Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Michael Weiss - August 9, 1995

Annexation by Hungary

When do you feel it all began, this what you're describing?

Well, really, really, really in 1938, as the Hungarians came in. The Hungarian government started already. First, they took away the licenses from Jewish people.

Licenses to do what?

The licenses to operate a business. And I mean small business. Somebody had a tailor shop, a grocery store, or a dry good store, whatever, they took away the licenses. Now how should people exist on that? I mean, they took away the livelihoods. And then later on we had to wear a yellow star. So that meant that everybody knew he's Jewish, he's different, he has to be hated, and that's how the hatred, that's how the hatred started really up.

Had you experienced any kind of anti-Semitism before the Hungarians came?

Before the Hungarians came, no. The only thing sometimes I went to school and I was pulled on the payes and a little beaten up and so forth. But again, from the government, from the Czech government, we did not experience any anti-Semitism.

So the turning point was 1938, you think?

1938 it started up already and we felt it right away.

And how did your parents react? Did they talk to you about it?

Well, actually we weren't that well-informed. We didn't know television, we had no radio, newspapers, whatever they wrote and by the time it came to us it was four or five days later. If there was a radio, we went to listen to Hitler's speech and ah, it was discussed. But really to imagine what that will happen, we never dreamt of it. And we didn't know really what, something like that you don't, you don't dream of. You dream many things. They take away your, whatever you have. And so for so on. But to do this, what they did, nobody never dreamed of it.

So you knew about what was going on in Germany? You heard Hitler's speeches?

I knew Hitler's speeches. We knew Hitler's speeches. And at many times we didn't understand it really. We discuss, we discussed it. Friends got together in, in our house or in somebody else's house and they were discussing it and so forth but we didn't know, we didn't know, that all this will happen and so forth and so on.

Was your father taken to a labor camp?

Yes, yes. Well, my father was called in, in 1939 already to forced labor because the Hungarian ah, ah, ah, government didn't took Jews to the army. They took them to forced labor and he was there about six months and then they let him home. Now, my father, they, he was called in again, he was twice and naturally he came with us, with me, to the ghettos.

This is later?

This is, this is already in `44.

Uh...you came from a very orthodox town, was there a Zionist movement at all in the town?

Well, I tell you, the Zionist movement, there was a Zionist movement there, but this was very low key at that time, at that time. The orthodox movement didn't believe in Zionism. The orthodox movement believed that the Meshiach will come.


We are all gonna go to Israel and then we will have Jerusalem and that was the thoughts and the teachings of the orthodox movement to us, Carpatha Rus, at least.

What about you and your parents?

Ah, well no, I, I, I, I did not belong to any Zionist organization. The Zionist organization was small. But I did attended a few meetings ah, my parents didn't know about it. But actively and actually the truth of the matter, an active Zionist organization was not in existence that it should flourish and it should ah, ah, ah, ah, think about building, about having a country. No, it was not uh, uh, we did have, it's called a Hakh'sharah, to get ready. And we did have that young boys came to our town and they went to work in the village and after that they did went to Palestine in order to know the agriculture a little bit because they knew that's what they are gonna have there. So we did have that, some of that, in our town.

When your father was taken away what happened in your household?

Well, well, well, well that's, that's, that's, it was a very hard life throughout, throughout. Ah, when he was taken away now the government did gave, like if somebody goes into the army they give I don't know the name, you know, some money ah, but they did gave some money and that's what we lived on. And then I was working ah, ah, a little bit here and there and ah, that's, that's, that's, was very, very, very hard life.

So you became the man of the...?

Well, in a way, yes. In a way, yes. You see, you see what, what, even I hear that in this country too, that all the Jews are bankers. And all the Jews are rich people and so forth. In Europe, and I know even in this country, no, no, hard work, we all came here. I came here to this country. No relative, nothing, it was hard work. It was very hard work.

What kinds of things do you remember in the period between say, 1939 and 1944? Your father came back?

Yeah, he came back, he was home and he went to work in the vineyard. They did allow days, days laborers. You could do that, but in business you cannot be. And ah, ah, naturally it started little by little. We had the Yeshiva that had to close. And again we went from day to day [pause] and it was very hard. That's the only thing that really ah, and then ah, in 1942, my grandfather died home. And that was a very big shock for the family again and ah one after the other and one after the other and people really wondered what the next day will bring with all this new laws coming out from the Hungarian government and ah, ah, that's the only thing I can say really it was a very, very hard life. I went many times to sleep, I wouldn't mind to have another piece of bread. It was that hard. And then they started to give ah, ah, the bread on coupons. You could buy, I forgot ah, I think two kilograms a week or something of that nature ah, and meat, meat went on coupons, sugar went on coupons. And ah, first you had to...you needed the money and then you had the money and you just can buy that much, so ah, for the Jews it was a very, very hard life.

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