István Katona of Kartal, Hungary



First-Hand Account


"The ghetto was the most horrible, humiliating, soul destroying experience. My parents had lived a comfortable, middle class existence. My father was a proud Hungarian, his eyes were filled with tears in hearing the Hungarian Anthem and not by hearing the 'Shema Yisroel.'

It was already a shock leaving our home in 1942 and moving to Tarnaméra, in a small part of our ancestral home. My father, now without a daily occupation at 55, felt like a useless homebody.

In Tarnaméra everybody knew he was a Jew, even without yellow stars. One felt a Jew, like one is black haired, has freckles, or limps. It was a fact, which could not be changed. But to wear a yellow star, to become a target of ridicule, shattered my parents.

On the end of April 1944 the gendarmerie told us, 'be ready, you will be moved to a ghetto, you are allowed to take 10 kg. of clothing, cooking utensils etc., but not valuables, mementos.' To us, life ceased to exist. We were told to hire a horse-drawn carriage, at our expense, to go to an unknown destination.

In the first days of May 1944 we were taken to Bagolyuk, an abandoned mining settlement close to Eger, approximately 40-50 km away.

What waited for us was the hell coming to earth. Hungarian gendarmes and German SS kicked and hit everybody. They ordered us to get off the carriage, run to one of the houses, and 2-4 families had to occupy a room. They brutality dehumanized everybody, not only the ones who did the beating, but us too. Old friends fought for the corners of the room that looked more comfortable. The same happened in the kitchen with cooking and food, if food was available at all.

For me personally, the ghetto life did not last long. First, as a young man I was conscripted into the ghetto police. Within two weeks came the order that everybody born in 1924 should go to a forced labor battalion on the 15th of May, 1944. My parents were downhearted to be parted from their only child, but thought --very realistically-- that anything would be better than the ghetto. How true it was, though I did not know that at that time."







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