Hellen Weisel

Q: What is your birth-date?
A: March 15, 1931

Q: What was your maiden name?
A: Shulamit.

Q: Where were you born?
A: Hacnas Latina. Do you want me to write it, ’cause it’s hard to spell?

Q: Where was this?
A: Czechoslovakia

Q: Did you grow up there?
A: No.

Q: Where did you grow up?
A: We were taken to see my mother and were spread out because we didn’t know where we were going to be. I grew up everywhere! All over the world. But from there I came to Budapest. To Hungary. And that’s where we were with Wallenberg.

Q: Whom did you live with? Parents, siblings?
A: Sister. One sister left. And I lived with her, the rest were taken to Auschwitz, and some didn’t come back. One brother…

Q: Whom did you live with before the war started?
A: Before the war started I lived with my… we were five children and my mother. My father died.

Q: How old were you when your father died?
A: I was eight. Just from pictures I remember him.

Q: Did you grow up in a Jewish community?
A: Yes, it was a Jewish community.

Q: Was it orthodox?
A: Yes, definitely.

Q: What kind of school did you attend?
A: I attended a first a small school, in town, and it was like a public school, but we had Jewish studies, I don’t remember how many times a week. I was there until third grade. And then, we, my family was a very large family, aunts, but we were five children, and they said we’d be safer in Budapest, Hungary. So we lived there, and I was left with two sisters. And the, my mother came also, and she said, ”You don’t go back to Czechoslovakia. You celebrate Pesach…” This was 1943. She said, ”You should come when you have your Pesach vacation, then we should come.” And then, by the railroad we went to the train, and a man, I don’t know, he said we were crazy. He said to go home, that we shouldn’t go to a place where we will never come back. It was left two of us. My sister was in Israel, and he told us to just go back! Don’t turn around, don’t go to the train ’cause you will never see light again. So we went back, and we stayed in our apartment, until they started to take the Jews in Budapest. It was ’44 I think…

Q: How old were you when you left Czechoslovakia to come to Budapest?
A: I was about ten years old.

Q: And how old was your sister?
A: My sister was… she’s six years older than me, so she could be seventeen, eighteen?

Q: Can you describe the school that you went to?
A: In Budapest- at first, at the beginning of the year, only a Catholic school would accept me. And then they stared all that brain [washing], and doing things. So I said to my sister, ”I’m not going back there.” So we found a Jewish school where I went, and until the war broke out and they took over. The Nazis, the Russians… they took over the school. So we were taken first to the ghetto, then to the apartment. And then they picked up my sister. You know this Pinchas Rosenbaum has this magazine, writes for something in New York, very famous person. He was married to Swiss person, England maybe, head-Rabbi’s daughter. He married. After the war. But he died.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your school in Czechoslovakia?
A: In Czechoslovakia, it started the anti-Semitism. They didn’t let us study Jewish studies, nothing. My brothers used to go to Cheder, but now they couldn’t go. That’s when my family decided to go to Budapest to keep eyes on us, and to live there until my mother decided for us to go back. But the schools were bad.

Q: Do you remember any specific occurrences?
A: I remember one thing: I was in third grade and the teacher wasn’t Jewish, we didn’t have any more Jewish teachers, and she turned to the board, writing. And I was copying like all the other children and for no reason she came over to me and hit me with her ruler. You couldn’t say anything, like why do you do this? Why? I couldn’t say anything. Just somebody talked… they were very strict. So I said to my mother, ”I’m not going back to school.” She said that maybe I did something she didn’t like. I said, ”She didn’t even see me!” She was with her back to me and I was always very quiet. But she [my mother] said I must go back to school. Until we went to Budapest. And there, finally we found a Jewish school. A very famous school, it was a seminary for ‘chazanim’. You know what a ‘chazan’ is?

Q: So would you say it was a Yeshiva?
A: It was then, I don’t remember what it was called, but very, you know, and special school and there I didn’t have to repeat classes or anything. Right away I got into the right class and I was very happy there. One thing, we weren’t allowed any more in Czechoslovakia to study Hebrew, and I couldn’t read. Before we went back to Budapest, I had a twin brother who went to Auschwitz. He… I’m sorry… teach me at the cemetery to read from the stones. He teach me the letters. And I got scared, I heard someone crying, I was little, maybe six, and I said I didn’t want to go there, not there, not the school not anything. Just stay. And the… my mother decided that we go to Budapest. I remember in ’43 when she decided we should go for Pesach. ’43, in March. I remember everything, that day… we should stay there until and see if she goes back to Czechoslavakia.

Q: Was your family religious before the war?
A: Yes.

Q: What activities were you involved in before the war? Things you did for fun, with your family or friends?
A: We were children, we were playing, we were skiing. We lived between the hills, and we skied. We played like children. We didn’t have toys like you have today. But we had things.

Q: When did you first notice signs of anti-Semitism?
A: The first time we saw airplanes coming in, bombing. When was it, ’39, ’40? That’s when the war started. So that’s when… after that we left for Budapest.

Q: What kind of actions were being done against Jews? Did you see anything?
A: All of my uncles all had beards and peyis, and they would come and cut off one side of it. They were cut, with the skin also. It was awful, we were not used to this. If my mother stepped inside a store they came, not the Czech, the Czech were very nice to us. They told us to travel further, that for the Jews bad things were coming. Told us to go back where we came from. We were afraid, they used to come to the houses, they would break the windows, throw stones. When we went to school they would hit us. We thought these goyim were friends. We were afraid, so we saw a lot of that.

Q: Were you aware of what the Nazis were doing to the Jews in the camps at that time?
A: They took Jews in Czechoslovakia just when the chair left town. In Budapest they took Jews and threw them in the Danube, and threw them and said, ”If you won’t go, we won’t take you.” You know, Budapest is divided. They said they would take us into the ghettos, and they took a lot of people and they killed them. We saw many on the streets of Budapest. I didn’t know who it is… I had an older brother, he was sixteen years old, and he was taken to a labor/working camp, and he asked for you know, socks, to send food… I was still with my sister. I went out. We weren’t allowed out, the Jews were not allowed to go out. We had stars on, and I removed the star, and my sister said, ”No one will know you, you go shop and we’ll send him a package.” Unfortunately children did recognize me, and they screamed, ”Where is your star?” They ran after me, but I was a very good runner, they didn’t catch me. But there was no more Jewish star, and they wouldn’t give me anything, I couldn’t get anything for my brother. We couldn’t send the package. Then they took the Jews out of the houses, wherever they lived, and they passed my own house and the custodian wasn’t Jewish. He hated us. And he said, ”You see? You see?” We were in a very big apartment-house. ”I didn’t give your names or anything. They didn’t collect from me, the people. For this you must pay me.” I don’t remember what my sister gave him, but she said, ”I’ll see to it what we have…” and they did not take her out like they took the others. They shot a lot from the houses. Many were taken to the ghettos, and that’s when Pinchas Rosenbaum came with two other people – two other men – and they took us out. They didn’t take me because my sister wouldn’t let me go. And they brought the Wallenberg papers to go save other people. My sister and her group were caught by the S.S.- the Nazis. And right away they had to throw away the papers, the Christian papers so they shouldn’t see. And right away they knew what to look for. So they went however they could, through the toilet, through the windows, and they, she came for me. She took me to the place, the same place where Mr. Wallenberg was, you know, the Swedish Consul. That was in a factory, a glass factory. I remember exactly how it was, room… glass… very big room where people slept on the tables, on the floors, and I didn’t want to. We were brought up very religious. Men and ladies in the same place and I kept on searching, going around. I thought there were still places in the rooms. I was anxious to see what’s going on. And finally I found a hiding there, but when they said when they found me there they needed it for an office, and they took me and the other kids and they took us… My sister, she didn’t know where I was taken. When they told her, she begged them to leave me, it was just the two of us, but they said I was too young. They would send people to Switzerland, to Sweden, but they couldn’t send me anywhere because I was too young, and they were afraid that we would be caught. My sister stayed there til the end with Wallenberg. She said she saw him, but she didn’t know which one, there were so many people.

Q: Let’s backtrack a little bit. Before you met Wallenberg, how did the war affect your family’s cultures, your traditions?
A: See we were left just the two of us, my sister and I, my mother didn’t come back from Auschwitz, my older sister didn’t come back from Auschwitz, and my brother didn’t come back from Auschwitz. My twin came back and he was going for Bar-Mitzvah studies. He didn’t have one, he couldn’t. My mother took him also back to Czechoslovakia, she said they would have the Bar-Mitzvah, there was not that many people, they were in a ghetto in Czechoslovakia. He did not have a Bar-Mitzvah. And after the war I didn’t know who exist, who lived, and I was going all over to look for family… and I saw in the places where they brought back the people, and this one woman, I wasn’t sure if she was my mother. I followed her around and she yelled at me, ”What do you want?” And I heard her voice… it was not my mother. Then we went all over Jewish organizations. I was thirteen, and I… until I found a list of my brother, thank G-d he made it back. He told me the stories of what he went through, and he said that he’s not going to be religious. He said what he saw, and how they threw children and families into trucks to burn them in gas chambers. He said there is no G-d if He could sit there quietly and let this happen. I was hurt, because when I was in the convent I didn’t eat, I was very watchful not to eat any food or anything, and they allowed me to bring in snow to melt and eat it. Until I became very sick one week and they took me in a hall to die. Here was one girl, we didn’t talk if we were Jewish or not, but she said you eat what they give you to survive, and when your parents or someone will come for you you’ll still be alive.

Q: So you didn’t eat because the food was not kosher?
A: It was not kosher. And I was sick from the smells from when they served food. And one time we made up songs and we made up a song about the principal who wasn’t Jewish I guess, and they lined us all on the knees to stand for hours as punishment because we made up this song. One song against… but the nuns were so nice, I wish I could remember one name for any of them, the Sisters. When the S.S. came and asked for the Jewish children to stand out and they will take us to ghetto – this was when Budapest was divided- like here you have New Jersey. They said they will take us to the ghetto in Budapest. But all the bridges were already… they didn’t exist. So I looked back to see if there were children who stepped out of line with their hands on their heads and the nuns said, ”We don’t know what you want. These are all Sisters and Brothers here.” All the same. And they pushed me back so I wouldn’t move that I would be all alone to be taken.

Q: Do you remember when the Nazis invaded Hungary?
A: I don’t exactly remember the date.

Q: Do you remember seeing it occur?
A: Sure. That’s when we had to start wearing the star. And I always took off the star. I thought I would aggravate them. They took over the Jewish schools, and I was a kid, and I went by and before I went by the building, I took off the star and I passed. The Jews were not allowed to go on the sidewalk. And when I passed it I put back the star and turned to them and they wanted to hit me but I wasn’t afraid of anything anymore because I said what they did to my family, I have nobody anymore. I don’t care what happens to me. Many things like that happened. I saw them hitting people in the street. All over. But I always removed the star. Around my neighborhood kids recognized me, and they called me, ”Dirty Jew”. [I said] ”But you are the same as me! If I’m dirty then you are dirty!” I didn’t care what happened to me because I felt there is no one to go to, to complain.

Q: What was the ”Arrowcross” and how was it organized? The Hungarian Police…
A: They participated, they always ran together with the S.S.

Q: Do you remember anything that they did? Did you meet with them ever? Did you have any encounters with them?
A: When I went around the street they were in front of the school building. The Hungarian… I forget the name, but the Hungarians, also German S.S. were with them because the Germans didn’t speak Hungarian.

Q: When did you first hear of Raoul Wallenberg?
A: When we were taken to the building and my sister went and asked them to let me in…

Q: Which building was this?
A: It was the glass building. Then name of the street was Vodasutzer. That’s what it was called. Across the building was a market. They had Jewish people standing in front of the market, but they wouldn’t let me in if they didn’t know who I am, and my sister begged them, ”The Nazis, the S.S. will come from across the street and get me!” So finally somebody came and told her to hide, here was a window to the downstairs. They told me to crawl in there and I was hiding until they told me to come out. So that’s when I knew about Wallenberg.

Q: Did you ever meet him?
A: I saw… I spoke to my sister and I asked questions, did he look like this, a tall person, and she said yes, he was a tall blond man. He was there when I came to the door, but I didn’t know then his name was Wallenberg.

Q: Do you know how old Raoul Wallenberg was at the time?
A: He could be a young person, not an old person. I didn’t know exactly. My sister though, she remembers everything.

Q: Can you describe him, what he looked like? What people told you he looked like?
A: He was tall, blond. The age I couldn’t begin to tell you. For me he was an older man, but my sister said he wasn’t. She said he was a younger person.

Q: How did he save you and your family, your sister?
A: He didn’t let the S.S. come on the roof. They jumped over, they came and right away he told men that this was a special house and they have no right to come there. They were shooting there, I remember once the shooting and I was afraid. That’s when I was really afraid and heard, ”They’re coming, they’re coming.” I didn’t know who ‘they’ meant, but then they said that the S.S. are coming, the Nazis. But you know, he was a big consul, and he didn’t allow them. Some Jews got guns…I’m not sure – I think Wallenberg killed also…

Q: In the consul?
A: Yes, the consul, the glass building.

Q: Did you hear any stories about Wallenberg? Did you talk about him, you and your friends? Or your sister?
A: My sister always talks about him, because she remembers him very well. You know that he was taken by the Russians, nobody know what happened with him. He was taken… he was killed…

Q: But at the time of the war, during 1944, did you hear any stories about him?
A: No. Maybe my sister did. She was there til the end. And she says she spoke to him. I said, ”What language did you speak to him in?” German… she didn’t know Swedish. But Hungarian…but I didn’t know exactly who he was, I had seen him, like other people, but I didn’t know.

Q: Did he give you Schutzpass? Do you know what Schutzpass is?
A: Yeah, my sister had it. I had it when they let me into the building. My sister was holding it for me, and when they took me out I don’t remember what happened to it…

Q: Can you tell me what it looked like? And what it was exactly?
A: No.

Q: Do you know if your sister still has the Schutzpass?
A: I never asked her what she did because I was always in hiding until we got to Israel. You know they took us to Cypress. And we lost everything. I wrote many times to Czechoslovakia if we could please get the birth certificate, but they wouldn’t. We didn’t get anything.

Q: What were the safehouses? You were staying in one – what were these houses?
A: They took regular houses, schools. Some were houses that people donated, Jews, that’s where people were kept, in the houses.

Q: Who was in charge in the houses?
A: Jewish people. Some were not so nice. I always tried to get out, but they said, ”We are not responsible for you.” You had good ones and you had not such good ones. But they had to do their job I guess.

Q: Do you remember if the house had a Swedish flag, or a red cross on it?
A: Red cross. Not all, only the houses that Wallenberg took. In the house where I was in, the glass one, there were about 800-1000 people. And you had to stand in line, there weren’t so many utilities, to go to the bathroom, to go to wash, you had to stand in line for hours.

Q: Who gave you food and clothing and other necessities?
A: Clothing we didn’t get. We had what we had. And I don’t know where the food came from, but there was some food. We were hungry, we didn’t always have breakfast and lunch, and we stood in line for that too, the food. Who gave it I don’t know, must be rich Jewish people that donated, like the factory. I think it was donated. And I guess it came also with what Wallenberg collected.

Q: So you think Wallenberg might have been involved?
A: Yes, 100% how.

Q: But you’re not sure how?
A: I don’t know how. No. I would have to ask my sister. She knows everything because she was older and she was there until the end.

Q: So Raoul Wallenberg helped set up hospitals and orphanages? You said you stayed at an orphanage?
A: In a convent. He made the arrangements. Otherwise they wouldn’t accept me there. I went with a few kids, and the boys ran away when the S.S. came so they wouldn’t take them away to the ghettos. I couldn’t believe that they would take us to the ghetto because there were no bridges. So I don’t really know…

Q: How long were you in the orphanage for?
A: I was there until the end of ’44… a year I was there. And then they came for me – the organizations to collect children. The war wasn’t even over. One part was Germans, and the other side Russians and they were fighting still. And the bombs flew. There was a big huge shell – an empty bomb. I was with children, we were going to ask for food from the Russians, and we were hiding when the bombs came until we didn’t hear any more shooting.

Q: How were you reunited with your sister?
A: How we were reunited… I was in a D.P. camp and she was in a D.P. camp, and how exactly we heard of each other I don’t remember. But somehow my brother came – he was with my sister. She found him and he came for me. We traveled the whole night. Her camp was in Bomba. Mine was Leipheim. Leipheim was a children’s camp – all Jewish young people. And one day my brother came and he took me to my sister to her camp. Just to visit, I couldn’t stay there. And I came back, and then we met in Israel. She sent me a telegram saying that she’s in Israel. I came before her. She got married in the D.P. camp. So I came to visit her and her husband was the president of their camp. In Bomba. They closed up the camp and didn’t let people in. When I came they wouldn’t let me in until someone, I don’t remember who came, but my brother saw me and he went to tell my sister that I am standing there trying to get in. They didn’t let anyone in or out until they moved the whole camp to the city of Bomba. I don’t know if it was Austria… I don’t remember exactly. Then I met her in Israel.

Q: Do you remember any stories about what happened at the Danube River?
A: I remember that you see people were coming to find Jewish children. And they came to the place where I was and asked how I’m related to them. I said I never saw them. They said I’m their ‘sister’. And they said my parents will come and be responsible for what happens. And I ran away. I had a few minutes with them, from the organization, and they told me where to meet. Night fell. I jumped from a window, and ran away. We went to the Danube. We walked a lot til we got to the Danube. There was a whole row of dead soldiers there and people were taking their clothes, they just didn’t care. We found a small boat there and one of the men fixed the boat so we could go to the Budapest mountains. The Russians stood on the mountains and were shooting at the boat. We said, ”What happens, happens.” They made bridges of dead soldiers to go into this boat. I was so afraid. I said I’m not going to step on anyone to go into the boat. So they brought some wooden pieces. They broke, I fell in, but the boat, little fishing boats, water came in, we all had to remove the shoes to get out the water so we wouldn’t drown.

Q: Did you hear any stories about the Jews being lined up next to the river?
A: Yes, from the ghetto they took them out and lined them up, by the Danube and just shot at them.

Q: You saw that?
A: No, I didn’t see that.

Q: Did you hear about Raoul Wallenberg saving any of them? Any of the Jews from the river?
A: No. My sister also had some of the papers to go save other people. They were caught. My sister jumped from a window when they were caught. She said she threw away the papers, then jumped, I don’t know from what floor. They ran away, and walked a lot until they got back to Wallenberg.

Q: Were all the people rescued by Raoul Wallenberg Jewish? Or were there also non-Jews among you?
A: I know about Jews. I know all the Jews had papers, false papers that they had to give to save other people.

Q: Do you remember any non-Jews at the house you stayed at?
A: No.

Q: If Raoul Wallenberg were standing here today, what would you say to him?
A: I would… really thank him for all what he did, for all the people, all of us, even us kids who were sent out and he saved. He saved so many people. I think we would do something special to celebrate with him.

Q: What do you think he would say to the world today?
A: He would tell them why it had to be the Jews. We are just like any other people, and we didn’t deserve that. You know one night I opened the TV to watch news and they showed all that. They showed people who were saved. But they didn’t show Wallenberg. I didn’t see from the beginning. They were talking about it, how this happened and why they have to do that, between people that knew more than I knew.

Q: After the war what happened to you?
A: I was saved by these people and they made a new home for children like me. They started a home, we stayed there. There wasn’t much food. They took us to the country

Q: Who were these people?
A: Jewish organization- I don’t know if you know it: Bnei Akiva.

Q: Of course! Were they from Israel?
A: No, maybe there were Israeli among them, but I remember they were from Hungary or Czechoslovakian.

Q: Where was the house that they set up?
A: It was a Jewish school where they got a building. In Budapest, but not for long. Then they took us to the countryside. In Hungary. It was a big beautiful place for sick children… what was it called? I don’t remember… it wasn’t a Jewish place. There was a swimming pool and also a lake. There were some boats also. We stayed there until they took us to Germany.

Q: Where did they take you to in Germany?
A: In Germany… from I guess it was in Leipheim, Munich you heard of, I don’t know how far… a D.P. camp. In this one it was mostly young teenagers, kids. The grownups just who ran the groups. I was always in a religious… and I was you know they gave us… what do you call it? Papers that we could use to go to the canteen to buy stuff. And the Germans brought us stuff, and I was working there as a secretary. I was in shock when a German woman comes with bones, human bones. And I asked, ”Where do you get the bones?” It was Jewish bones. She wanted food for the bones. I gave her food and we buried the bones. I wish I would have remembered exactly where so we could have sent for them to bury them in Israel. I didn’t…the woman always brought us stuff, but the bones, they were different. And they took us to the movies. They gave three minutes for the… And we were wondering – all the Germans left, all the goyim left and it was just us, the kids, many groups organized in Jewish organizations. And for the first time I saw what happened. I saw what happened in Auschwitz, and what happened to the Jews there. I saw the places, how they burned the Jews and where they put them. It was awful. I just looked and thought this could be my mother, this could be my sister…I ran out. I saw a German. I decked him. I could have killed him. He ran after me and stopped me from doing it. And I said, ”Why could they do it to our parents? To our families?” I was really shocked when I saw this because I didn’t know exactly what happened in Germany. My brother never wanted to talk about it. And then I didn’t want to go anymore to a movie or anything, because we didn’t have T.V. or anything to see this, to see what had happened. And they wouldn’t take us anymore because it was a shock for all of us. Because most of us were in the work camps and we wouldn’t be alive if we hadn’t been in those camps. Then we were there until the end of ’45, ’46. ’46 I think. They said we got certificates to go to Israel. And we were very happy and we made packages that should go and they came and told us, ”No”. They told us we couldn’t go because the Polish children had suffered more than us. And they have to let them go for. That’s what they said. So illegally they took us to France. We were there maybe 6-7 months. That’s when it happened with that Nazi that they called me in to speak to him what happened to him. And illegally they took us to Israel. And we were discovered by the British close to Tel Aviv. They came and were fighting with us. They threw tear bombs. It tore out our eyes. It was awful, but they did it. You know, we were in a little boat. And they were afraid even to come on our boat. So they fought with us just to make us to go to their big boats. They were like animals, the British. I couldn’t believe it, how they could be such animals, how they behaved. We were young kids, and the food they gave us we threw it at them. It was unbelievable what they did to us. They took us to Cypress. And at Cypress they took everything away from us. When we went off the boat they told us in France to make small packages, not only papers to take with us. We had a small bag and this is all we can take with us and they took that in Cypress. They lined everything up in the street and you could go for days looking but you couldn’t find everything. No water, no showers, it was just awful in Cypress. I think it was even worse than being in the camp. But I remember the British were not nice, very rough. All soldiers, they were supposed to take care of you, but… the food wasn’t like… they told us we were supposed to have normal food, but… until they took us to Israel it was a very bad situation. We couldn’t believe it. They built from, what was it called? They make the… I don’t know, the shower places that many people could take a shower, but the water was like, what is it called, that you burn in lamps?

Q: Kerosene?
A: Yes, kerosene. The water was like kerosene. No soaps, no nothing. And if you dropped your clothes it was red soil, you could never wash it out. It was just terrible, terrible situation. The way the British were…

Q: Once you arrived in Israel…
A: They put us in places for young people to study. I was 15, 16 years old. So they put us where we learned to read, and they taught us secretly how to handle guns. And they said that these bullets were dead bullets. And we tried to use these bullets up to the ceiling and some of these bullets were live! Some of the bullets were live… and in the night they trained us how to, you know how to fight in case we have to fight the British or the Arabs. You know, we was fighting the British.

Q: What happened to your parents and your siblings after the war? Where did they go and what happened to them?
A: My sister was taken away… they took them to Romania where they had… first she was with Wallenberg but then they took them, and they had them in groups, and they took them from there to Romania ’cause there they didn’t suffer like in Budapest. Some of them were sick, like my sister, and they stayed there until they were brought to Germany. And from there they came, my sister, a little bit to Israel. My brother also came, he made it through Auschwitz and all of that, he was also still a teenager, and they took them to Israel. He lied about his age and he went to the army, you know when they announced the Jewish state, so he wanted to… he was in a kibbutz. And you know, many of them were killed, especially the men. He made it to the army, he lied about his age. And I had a terrible dream that I saw my brother came and he was injured. And then he really came and I asked him, ”Did this really happen to you?” And he said, ”How did you know?” I said I have a dream, I couldn’t believe how I saw everything happened to him. And he stayed in the army until you know, you could make arrangements to have a place for yourself. He got married very young. Nineteen. We didn’t want, my sister was there and he said, ”I need a home. I want to build a home.” And that was it. My sister was married also, she married a German, and I went to a kibbutz. And that’s when the war was over. I mean just started, ’48, the war just started. And they… I was on Kibbutz Yavneh – you heard of Kibbutz Yavneh? They took all the men … then we had to work, just teenagers. They took us away from studies and taught us how to shoot. They gave us battle rifles and we had to work with the rifles in the fields. Until it was over they send us and said we’re free to go. So someone arranged for me to go back to school, you know to study.

Q: How did you come to the U.S.?
A: The U.S…. my, I didn’t really want, I swore that even on a little boat, they made it like chicken coops, and there were three people in that coop, and if someone wants to get out all of us had to get out. And you couldn’t get out just one person. Before the British discovered us. In the middle of the ocean the boat broke down and we stayed there. We were happy ’cause at least we all rested. We were sick from the boat. This way we had four days we stayed on the ocean. Until from Italy, somehow we had shlichim from Israel. And they called to Italy for people to come to repair the boat. What did you ask, I’m sorry?

Q: Your in-laws said you should come to the U.S.?
A: My in-laws, they had relatives. And they said… my husband was fighting also in Israel and I was also… I said I don’t want to go to the army or anything but we got married and they said we should come but I didn’t want. And I swore on the boat I would never leave Israel. I had to go through, you know, what do you call that? Change… I swore that…

Q: Hatarat Nedarim? (Rescinding one’s promises)
A: That’s right I had to do that because…

Q: So how did the war, and what happened to you and your family affect your relationship with religion after the war?
A: I was in religious home and institutes that were always religious, and I had no problem with it and so was my sister. But my brother would never, he didn’t want to. He said he didn’t want to believe in G-d.

Q: So you continued practicing the chagim (holidays) and everything?
A: Everything, yes. I practiced everything. And we have five children. And one got married. All of them are married in Israel and one came here. And she got married with a young man and he said he wants to become religious. She had no idea what that is, what religion is, but her husband said this is how he wants to live, religious, and if she doesn’t want then they will have to separate. So she became religious, and she is the only one in her family. My brother was sorry that, he you know, he’s sick now, you know he’s diabetic also, like me, and many other problems, heart problems, and it’s no wonder from the camps what happened. So he’s sorry now that he didn’t become religious.

Q: After the war, what happened to Raoul Wallenberg?
A: I heard that he was taken by the Russians. They didn’t know what he is, and he was taken to Siberia. And he was kept like other people. I had cousins there too and my cousins managed to get away, but he didn’t get away. And I heard that they killed him.

Q: Looking back today on Wallenberg’s heroic actions, how much did you know at the time?
A: After the war I right away wanted to know what happened to him. And I asked. My sister was for more in Israel when I moved in. and one day I used to connect magazines. And in one of the magazines I saw Pinchas Rosenbaum, who saved us, took us to… and he wrote a story about Wallenberg. I have somewhere the magazine. I have to look for it if you’re interested. It’s not much, very little, but… My sister has books, she has many books that in Israel they printed many things and she says they call in the books, they call the house that we were the ”Glass House”. I don’t know if you heard of… yeah?

Q: You mentioned Pinchas Rosenbaum. Was he from an organization? If so, which one?
A: A religious group.

Q: From the Underground?
A: Yes. You know my sister, after we were united, I was left alone and he and a few more people came to save my people from the houses showed-she couldn’t believe who he is. He showed that he was wearing the tzitzit. He said if he will come into the building he is finished, they will know who he is.

Q: Where did he take you from, and where did he take you?
A: My sister ran away to Getmen after she was caught. I told her that the Nazis caught her and the papers she destroyed when she came to get me, because then I was alone in the apartment. I was going out to look for relatives. I had relatives in Budapest and I couldn’t find anyone. Finally she came and too me there to the building of Wallenberg. And I was there for a short time. I don’t know how long I was there.

Q: Pinchas Rosenbaum took you from there? From the safehouse?
A: To the safehouse. He worked to save people.

Q: He worked with Wallenberg?
A: Yes, he worked with Wallenberg. They had a group of young people who worked with Wallenberg and they made the false papers to go and they send many people to Switzerland and to Sweden. I had a cousin also who was in Sweden through Wallenberg.

Q: Why is it important to keep Wallenberg’s story and legacy alive today?
A: Because this is important in our history, Jewish history. He saved the Jews. What he was, we have to remember him always. What he did… there were many goyim, non-Jews, that saved Jews, but they didn’t do what Wallenberg did, to help so much. He was in danger too. My sister said when I was there that they went on the roof and were shooting, they came all the time to kill the people from that house. You know, the factory. But he fought, whatever he had, so that they shouldn’t come. And he saved all the people. Who would be left? I wouldn’t have even my sister. And now she’s very sick in Israel, that I just heard this week the news, but she will go til the end of the world to get all the information she can, his books and all about him. Everybody who was saved by Wallenberg, and not just who were saved, Yad Vashem is doing something on him, so people should remember him. Everybody feels terrible what happened to him. To destroy just like that such an important person.

Q: Is there anything else you want to add?
A: I don’t know, I have to talk to my sister whatever I remember. You want if I get some information from my sister? Maybe she can send you something.

Q: Do you have any pictures or documents you’d like to include in this footage today?
A: I have a piece of paper that we got in Cyprus, but I don’t know where. That’s what happened when we were there in the camps. And one photo from Germany I remember to be… to get it, some of the people.


Interview: Evan Rosenbaum
Transcript: Dana Adler
Editing: Adriana Lee