Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

David Kahan - August 14, 1995

Religion and Family

What was a Friday night like in your house?

That was nice. I think uh, the beautiful memories that come back that unfortunately I don't seem to practice in this great country of the United States. To I think the poorest Jew, somehow Friday night uh, was, was, they could have almost starved all week or very meager, but almost everybody either had a chicken or they could afford to go buy a little bit of beef from the Kosher butcher and, and uh, the house was cleaned from top to bottom on Friday morning early. Thursday afternoon it started, my mother and then she started Friday morning, baked fresh bread and challa and uh, the smell of the fresh bread and the cooking for Friday evening. We went to Shul and came home this hour. The, the, the nicest meals in the whole week was Friday night and Saturday where we had a little piece of meat and a, a meal with maybe three, four courses. During the week it was difficult. So it, it was uh, entirely [pause] different. It was beautiful, it was quiet, most of the Jews were not working and uh, the Jewish stores I think were open. Some of them, some of the storeowners worked on Saturday, some didn't, but Friday night and Saturday was uh, in our house in particular uh, my, my father used to teach me the Pirkéy Avót, the wisdom of our, our uh, it was called I think the wisdom of our, of our...fathers. And uh, we used to play around and relax and took it easy. My mother used to read uh, and uh, uh, also some books about the Bible and there was no work done, it was quiet in the house.

And there were six children back then?

Yeah, six children. My, my...they weren't home so most of the time uh, with me. My two oldest brothers uh, my oldest brother, they left my town, my mother sent them to Czechoslovakia to Kosice she said to study, because my parents wanted them to learn more about Judaism than our little town could afford. Our town just had a Talmud Torah and it was very basic. So they actually, when I was a young child my oldest, my brother who is in Israel now, he is nine years older than I am and my other brother was eleven years older than I am. So really since I remember myself, the two of them were gone already. They were about nine and eleven when they went to, to uh, Czechoslovakia, so my two oldest brothers weren't with me. It was my, the brother who was immediately older than I was, me and my two younger siblings. It was four of us who were there most of the time while I was growing up. But of course my parents had to support them over there. My mother's, they stayed with my mother's sister and she was sending them money every month so they can...

You, you had no o...other relatives in, in uh, Gheorgheni?

No, no other relatives in Gheorgheni. My relatives were all in Sighet and all in Czechoslovakia.

Kosice, Um, how large would you say the extended family was? Aunts, uncles, cousins, first cousins?

The extended family, I, I don't know for sure, because unfortunately I never had a chance to visit any of my relatives. Uh, but I would say my, my father's family lived in the Sighet area, Sighet in the area for, for hundreds of years and they were, I remember my father used to tell me stories about brothers and uncles and aunts and cousins. I, I believe that I--someone asked me this question before, of that how many people do I feel that uh, were killed during the Holocaust and I would say about a hundred.


At least a hundred.

just immediate family?

Yeah, immediately family. Because my mother, like I say, they lived, they lived there also for hundreds of years and she had brothers and sisters and, and my father had uh, I think six or seven brothers and, and the family was, was quite large and...it's, it's a guess. At least a hundred, maybe more.

And of your immediate family how many survived?

My immediate family, my oldest brother, who was a ordained rabbi when he was eighteen, he was extremely religious and he was drafted by the Hungarians in the Hungarian army. The Jewish boys were drafted into labor battalions, since Hungary was already under German influence. And so, so they had to work, do hard labor instead of carry arms. And, and I was told by survivors who were with my old brother that he would not eat, he would refuse to eat non-Kosher food in the camp where he was and obviously everybody knew that, that was like committing suicide. But he just, maybe he didn't want to live any longer. Whatever his reasons were, I do not know, but he only ate bread and water and uh, and within six months he starved to death. That was my oldest brother. My second brother, who is in Israel now, he was also drafted to the Hungarian army. They had a very decent Hungarian commandant from Budapest who, who supported them and protected them from the Hungarian Nazis and from the Germans and the whole battalion survived the war. And uh, my brother was one of the first ones, the first Jew to come back to my town when he was, after he was liberated by the Russian army. He, he fought with the, the Czech army for awhile and then uh, when, when Transylvania was liberated he was the first one to arrive to our hometown. My third brother was two years older than I was, went to Budapest just before we were deported, about, about a year before we were deported he went to Budapest. He wanted to learn uh, a profession. I think he wanted to learn to be a uh, uh, dental technician. And uh, he and, he got, somehow he procured non-Jewish papers uh, n, n, n, none of us in our family had particularly the so-called supposingly Jewish features and uh, he had Aryan papers and he survived in Budapest, the war. But after the war he went back to my hometown and there wasn't much of a future for Jews anymore. Most of the Jews of Romania left for Israel. So he went to Israel in 1948, just uh, arrived a day or two after Israel was proclaimed and unfortunately he got killed. They sent a bunch of young boys immediately to the front lines because they needed soldiers badly. As, as we all know, all Arab countries attacked Israel to try to wipe it off the map right away. So he was sent to the, a group of about 80 boys who just got off the boat to the Syrian front and they were ambushed by some Syrian troops and they were, they were massacred and mutilate, mutilate, mutilated so badly that no remains were recognizable. My brother who lives in Israel tried for years to find out where his grave was and he was told that uh, they were all buried in a mass grave because the bodies were so terribly mutilated that they were unrecognizable. So that was my third brother. I was a fourth child. Myself and my father and mother and my younger sister who was two years younger than I was and my younger brother, who was four years younger, we all went to Auschwitz. And I was the only one who came out alive. [sigh]

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn