“I was born in Budapest in 1929. The German occupation occurs in 1944. At that time, I’m 15 years old and living with my parents. I was their only daughter. We had to wear yellow star and move from apartment. We then lived in the so called SAFE HOUSES; the Sweedish government was looking over Jewish people. We had to leave everything behind and move to another place. It all happened here and there, lots of thing were moving… From March to October 1944, many things occured… In October we moved in a SAFE- HOUSE under the protection f the Sweedish government. These houses were for people with shutzpass. The whole 3 of us had shutzpasses with the signature of Mr. Wallenberg. My father got them at the Sweedish embassy in Budapest; he stood in a line for a whole day and a night and he was able to get then with a picture of us on each. My father knew about them. Everybody was talking in town, and he heard of them. Some had the courage to go in line and wait and get them.
In the SAFE-HOUSE, it was very crowded, like 10 poeple in one room. There were just a few houses and a lot of people to assist. A few thousands lived in a single building that was destined for a few hundred! It was very difficult to live there. We lived there for 2 or 3 months, October and November 1944. Many times, we had to go out and stand in a line; the Nazis came in the houses and ordered us to go to the street. And from there, some where shot and thrown in the Danube; others where deported to concentration camps. Some 500 to 1,000 people where were in these lines. Sometimes we waited for hours to see what they would do with us.
It was in one of those occasions in November 1944 that while standing in the line I met Mr. Wallenberg. He arrived in his chauffeur driven black limousine. He got out of his car; I remember he was wearing a beige trench coat, and he talk to an interpreter to the Germans that the people who had the shutzpasses with picture and his signature, they should get out of the line and go back to the safe-house. We where able to follow this order: we got out of the line and returned to the safe-house. We ere not taken anywhere. Most of the people left and nobody ever saw them again because they had to march on the highway towards Austria, a 300 km march. 90% of the people never made it: they died between between Budapest and the Austrian border. They would call them THE DEATH MARCH. If we had been in there, we would probably never had made it, we would not have survived. We survived because we where able to go back to the safe-house.
A few days later, we where again taken to make a line. At this time, the Germans could not take us anywhere because they had blown all the bridges in Budapest because the Russians where about 50 km from Budapest. There was no directions that they could us, no more train going anywhere, and nobody could walk the highway because the war was right there! So the Germans told us: “You bloody Jews, you will go to the ghetto and die with the rest. “ So we had to go to the ghetto in Budapest. Many people died on the way to the ghetto because the Americans were bombing, the Russians ere shooting, the Germans were shooting… We started 500 and only 100 reached the ghetto. The rest never made it. We stayed in the ghetto until the Russians came in on January the 18. They took down the wall of the ghetto. We were then freed and free to go home. We went to our old apartment, but nothing was there, except my grand piano that was all broken.
All during this time, I had a very strong feeling that I would survive. In 2 or 3 occasions, we were sure to die. Once I was taken with my mother at the headquarters of the Germans; I was in a cell in the basement. My mother said “just say a prayer because we will die”. I told my mother: ”no, I don’t want to die. I want to see the Alps and the ocean… And that was what happened after all.; I was able to travel and see the Alps and the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.
What people said about Wallenberg? Some thought that he was an angel. Some others said it was a miracle. And some more aid he is God sent. I have my own idea that he came like Lohengrin in the opera by Wagner. In that opera, a hero comes to save a woman called Elsa; I saw the opera, I knew the story and that was my feeling that Wallenberg came like Lohengrin to save me alias Elsa. Everybody thought in Budapest that he was a miraculous person that came from another country, that he is not Jewish, and he came just to save Jewish people. Everybody admired him like a saint, a very unusual person.
When he came with his limousine the day I was in the line, I was very very happy to see him because I knew that was sent to save Jewish people including me and my parents. I would have loved to shake hands with him and thank him, but that was impossible. I feel very sorry here today that when he disappeared on January 17 1945, nobody knew where he was, that a man that had saved so many lives, nobody could save him. That is the day now everybody remembers Wallenberg.
We where glad that the Russians came, but on the other hand, it was a very very bad 10 years. We left Hungry in 1956 after the Hungarian Revolution. It was a totalitarian regime just like the fascism. The people couldn’t leave the country, or move without advising the police. It was a very difficult life. We had to live in a bunker; there was shooting all the time; thanks were at every street corner. I kept working at the library to save the books. Sometimes there was shooting on the street and I would see dead bodies on the sidewalks only covered with newspaper.
Then my husband and I decided to try to go to Austria. We took the train in direction of the border on December 13 in the afternoon; then we paid a man to help us with directions. We walked for 3 hours in 1 meter of snow at night with pour son in our arms. Then there a boat and we crossed a river. On the other side was Austria, and we were finally safe around 10 o’clock.
We stayed 9 months in Austria and then we came to Canada. We came to Montreal because we didn’t want our son to go in the army like in the US. We heard that it was a free country, with democracy, etc. My husband was a fashion designer in Budapest. In Montreal, the Jewish Agency help us by finding a furnished room for 4 weeks; they gave coupons- 25$ a month, enough to eat for a month-. Then my husband found a job as a sewing machine operator. I started to work as an interpreter at the Jewish hospital for Hungarian patients. We then moved to Van Horne street in a apartment and started a new life.
I returned to Budapest 3 times; I still have relatives there. I would go back with you…
The only thing a brought back from Hungary was a photo album; I told my mother upon leaving that I would do so. I told her : “If I die, the pictures will die. If I survive, the pictures will survive!” (elle a toujours l’album photo; on la revoie à l’âge des tragiques événements et dans sa prime enfance…)
I think we will never know exactly what happened to Wallenberg in Russia. I feel terrible about that. We do not know where he is burried; we could go there and pay tribute, to say a prayer, to bring some flowers or something… but we don’t know… I feel very bad about it… (Should Canada do something?) Canada has tried a lot, his family also in Sweden. His family was very rich in Sweden and close to the King… So if they don’t know, why should I know?
I think of him many times. I see him getting out of the car with is beige coat.I think as a man from a foreign country, he comes and saves my life… He disapeared from my life like Lohenfrin in the opera: he saves Elsa and dissapears…
From that period I remember very hard words said by the Germans: “You bloody Jews, you should be exterminated, you should not be in this country or in this world, you are not worth more than a cockroach.” So when somebody tells you are a cockroach and you should be exterminated, you don’t feel very good about it. I couldn’t understand: my family had been living in Hungary for 300 years!!! And somebody tells you you don’t belong there, it is strange. My father was an accountant,; also my mother…She was a suffraget; I grew up in a very liberal and litterate society. My father lost 3 brothers and 1 sister in the death marches. And we don’t know what happened to their children; they were also taken away and never heard of after. We put their names on my grandfather’s grave on the stone in Budapest’s cimetary.”
Le 19 JUILLET 2004