Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

David Kahan - August 14, 1995

Szaszregen Ghetto

Tell me about the ghetto, how you got there...

The ghetto?

What it was like.

So, so after they, when the policemen came to our door and, we didn't have a lot to take with us, we were rather poor, we took some pieces, a few pieces of clothes. I think our, our whole family, the, the five of us, three children and my parents, I think we took one suitcase. One suitcase, a big one and small one, some clothes, some shoes and a few towels and couple pieces of bedding, a couple pillows. And we stayed in the school for three days and then uh, the policeman came over again to us and he said that everybody has to go today to the train station and, and "you are all being taken to a labor camp." [pause] Again, we have, didn't have the faintest idea what that means and we were really subdued or worried. And we packed our suitcases and I still remember that day, it was a spring day, it was a few days after Passover. It was a nice day and we just walked from downtown. I think it was about two and a half, three miles. We walked to the station where they had empty cattle cars. And uh, we just, I think it was one policeman who was head of the column, you know, to, we followed him and we followed like, like sheep to the slaughter, but we didn't know. We just went in, they filled up the cattle car, the cattle car took off and we arrived uh, I think it took over two hours. It was maybe forty or fifty miles from our town. In a couple hours we arrived to Szaszregen and let me see, that was a Hungarian-how we called it in Romanian? I think Regina, but I forgot what it was called in Romanian. We arrived to the ghetto and we marched. In the edge of town there was a abandoned brick factory. The abandoned brick factory was a hub of the main, the heart of our ghetto, but the surrounding neighborhood to this big factory, old, it was a old, poor neighborhood, that's where we were housed. And like three or four families in a house. We, we slept on the floor and whatever we had, we were already pretty crowded there in the ghetto. And there we saw the Jews from our, in answer to your previous question, there the Jews from all the little communities next to us. There were Jews living ten families or fifteen families or twelve families and every little town had some Jews and uh, there in the ghetto we saw everybody and all the Jews from our area of Transylvania were, were accumulated there. I don't remember the exact numbers, but they were in the many thousands, perhaps 20,000 Jews were there.

Were there Germans there?

Uh, there were a few Germans there, yes.

Do you remember them?

A few. I remember a few Germans, just back in my hometown. They were there, but there, there were already the Gendarmes, the famous anti-Semitic Hungarian Gendarmes were in charge. They had the camp surrounded. They had those uh, hats with a feather, I, I forgot, peacock feathers and uh, we were so terribly crowded, food was scarce. So we could, we could see already that things are, are getting worse. Uh, but we were helpless again. We, we didn't know what to do. They told us, "You have to stay here. You will be going to some labor camps," and we just lived there for almost four weeks, 'til uh, one day I think it was in the beginning of June. Approximately four weeks after we were in the ghetto they told us one day that, "Everybody get out from your houses, from your lodging, don't take any bedding, anything small, just one suitcase." We left whatever we brought from our hometown we left behind. They allowed one suitcase per family and a small one to that. And we stood in line there and they marched us to the train station again and we got in the cattle cars.

During all this, you were with your parents and your two younger siblings.

Yes. I, I was with my father and mother and my younger sister and younger brother. We were, we were crowded into a little room together.

Did you talk about any of this? Did anybody...

No, no, unfortunately. I know it's, I know it's so hard perhaps for you or, or to understand that we were just following orders, bewildered, sad, helpless. You know, we, we just lived from day to day. I, I, I don't recall, again I don't know what our parents talked about, but the children, we didn't know nothing. We had no idea. We were running around in the ghetto back and forth, see if we can get a piece of bread or something what's new. As, as kids we were, we were just, kept busy all day. I don't re...recall exactly with what, but we, we, we had no idea what was happening to us.

Was there running water? Were the hygiene facilities in this--any toilets?

Uh, uh, the, the toilets were outside. It was very embarrassing. They-they-they dug this large some of our older people dug huge latrines that were somewhat uh, uh, hidden from the public. And, and uh, I remember my mother talking about that and some of the young girls who were all over there, that it was very embarrassing. All of a sudden. That was the first time that you were exposed to thousands of strangers and your sanitary facilities were very poor and very embarrassing. No, they were all outside, outside uh, there was no running water. Everything was outside and, and uh, we did the best we could to, to survive and we made do; we had no choice. We were all scared and, and, and uh, bewildered, but we had no idea of our fate.

You were fifteen?

I was fifteen.

And you had a younger sister.

My, my birthday is in November, so I was taken to Auschwitz uh, I had, I was fifteen and my younger sister was thirteen and my younger brother was eleven. My father was fifty-two and my mother was forty-eight.

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