Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

David Kahan - August 14, 1995

Transport to Auschwitz

So you s...the cattle cars arrived.

Cattle cars arrived.

And then what happened?

Then, then, then, as I mentioned earlier, they asked us--I could see as we walked in the street that some people dragged other stuff, bedding and pieces of, whatever they dragged, it was left on the streets. The orders were to take as small a suitcase as you can. I think it was one per family. We, we arrived, we-- they put us in the cattle cars and there it finally dawned on us again that something terrible is happening. It was terribly crowded. There were people with little children, pregnant women, old people, sick people, crippled people were crowded in there and it must have been at least a hundred people. There was hardly room to stand. Again, being that I was at that young age, perhaps I could handle the punishment better than my parents did or those that were younger than I am. And I was working already in a factory. I was fairly strong. So, so it was difficult. I remember there was a pail of water and there was a pail that they gave us to, you know, for--to relieve us, our, our, ourselves for sanitary facilities. And uh, uh, I, I believe that we knew that we were going in a trip and we had a piece of bread or something that my mother took along. I think we had food for about a day. But all of a sudden the second day there was no more bread and uh, water was scarce and, and we were beginning to get hungry. And, and again, the people screaming and crying and, and, and it was just, that was the first horrible, horrible situation that, that uh, I recall vividly, that we were packed in those cattle trains. Still we, we, we didn't imagine death or that we are going to be murdered or going to go to Auschwitz, but it was uh, almost unbearable. But we had no choice. Everybody sat down the best they could, you know...

You were sitting.

Sitting, yeah, yeah, yeah. People stood, but they got tired after a while, so everybody sat down on top of each other as best as we could.

Were you holding onto each other uh, holding hands and just stay together?

Uh, uh, well, you get tired after a while too. You get exhausted. Then, then you, then you sleep and I, I don't recall exactly what we did, but I remember we were just huddled in a little corner. My father was praying all the time. I remember that. He realized probably. Maybe the grownups realized much more what was horrible things are going to happen to us. I, I just don't remember that...the children crying, women crying, sick people asking for, begging for help, asking for water, nobody there to help us.

Did you pray with your father?

Yes, I did. Yeah. I did. And then I remember one thing sticks out in my mind. The train stopped in Kosice and my mother recognized the train station. I think she must have known something gonna happen and, and she told me that this was where she was born and she said she was saying some prayer for her parents' grave. They were buried in Kosice. And I remember that. That was a couple days before Auschwitz. And then about a, about approximately a week, it took six or seven days, but, after that horrible, unforgettable trip we arrived to Auschwitz.

Why do you think it took so long?

I have no idea. I believe that we were, if you look at the map, Szaszregen to, to Auschwitz, was a few hundred miles. And uh, the trains could have been slow. Um, I, I heard after the war that Eichmann was so anxious to, to, to murder all the Jews of Hungary they were the last remaining Jews that Hitler was trying really badly during the war to, to kill. But the Hungarian government wouldn't let the Jews be taken by the Germans. So um, uh, maybe, yeah, the, the German Generals were complaining that they are taking their troop trains away, the German soldiers, to take the Jews to Auschwitz. Maybe because of that. The, the trains were slow, we waited in stations sometimes before other trains passed us, but uh, we--I think it could be the distance. I don't know exactly how many miles uh, that it is from uh, Szaszregen to Auschwitz, but uh, I think it took almost a week. Uh, at least five days before we got, maybe six days before we got to Auschwitz.

Were people dead in the car?

I don't recall that. I don't recall anybody, body, body dying in the car. No. I, I don't remember. As I say, I mentioned earlier, that uh, the tragedy of the, of the Hungarian Jews is, is so, so huge. We actually almost survived the war. The war was almost over in, in, in, in April of 1944, when they picked us up. The Russian army was getting close. Uh, the American army was, was rea...I think had reached practically Germany. Italy had fallen. And, and um, I heard stories after the war that Hitler--Hungary was an ally of Germany and the Hungarian army was on the Russian front fighting with the Germans. So it wasn't occupied by Germany and Hitler had, two or three times he had the President Horthy in his office and he screamed at him that he wanted the Jews. And the Hungarian President said that, "No," he said, "They are Hungarian citizens. We are allies of Germany and our economy would collapse without the Jews." Uh, uh, you could say honestly that in the European countries, in Hungary, in Romania, Jews were a business people. Uh, uh, you could say the economy was mostly in Jewish hands. So he, he refused Hitler. He wouldn't allow them to take the Jews to, to Auschwitz. So, so as soon as they occupied Hungary, that was the first. They were taking revenge. I, I call it "Hitler's Last Revenge." Eichmann was there the next day and started to organize the transport of the Jews to, to Auschwitz and, and um, that's when I heard that the German officers were com...complaining that they are taking their trains away. The Jews, the Jews to be taken to Auschwitz was number one priority to Himmler, to Hitler, to Eichmann.

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