My ancestors lived all over the Austria-Hungary Monarchy. Most of them were merchants and craftsmen. Two of my paternal uncles were doctors and professors, one was a banker. My maternal grandpa leased an estate of more than 1200 hectares. He was an attractive, charming character. My paternal grandpa was a tailor, always looked as if he had been pulled out of a package, freshly ironed, impeccably elegant, very pious. They had to have food brought to him from a kosher kitchen because we were not kosher. I had many cousins, and I had certain privileges because I had been the first grandchild.

On 1 July 1944, I was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau with my family, and then, a few weeks later, all alone to a subcamp belonging to the Buchenwald concentration camp. I returned alone from the war. 49 members of my family were murdered in the Holocaust. The husband of my mother’s younger sister in Slovakia, in Nové-Zámky, a district doctor, picked up what was left of the family and gave me shelter. After liberation, I was unable to get out of bed for two years.

My noticeable trauma lasted for 59 years. I couldn’t speak, write or think a word about Auschwitz. I went to Krakow with a school friend in 2003 – and from there to Auschwitz-Birkenau for the first time since I had left the camp on 13 August 1944 in the direction of Buchenwald. Nothing there was the same as it was then. However, after that, I was quickly able to talk again about the experience. Shortly after that, I started to travel regularly to Germany to schools and universities to speak with young people about it. The German language was and is very important to me.

Throughout my life, various regimes have found ways to make life difficult for me. Under the Nazi regime I was deported. Under Hungarian socialism I became a ‘declassed element.’

When I returned to Debrecen from Nové-Zamky in 1947, without deep feelings, I got married after one week of knowing my husband. Completely rootless and at a loss, I felt alone and inept. I worked as an unskilled worker in construction. The work was too difficult for me physically, but I was not given any better. Due to my bourgeois descent, I was not granted a higher education. I had actually wanted to become a pianist. Due to the bodily harm from camp imprisonment, the required hours-long practice was impossible. I had to give up this dream. Later, due to my language skills in German, English and French, I was able to work in Hungarian foreign trade and travelled regularly to Western Europe, Northern Africa, South America and Arab countries. When socialism finally came to an end in 1989, I founded my own foreign trade company, which I ran until 2007. In order to talk about the Hungarian Holocaust, I travelled around Hungary and later Germany, wrote books about it and received a lot of recognition for this. As long as I have energy, I want to stay occupied with this.

Twice, I have been asked to speak on the anniversary of the Wannsee Conference ­– at the Wannsee Conference House. The first time, in 2014, I only have the memory of fear: the spiritus loci was terribly present. The second time, in 2020, I was primarily overcome by anger at what happened in this house in 1942. However, on the other hand, I have the satisfaction today that I am here. But where are the gentlemen who imagined themselves to be rulers of the world and wanted to exterminate all the Jews in the world? There are the empty chairs. They are no longer here. But WE! ARE! HERE!

Eva Pusztai-Fahidi

Born in 1925 in Debrecen, Hungary