Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Marton Adler - July 13, 1989

Hungarian Rule

When was your father taken into the labor camp?

In `41. In `41 and he came home in `43. He was away for two years and we were left alone to just, I remember my mother one time got a little note or card from him and he wrote there to make sure that she takes good care of us that she should feed us right. And I remember like today how she was holding that letter and pacing the house and crying, "He wants me to feed you, what could I feed you with." Everything is rationed, a slice of bread a day, maybe some neighbors were nice, maybe they gave her little extra or whatever, or maybe we grew a little bit in the garden, and maybe she would give up her little slice for us but that's what it was.

You were the eldest so what was it like when your father was taken away?

Well, it's almost like in a, in a stupor. I had friends. I wasn't the only one in that boat I mean in that condition. There was others. We just made the best we could. I mean I still went to school, I still went to Cheder, we still were allowed to go to regular school except that now the Jewish kids had to be by themselves [with yellow arm bands on their sleeves.] You no longer were mixed in with the Gentile kids. It was a secular school. You could still go to school but only Jewish kids alone. No more, you cannot mix with non-Jews. That was the Hungarian's version of the, to implement the Jewish racist laws.

You once told me someone told you that you were now the man of the family.

Yeah. Well that is true. When they took away my father or when he had to report for this forced labor ordeal and whatever package my mother made him, maybe extra clothes or this that, extra food and we had a neighbor and this neighbor came over, a women, and she said, "you know, Marton, now that your dad is away you'll be the man of the house and you'll have to help your mother and help with the children and just like your father took you to synagogue every Friday and Saturday you will have to take them", and I took that verbally, I took that verbatim and that's what I did. But I didn't take it like an ordeal or something. Just as it was natural of my father to take me, the fact that I am the man of the house, I took the kids to school or let's say if my mother took the washing to the river I helped her. I did it gladly, I didn't do it like out of charity, this is my job. I am a big boy, I'm twelve, I'm not a baby. Here you're a baby when you're forty.

Now in this two years did, ah did rationing got worse then between `41 and `43.

Yes. But, still we had a garden and my mother had friends, Jewish friends, non-Jewish friends. We weren't starving. I mean I didn't have to worry that I have to go on a diet to lose weight. But there was you know we had a garden in the backyard, there was onions, there was radishes, there was potatoes. We ah it was still, we ate. I mean I cannot remember really starving, gee I wish I would have a slice of bread. But if I had a slice of bread or an extra slice, it was appreciated. Let's say meat was a luxury but you know there was still some Jewish people that had maybe a cow let's say and they were related to my mother, not related they know she's left with children, or my mother would send me with a pail and we got a pail of milk from this party or that party. I mean there was some cohesiveness, some helping, self help.

When your father came back did he tell stories about what?

Yes, when he came he told all these stories that he'd seen in this so called occupied Poland through all these Eastern Territories under German rule. People being burned alive in hospitals but he would tell it to his contemporaries, to older people, not to me. So if I was a foot away from him or what he wouldn't chase me away plus I was already thirteen at the time and we knew about it but there was the order of the day. That wasn't the exception, that was the rule. The rule was that a Jew's life was very--is endangered and precarious.

Did he tell you anything?

No. No. He didn't tell me anything. No. He did not tell me anything for well, for one reason, after he came back he had a sister not far and she was pretty well to do and he got like a job there with her. But no he didn't tell me anything. No. He didn't tell me good things or bad things. He just didn't tell me and I was still at an age where ah looking back now that I had other interests. Immediate you know friends, to be maybe to have my clothes should be like the other children. I mean I was a child.

What were your reactions when he came home? I mean were you glad to see him?

Yes. Yes. I was glad to see him. I was glad to see him. But it was all like in ah all so in a fog. I mean I see, you are asking me things that are here today, everything is very, very normal. If a guy goes on a two hour flight, have a nice flight all that. Those were different times. I, in other words, I was in danger when he left, or I wasn't comfortable. And when he came back my troubles didn't end. There was still this cloud hanging over everybody which they knew it and you felt it even as a child, you felt the uncertainty. This is 1943.

So you didn't feel protected now all of a sudden?

No, no, no, no. I just felt better that at least I see my father. I could go to the synagogue with him or ah we could play maybe a game of chess or maybe play cards or whatever I mean here I got my father back again. But still I'm already like thirteen and I have boys my age and maybe even take a walk boys and girls together just at the start of that thing. But all in all, it's like a ship is sinking and you still have a meal to eat. You eat it but you cannot not eat because this is part of life yet at the same time you know you're on a sinking ship. This is all I could look back now how I felt at the time.

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