So our friends at Judapest provided me with some information that led to me finding this story. It was written by a Romanian/Hungarian Jew who survived the Camps. What makes it a banal story is the realization that all of these people were living their lives, much as we do today, when suddenly things became much much worse for them. From his other writings, I know that this writer came from a town that had a very large Jewish population, and where Jews were very prominent in commerce and other endeavors. They lived in their homes, had and raised children, worked as lawyers, businessmen, shopowners, doctors. They lives as traditional Jews, with many participating in Jewish rituals like putting on daily tefillin or going to one of their large synagogues.
Then it all came crashing down. The Nazis entered Hungary and Romania and began to deport virtually the entire Jewish population to Auschwitz. DezsÃ¶ SchÃ¶n’s story is incredible because of its plain-ness on the one hand, and surprising bravery – it tells how some of the German V-1 rockets were sabotaged by Jewish laborers.
Our group was made up of three hundred Hungarian Jews, mostly from the ghettos of Nagyvarad and Kolozsvar. The group had been assembled in Auschwitz. A German in civilian clothes with a wide hook and arrow band on his arm stood in front of the block and was recruiting metal workers. I listened to the advice received from a Warsaw Jew while waiting in front of the bathing place â€“ I enlisted as metalworker.
â€œGo away from here,â€ said the Warsovian, â€œsign up for the first transport. Whoever escapes from hell, is already half saved.â€
â€œAnd what about you?â€ I inquired.
â€œI was appointed to a commando here. I can’t go on a transport.â€
He pulled up his sleeve and showed me a tattooed number.
It was morning time, a few hours after we arrived to the station at Birkenau and went through what everyone else ordered to the right went through. There were several friends and acquaintances around the block. No one greeted one another. We were looking into one another’s’ eyes quietly, like at a funeral.
The German with the armband held a notebook in his hand.
I said my name. He recorded it in his notebook.
â€œI am a machinist.â€
As an explanation, I added: â€œI had a typewriter, sewing machine and bicycle repair shop. My brother worked for me, is a good worker,â€ I said pointing to my son, who was holding onto my arm all the while. At the beginning of our life asâ€ KZâ€ inmates we worried mostly about becoming separated, the reason we didn’t let go of each other’s hand even for a minute.
The man with the armband wrote up his name as well.
In front of the neighboring block, forest workers enlisted, a little further mine workers.
The choice of professions embarrassed my friend, Henrik Bravermann, who owned a factory in Nagyvarad.
â€œWhat do you think, what should we do?â€ he asked, trying to see through me into the uncertain future.
I told him what the Warsaw Jew had taught me. Anyway, I already enlisted as a metal worker. Bravermann stood in the machinist line as well.
Then, attorney Dr. Tibor Hirsch and Armin Friedmann, representative of Golf razor blade manufacturing came to consult with me. Feri, who graduated High School only a few days earlier and was the son of physician Sandor Wiener, also discovered me in the multitude. I repeated the instruction. They all lined up as machinists.
In the group of 300, fathers and sons, brothers, brothers-in-law, friends, neighbors, all united. The oldest person was Majer Fein, the â€œsameszâ€ of the Orthodox Community, who was near the age of 60. The youngest was Majsi, my son, whose Bar-Mitzvah we celebrated only a few months earlier.
There were locksmiths apprentices, factory workers, previous soldiers, and artisans in the group. There were also a few over tortured labor battalion inmates who returned from the Ukraine, yet before they had the chance to look around, the sky fell open. There were â€œMesumedsâ€ from antebellum times, â€œChassidâ€ from Maramaros, and â€œBochersâ€ from Zenta, who were torn from studying Talmud. In one word, every stratum of the Hungarian Jewry was represented.
They held us for a few days in temporary barracks, then one afternoon they took us to the ramp and heavily guarded by the SS, we started out towards West.
â€œWe’re making weapons to murder our rescuers,â€ said despondently Uncle Fein the â€œsameszâ€. â€œWe’re extinguishing the spark of hope by our own hands. There isn’t a trace of such calamity even in the Torah.â€