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Reign of Terror

Szálasi (centre) with two members of his racist fascist cabinet.October 15th, 1944 is a date that is forever etched in my memory. On that day, the Hungarian Nazi Party took control of the country and unleashed a reign of terror:

  • The leader of the Hungarian Nazi party, Ferenc Szálasi, became prime minister.
  • The police forces were put under the control of the Hungarian fascists.
  • Jews not yet living in the ghetto were ordered to move in, and the ghetto gates were locked and placed under strict nazi surveillance.
  • Jews were ordered to stay inside their marked houses, 24 hours a day.
  • All the marauding nazi units, comprised mostly of 12- to 15-year-old youths, were armed.

The nazi take-over was swift and complete. Within days, it seemed like all the residents of Budapest turned into ardent Nazis.

The day after the take-over, I headed home to our yellow star house to tell David, Mother and the others the tragic news and about the atrocities I had witnessed in the city. At the same time, the first air raid of the day was signalled. The bombings started again with great force. Both Russian and American planes attacked the city, destroying entire city blocks and leaving roads and streetcar lines in ruins.

Roaming bands of Arrow Cross members posed a serious threat.I found our yellow star house in shambles. The door had been broken down and the women were hysterical, sitting in a corner crying. An Arrow Cross group had raided the house the day before. They had smashed everything, beaten up the women, stolen anything worth stealing, and threatened to come back. Five minutes after they left, Mother had taken her already packed bag and left for her planned hideaway. She moved to the relative safety of a fake orphanage, where there was no room for David and me.

Mother, David and I had decided earlier that moving to the ghetto would be a death sentence. If we went, we would die of starvation, disease or as a result of nazi violence. Or we would be deported to a concentration camp, and deportation also meant death. So David and I decided to go our separate ways and fend for ourselves.

As I made my usual tour around the food and shelter places, I discovered that every location was being guarded by Nazis. Papers were closely scrutinized and people were dragged away when there was the slightest suspicion of false documents. One day, while I was waiting in a lunch line, this happened not too far ahead of me. I wasn’t sure what to do since walking away was just as dangerous as staying in line. But fate decided for me: the nazi inspector had to go to the toilet and I managed to receive my last lunch from that place in peace.

At the shelters, where there were also Nazis checking documents and questioning each one of us before letting us in, luck once again intervened. Some people in the line called out to the nazi guard, reassuring him that I was truly an innocent victim of the Bolsheviks. And he let me in.

How much longer could this luck of mine last?

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