tv Holocaust Survivor Anna Grosz CSPAN May 15, 2016 8:55am-10:01am EDT
colleagues in the department of transportation. >> next on american history tv, a holocaust survivor recalls her family's experience after hungry annexed romania. they imposed anti-somatic laws. they were confined to a ghetto. they were transported to the auschwitz concentration camp in poland. they were forced to perform hard labor. museums part of the first-person series. it's a little over an hour. >> the life stories of holocaust survivors transcend the decades.
what you are about to hear is one account of the holocaust. we are prepared a brief slide presentation to help with her introduction. she was born into a jewish 1926. in it was part of romania. birthdayrated her 90th yesterday. [applause] the arrow on this map points to her home. these were taken in 1919. these are her parents. her father owned a vineyard. in 1940, they fell under hungarian rule. jewish people or subject to anti-somatic laws. confiscatedu're was
and he was conscripted into the labor service. he never returned home. shows hannarom 1943 and her sisters. in march 1944, not to germany occupied hungry. officials agreed to turn over hundreds of thousands of hungarian jews to the custody of the germans. -- were placed into the ghetto indicated by the circle on this map. they were deported to auschwitz. it is indicated by the blue arrow on this map. nazi authorities selected and a forced labor while they sent her mother and two other sisters to the gas chambers.
sent to the was concentration cap indicated with the red arrow. later they were transferred to a sub cap. 1945, the ss evacuated most of the prisoners. they marched on foot. iniet troops liberated them 1945. she was left behind with other injured in sick prisoners because she had broken her leg. liberated some 600 prisoners, including anna. she later reunited with her sisters. she found out that her sister elizabeth had been shot during the march. we close with this photograph of anna in 1946. she would remain in romania until coming to the united states in 1964.
they were allowed after much difficulty to leave romania and begin their life in the united states. they settled in new york where her husband went to work as a fabric cutter in the garment district. anna worked as a seamstress, working with hungarian speaking holocaust survivors and refugees. she worked the same place for the next 27 years driving at 2.5 hours from work each day. after finishing high school, their two sons went on to successful careers. attorney at the u.s. patent office. andrew was a geologist. anna has four grandchildren and a five-year-old great-grandson. after their retirement, they removed to washington, d.c. in 2003. anna's husband suffered a stroke in 1999 and anna cared for him
until he passed away in 2009. she also was the caregiver for one of her sisters prior to her death and then to her sister's husband. thisnow volunteers for museum's visitor services. you will find her at the visitor's desk on tuesdays from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. she's spoken about her holocaust experience to children at local schools. she spoke to 500 students at a high school in west virginia recently. andson alex and his wife withs niece are here her today. i want you to join me in welcoming our first person, mrs. anna grosz. [applause] ms. grosz: thank you.
>> anna, thank you so much for being willing to join us today and be our first person. and we have so much for you to share with us. we have so little time. so we will start right away. whenere just 13, anna, world war ii began with germany's invasion of poland on september 1, 1939. before we turn to all that happened to you and your family during the war and the holocaust, let's start first with your telling us a little bit about your family, your community and you and the years before the war. ms. grosz: yes.
hello first. friends, thank you for coming to listen to my story. bill made a mistake. i am not 90. because i turned 96 last year. , not 90. i'm 50 [laughter] [applause] ms. grosz: i have a short time to tell my story. but i'm going to try to take just the essence from the. year, what you had been to the family and all of our jewish people is unbelievable. the torture and the humiliation and something that i sometimes think that ami i still normal?
i doubt that sometimes, you know. before the war, we had a nice family life. my father was a wine merchant. i had five sisters. we were six girls. to highr girls went school, and the younger girls were in school. old when the years hungarian occupied transylvania. everybody below this -- they make the horror movies from transylvania. and the first thing what they did is first they stopped the jewish people to go to high school. first tragedye for me because i could not go to high school like my older sisters.
after that -- >> i'm going to ask you a couple questions before we go there. i hope later you will talk more about what that loss of education meant to you, but your father. he'd been a decorated soldier in the first world war. ms. grosz: yes, he was. in the first world war, he was in hungary. and because the germans lost the war then in the first world war, also, it became romania. and the same thing happened in the second world war, because the hondurans -- the hungarians, the germans gave it back to the hungarians. my father married my mother in romania. so, he remained in romania. as i said before -- >> one more question.
you told me your parents, both your mother and father, were very respected members of the community. will you tell us a little bit about that? ms. grosz: yes. i can say they were very honored people because my father was very correct man. everybody who bought the wine theyhe brandy from him, bought it in advance because they knew that he would deliver it 100% what he sold. so, my parents, what i have, i have no school, education, but i mye it from my parents and very strict grandmother, who was mannersthey taught us and discipline. so when she died, i wasn't so
sorry for her because i did not like what she wanted me to do. me go back to the family life that we had. we lived in peace. everybody had a good job. my older sisters in school. to schoold not go because we had a little business at home, also. a textile store. father with out my the, going to the vineyard and arrange for workers and everything. one day, they did not nkow anything -- know anything what happened in the world and we had two stations. budapest and bucharest. we did not know what happened in the world that the germans occupied in 1993 already.
nothing about the war. only the occupied transylvania. and then changed everything. schools, offices, everything in hungarian from romanian. att long after that started the they took away the license from the store. they did not let jewish people without a yellow star. they couldn't keep non-jewish help. became thathe other we were not allowed to even go to the street without that yellow star. in may the 4th, transylvania was occupied on march.
march, 1940. 1940. the lasthungary was country that the germans occupied from the whole europe. so, when they did all these things to us that they did not let us out, humiliation, even a gypsy said, i am what i am, but i am not a jew. so, we were totally humiliated. and that -- to me, that is even worse than suffering -- the humiliation. >> anna, after the hunt gary and stood all these terrible things to you. after the hungarians did
all these terrible things to you. they took away your business. how did your family managed to -- ? ms. grosz: my father took care of that before pat meehan-- we had flowers. we had plants. we had brandy what we sold, because we have a brandy machine, a still, they called it. we sold that. we lived from that. it was enough to help other people. so, it came the day, may the fourth, and family by family ,they took all of us in the synagogue and they said that we could take food with us for four days. >> anna, do you mind if i go back and ask you a couple of questions? before that happen, your father was conscripted into one of the
hungarian labor battalions. tell us about that. ms. grosz: the worst thing was that the first thing and the worst thing was that they took forced labor all the young men from about 18 till 45 or so. they took all the men who were the heart of the people. and remained there the children and the own people -- the old people, the young people. and they took them to live, country.bor, in the and also, i think in other parts of hungary. and they worked, they worked so hard. them.ey tortured i don't know, i still don't have
the answer for that. us,hey wanted to kill because we were the enemy, the jewish people, why did they have to torture us before that? why did they do that before the killings? you know, one example who did not happen -- but to my husband. it was two jewish people there who were forced laborers. and a hungarian soldier who was the guard said, you say that you are stinky jew. and they said, the man said, why should i say that? and he said, because i told you so. so, if you don't say that that you are a stinky jew, i am going to beat you. so, he said.
the other people and you say also that you are a stinky jew. he said, why should i say that? i am a college professor. "if you don't say that, i am going to beat you." he did not say that. he started to beat him until he was half-dead. jew.he said, i am a stinky humiliation similar happened. which i can say all of them, but it happened. let me go back. >> yes, you are going to tell us about your father. you never saw him again. ms. grosz: my father was sent in a camp. he was a translated - from germ an to hungarian.
he was sent a postcard for us in budapest. from the camp. we never heard after that of him. what happened to him. we did not know what happened. wholehe was taken, the little town who lived, 50 jewish people, jewish families, they took us in the synagogue. we stayed there for about two or three days. and that synagogue, the children and the old people sleeping on the floor. it was a terrible thing and we did not know why. and what's going to happen after that? iner four days, they put us carriages. the non entrepreneurs -- the non-jewish people had to carry
us 37 kilometers from our homes in a ghetto. there was only jewish people who lived there. fom took the houses from non-jewish people. for tthehey said, take food four days days with you. we still do not know what happened. us, because itto came only that we didn't know what happened before that in the world. we stayed ghetto there for about -- sleeping on the floors. and mostly children and old women. because men were not there. after four days, they took, i
don't know how many people, they took them to the train station and they put them in a wagon there. and then they took our family, i wagon. 92nd in that we didn't know where is my mother, where is my sister? because they pushed us in. -- in the corner of the wagon. wagonime to time, the opened to empty the barrel. but to spend four days in that train. the children cried. the old men prayed. some of them cursed. why did this happen to us?
tried to take one of the most terrible days from the whole deportation. i thought it's that one. the traveling four days. and after that day let us out at auschwitz. later i find out that not that part was terrible. day in my life. they let us out at night. we were all dizzy and did not know what happened to us. barking.re -- dogs soldiers. "fast, fast, fast." and they took us to a place.
jewish music played. they play the music. they wanted to make it a little bit more supportive. -- there,ook us to a and a german officer came with a wstick. my sister had, my older sister's baby, three years old girl in her hand. thisme a man to her, "is your baby?" she said, "give it to her mother." because if the baby is taken away from the mother, they tried to cry. so, she gave it back to the mother. then she would have to go to the left side when the people
were killed. they did not even make a difference. one will live or one will die. so, my mother, my older sister with the baby and my younger sister, 14 years old, was taken to one side. sister,abeth, my older 25 -- i was 18. side.was 16 in another room.ey took us in a and first of all, we had to take off our clothes. theyhen sit in a chair and -- >> shaved you? hair,osz: cut off our anywhere where we had hair. i don't know what i said, because i do not think that i
said anything because i was so tired from the four days' travel in the train. what happened to me, it happened. i could not comprehend what happened. sistersthe four of us were taken in another room. where we were disinfected with some white dust. and after that, we got a gray dress with a number on the sleeve, because they did not liketime to -- tattoo us other people because we were the left people who were occupied and deported. hungary was the last country. >> you told me because they were so many coming in from hungary. they do not have the time to tattoo you. ms. grosz: yes.
because, the last one was hungarian. the last country. many places already -- the worar was over he already but they still put the jewish people in train and deported to auschwitz. and many -- that's what hungary did. they were already liberated in some places. in 1944. and 1945 was over, right? so, we were in auschwitz. they --y put us in -- we slept there. one person came and she said, you were chosen. she was from czechoslovakia. she was there for four years. she spoke hungarian also. we asked her, what is happening
to us? where are -- you see that smoke? there are your parents. it was very close. -- to thattz crematorium. we thought she is crazy. war wast even the crematoriums. and how about -- they killed them in the crematoriums. just we did not believe her. we said she was a bad person. ,o, they took us in auschwitz put us in some beds. there are no covering or something. stay upy day we have to there, they counted us in the
mornings and at night. and the food was terrible, terrible. some beets and some other grease cooked. marga --tle piece of and a small piece of bread. we had to stay in the line. always then we stayed in the line at night. and in the morning, they chose people who have, skinny, who were very fat. they just took them away. you never heard of them again. just remain the people who were strong-looking for them. but they always did that selection. all the time when we worked there. so, they said we choose people
for work. we were so happy for sisters. but we go for work anywhere not stay here. so, they chose us for work. or -- all four of us. hide elizabeth, my older sister, because she was skinnier than the three of us and smaller. they chose us for work. 800 of us. who looked fit to work, that is what they said. camp where weo a stayed one day. by the trains, they took us there. we saw the sun. we saw the nature. we thought what a nice thing that we -- are presented us to
go to work. we arrived, they did again the selection. we were not all good for work, us remain, the sisters. >> in addition, you would line up five and a row, and besides you and your sisters, there was a fifth woman who stayed with you throughout. ms. grosz: yes. we had to stay five in a row. so, we had one person there who had nobody there, no sisters, nobody. she is still alive. 94 years old. yes.as the dementia, >> so, from there, they took it to a place called praust, which was up brand new camp.
ms. grosz: yes, they took us to proust. a big farm. the place was not ready yet to work terribled to, it was hot. near danzig. and the sun was burning. and who had the short sleeved a pla we had to go to ce and feel -- socks. all day long, we had to do that. -- some girls put some -- on to cover it. off it cameok it off with the skin. and what did they do?
camp,ent us back to the because they cannot work anymore and they brought new people. of course, we never heard of them because -- the camp was another crematorium. >> you told me that it was always 800 women. ill,mewhere -- ssoome were they would send them back. then you were forced to do exceptionally hard labor. tell us about that. ms. grosz: we have to do airport from that dig. >> you were forced to build an airfield? ms. grosz: yes. so, we had to take first the vegetable from the farms. it was carrots, beets, mostly, and a few potatoes. and we were told we cannot take from there to eat, because we
are going to be punished for that. if we do that. but we were very hungry because in the first day when we arrived, there was no food, no water. the water was rusty. we could not drink or eat. ad some people still took carrot or a potato or something. but the number was here on the sleeve. the guard saw that, then took the number and at night when we went home from work, the guard gave it --- there were two women. i think they were at least 250 pounds. that was their job to do the punishment and also the food, arrange the food for us. the first night, the
guard gave the number because the food.took and the punishment was like that. two -- i don't know how to call them. backgave 25 lashes on the on them. and next day, they have to present for work. felt.ter how they that was the first day. we did not know what the punishment would be. so, the work started. our work was to fill with the hand -- a train came. fill the cars. and another train came. and another -- all day we had to
fill those cars with sand. >> just be sure we all understand, you were filling train cars full of sand. that was your job. ms. grosz: it was not full of sand. my sister clara could not work as hard because she was 16. not, i don't know how to say that in english. it looks like dust somehow. >> the sand was used then to make -- make the pavement. ms. grosz: french war prisoners were far away from us and they airplanes igo the at night. they still have it here, too. i never saw it till then. so, that is what happened.
we have this work, very little food. we all lost weight. we did allt was summer. then we had the guard with us. there are many guards. but one we had from romania. we spoke to him and he was a nice guy. he never gave a number to the german woman who was his girlfriend. that he never -- other guards, they gave the number and almost every day we had somebody get punished. but we had to stay and see the punishment. with hands up. until all the people on his side came out together dinner. that was a sadist thing to do.
why do they have to torture us before they killed us? i don't know that. many things i don't know. it came to christmas time. they wanted us to entertain them. they provide a piano and violin and they were many talented people opera singers and they said everybody 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 wanted me to sing for him romanian songs.
ballads and every time he was with us he wanted me to sing for him. at that time i had a very pretty voice. i inherited it from my mother. christmas came. all the people were there. and presented what they do. i was sitting as i was just watching. the romanian soldiers came to me and said why did you come to see. i wanted you to sing romanian also. i 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 up from that area.
i fell. i broke my leg. with the smallest sickness they send people back to the camp. they needed people who were able to work. with a broken leg, what can they do? my sister got the officer to not send me back to stuttgart. because he somehow felt guilty because he wanted me to go to sing. the one who decided to send people back it was his girlfriend.
the big woman that did the punishment. it was a miracle that they put my leg in a cast. never heard that any miracle like this. they put my leg in a cast in the morning. my leg became swollen. they had to take it off and put another one on. no injection. a human being can survive i think i will never going to die. i will survive that too. >> after you broke your leg and this miracle occurred that they put a cast on you it wasn't long
after that that they emptied to proust. >> after that started the crematorium could not destroy them. the war was very shortly to end. all the people had to march the away when they had to leave. i could walk. -- i couldn't walk. so, they took off my shoes because 26 people were chosen who could not march.
and a few guards and the people who cooked because other camps came and stayed there for a night. and after that they marched for an hour or more. they were open to march but i was not able to march the other 26 people who couldn't walk i was left behind taking off my shoes because i don't need shoes the other people are going to be killed there. 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 event happened to me. one was where they put my leg in a cast. a girl who worked in the kitchen. said could you do some selling. -- do some sewing. my mother wanted all of us to learn something. we are making some clothing for the ss. if you can sew you can come with
the girl that i helped with the sewing came to me and she said you stay here because you are going to be liberated and we have to go. they want us to go with them. i remain there. for two days it was quiet. we heard that the whole airport was blown up. but it was bombed from one place to another in a fire. they blew out the whole airport. there were people who couldn't walk i can ready walk a little bit through other people and we walked and hid in the basement where they used to keep the food
for another few days it was quiet somebody came out from that basement. i came out also. and i stayed very busy. i saw two dots. the two dots became bigger and bigger and then they became to russian soldiers. that meant that we were liberated by russian soldiers. when i came out from the basement i was dizzy i was sick so i got typhus in the basement . russian people did not care too much about us because they were still searching for germans over there.
they took me in. i couldn't think. i woke up at a house it was a hospital. i stayed there may be two weeks or so. i didn't know what happened to me. i saw a russian nurse near me. she died of typhus. they cut my hair the second time and my hair grew they gave me some clothing because they took my old clothes i never knew that could be filled with lice.
i didn't think that i had lice because i was working with those people. they wanted to take care of my hair. they gave me an outfit a book like a sack and the blouse. nothing in my head. now i was liberated. >> in the little time we have left, you said that even though you were liberated you didn't feel happy at all. ms. grosz: i am getting there. [laughter] ms. grosz: i was out from that hospital. i saw myself in a window and i looked at myself i have lost
weight. i had no hair. i think i started to laugh. that was my first laugh and i went somewhere. i didn't know where to go. i heard some music. the polish and the french prisoners started to celebrate the peace. it was march 23. then i heard music which i didn't hear. i went to hear the music. i didn't know how i looked. i was sitting right there.
once some came to my back and he said mademoiselle that i had the second laugh. a french prisoner came he asked me to dance. to go dance. then i started to cry i spoke on hungarian but he spoke french that we understood each other. i didn't go to dance with him. later he came with a pack of cigarettes and a piece of bread. he said in french, it is a little bit similar to romanian. i understood that. if i wanted to go to paris and i said yes.
i didn't know where my sisters were. i did not want to believe that my people went around all the people who were liberated. once someone came to me and looked at me for a long time and said don't you have a sister? i said yes. i was with them in the camp. i never know where i put my keys but i remember that name. everything i remembered. i could go with closed eyes and
find myself. everything that happened there. she said your sisters are liberated. and gisella.a how about elizabeth? she said she was shocked on the -- shot on the day when she was marched out in the liberation. the germans shot her because she couldn't walk. so i found out that two of my family are alive. i had to believe that this was true. i did not want to believe it. i did not want to leave i didn't know where my sister's word. -- sisters were. if they are alive. from one train station to the other. nobody helped us. not with food or going home.
i thought that an airplane would come and take us home. for two months it did not come. we're just wondering there. nobody cared about us. i am thinking which was my most terrible day in my life. it is hard to find one. there were so many terrible days. the most terrible day was when my two sisters came home and we our empty house. knowing that the three of us young girls were the only survivors. not knowing what to do.
there were no men to marry them because they all killed in forced labor. another terrible thing happened that i saw in a person my mother's dress. on the street. i got hysterical. in my empty house. but i couldn't go out or say something to her. after that we started a new life. by the tmime -- brandy.ought this was
it is just water. you cheated me. i can talk another three hours. >> we are going to close the program in just a moment. we do have time for just a couple of questions. before we finish i will turn back to atlanta. -- to anna. we could've have had you talk for three more days. ms. grosz: oh, yeah. towhat we don't even begin touch upon is what happened after the war.
getting married and then spending the next 19 years living under communist rule before anna and her two sons were able to and come to the united states. we could have a whole afternoon just touching on that. i will ask you if you can stay seated. because anna will get the last word. after anna concludes the program i will ask you all to stand , because our photographer joel is going to take and will remain on the stage here so please feel free to come up and ask your question and shake her hands and give her a hug i want to thank all of you for being with us today we will have a first-person program each wednesday and thursday i will
turn first to a question from our twitter audience. we're not going to get everybody's question but that it will remain with us behind. let me see if we have a question from the twitter audience. what experiences or transitions did you find with your faith did you lose your faith in god? our students are loving this opportunity to hear you and
talk to you. ms. grosz: 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 with the innocent people. i think like that. god has nothing to do with this. people did that to us. any bad thing that happens it is not god. it is people that does that to us. that is what i believe. lets see if we have anybody from our audience. if not, we have one here. i think this'll be our one question from the audience. a's done,hen ann'
please, to the stage and ask her any questions. make your question as brief as you can. i will repeat it to make sure everybody hears it. >> we will never forget you. my question is, during the years of communism we persecuted again for being jewish? ms. grosz: say it again? years,r the war, for 19 were you persecuted for being jewish? ms. grosz: not for being jewish. but not to be communist. to be on the list that you want to leave the country, which we did. we cannot have the same rights . the children also to schools. the same like the hungarians did. so, it wasn't a pleasure to live
in a communist country. you had a job. youit was so little that could not lift. we had to do something if they -- with one word steal. found two,e, if they they put you in jail. they say there were three kinds of people in romania. those who are in jail, those who are in jail, and those who will be in jail. we were very happy that after 19 years they let us out of romania . israel and america paid for our passports. we were lucky that my two children were young enough to continue here their education. that is my answer.
i have something without asking me if you buy a house the agent says location location location. i would say education education education. [applause] they took that away from me and i missed it for all my life. there are so many things that i would enjoy and no if i had had the education. they did not let me do that. they took that away from us. that is like taking my arm away
from it. because all the rest of the family when romania was occupied i was 14 finishing elementary school. you have the opportunity here to have the education nobody can take it away from you. it is worth more than millions of dollars. the education. >> thank you. ms. grosz: don't ask me one question. this is not my first time. i had a question. a young girl asked me do you forgive and forget what they did to you?
i said no. i can't. i don't want to. when jesus christ was crucified he said don't punish them they don't know what they are doing. but the germans knew what they were doing. so how can i forgive them? this is not a small thing to forgive and forget. i won't. thank you. so, don't ask me that question. anything else. >> i think we're ready now to close the program. ms. grosz: i thank you all for listening to me. i could talk for more than an
hour. they made a good choice of me to talk because i was punished as a small girl for talking too much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> interested in american history tv? visit our website. upcomingee our schedule or watch recent programs. american artifacts, road to the white house. at c-span.org/history. >> tonight on q&a. hockshild on the american involvement in the civil war in spain. attempt happened
right when army officers tried to seize party. -- seize power. it sent a shockwave of alarm throughout the world, because here was a major country in europe. the right wing military quickly anded by hitler mussolini, who sent arms, airplanes, tanks, and mussolini sent 80,000 ground troops. hwere was -- here was the spanish right making a grab for power. and people all over the world felt it ought to be resisted. if not here, where? otherwise, we are next. >> tonight at 8:00 eastern "q&a."an's the white house rewind continues with more from the 1970 six campaign with the gerald ford campaign rally in tennessee. president ford went on to win
the tennessee republican primary over for mark california governor ronald reagan by less than 1%. the rac president ford secured the nomination on the first rollcall. he lost the presidency to jimmy carter. this three-minute event is courtesy of the gerald r ford presidential library and museum. [applause]