tv Holocaust Survivor Anna Grosz CSPAN May 8, 2016 2:57pm-4:01pm EDT
and other stops on our two at www.c-span.org/citiestour. you are watching american history tv all weekend, everybody can on c-span3. announcer: next, holocaust survivor and a gross recalls her family's experiences after hungary that included her hometown and then imposed anti-semitic laws. the family was confined, along with other jews to a ghetto when nazi germany occupied hungary. they were transported to the office which concentration camp in poland and the -- auschwitz concentration camp in poland and then later forced to perform hard labor. this is a little over an hour. >> the life stories of holocaust survivors transcend decades. but you are about to hear from anna is one individual account of the holocaust.
we have prepared a slide presentation to help with her introduction. she was born into a jewish family in 1926 in transylvania, a part of romania. she celebrated her 90th birthday yesterday. [applause] there on this map, these photos taken in 1919 show anna's parents. samuel owned a vineyard. elona cared for and and her sisters. in 1940 rock shaw fell under , hungarian law. under the new laws and fathers vineyard was confiscated and he was conscripted.
he never returned home. this photo shows anna and her sisters in order from left to right, clara, elizabeth, margaret, suzanne, violent, -- violet, anna, and gisela. nazi germany occupied hungary. officials agreed to turn herbal -- turnover hundreds of thousands of hungarian jews to the custody of the germans. anna, her sisters and her mother were placed into the ghetto indicated by the circle on this map and deported to auschwitz. it is indicated by our blue arrow on this map. not see authorities -- nazi authorities selected anna and three sisters for forest labor while they sent her mother and sisters to the gas chambers.
in june 1944, anna and her remaining sisters were sent to a concentration camp indicated here with the red arrow. later they were transferred to , proust. in february 1945 the ss evacuated the prisoners including an is three sisters marching them on foot. soviet troops liberated them on march 11. anna was left behind with other sick prisoners because she had broken her leg. 5, soviet troops liberated 600 prisoners included anna. she reunited with her sisters and found out her sister elizabeth had been shot during the forced march. we close with this photo of anna in 1946. she would remain in romania until immigrating in 1964. anna and her husband and young
sons were allowed after much difficulty to leave romania and begin their life in the united states. they settled in new york where emery went to work as a fabric cutter. anna found work as a seamstress in a clothing factory working with fellow hungarian speaking holocaust survivors and refugees. anna worked at the same place for the next 27 years driving 2.5 hours to and from work each day. after finishing high school , their sons attended university and went to successful careers, and are now retired. anna has four grandchildren and a five-year-old great-grandson. after the retirement, anna and emery moved to the washington dc area in 2003. her husband suffered a stroke in 1999.
and anna cared for him until he passed away in 2009. she was the caregiver for one of her sisters prior to her dad, and then her sister's husband. anna now volunteers at the visitor's desk. she has spoken about her holocaust experience to children at local schools. for example, she recently spoke to 500 students at a high school in west virginia. and his son alex and wife carla suzanne areiece here today. suzanne also volunteers here at the museum. i would like to ask you to welcome our first person, miss anna grosz. [applause] anna: thank you.
>> thank you for being willing to join us today and be our first person. we have so much to share with us. and we have so little time. we will start right away. you were 13 years old when world war ii began on september 1, 1939. before we turn to all that happened to you and your family during the war, let's start with you telling us about your family, your community, and you before the war began.
anna: hello. thank you for coming to listen to my story. bill made a mistake. i am not 90 years old. because i turned a nine into a six like this. not 90.60, [laughter] [applause] anna: i have a full-time to tell my story but i'm going to try to take just the essence. we lived through, the family, and the jews people is , unbelievable. the torture and humiliation, and something that i sometimes think, am i still normal?
i doubt it sometimes. before the war we had a nice family life. my father was a wine merchant. i had five sisters. so we were six girls. the older girls went to high school. the younger girls were in school. i was only 14 years old when the hungarian occupied transylvania. will know this place because that's where they make the horror movies, in transylvania. [laughter] the first thing they did is they stopped the jewish people to go to high school. that was the first tragedy. i could not go to high school like my older sisters.
>> i'm going to ask you a couple of questions. i know, i hope later you will talk more about that what that loss of education meant to you. but your father had been a decorated soldier in the first world war, hadn't he? anna: yes. he was in hungary. because the germans lost the war, it became romania. the same thing happened in the second world war. the germans, they gave it back to the hungarians. that is why he became hungarian again. my father married my mother in romania. he remained in romania. >> one more question. you told me your parents were
very respected members of the community. will you tell us about them. anna: they were very honest people. my father was a very correct man. everybody who bought wine and brandy from him, they body in -- they bought it in advance because they knew he would deliver it 100% what he sold. my parents, i have no school education. but i have it from my parents and my very strict grandmother who was very strict. they taught us manners and discipline. when she died, i wasn't so sorry
for her because i did not like what she wanted me to do. [laughter] let me go back to the family life that we had. we lived in peace. everybody had a job. my older sisters were in school. gisela did not go to school. we had a little business at home. i helped out my father with going to the vineyard and arrange for workers and everything. one day we did not know anything was happening in the world. we had two stations on the radio. budapest and bucharest. we did not know the germans occupied until we were already germany area nothing about the war.
it changed everything. schools, offices, everything. not long after that, they took away the license from the store. they did not let jewish people out without the yellow star. they could not keep non-jewish help. it became a we were not even allowed to go to the street without that yellow star. on may 4, transylvania was
occupied under a march. 1940. anna: in 1944, hungry was the last country the germans occupied from europe. in 1940. so, when they did all the things to us, i said i am what i am but i am not a jew. i even a gypsy said i am what am but i am not a jew. so we were totally humiliated. it was even worse than suffering, the humiliation. >> after the hungarians did these terrible things, they took away your family business.
>> they took away everything. >> how did your family -- you had a lot of mouths to feed. how did her family managed -- anna: my father took care of that. we had flour, we had bread. we had brandy we sold. we had a brandy machine. a still, they called it. we sold it. it was enough to help even other people. it came the day, may the fourth and family by family they took all of us into the synagogue and told we could take food with us for this. >> can i go back and ask you. before that happened, your father was construed to -- conscripted. tell us about that?
anna: the worst thing was, the first and worst thing, they took forced labor, all the young men from 18 to 45 years old or so. they took all the men, the heart of the people, and left the women and the young people and the old people. they took them to live for forced labor in the country, and also i think in other parts of hungary. they worked so hard. they tortured them. i still don't have the answer for that.
if they wanted to kill us, because we were the enemy, the jewish people, why did they have to torture us before that? why did they do that before the killing? one example, my husband. it was two jewish people there who were forced labor. a hungarian soldier who was there said you say that you are a stinking jew. the man said why should i say that? he said because i told you so. so he says if you don't say that
, i'm going to beat you. so he said it. he went to the other people and said you say also you are a stinking jew. he said why should i say that? i'm a college professor. if you don't say that i'm going to beat you. he did not say that. he started to beat him until he was half dead. then he said i'm a stinking jew. this is a similar humiliation, let me go back. >> you were going to tell us about your father. you never saw him again. anna: my father was sent in a camp. he was a translator. from german to the gary and.
to hungarian. he sent a postcard. we never heard after that of him. what happened to him. we didn't know what happened. after we were taken, the whole town who lived there, 50 jewish people, they took us into the synagogue. we stayed there for about two or three days. that's synagogue, the children and the old people, it was a terrible thing. we didn't know why. what is going to happen after that? after four days they put us in carriages. the non-jewish people have to carry us from our homes in a ghetto.
only jewish people who live there. they took the houses for non-jewish people to have homes there. we didn't stay too long. then they said take food for 4 days with you. we still didn't know what happens. i shouldn't say i was surprised, but it was a shock to us. we didn't know what happened before that. so in the ghetto we stayed there for about -- on the floors, mostly children. after four days they took i don't how many people.
they took them to the train station and they put them in a wagon. then they took our family. i was the 92nd in that wagon. we didn't know where was my mother, where was my sister, because they pushed us in. there was a barrel in the corner of the wagon. from time to time, the wagon opened to empty that girl. but to stay for days and then train, the children cried. the old man prayed. some of them cursed, why did
this happen to us? i tried to take one of mime -- one of my most terrible days. i thought it was that one, the traveling four days, and after they let us out in auschwitz. later i find out it's not that -- not the most terrible day of my life in they let us out at night . we were all dizzy. we were all busy and didn't know what happened to us. dogs were barking. they took us and the music played. jewish music played.
they wanted to make it a little bit more supportive. they took us to a door. and a german officer came with a stick. my sister had my older sister's baby in her hands, three years old, and there came a man to her and said, is this your baby? and she said no. then he said give it to her , mother. because if a baby was taken away from the mother they would try to cry. she gave it back to the mother. but if she did not give it back, she would have to go to the left
side where the people were killed. they didn't even make a difference if one will live or one will die. my mother, my older sisters had the baby. my younger sister, 14 years old was to one side. elizabeth, my older sister, 25, 20, i was 18 years old. and clara 16 on the other side. and, they took us in a room. first of all, we have to take off our clothes and then sit in and they cut off our hair, anywhere we had hair. i don't know what i said because i don't think i felt anything.
i was so tired from the four days travel in the train. what happened to me, it happened. i couldn't comprehend what happened. the four of us sisters was taken in another room where we were disinfected with white dust. after that, we got a gray dress with a number on the sleeve. they did not have time to decorate us like other people, because we were the last people. hungry was the last. >> you told me because there were so many coming in from hungary, they didn't have the time to tattoo you. anna: yes. the last were hungarian.
many places, the war was over already. they still put the jewish people in trains and deported them to auschwitz. that was hungary. they had already liberated some places. because it was 1944. in 45, it was over, right is to mike so -- right? so, we were in auschwitz. they put us in. we slept in our bed. one person came and she said you were chosen. she was for czechoslovakia. she was there for four years. she spoke hungarian. we asked her what is happening?
where are our parents. and she said you see that smoke? there are your parents. it was very close. a crematorium. we thought she is crazy. she didn't even know the world. how could we believe they killed them in the crematorium? we didn't believe her. we said she was a bad person. they took us to auschwitz, put us in chambers with no covering. every day we had to stay there. they counted us in the morning and at night.
the food was terrible, terrible. some beats, some other greens cooked. a little piece of margarine in a small piece of bread. we had to stay in the line. we always stood in the line. in the morning they chose people who were very skinny, and who was very fat. they took them away and you never heard from the again. there were people who were strong looking for them. they always did that selection. all the time when we were there. one way we choose people for work, we were so happy for the
sisters and the others from the town, we would go for work anywhere but not stay here. so, they chose us for work. all four of us. we had to hide elizabeth because she was skinny. they chose us for work. 800 of us who looked fit to 2005 subaru forrester work. that is what they said. they took us where we stayed one day and by the train, they took us there. we saw the nature. we thought what a nice thing, to go to work. we had pride.
they did again the selection. we were all not good for work. the four of us still remained, the sisters. >> let me jump in. you would line up five in a row, and besides you there was a fifth woman who stayed with you throughout. >> we had to stay five in a row. one person had nobody there. no sisters. nobody. she is still alive, 94 years old. she has dementia. >> they took you to a place called proust, a brand-new camp. anna: they took us to proust,
which before was a big farm. the place was not ready yet to work. it was terribly hot. the sun was burning. and we had to go to a place and feel -- [inaudible] that would be an our bed. all the laundry. we had to do that. some would put some paper to cover it. the paper was cement. when we took it off it came off with the skin. they sent them back because they couldn't work anymore.
they brought new people. of course, we never heard of them because it was another crematorium read >> you told me it was always 800 women. if some were ill they sent them back and they would bring back the same number. so you had 800. and then you were forced to do exceptionally hard labor. tell us about that. anna: we had to do -- [indiscernible] from that big -- >> you were forced to build an airfield. anna: we had to dig the vegetables from the farm. carrots, beets and potatoes. we were told we cannot take from there to eat because we would be punished if we did that.
we were very hungry. there was no food. no water. the water was rusty. you couldn't drink or eat. some people still took a carrot and ate it. or a potato or something. the number was on the sleeves. the guard took the number at night. the guard gave it to two women. they were at least 250 or 30 pounds. to do the punishment. and arrange the food for us.
and every day we had to fill those carts. we allust to be sure understand, you were filling train cars all of sand, is that correct? anna: yes, and my sister could and that means that we .ad to work harder at that i don't know how to say that in .nglish that doesn't matter. >> and the sand was then used to make -- anna: yes, the pavement. and then we would load the airplanes a night. happened we had
--work for very little food happened. we had to work for very little food. then we had a guy from us, we had many guys with us, this guy was from romania, and he was a very nice guy. -- we had a guard with us, we had many guards with us, but this guard was from romania and he was a very nice guy. people were inside , idon't know
repeat again, why did they have to torture us before they kill us? i don't know that. , it came to christmas time. and they wanted us to entertain them. they provided up can now, violin, and there were many talented people, opera singers, and they said everyone should go who has a talent. i left out something. those romanian soldiers somehow he regretted but he had to go in the german army. he liked me to sing for him andnian songs, ballads
every time he was with us, he wanted me to sing for him. at that time i had a very pretty voice inherited from my mother. and all the came and presentedre what they do, and i was sitting in the top of a big bed and i was just watching. and then the romanian soldiers came to me and said, "why did you come? i wanted you to sing in romanian also." said, "i don't think that i have such a talent to go there."
but he said, "i want you to come." he let me go to down from that area and i fall and i broke my leg. now with the smallest sickness, they sent you back because they needed other people who was able to work. if you were sick for two days, they set you back. with a broken leg, what can they do? so my sister begged this of dier, ihe was a solider, think, "do not send me back to stuttgart." guiltysomehow felt because he wanted me to go and saying and the one who decided to send back people, it was his
girlfriend, the big woman who did the punishment. so it was a miracle that they put my leg in cast. anyr happened, never heard miracle like this. so they put my leg in cast in the morning and my leg became like this, swollen. they had to take it off and put another cast. to sleepion or put me or something. i don't know. a human being can survive everything. i think his own desath, also. i am never going to die. i am going to survive my death, too. [laughter] youo after, anna, after
wrote your leg and they put this cast on you, it wasn't long until they emptied the camp. they took the people from and the crematorium could not destroy them. the war was very shortly at an end. so all the people had to march and when the camp time came that our camp had to leave, i couldn't walk. so they took off my shoes because other 26 people were
march.who could not and a few guards and the people who cook to their because other camps came, others, and stay there for a night, and after to our camp.rched it was the time to march and i was not able to march like the other 26 people. >> you were left behind? , taken was left behind off my shoes, because i don't need the shoes and the other people are going to be killed there. i didn't even -- i wasn't afraid. put something in our and they made us think it
andmedication or something, they left me there and i said, "i'm going to stay here by myself." i couldn't even cry. i was sitting there and the second medical if it happened to me. one was with a had to put my leg in cast, which never, never, nowhere happened. and then a girl came who worked ,n the kitchen and she asked me "could you do some sewing?" and i said, "yes." we areen she said, " making some clothing for the ss, " the german people, "and if you can sew, you come with us and
you can do that job." and so we took my shoes and i survive with them. , the camps alld night, they came from other camps, but they marched for a died, ie and every day don't know how many people. and they made a big hole, a big, big hole, and they would just throw them there in the hole. came that our german people wanted to go, the who i helpede girl with the sewing came with me and
she said, "you stay here because you're going to be liberated and we have to go to them, they want us to go with them/ ." so our camp left also and i and for two days it was quiet. and then we heard that the whole airport was blown up but it was bombed from one place to another in a fire and they blew out the whole airport. >> the germans blew up their whole airfield? anna: the whole airport and there were people who could walk. they were dead also. already walk a little bit with a few other people and we walked and hide d in the basement where they
used to keep the food. so for another two days, it was quiet. and we had -- somebody came out from the basement and i came out busy andi stayed very then i saw it two dots. and those two dots became bigger and bigger and then they became two russian soldiers. so that meant that we were liberated by those russian soldiers. but when i came out from that basement, i was dizzy, i was sick, so i got the typhus in the basement. people did not care too much of us because they were
still searching for germans over there. but they took me in, i don't tnow i couldn't think -- i don' know, i couldn't think. i woke up in a house, i thought this was a hospital, and i was -- i stay there, i don't know, didn'two weeks or so, i know what happened to me. when i woke up, i saw a russian nurse get near me. she died of typhus. and no hair again. time,ut my hair a second which my hair grew in my head there, and they gave me some clothes because they took my old clothes because i was covered thatlice and i never knew
clothes could have lice also but i didn't think that i had lice because i was working with those people. off mynted me to cut hair. they gave me an outfit, a skirt like a sack, and a blouse and just nothing on my head and they said, "now you can go." so now i was liberated. time we havetle left, one of the things you said to me was, "even though you were liberated, you didn't feel happy at all." anna: i am getting there. [laughter] anna: yes. so i was out from that hospital and i saw, i never saw this the full year, but i saw myself in a
,indow and i looked at myself you know, i had lost weight in that outfit -- lost weight and in that outfit that i had and i started to laugh. and i gomy first laugh somewhere. so i didn't know where to go. i heard some bad music, the polish people and the french were prisoners and were eace and then i piec was stillc, and music my life, so i went to see the music. i didn't know how i look or something and i was sitting like once, somebody came to my back and she said,
" and then i had the second laugh. [laughter] came so a french prisoner and he asked me to dance. to go to dance. know, started to cry, you so i spoke how gary and, he's -- french,n, he spoke and we understood each other. but i didn't go to dance. and he said in french, which is imilar to romanian, and
understood that if i wanted to go to paris, i could say yes. so i didn't know where my sisters are, i knew that my family was there in the smoke, and all of a sudden, people just went around and talked to people who were one said, "don't you have a sister?" and i said, it "yes, i do have." remember the word, i don't remember where i put my keys, but i remember that name. everything i remembered.
i could go with closed eyes and find my bed with everything that happened there. so she said, "your sisters are liberated." "clara and how about elizabeta?" and i was told she was shot dead on the day of the liberation. the germans shot her because she could walk. two of my out that whole family are alive. i have to believe that this was true. i did not want to believe and i did not want to leave. i didn't know where my sisters are, even if they are alive. we went from one train station to the other and we were
liberated and nobody helped us, not with food, not with going home. i thought that an airplane would come and take us home, no. but for two months, it would not come, an airplane. we were just wondering there. -- wandering there. which was myking most terrible day in my life, it is hard to find one, because there are more, more terrible days of my life, the most terrible day was when my two sisters came home and we met in that wey house knowing are just the three of us young not knowing how to start our lives.
so we must leave and how. and there was another problem. there were no men to marry to because all of them were killed in forced labor. and another terrible thing happened to me that i saw in a person, my mother's dress. on the street. inside in my md house, but my empty i couldn't go out or say something to her. after that, when we started a time -- oh, ihe thought this was brandy! [laughter] anna: this is just water!
you cheated me! [laughter] >> i have the brandy. anna: i could talk for another three hours. na, we are going to close the program in just a moment, and shortly, we do have time for just a couple of questions. i want you to know that it is our tradition at first person that the first person has the last word, so before we finish, i will turn back to anna again to close our program. needless to say, we could just catch a glimpse of all that anna had to share with us, and we could have heard you talk for three more days, and what we don't even begin to touch upon is what happened after the war, not only immediately after the war with the circumstances that describe with us,
getting married, but spending another 19 years under communist rule before anna and her sons and family were able to leave and come to the united states. so we could have a whole afternoon just beginning to touch on that. so i am going to ask you if you would please stay seated with us because anna will get the last word and i want you all to hear what she has to say. after the program, i want you all to stand because our photographer, joel, is going to take a picture with anna in the backdrop and that makes a wonderful photograph for anna and all of us. and when we are done, anna will remain on the stage and so please feel free to come up and ask her a question, shake her hands, come up and give her a hug, take a photograph, whatever. that iyou to remember
thank you all for being with us today, and that we will have a first-person program each wednesday and thursday. i will turn first to a question -- so very briefly, we only have time for a couple of questions, and i will turn first to a question from our twitter audience. before we do that, i would like to say that if anyone has a questions, even if you have a couple, lees go to one of the microphones in the aisles if you could and were not obviously going to be able to get to everybody's questions, but if you would like to speak with anna, you can stay with us behind. let me see if we have a question from the theater audience. this is from a middle school. experiences or transitions did you find with your faith? did you lose your faith in god?
p.s., our students love talking to you." i have an answer for that. i was raised to believe in god. many people lost their faith because they asked, "why did god let this happen to us and to the innocent people?" that god has nothing to do with this. people did that. people did that to us. and any bad thing that happened is not god. it is people who did that to us. that is what i believe. >> thank you. anybody see if we have from our audience, and if not, we have one here, and i think this will probably be our one question from our audience, and when we are done, please
come up to the stage and talk to anna and ask her any questions. and i will repeat this just to make sure everyone hears this so that anna can respond. weanna, thank you very much, will never forget you. my question is during communism in romania, were you punished for being jewish? >> the question is, during your years in romania, after the war, were you persecuted for being jewish? anna: say it again? youre question is, during years in romania, after the war, when there was coming as in, or you persecuted for being jewish -- when they'rere was communism, were you persecuted for being jewish? anna: not for being jewish. but not to be communist.
it wasn't pleasant to live in a communist country. so you have a job, what it is so little. something which is one word, steeal. they say there were three kinds inpeople in romania, who is jail, who was in jail, and those who will be in jail. that aftervery happy 19 years, they let us out of romania. israel and america paid for our passports and we were lucky that my two children was young enough to continue here with their education. so that is my answer.
do you have another answer? i have something without asking me, i would say, that if you buy says, "it's agent location, location, location." "education, education, and education." [laughter] education." [applause] because they took that away from me and i miss it for all my life. there are so many things that i would enjoy and know if i would have the education and they did not let me do that. they took that away from us.
that is like taking my arm from me because all of my rest of the family, they were educated, but i was at exactly that age when romania was occupied, i was 14, finishing elementary school. hereu have the opportunity to have the education and that nobody can take it away from you. than millions of dollars, the education you have. >> thank you, anna. anna: now don't ask me one question, because this is not my first time. i have a question. there was a young girl, and she asked me, "would you forgive and forget what they did to you?"
and i said, "no. i can't and i don't want to." when they took jesus said, to crucify, he "don't punish them, god, because they don't know what they are doing," right? but the germans knew what they were are doing -- they are doing. so how can i forgive and forget? so this is not a small thing to forgive and forget. i cannot and i won't forgive or forget. so don't ask me that question. [laughter] anna: anything else. >> i think we are ready now to close the program. anna, thank you so much. anna: i think you wall for listening to me and i could talk
for more than an hour. they made a good choice for me to talk because i was punished as a small girl for talking too much. [laughter] [applause] announcer: you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook by joining c-span3. rica --ome to "reedl ame reel america."