Elli’s Story

In April 1944, soliders rounded up Elli and all the Jews of her town and sent them to a nearby town called Nagymagyar. They were allowed to bring 50 kilograms (about 110 pounds) of belongings, and no more. The remainder of their belongings had to be left at home, and they were required to hand over the keys to their home to the authorities. Elli and her family loaded a few belongings on a peasant cart and began the journey.

When they arrived they met Jews from other small towns in the region, several thousand people forced to live in a small area. The area where they were forced to live contained a synagogue, a Jewish slaughterhouse (for meat), a school, a ritual bath, and buildings for the people who served the community. The area became the Jewish ghetto of Nagymagyar, surrounded by military police.

The Friedmanns were assigned to live in two rooms in a small house, together with another Jewish family. They considered themselves lucky, not to have to live in the crowded synagogue, or in some of the other places people were living, including tool-sheds, storage rooms, attics, basements, cellars, and stairwells.

Slowly, rumors began to circulate about a liquidation of the ghetto, and Elli worried about her family’s fate. One night after about a month in Nagymagyar, every man between the ages of eighteen and forty-five received a summons to report to the entrance of the ghetto in the morning, where soldiers were waiting to take the men to forced labor . Elli’s father packed his knapsack and said his goodbyes. He told Elli not to be afraid and asked her to help the family. Then he sat down with Elli’s brother to study a page of the sacred Talmud together before parting. Elli’s brother was not yet 18, so he was not required to report with the other men.

German soldier cutting a man’s beard.
German soldier cutting a man’s beard.

Within several days, the remaining inhabitants of the ghetto were also told to report to the authorities. This time, they were asked to bring all of their books, papers, and photos. Elli watched as they gathered prayer books, Torah scrolls, huge folios of the Talmud, passports and identity documents, and even family photo albums on large tables in the synagogue yard. The soldiers began to put everything to the torch.

Elli stepped aside and watched as her neighbors continued to suffer this assault against their possessions. In a final act of humiliation, the beards and traditional Jewish side-locks (known in Yiddish as payes) of the men were mercilessly cut off, in preparation for their deportation .

TESTIMONY: “deportation
“We were loaded onto trains and we were taken away to – we didn’t know where.”
—Elli Friedman