The Last Chance to Remember
Chapter 13. OUR LAST DAYS AND LEAVING
next tragic date was June 2nd, 1944, Thursday and finally this was our
group, the fourth and the last. This dreadful day arrived just like
an execution. Here was the first investigation; we had to undress in
front of the gendarmes. After this excitement the women searchers took
over and they did their best to humiliate us in every way.
were allowed to bring one little pillow and I am sure that almost everybody
tried to place some jewelry inside the pillow which was filled with
feathers. So my dear mother's beautiful engagement ring was gone with
this last try. The gendarmes were trying to outdo their superiors most
of the time. They had always new ideas and tricks to punish us for anything.
were trying to help each other, men and women, young and old. To carry
overtired crying children at the same time as holding on to things,
which were picked up in haste. People were tripping on everything and
bumping each other. There was a constant stress to go ahead, pushing,
trying to cope with the inhuman task.
last day went by with cleaning up the barracks after the previous groups.
The deserted barracks showed a terrible sight. Our tasks were to bring
down the brick walls which we had built around the barrack. We had to
carry out the bedding, beds, and to empty the abandoned place; all that
was left behind and thrown all over. It was a horrible account of the
whole situation. The latrines were full of valuable things, so was the
road to the wagons. In the mud, in the puddle, we could see diamonds.
dear father remarked very quietly that this clearly shows the end. He
was really always an optimist, so to hear these words from him and see
in reality, with our own eyes, was terribly frightening.
all this work we joined the mass of people in the yard towards the exit.
Our eyes let the tears flow uncontrollably, we couldn't see clearly.
We just walked one after the other full of emotion. We just looked at
each other with unspeakable heartache and emotion, totally helpless
and heart-broken. Towards the road in a distance we could spot the frightful
cattle trains, waiting for us with wide open doors. We had to line up
with all our bundles. The horrible picture and experience wouldn't be
complete if a heavy rainfall wouldn't pour down on us in the last minutes.
We had to close the reopened rucksacks and other bags. We had to wait
for our destination in the rain, totally soaked. This was only to double
our hardships to make it always harder and harder.
barracks were empty already, but our guards wouldn't let us in to take
shelter from the rain. They rather enjoyed watching our struggle from
a distance and from a dry place. We almost waited for the moment to
leave, just to go away.
we were nearing the wagons and were told that 75 people are allowed
to get into them with the permitted belongings. We took turns sitting
on the floor in still wet clothing, there was no place to move, no possibility
to stretch a little bit. To add to our sufferings came the humiliating
discovery that there was one pail for washroom use for the whole wagon.
And of course again in front of everybody. No discretion at all. So
we used a bed sheet around the person who needed help.
we realized it, the door was shut behind us with a loud bang. It is
impossible to describe the atmosphere, the air inside. We were more
than the allowed number and older people were dying, children crying,
they were hungry and thirsty, and before long it was unbearable for
the adults too.
train moved from the barracks, we took a last glimpse through the opening
which was called window and the train pulled out, through the city,
through the familiar streets, stores. People were standing at the sidewalks
and watching. Some with horror, some with pity and others with open
satisfaction. The real heartache began when we were nearing and came
closer and closer to the street where our plant used to be. We had to
bear the sight and look at the burned down place and travel past. We
had spent long hours and many years of hard work to make a decent living
train arrived at the station and had to wait another day. How can anybody
talk about those last hours in our beloved city and our home?!
Gasko was a lawyer in our city, he was a real humanitarian. After we
left, he researched our tragedy and fate. His article and findings were
in the Menora, a Hungarian newspaper in Toronto. The number of our train
was 2499. We left Kassa, Hungary on 2-3 June 1944.
the last months, when we were still at home, everybody tried to learn
something useful. I had learned to sew lingerie and bedding. Some of
these pieces came out real nice and for a souvenir I took some with
me. The SS opened the doors at every station, demanding more valuables,
shouting loud. They came in to search with the butt of their rifles,
they picked some of the things, holding them up high, laughing aloud
and making fun. Only they were laughing, our group was more silent,
than before, became numb, from this new experience. My dear mother turned
to me and tried to console me: don't worry, once we will be back, I
will buy you nicer ones. Who cared about things anymore, but her words
stayed with me forever. We couldn't understand what was the fun for
uniformed, grown men; for us, it was rather grim.
sister had learned hairdressing. She always had good hands in the hope
that in future it could be helpful. She also had a very able character,
which she would prove many times later.
came back after 12 concentration camps and a whole year later, after
unspeakable, unbearable experiences . We came back only with my sister,
without our dear parents; we came back, we will never know how, because
it was just a miracle.
left Kasha-Kosice and across the Slovak border we soon spotted the Polish
city: Tarnow. Our destination became clear already. The train traveled
haltingly as though it understood its passengers heavy hearts, and burdened
souls. My dear father looked out and with resignation said very quietly:
there is no doubt any more where are we going.
heavy door always opened and shut with a loud bang. We would grasp for
a little fresh air each time it opened up for us. It is impossible to
describe this journey. Children were hungry and crying and adults felt
the thirst and all the inconveniences. To have all that at the same
time is very difficult.
It was really heroic on the part of the soldiers to abuse and attack defenseless people of all ages. Some of us were trying to get a little rest or sleep standing even for a short time. The train was escorted by SS men, who enjoyed and used the power given to them. The most bitter feeling was that we were totally helpless and there was no way, not the slightest way, to ease the unbearable hardship for our parents. Were we so naive or were we still hoping to the last minute? And when the inevitable fate struck us, the shock was such, that our exhausted state of mind couldn't grasp any more. In the meantime, even with a slower "speed" we were nearing our destination, where we unfortunately arrived on Sunday around 2 pm, June the 4. 1944, to the "gate to hell" or Arbeit Macht Frei.