Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Lila Denes - May 19, 1989

Living as Gentiles

Did you leave at night?

That was, I remember at night. Eight o'clock at night. We were sitting in a park with that Maria, with the two children and we didn't know where to go. So, she said, "Let's try, I have a cousin, she had a two bedroom apartment, I will try, maybe she can put you up." She said, "But I don't tell them who you are. I say you came from somewhere where the Russians already in." She said Békés, that was a city where the Russians already moved in, south Hungary, southern Hungary. And she said, "You came from there and you looking for a place." By the way, I forgot to tell you. I had a cleaning woman. She was my age and she had a little boy the age of my son and I bought her papers, her birth certificate and her son's birth certificate. And that's what I used.

And what about for Judy?

Judy didn't have but, when we had the two of us, I said I lost during the, you know, we were fleeing our city and I lost it. But I had George's and mine and she was a, an unmarried woman with a child, so I was hiding like an unmarried, unmarried woman with two child, children and that's how I was treated, you know. So...

Did you worry that she might tell someone?

No, no, because she would have been in trouble also. She shouldn't do that, you know, so I didn't worry about that. And we came from Békés. Her papers--she came from that city. So then Maria took us to her relative. So, okay, they let us stay. I had to pay everyday hundred for rent. And that was a very, very bad place. They had more room but the whole family used to live in one room, mother, father, their daughter, and the mother's, and the grandma in one room. And they put us up in the same room also. I don't know why, maybe the rest was rented or something, I just can't remember.

So, there were four of you?

And they had a dog too, in the same room.

And four of you?

Yes. And the man was a waiter. Usually he came home late night and, and drunk. One night, he brought home a German soldier who was absolutely drunk and he was put up in one of the bed also. So, so, it wasn't the best thing.

When he brought the soldier home, what did you think? Were you frightened?

Well, he was drunk. I didn't, I didn't look like a Jewish woman, you know, at that time. And my children were small and George had a long curly hair and I put a bow in it so he looks like a girl, so they didn't check him because that's what they did. Sometimes, if something looked fishy, they checked if it--boys...

Were circumcised?

Yes. Because in Hungary, only Jewish people were circumcised, you know. So, I try to dress him like a girl and he didn't speak yet. Judy already spoke but it was--how do you say?--like a baby talk. You couldn't understand, only I could understand it, what she said.

What was she, three?

Yes. She spoke scores but they didn't understand it, most of it. And they didn't care about girls but boys they checked. So, I kept George like a girl. And we slept in one bed with the two children, you know. So, I was at that place a few days, then that Maria and Geza came and they said, "We found a place for you." It was uh, a little city around Budapest. A Schwabisch city, all Schwabs living there.

From Germany.

Germans but it wasn't Germany. It's Hungary but there was a lot of...


...folks, German, you know those Schwabs, Schwabisch. Anyway, they knew these people because they used to live there. And that was a widow, an older widow with three girls at home. And because they said I am Maria's cousin and fleeing my city because of the Russians came in and I will pay her well. So, she put us up. We were there for two or three weeks only when uh, I don't know why, she said you can't stay anymore. And she had a son-in-law who was a um, communist they say, communist, I don't know. And he didn't approve the Nazi Occupation and the Nazis and he said, "Okay, if you can't stay here, I will put you up until the whole thing is over." I think he, he thought something that we are Jews. He didn't say, I don't know, but he said, "I will put you up until the whole thing is over." That's what he said. But by the time we had to move, these friends, Maria and her husband, came and they said, "We found you a good place in Budapest, you come back to Budapest." So, we came back to Budapest. They had a friend who used to live alone in a two-bedroom apartment, and he rented us one bedroom. He was a widower or a divorced man, I don't know, I don't know. So, then we were there and pretty soon all, the air raids were so bad that we had to move down to the basement.

Was it Russian planes?

Pardon me?

Was it Russian planes?

No, American.


American, yes. In fact, the house had some, um...


Damage, yes but, to the upper flat and the uh, court had some but we could move downstairs to the basement.

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