Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

David Kahan - April 29, 1982

Labor Battalions

When did the lab...the labor battalions begin?

The labor battalions began when the Hungarians took over Transylvania, our part of Transylvania.

In '41 right away.

In '41. Then the Jewish a...the army-aged people, the Hungarians went to the regular army with, with arms and trained for, for soldiers, while the Jewish youth were taken also to the army and, and they were, were dressed as Hungarian soldiers, but they were in labor battalions. So instead of giving them weapons, guns. Uh, I, I heard that there were some parts that even had guns in the beginning, but as far as I know from my brother Ephraim, they were labor battalions that they were going around wherever the Hungarian army was and, and, and they just did all the labor. Because every army needs construction people and do all kinds of labor. They were taken to the Ukraine, because at that time the German army and the Hungarian army was fighting in the Ukraine. So most of the Jewish boys from our area were drafted into labor battalions and taken to the Ukraine for labor.

Your brother died in the Ukraine.

My oldest brother was uh, very religious and even so I believe that the Talmud says you should do anything to save your life. But he just couldn't bring himself to eat non-Jewish food. He just ate bread and, and um, he actually starved uh, um, within a few months, pure starvation.

This, this was after 1945.

After 1941. No. He was taken in 1941. We lost, he was our first casualty in our family to the war, my oldest brother. He never came back from the Ukraine.

So your other brother was in Budapest.

The brother who was older than I am, two years older, was living in Budapest, but my oldest brother, Zalman and my brother Ephraim were both in labor battalions. Ephraim survived, but my oldest brother...

I see.

...he died of starvation in the labor battalion.

How did you find out about that?

Um, we, I remember uh, the tragedy and I remember crying of my parents. Letters came from other Jewish boys who were there and, and they wrote to their family and parents and one of them wrote that uh, that Zalman Kahan had, had died.

So you weren't notified by the Hungarians?

I, I don't recall at this moment any notification from the authorities.

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