Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Vera Schey - June 10, 1994

Apartment in Budapest

You went to Hungarian officials...

Hungarian officials.

...and spoke to them in Hungarian, not German.

In Hungarian. And they provided me, they gave me a p...uh, whatever that paper was to occupy one of these Jewish apartments which were left empty and which were available for this particular reason. And my mother and I moved into a lovely two-bedroom apartment, a very modern apartment. We happened to know whose, whose it was. We found out whose it was and I don't remember how, but I knew that they were somewhere in Budapest. I don't remember. I can't tell you how we found out. We knew where they were and we went to them and told them that we are the ones who are occupying their apartment. Well they were thrilled to death, because they knew that you know, we would take care of it and it would be--in case they ever make it and come back, their apartment will be there and in good shape and what have you.

They were in hiding.

They were... They must have been in hiding too, yes. They were in hiding. But they didn't have the guts to do. You know, I mean, that really took a lot of guts. But it was desperation. I know we had to go. So we moved in there and we had all our papers and we were registered under these names. And we stayed there, I think this was maybe October--November. And then the air raids were a daily happening already and you had to go down into the basement. Each house, each apartment house had a basement and that was the air raid shelter. And when the sirens uh, were blasting, you had to take yourself and whatever little suitcase or whatever and go down into these apartments. Because the air raid wardens then went and checked and if you were in your apartment you were fined, so we had to go down with everybody else. And it so happens that there was a person who came from the town we were supposed to be from. And after the second day the questions about the grocery store and the church and you know, who the hell knew all these answers? We were sure that we're going to be caught. So we--after about two months living there, we said we got to get out of here because somebody's going to report us that these are false papers. And that's when we went to this cousin who was Gentile uh, and she was Jewish, but the husband was Gentile. And she was exempted. At that time still, somehow, if you were married, I don't know how many years, and you converted. But she didn't wasn't uh, they were exempted. So they were able to live in their own apartment and they were not taken away. So they were hiding these seven people. And at that point there was no heat, there was no food, there was no water. And it really... I mean, Budapest was being bombed all the time. And the uh, caretaker there also knew that, that they're hiding Jews. And it was very cold particu...also hiding two young men who... One was a Gentile who uh, escaped from the army. And one was a Jew, a cousin who uh, escaped from slave labor camp. And there was nothing in the world, no papers in this world to justify them being there. I mean, our false paper is--went, didn't go, but there was no young man who could be living in an apartment house. Because they either were in army or slave labor camp or taken away. They were with us and there were two young men and they were hungry like anything. And, and there was very, very little. There were some beans and some lentils and they cooked it on a little uh, stove we had, because there was no heat, there was no electricity. So on that little stove whatever was, was cooked and naturally these two young men got most of it because they were young and big and healthy and they needed it. And we tried to go out--I tried a lot to drive us out a lot, trying to, whatever I could get with my ration stamps and so on uh, to get food. And in the same apartment building was the--I don't know what it's called--where they uh, their food was kept, rice and, and flour and stuff like that and distribute it was like a distribution center. And the bombings at that point were so heavy that they moved out. The officers, whoever run this place moved out and left everything.

These were Hungarians.

Hungarians. And one day a bomb hit the building we were in. Not the apartment we were in, part of the apartment. And somehow through the, through the uh, bomb explosion, the door to this uh, center was pushed in and was open--otherwise it was locked up with you know, seals and everything. And the pressure, I suppose, pushed in the door. Well, we found out there, naturally, there was a--I think a whole sack of rice and other things. And, I mean, it was like a lifesaver. We were eating rice you know, for morning night and day. And one day uh, one particular night the Arrow Party knocked on the door and the uh, that they want to check every apartment, see if there are anybody who's hiding or anybody who's fleeing or... And the wife of the concierge ran out of the caretaker, run upstairs to us, we were on the sixth floor and we naturally did not go down in the uh, in the shelter because at that point it was too dangerous. So uh, we--it was dangerous to be bombed, but it was less dangerous than to be found out. So we stayed up in the apartment and she head on upstairs or she ran upstairs, his wife ran upstairs and said, "They're going from apartment to apartment. And I know you all have papers, but the two boys, there is no way that they can have anything which entitles them to be here." So she took them up on the eighth floor. There was an empty apartment and one of them reached there and one was--I don't know, hanging out from the back of the door somehow from the window into one of those uh, it was called ???. It's like when an apartment house has a--I don't think they're built here like that. It was built so that there is like a, a yard. But, but not a yard you can go into. It's just where if it's built like on four sides. You know, that's the shaft or whatever. I don't know what it's, what it would be called. And he opened that window and he hung out, he hung from that window.

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