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Helen Rodak-Izso

The Last Chance to Remember



Chapter 5. AIR RAIDS

In addition it was war time and young people had duties. When an air raid was announced with a shrill scream of the siren it was not a joke anymore. All the lights had to be out. Windows were completely covered at the time of the black-out. When my time came for duties it was very frightening to walk around the block in this darkness. When the siren gave the warning, we had to rush to the shelter (basement) and there wait for the comforting sound of the siren to signal the end of the critical time. Meanwhile it was most unpleasant to listen to the war planes over our heads. Our nerves were wrecked. Some people were just quietly listening, watching nervously, some tried to read or play a game, just to pass the time, or comfort each other.

We had numbed thoughts and feelings, because nobody knew what would the next minute bring for us? This is why it is so difficult to explain those hours and that time; who can understand it now? So much later, in a special peaceful and quiet atmosphere, to talk about such disturbing times, is far from the real happenings. What is it to be and live in danger, in fear?

We hear all the easy criticism, why didn't we try to go away. But where? And how? It was too late, too risky. Some people were lucky, they escaped, but many, many just tried in vain. Many committed suicide, with the whole family. Also we just couldn't or didn't want to believe all these horror stories. Who can believe with a normal mind that in the 20th century some people can go mad and behave like animals? maybe like cannibals!? They let their sadistic fantasies go free and nobody stopped them. It all happened in the wide open for the whole world to see and hear. Unfortunately the easiest answer was to look aside. And lastly we didn't believe that Hungary's Regent Horthy Micholas would let us go. We trusted him naively. But we also found out that he himself was put under house arrest.

We were just hoping that the war would come to an end so we could be spared from this horrible plague. I still see my father with the map always open with tiny flags following the happenings. We tried to hope right until the tragic day of March 19, 1944, when the German army marched in and this was the beginning of the end.

No words can describe the dead silence, the numb fear, that like a dark cloud would descend on our homes and the whole city. We were panic stricken, the streets were completely empty, not a soul was in sight nor was the slightest sound heard. There was silence all over, just like in a cemetery.

After their arrival they terrified the public thoroughly. On the first Wednesday, early in the morning, they looked up and arrested the older and better known men and took them away. After this frightful experience, we all expected a similar surprise visit but it did not come until Friday evening, when the fire broke out in our plant.

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