hard work. 5,000 Hungarian Jews were taken there. Some transports of ill people were taken back to Buchenwald. French, Polish, Latvian and Lithuanian Jews were brought there instead of them. We heard from people from Riga that Hungarian Jewesses had been taken there; that raised our hopes greatly. Several prisoners died once at a horrible air raid. Our capos and foremen demanded us to work with fantastic speed. These foremen were Christian prisoners, while the Lagerältester was a Gypsy. They stole most of our food. I preached every Friday evening and later I stayed in the block of the ill and I tried to keep up the hope of the people. Of course, the situation was hopeless; people were perishing. We organized cultural performances to raise people from psychic indifference. We held a nice Chanuka evening in the block of the ill. People were grateful for my preaching. There were several Zionists there. I was together with Just Maise, the leader of the Romanian Zionists. There were many rabbis there, from among whom only some came back home. People died, especially in the last period of time: strong youths, children, weak people died of oedema and of complete exhaustion. When the Russians were approaching the horrible evacuation began. We were travelling for two weeks on an errant train. Then the train was demolished and, on the last four days, we were taken on foot. Those who could not march were shot down with machine guns. We wanted to hide. The inhabitants behaved in an absolutely insensitive way. There were civilians among our guards on the way to Theresienstadt and they shot down the weak people. After all this, we felt that Theresienstadt was paradise. Women and men, children and old people were allowed to be together in civilian clothes. We thought that we had come back to life. Yet, nowhere else did so many people die as there in Theresienstadt. They were killed by typhus. We were liberated on 13th May. From among the 5,000 Jews of Rhemsdorf no more than 800 came home. There were about 250-300 Jews from Újpest among them, but only 10 of them survived. I only know about 6 people; the others may have settled somewhere else. 9 of my family members died. I am completely alone in the world. I would like to go to Palestine. When the Jews returned, the local inhabitants concealed their emotions in the beginning, but now they always show how much they hate Jews and there is free scope for antisemitism again. Those who have come back cannot get back their possessions, their flats, and there is no real solution to secure their living. About 2,000 have come back and only very few of them can make a proper living.
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