Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Noemi Engel Ebenstein - July 22, 1996

Arrival of Germans

So there were good people. There were many good people. The Germans entered Hungary on March 19, 1944. And my mother was visiting friends who advised her to place valuables with Gentiles. The Hungarian Jews did not quite know what happened in Poland or Czechoslovakia. My mother said that the leaders of the community erred in not telling the Jews to run for their lives. Every night there were air raids. My grandmother was ill. She had a stroke previously. And it was hard to carry her to the shelter every night. So my mother decided that since she had an empty apartment shut down in Subotica, she might as well go back there. Um, an employee, an employee's husband, I guess from their business, from my grandmother's business, worked at the police. So he arranged for her for false papers, for them to travel to Subotica without wearing the yellow stars. And we got on the train. Um, suddenly there was an air raid and my mother asked permission to remain on the train. She figured whatever happens, happens. And anyway, make a long story short--I could go on with stories and we would never finish this interview. But when she got to Subotica, and here they are on false papers, um, and they were trying to get off the train. My grandmother got frightened and she said "Yiddisher Kinderlach! Help me!" She went to Yiddish and she was speaking Yiddish. But by then it was too late anyway. Uh, as they got off the train that's when the Jews were being put in the ghetto. And we were put in the ghetto. So we went from the air raids and the bombings in Budapest right into the, um, deportations in Subotica.

This was 1944?

This was 1944.

So it was a ghetto in Subotica.

There was a ghetto in a place called Bacsalmas. Now I have to explain to you something and this is really about me, finally we are getting there. Um, I never thought of these places as places. They were stories. So once I asked, actually not so long ago, maybe when I was doing these interviews, uh, I asked my father, because we always spoke about the Bacsalmas ghetto. I don't know about Bacsalmas, so I said to my father. "Where was the Bacsalmas ghetto?" So my father says, "in Bacsalmas!" For him it was a place. For me it was a name of something that happened to us. So the whole concept in terms of viewing it as a child was so different. These places had no, uh, reality outside of my subjective reality of what happened to us.

Where is Bacsalmas, do you know?

It is near Subotica somewhere. You know, it's like they, they pick these different, uh, where were we when we went to Europe, um, in Czechoslovakia? Um, what's the name of that famous, um camp? I can't remember.


Theresienstadt. In Terezin. You know, I, I , I knew it as Theresienstadt. I did not think of that there was a town Terezin. So, um, so we were. Bacsalmas was some sort of insignificant little town. And they, they gathered all the Jews of the region and, uh, put them in a ghetto there. Now when we arrived there we were put right into the ghetto and we had nothing. Uh, my mother said that everybody else was preparing and gathering their belongings and preparing food. And we had nothing. And some relatives and friends gave us some, some things. Um, and that's where we were deported from. I think in May, if I'm not mistaken. I'm pretty sure that my mother said that we were in the ghetto for two months. And after, uh, after two months they started the transports. Um, and we were put on the train to Austria. Of course we did not know where we were going. But, um, my mother was looking at the places, you know, from the cattle car. And in fact she wrote a postcard. She wrote two postcards from the train. Um, one was mailed by, by somebody, uh, I don't know who he was. There were two different people who she asked to mail the postcards that were outside the train, when the train was standing. And each one of them did mail the postcard. Uh, and each one arrived at destination. One went to my uncle in Budapest and one went to a Gentile girlfriend that she had in Budapest. And that postcard was written in German and I have it with me. Um, she wrote to her brother um, um, where we were crossing the border, I can't find it here. And, um, she wrote to him, "We are crossing at such and such place," I think it's Hagesh Hollom, "and that means that we are going to Austria."

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