When I was born, my father ran a men’s fashion store in Budapest. We lived in Pesterzsébet, a suburb of Budapest, where my younger brother, Tamás, was also born in 1936. I had a happy childhood until I was 8 years old. Then, the exclusions began, I was no longer allowed to go to the swimming pool, to the movie theatre, I was no longer allowed to have pets. Soon after that, I was also no longer allowed to go to school.
In 1941, my father, Diamant Karoly, was summoned to the ‘Munkaszolgálat’ Hungarian labour service. In 1943, he was reported missing. When the Germans occupied Hungary on 19 March 1944, we had to wear the yellow star starting 5 April. My mother, Diamant Valeria, asked me one day if I wouldn’t want to go on a trip to Slovakia with my aunt. She and my little brother, Tamás, would follow soon. My mother hugged me so tight at the station and cried. I didn’t know at all why, since she and my brother wanted to follow soon. That was the last time I saw my mother and little brother, Tamás.
My aunt handed me over to a woman in Slovakia who took me further to a rabbi in the town of Nové Mesto Nad Váhom. Now, I was all alone. After a few days, the rabbi took me to a family. After four months, I had to go to another family again. One night, there was a heavy knock on the door, and I heard loud men’s voices who shouted, ‘Pack up – 15 minutes – come’. I quickly got dressed, packed a small bag and stood in the living room, when I noticed that I had left my doll, Erika, the only thing I had left, in bed. I wanted to get her, but I wasn’t allowed to anymore. I was deported from a transit camp to Auschwitz after two weeks. The ride was terrible. No food, no drink, terrible smell.
After a few days, the train stopped, the doors were torn open, SS men with dogs and whips shouted at us. I was in Auschwitz. It was 3 November 1944. Then, followed the worst thing for me that had happened up until that point. My braids were cut off, my beloved braids that my mother braided every morning for me, and I was shorn bald. We received striped shirts and wooden clogs. Then, we came to a wooden barrack, and I lay in the middle bunk with 6 other women. During the hours-long morning and evening standing rollcalls in deep snow, my feet and hands froze. I became increasingly weaker. At the beginning of January, when all those who were still able to walk had to set out on the death march, I was left lying on a bunk among the dead and half dead. At some point, someone fed me snow. Then, I fell back into a twilight state. The next time I regained consciousness, a Russian soldier with a red star on his fur cap bent over me and smiled at me. It was 27 January 1945. I never lost hope of finding my mother and brother again.
I learnt the profession of a seamstress. Then, in Budapest, I met my husband, Andor Szepesi. He also survived the Shoah in a Hungarian labour camp and then in Russian captivity. In 1951, we got married and, in 1952, our first daughter, Judith, was born. My husband worked for the Hungarian trade agency and was sent to Frankfurt in 1954. During the Hungarian Revolution, we applied for asylum in Germany and stayed in Frankfurt. Then, in 1964, our second daughter, Anita, was born. We never spoke about the Shoah. The pain was too great. When we went to Auschwitz on March of the Living with my family, my second granddaughter, Celina, found my mother’s name in a book of the murdered. Then, I also found the name of my little brother, Tamás. I learnt that they came to Auschwitz with the last deportations from Hungary and were immediately murdered. Since then, I can grieve for them.
I have two wonderful daughters, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The heaviness and sadness will always be my constant companion, but the love and comfort I receive from my beloved family makes me happy in life. I will continue to go to schools to tell my story, that’s my job now. I speak for the people who were murdered and can no longer speak. So that something like this never happens again.
It’s a terrible thought for me that Adolf Eichmann was among the fifteen perpetrators at the Wannsee Conference. He was responsible for the deportations of the Hungarian Jews and, therefore, also for the death of my family. That gives me all the more satisfaction to work on the WE! ARE! HERE! project with my granddaughter, Celina. We live.