Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

John Mandel - May 26, 1981

Hungarian Rule

[long pause] I don't know where to go back on this one. Um, [pause] when you were required to wear the Star of David, what were your feelings?

I was uh, I was a youngster then. Was what, about fifteen--sixteen years old. And uh, I didn't like the idea of course, and uh, yeah, I realized that it made us a second class citizen at that point. And there were, there were some feelings about it definitely. But I did not realize the seriousness of it. And so I wore it uh, we wore a yellow band. And uh, I just didn't think much of it at the time. Not...

Did it...

not at first uh. Later on, later on it became uh, um, as they kept adding on different rules and adding on different burdens, it became quite obvious that, that it, it, it was meant definitely as, as uh, they lowered our, our, our esteem, they, they took away our liberties. And um, they were, we, we were forbidden to go to parks and you, you just couldn't continue to do the, the normal things that you were used to doing. And slowly, slowly they kept narrowing the uh, our liberties. Before long of course we were in a ghetto. And then of course that was before the uh, the end.

Was there a curfew put on you?

Yes, there was a curfew. I don't remember the exact time. I know it started at sometime in the morning and it um, culminated sometimes in the evening, but I, I don't remember the uh, the hours.

Do you know how and when the ghetto was formed, that you went to?

Yes, as the uh, as the uh, Russian front moved closer to us. Uh, you have to realize that the Hungarians were allies of the Germans. And uh, the uh, Germans pretty much let the Hungarian government do with its population as it pleased. There really were, they--we were not occupied by the Germans.


Until uh, uh, the uh, war zone moved closer. And as, as the uh, as the front moved out to the Polish-Hung...at that time Polish-Hungarian border, the Russians stopped their offensive. There was quite--it's quite mountainous there, and they, they were on a, on a secure front line there. And uh, at that time uh, if I remember correctly uh, Horthy, he was the uh, he was the leader of Hungary at the time, he was uh, sort of a benevolent dictator. And uh, he tried to uh, I, I don't remember the exact time, but at one point there he tried to make a deal with the allies. And at that point the Germans came and, and pretty much took over the country. And that's when we uh, we were really beginning to feel uh, all the pressures. They uh, everything changed at that point. And at first uh, we were uh, they moved us in into certain areas of the city, and everybody that lived out of that area had to move into this particular area. And then one night uh, one--early morning rather than night um, without any warning, they descended upon us. And everybody had to get out of the house. They let us take whatever we could carry. You know, they, they gave us that false security that everything's going to be all right. You can take all the food you want, you can take your money with you, you can take your jewelry with you or whatever, whatever uh, whatever is important to you, your family albums and things like that. And they uh, herd us into this uh, um, brick factory. There was a brick factory outside of the city where the railroad's siding. Now that was the key, we didn't know it at the point, at that time. But the reason they took us there was because there was a railroad siding there. And it also was fenced in. And they herded us in there, and uh, it took them about uh, and of course they brought in all the Jews from the provinces from all around the city. And they did this over a period of time. As they were taking trains away they made more room and they brought in more people. It took 'em approximately oh, a couple weeks to move us out of there. And there would be one or two trains leaving daily. And uh, they would, they would uh, um, that's where we experienced our first beatings and uh, we--up until that point we, we were quite fortunate. We were really quite, much better off than most uh, most of the Eastern European Jews. But at that point everything changed. And uh, we--at this point we became truly the dirty Jew. And they started beating us and mishandling us and they made us do manual things that was completely useless just to keep us occupied, I suppose. And uh, they would uh, uh, just herd us. They, they, they told us that they're going to take us into the interior of Hungary, a, a, a, a place called the Horto Baj which is the Hungarian prairie, there's a section of Hungary that, that's very similar to, to the prairie in this country. And they told us that we're going to be confined there in a labor camp and the families are going to stay together. And as a matter of fact everybody was very anxious to get on that train to get out of this particular place because we, we were extremely overcrowded. There were no sanitary facilities, hardly any. And uh, the food was very bad because uh, there really wasn't anything organized. It was a very temporary kind of a thing. So everybody was very anxious to get on the train as soon as possible, get out of there and get to this permanent place where we're going to be taken care of. We had no idea that they're going to take us to Auschwitz, to Birkenau and then to Auschwitz.

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