Elli was born on February 28, 1931 and grew up in Samorin, Czechoslovakia, a small town near Bratislava. She lived there with her parents and her brother, Armin. Other relatives lived nearby, some on the other side of the border, in Hungary. Elli’s father, Mr. Friedmann, owned a general store. The well-known store occupied a whole block of the main street in the town, so people called the area “Friedmann Corner.” Elli loved interacting with the farmers and their children who came to shop in the busy store.
When her father wasn’t busy in the store, he would spend his time studying the Talmud, a compilation of rabbinic discussions about Jewish law. Elli’s mother covered her hair as a sign of modesty, and oversaw the ritual observance of all her children in the home. The entire family would attend synagogue on Sabbath and holiday mornings.
Elli also often played with many friends who were not Jewish.
TESTIMONY: “YOU ARE A JEW”
Only a Jew with a beard was a “Jew.”
In 1938, when Elli was seven years old, her town was taken over by Hungary. At first, Mrs. Friedmann thought that life would be better under the Hungarians. However, Hungary was collaborating with the Nazis. When their army came marching into Samorin, they announced themselves by singing vicious anti-Semitic songs. From that moment, life became more and more difficult for Elli and her family.
First, the Hungarians closed the Friedmann’s store. Then, they began imposing special restrictions on Jews. There were laws that prevented Jews from keeping kosher, reading newspapers, and even listening to the radio.
TESTIMONY: “LIVING IN FEAR”
“Hitler was speaking every day.”
After war broke out in Europe in September of 1939, the Hungarian army began raiding Jewish homes in the middle of the night. They would say they were looking for weapons, but actually used the opportunity to take at will many valuables from Jewish homes. Elli watched the raids in humiliation, as the soldiers ordered around her father like a criminal. Sometimes they would accuse Elli’s father of crimes, arrest him, beat him up, and return him sore and abused after several days, unable to walk. Elli and her family lived in fear.