Erzsebeth Buchsbaum

Erzsebeth Buchsbaum

Born: December 9, 1920

Stebnik, Poland

Erzsebeth was raised in Budapest, where her Polish-born Jewish parents had lived since before World War I. Her father, a brush salesman, fought for the Austro-Hungarian forces in that war. The Buchsbaums' apartment was in the same building as a movie house. There was a small alcove in the apartment, and Erzsebeth's brother, Herman, made a hole in the wall so that they could watch the films.

1933-39: Every summer Mother, Herman, and I took a special trip to Stebnik, Poland, to visit Grandma. Father stayed back to work. I loved Grandma's village. We'd walk near the train station and smell the flowers. I'd play with Grandma's dog, Reyfus, and sometimes we'd travel by horse and buggy to the nearby spa, where a band played and people sat and sipped drinks. In 1938 when Germany annexed Austria [the Anschluss], Herman immigrated to America.

1940-44: Since we were Polish-born, we had to leave Hungary in 1941 when all "foreigners" were forced out. We went to Kolomyja [Kolomyia], Poland, where a ghetto was imposed in 1942. Thousands were killed, and by summer I decided to escape back to Hungary. A smuggler took our small group through the woods. We slept by day and walked all night. On the 12th day, we heard a German shout: "Get up!" After I crawled into a hollow tree trunk, I heard shooting and voices crying "No!" Then it was silent. The smuggler had been wounded. The others were dead.

Erzsebeth escaped Hungarian work camps and many brushes with death before liberation in 1945. She moved to the United States in 1951.