Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

David Kahan - April 29, 1982


Was there a ghetto in this town?

Uh, no, there was no ghetto. Uh, Pesach we were still at home. I remember it was very sad, all kinds of news was filtering in. But I guess, as, as being at that age, I didn't know everything and maybe I wasn't told everything. We still had Pesach at home, we had the Seder. And I remember uh, that sometime in April, after Pesach uh, we uh, heard a knock on our door at five o'clock in the morning by a Hungarian policeman who said that it's been ordered by the police department that uh, all Jews have to congregate downtown in the public school. If I recall, it was about eight o'clock in the morning. "Just take one or two suitcases with you that you can easily carry." And they went around knocking on Jewish doors and they said that and we did exactly as we were told. We each packed a couple suitcases and we went downtown into the public school and in the courtyard. By, by noon every Jew in town was there. Uh, again, we were bewildered. We, we knew something uh, things are going bad, but we still had absolutely no idea.

What did you take?

We take our clothing and the, whatever jewelry we had. Basically our clothing and, and uh, our, our uh, belongings that had, had some value, you know, silver candlesticks and, and um, whatever valuables we had. We didn't have an awful lot, but whatever valuables we had besides clothing. It was uh, I think I carried one suitcase and, and uh, my father carried two, my mother one. That's all I think they allowed us to take, one or two suitcases. We were kept there I believe for about three days, under very cramped conditions. We were just placed in, in the rooms, empty rooms, you know, school, school rooms. And uh, they were waiting for a train, a cattle train to arrive. When the cattle train arrived, they told us then just to take one suitcase with us. So everybody was shlepping, even some, those people who brought in three suitcases over there, nobody, I mean there was no police uh, at our home when we left, so if you wanted to drag more, you could. Some people did drag more stuff in there, you know, to save it. But there we were told out there just to take um, uh, one suitcase or maybe two smaller suitcases. And uh, with two Hungarian policeman, it was an...absolutely, we obeyed completely. We had, we were told that we were being taken to labor camps. It was ordered that the Jews are going to be taken to labor camps, that no harm will come to us, we have to go peacefully and follow orders. We did exactly that. They took us on the train and uh, I think uh, five or six hours ride. The city that I had mentioned to you earlier that I used go and buy sun seed oil, that was uh, the place where they took all the Jews from the county, from the whole area where I lived. There was a huge brick factory and uh, that's where they, that was a ghetto. Um, but, but we were there, there were thousands of Jews there from all over the area already and um, uh, the conditions there was pretty terrible. I mean you were packed together in houses or in uh, those buildings for the big factory uh, people were sleeping uh, whichever way they could. Sanitations were very poor. They had commun...communal kitchens that they were cooking for everybody. We were beginning to go hungry and starve then already. Uh, those people who had money could still buy food, you know, sort of in the black market and bring it in. And uh, there was no sanitary facilities.

Was there a fence around it?

Uh, there was, no, it was a huge place and I don't recall a fence, no.


There were guards.

Hungarian guards.

Hungarian guards around the perimeter. The, the worst thing that was an embarrassment, we had huge communal latrines.

Men and women together?

Uh, as far as I know they were separate. But still, people didn't know each other. We just, that was the first time that we were uprooted from our civilian life and packed into a huge ghetto with, with maybe, I don't know whether there were twenty, thirty thousand people there. And uh, we stayed there for four weeks. And we were beginning to be hungry there already. They took some people for some local labor. And, and um, but still the family was together and we still had no idea what was going to happen to us, except that they are going to take us from the ghetto to Hungary someplace into labor camps.

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