Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Ehrmann - May 13, 1983


Let me interrupt you for just a second. Was your father experiencing any kind of discrimination at this point?

Well, he was experiencing uh, high taxation, he was experiencing uh, uh, uh, exclusion from, denial of being able to appeal measures that were uh, He was told he has to discontinue selling, he appealed, his appeals were denied. Uh, gendarmes would come by, they dragged him, marched him to public offices for hearings uh, like a prisoner, like a criminal in the street. He had to walk in front of them. Uh, they didn't do that with other people who were called in, they simply were called in, you have to appear in, in court, or you have to appear in the tax office, and they were expected to appear. My father had an "honor guard" accompanying him to the uh, offices.

Because he was a respected member of the Jewish community?

Because he was such a respected Jew. Um, uh, this type of discrimination.

If he would return from one of the, from a session of that sort, what, what would it be like at home?

He was--first of all, we were very anxious, we uh, we didn't know what's going on until he came home. We had no telephone. He couldn't call, we just had to, we--my sister would go up to the office, my older sister, and try to find out, came back, "No, he is inside, I couldn't get to him, I couldn't find out what's going on." Uh, there was a lot of anxiety at home until he appeared. Once he came home, he was very down. Psychologically it had a very bad effect on him. My father suffered a lot psychologically. And so did my mother. My mother suffered from seeing him being dragged through that kind of treatment, as well as it touched her naturally, you know, on her own level. Uh, we knew, we as children, my older brother and my younger brother, sensed things are not going right and we had no explanation for it. Uh, we were told by our parents, "Be careful! When you associate with uh, non-Jews, try, be nice to them. Don't--limit your activities with them because ultimately you'll experience disappointment and you'll get into fights. They are being told by their peers a Jew is a non-desirable citizen." We were cautioned by our parents, we were told stay away. Uh, we experienced it on our own. We were not welcome among the non-Jews. Uh, in 1940, the first general public measures that they did uh, was naturally taking away licenses, trades were denied to Jews. We were taken away uh, part of our rations. We were uh, food rations uh, we were given a third, half, of what other people would get, flour, sugar uh, shortening, fat, was rationed. Textiles were rationed, clothes were rationed. Uh, and very soon as things were going, as Hungary got deeper and deeper involved in the, in the War uh, Jews were denied totally their rations. We were uh, out to get our food on our own yet it was uh, not allowed, it was uh, black market, what we--we had to buy our food on black market and black market was punishable by all kinds of severe fines and jailing. So, it was a very uh, bad situation and we were told by our parents to go and get flour from farmers, do it in a way that uh, they don't find us. They had to use us as children because they uh, were counting on the gendarmes not checking children, what they carry. We carried uh, sugar in our school bags, things like that.

Did you understand what this was all about?

Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Uh, I went, when I was fourteen years old, I went uh, to do farm work, so that I can earn wheat and, and uh, corn and uh, produce and potatoes uh, that was one way Jews were allowed to get food, to earn their food. Uh, when I was fifteen, I went uh, with my older brother, volunteered to do dike work on the river, which earned us extra rations of, of sugar, flour, and, and uh, pork, and uh, we were helping our family that way. That was already a, a cover for, for us to be able to go out and buy on the black market more food. We had a legitimate uh, way of bringing in food into our family. Uh, there were other, other families who were jailed because they found food in their houses and they had no explanation on how they got it. Uh, then...

By 1941, were you in a ghetto yet?

No, we were put in a ghetto in 1944. In nineteen forty uh, in 1943 uh, Jews were already restricted from travel. German troops were in Hungary but there was no occupation. In um, late winter in 1944, the Germans officially occupied Hungary.

All right, let's stop for a moment here and we'll come back and talk about the 1942-43 period. [interruption in interview]

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