Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Abraham Pasternak - August 13, 1984

Forced to Leave Home

You told me a story about your father and he shaved his beard.

Well, that happened for instance like on May the 3rd in 1944, he started... He got up in the morning, as he usually did to go to, to, to the synagogue, and uh, he uh, was halfway to the synagogue and then all of a sudden... This is he told us afterward because in-between, while he was going to the synagogue, three, two gendarmes knocked at the door. It was a Wednesday morning, knocked at the door, and they said, "Get up. You be ready in fifteen minutes and go to the school. You can only take so much with you." In the meantime, while we were getting ready, my father came home and he said, told us that this man so-and-so, who happens to be a customer of ours, he used to buy stuff from us on credit, told him, "You dirty Jew, this is the last time you'll ever go to a synagogue," and unfortunately, he was right. So, we got our... we got ourselves ready and in the meantime, the gendarmes were over there in the house and my little kid brother had to go to the bathroom, to the outhouse, which was not very far from, from there. And, you know, the kid's twelve years old, so what does he know about it, he doesn't know except he's scared, you know, you get up in the morning, you're being awakened... So uh, he said, "Can I go to the bathroom?" The gendarme says, "No you can't." "I got to go to the bathroom." "No you can't." Well, naturally, he couldn't hold it any longer and he got, uh... So, we went to the uh, we got ourselves ready and like I told you, Wednesday was the big shopping day, so all the Gentiles, you know, all the people coming in, from the... The Romanians, the Hungarians, they all brought in their products to the uh, to the market, I mean, for sale, for sale. So, you see, they deliberately picked us up on a day so that everybody could see what they can do to the Jews. So they uh, we went to the school and we had some money and uh, my mother decided that uh, she's going to go over to a friend of hers, it turns out to be a German ??? German they went to school together, they grew up together... By the way, my mother was a very intelligent woman and I don't know why I am bringing this in but I can't help but mention it, my mother spoke four languages fluently, reading and writing, Romanian, Hungarian, German and, and Yiddish, and of course, some of it Hebrew. In fact, in some cases, she even spoke a little bit of gypsy. She went to her friend's and said, "Look here, I don't know what's going to happen to us, I've got here some money. Keep it for me, keep it, I don't know whether I'm going to come back but if the kids are going to come home, give it to them, give it to them. If not, keep it." This very friend of hers went to the authorities and she turned in my mother. My mother came in, came back, she was pale and blue. I don't know whether, they must have, they must have hurt her. They must have beaten her up. It did not show on her face but they must have beaten her up because she was, she didn't cry and she just said that this woman turned her over. That day, we were all in this school, everybody, the sick, kids, it didn't matter, old, young, everybody had to be there, and you had to be there at a specific time. And the gendarmes they went over our luggage to see what we have and not too many luggages were there because they didn't let you take, so we just tied it up, you know, in sheets, whatever you can do, they kept us there all day long not knowing what is going to happen, what they are going to do and everybody was just sitting there with their own thoughts, hardly anyone was talking to another. There was only one smart Jew over there. He got good and drunk. And we talked about him afterwards, we says he was the only one who had the rightest, the smartest thing to do. We took our money, whatever we had left, and we threw it into the, in the toilet because we thought, what good will money do? Somehow we must have had a feeling that something is, is, is really, something is going to happen to us. So, it came in the evening. They had two wagons where you were allowed to put some of your clothes. I mean, some of your, your, your bundles on it. They marched all of us from Betlan to Daiysh, which was about thirty kilometers, which is about fourteen, fifteen, sixteen miles or whatever it is, and we got into an open forest, an open field, there were trees in there, and the day before it had rained, so the water was still, there was still a lot of water on the leaves, and they gave you uh, a, a little axe to go and fend for yourself, no tents, no nothing, just an open field. My father, olevasholem, was, was uh, handy with, with a tool, so we concocted some sort of a tent but it wasn't really that much and we were living like animals, like, like, like animals. We really didn't know. Then the Germans decided that all of the youngsters have to go and do some work, manual work. What did we do? We dug um, foxholes, ditches. One group was digging ditches; the other group was filling them up. I don't know what the purpose was of that, but... And then they also put out an order that everybody has to shave.

This was the Germans?

No, these were the, the... No, they're still the Hungarians.

The gendarmes?

Yeah, but they turned us over to the Germans; the Germans were there too. They uh, everybody, everybody had to shave... And so, shave off their beards, their hair, everything. So my father... My mother asked me and said to me, "Did you see your father?" He was with his back, I mean, to, to us and I says uh, I said to her, "Tata is du. He's right here." And he turned around and she saw him, and she has never seen my father without a beard. This was the last thing she could do. She broke down and she cried. I'll never forget it, she, she, she just looked so stunned, she, she couldn't believe it... She couldn't take it any longer. Well then, she was a very strong woman and, and she finally uh, calmed down a little bit. And then in the meantime, we were kept over there for three weeks. It was raining, it was miserable and muddy and it was really... It was just unlivable, and then if they didn't like you, I mean, they, they, these, these gendarmes then, they used to punish you, for no reason whatsoever, just for them to get kicks, just to get kicks.

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