Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Peri Berki - December 9, 1983

Knowledge of Concentration Camps

I was just going to ask you, you mentioned concentration camps, when did you first hear about concentration camps and how did you hear about them? And did you believe, did you believe it?

We didn't have newspaper, we didn't have telephone, we didn't have radio. But we heard it already in '42, we heard that people are being deported. Well, from Hungary it was only in '44. They deported, started deportation in Hungary in '44.

But you heard rumors before.

We heard it already in '42.

From just people who had escaped or from... How did they start?

No, I can't even tell you.

But the rumors spread.

They say the grapevine, that, just we heard. I can't even tell you because, just it shows that we had long time, a long time to adjust ourselves what's coming.

Well, what kind, in other words, did you understand what was happening in the concentration camps? Did you hear about gas chambers?

Yes, we did.

You did.

We did.

So you knew pretty well what was happening.

Uh, yeah, we heard that people are, are deported and...

And killed.

gassed in Auschwitz. We heard Auschwitz already.

You did.


So uh, and you believed this?

Oh, you know, before, before we went... Yeah sure I knew, in '44, it was in '44 we heard that we did it on the farm, you know, before and we had friends in the next little city. And we heard that those Jewish people who were li... living in that city, they were already deported. We heard that in Budapest. Do you understand the connection?

Yes, yes, yes. Um, and, and you believed this about gas? You found that credible, or did you at first...

I couldn't tell you.

You can't remember what your first...

No, I don't remember the re... what the reaction was. But constant we were in, in...

In a state of anxiety.

Oh, constantly. We started to pray very, very much.

Even though you were not very religious.

No, I sta... I said the more, the more things happen to Jewish people, the more I became Jewish.

That's interesting. So you became more identified.

Much more, much more. I'm much more a person who I didn't say I'm Hungarian, but I lived in Hungary, I said, I'm a Hungarian. Now, now I'm a Jew. Before, it wasn't. Because, because it, that period—proves now I know why—maybe, not, I think period only logic means, it's not so much maybe emotional, the logic, that we were not accepted as Jews, as Hun... as Hungarians. So I realized if we lived there two, three generations we lived there and we were not accepted then we are Jews and not Hungarians.

And you feel that this would be true in this country too.

Yeah, unfortunately.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn