Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Abraham Pasternak - May 11, 1982

Life Under Occupation

From Betlan uh, where, where were you taken?

Well, from Betlan we were marched about uh, thirty kilometers to a city called Dej. But we were not taken into the city proper. We were taken into the forest. And that day they told us, go find yourself a place and build yourself a tent, or something, I mean to have shelter. But no information was given what is going to happen to us. Nothing! Nothing! Absolutely nothing! And uh, so, we went and we uh, tried to get some branches together, some uh, and we built ourselves a little tent. And uh, my father was a little bit handy with these things because he was always a handy man in the house. He was always be able to fix things up so we uh, we uh, the tent looked pretty good. And uh, all of a sudden an order came out that all of the people who are wearing beard and payes. They have to cut, they have to shave off immediately. So, my uh, father, what to do, so he went and shaved, shaved his beard off and then after uh, a little while then my father came back, my mother asked me, says "Where is your father?" And it is a funny thing, he came, he came in without his beard and without the payes and without any hair and my mother didn't recognize him. And she does, and I, I can just see because my mother was very, very much in love with my father. Because every time he use to cough, oh, she was jumping, you know, she, she, she really uh, uh, because, 'cause they, they, I, I suppose uh, like a Jewish woman they always had a, a great deal of love for their husbands and vice versa. And I can just see the agony in my mother's face. That, that in itself, tear you to pieces. And we stayed there for a few days and finally, they uh, I believe it was...we were there...let's see, we were picked up the 3rd of May and we were in that forest. And by the way, while we were there in the forest everybody had to report to work. We...the youngsters, had to report to one area. The older people had to go to another area. And when they picked us up to work they gave us shovels to dig ditches. One group was digging the ditches and the other group was uh, filling 'em back up. And that's what they tried...that's what they did to us. But I'd like to say something else about it. There is...before...from...a few months before we were picked up, some harsh laws were introduced, especially for the Jews. For instance, like opening up the stores on Shabbos. Now, I don't have to tell you what it means to a religious people to work on Shabbos. Because Shabbos is one of the most, the most sacred things...sacred days to them. They forgot about their businesses. They wouldn't even pick up uh, a bucket of water if the business would be on fire on Shabbos. Here the authorities have forced the Jews to open up the stores on Shabbos. And not only do they do that, they, they said to them, that "You have to turn on the lights, make it look that you are anxious to do business." And, I remember that one time my mother...she came home and my father asked her, "Did you do any business?" And she reluctantly, and I know she was shaking her head, "Yes, I did some business today." And uh, "Who were the specialty customers?" Oh, she said that the customers were, you know, the people that we know and some of the uh, authorities. They are the ones. Normally you were supposed to close up the stores between one to three o'clock. Now on Shabbos you had to keep it open. And then one Shabbos, she came home and my father asked her, "Did you do any business?" And she was so happy to say, "No, we didn't do any business." And she was so happy to say that and, and I guess, if you call that happiness, I mean, it was happiness.

This the Hungarian authorities?

These were, by what, the Hungarian, Hungarian authorities. And also they were much harsher. And then with the Romanian authorities before they turned over part of Transylvania to the Hungarians which was that in 19...in...around 1940, '41.

That early ???

Yeah, that, that's the time when they did that.

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