Oral History

Madeline Deutsch describes the seizure of property following the German occupation of Hungary

Madeline was born into a middle class family in an area of Czechoslovakia that was annexed by Hungary in 1938-1939. Her father worked out of their home and her mother was a homemaker. Madeline attended high school. In April 1944 her family was forced into a Hungarian ghetto. The family lived in the ghetto for two weeks before being transported to Auschwitz. Madeline and her mother were separated from her father and older brother. Neither her father nor brother survived the war. A week after arriving in Auschwitz, Madeline and her mother were sent to work in an ammunition factory in Breslau. They were in the Peterswaldau subcamp of Gross-Rosen for one year until liberation by Soviet forces in May 1945. Madeline and her mother lived in a displaced persons camp in Munich while awaiting visas to the United States. They arrived in New York in March 1949.


So everybody took off their jewelry and money, whatever money was in the pockets, and everybody placed them in the buckets and the barrels. However, there were people who were wearing a watch perhaps since they were a child, or a wedding band for 10, 20, or 30 years. And they were so used to these that they didn't even realize anymore that they had it on. And they might have forgotten to put it in. And these people were taken and lined up against the wall to be shot later. Among them was my father. When he was searched after placing all these things into these barrels and buckets, they found a small amount, like a dollar bill, in one of his little vest pockets and because of that he was lined up against the war to be shot too. Now, this is my 14th birthday, and my father was to be shot in front of my eyes momentarily. It was a horrible time. But apparently they were--the SS and the gendarmes and the police--were not given orders yet to kill. Apparently, they were just given orders to use the worst scare techniques on us so that we would follow orders exactly as they wished, as they wanted us to do. So after several hours, until they collected all these loots, all these goodies, they released all these people that were lined up against the wall. Well, as I said, it was also one of the happiest moments of my life because my father wasn't to be killed. And that was in the end my happy 14th birthday. He was freed.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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