Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Ehrmann - May 13, 1983

Hungarian Annexation

Do you remember, say the, the night before annexation or the day before uh, how as a--were you what? Twelve years old at the time--how you felt as a child?

Yes, I was twelve years old. Uh, uh, the night before annexation was uh, Saturday night if I remember well and uh, the local gendarme, the Czechoslovakian gendarme, were used to coming to our house, they were considered friends, we knew them, my parents knew them, and as they were walking on patrol, they came in and out of our house. Uh, the windows were all tightly shaded uh, which was an anti-aircraft measure. Uh, and they came in with their bayonets on and with their uh, uh, pistols and, and uh, shoulder arms loaded. And...

How did you feel as a child seeing...

I felt sort of proud, that there is people that I know are heroes, if you will. Uh, I did not comprehend what it meant that we are going, there is going to be a change and what it means for us to uh, to uh, change from Czechoslovakians into Hungarians. As a matter of fact, we were sort of looking forward to welcome the Hungarian army. Children, we were looking forward to that. Uh, it was just--as children, we liked to see soldiers and when they marched in and they uh, were not friendly to us, we were disappointed. My parents uh, of course, did not share those sentiments. They knew what they were getting into. My father was, of course uh, frequently visiting Hungary during the Czechoslovakian era and he knew what was going on. They were not happy about it at all. Not much they could do about it.

Was your town occupied by regular Hungarian troops or, or were they the free troops?

My town was occupied by regular Hungarian troops, namely the uh, so-called free brigade or free troops, which was the equivalent of the uh, Gestapo or the SS in the German, in Germany, was in the beginning--the Hungary occupation of the annexed land began about ten days before we were annexed and all the areas uh, the practice was that the free troops went in first. And just like the name denotes, they were free to do anything they wanted and they did. There was some killings, there were a lot of injuring of Jews, there were a lot of beating up of Jews, burning houses uh, in a town about maybe thirty-five miles away from ours uh, one of the families who was uh, uh, who has the same franchise uh, the franchise, the same brewery as we did uh, their house and their entire business was burned down the very first night the Hungarians came in. Uh, they did a lot of uh, damage and, and they did a lot of bad will among the population. Uh, by the time the Hungarians came and annexed us, there was a directive holding these troops back one day or two days after the Hungarian troops marched in. So that we saw--the first uniforms we saw was the Hungarian army, not the free troops.

You had a small hotel, did you house any uh, uh, occupation forces?

Yes, as a matter of fact, the uh, uh, the entire hotel, all six rooms, were taken by the Hungarian officers, occupying officers. We uh, housed them for quite some time, I don't remember the exact time but several weeks, we never got paid for it. Uh, we housed troops also. We had a big yard. We had large sheds, sheds uh, troops were stationed on our property in those sheds. Uh...

Did your father speak to any of these people?

Yes. Uh, at one time, the field kitchen was housed in our, in our yard, my father talked to them. He had uh, several skirmishes with them but as a rule he was able to uh, find his way and get on their good sides. He was--my father was a very uh, uh, diplomatic man. He uh, did not pursue belligerency and he found his way of getting along with whoever and, and whatever situation he was in. Um, then, we also housed one of the uh, the free troop officers in our hotel for quite some time. He was the commandant of the uh, free troops in our area who turned out to be uh, from--to, to have an assistant, a Jewish man.

His assistant was Jewish?

His assistant was Jewish, who was distantly even related to us. Uh, he was from a uh, community not very far from us where we had relatives. Uh, the uh, there was a so-called wonder rabbi in that community, I'm named after him and so are probably, so were thousands of Hungarian and, and Czechoslovakian kids who were born right after uh, his passing on.

What's the name of the community?

Keresztúr, Bodrogkeresztúr. And uh, the name of the rabbi was Reb Shai Keresztúrer. Reb Shai from Keresztúr. Uh, this man came from that town. The uh, his boss, the uh, officer came from the former county seat of our area, who was in private life a uh, a school superintendent, a district superintendent. Uh, the man who visits schools and--that's superintendent, right? Uh, later on, he returned to his uh, profession and he visited us, I had occasion of talking to him in grade school when he visited us. Uh, interestingly, this man was uh, an intelligent man, a uh, an educated man, he was not a belligerent man. I guess he volunteered into the free troops, like uh, it was an all volunteer unit of the Hungarian armed forces. Uh, I guess he must have volunteered out of uh, prestige, seeking prestige. Uh, we did not have that much problems with the free troops. They were already uh, toned down when they came to our town.

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