Online Module: The Holocaust and Fundamental Rights

Doc. 2: Testimony of Kató Gyulai, 1944

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In 1947, Kató Gyulai remembers the ordeal of her deportation to Dachau. Guarded by Hungarian Cross Arrow men, she had to march nearly all the way from Hungary to Bavaria in an ice cold winter.

Sources

  • Linde Apel, Constanze Jaiser: Zwei Schwestern. Geschichte einer Deportation. German translation from the Hungarian by Barbara von Boroviczény. Berlin, Metropol 2001 (extract). Photos courtesy of Dr. Linde Apel and Metropol Verlag.

Kató Gyulai writing her report in 1947Kató (Katalin) Gyulai was born on 2 April 1919 to a Jewish family in Budapest. Until the invasion of German troops on 19 March 1944, she worked at a newspaper publisher in Budapest. A few days after that, she was laid off. Her sister Evi, two and a half years older, had already had to leave her job as a civil servant in 1942 because of the anti-Jewish laws issued by the Hungarian government.

Within just a few days of the successful coup by the Hungarian National Socialist Arrow Cross Party on 15 October 1944, Kató Gyulai and her sister Evi were among several hundred women and girls forcibly marched, via long digressions, to the German border.

1. Fußmarsch = First march east from Budapest, 22 October until 4 November 1944;

2. Fußmarsch = Second march, from Budapest to Zurndorf, 4 until 19 November 1944; Zurndorf: from here onward transport by train. 

The total distance was 260 km. Cold, rain, very little food and water, and frequent murders by the Arrow Cross guards led to the deaths of many of the women.

Her report, which she wrote as early as 1947 to rid herself of the “compulsion to remember” and in memory of the many dead, was not published in Hungary until 1995 when it appeared in a compendium.

Kató Gyulai: Two Sisters. The Story of a Deportation

One morning, we were already standing at the ready for work, we were sent back with half an hour to collect our valuables and our money. We were prepared for that and had therefore buried some of our money, three hundred pengő [National currency 1927–1946], near the well. Perhaps it is still there if nobody has found it, because it wasn’t worth collecting it after I returned home.

We had no jewellery, so we returned to the line with our 500 pengő. The Arrow Cross member in his black uniform gave another speech trying to persuade us that this money, which we were now voluntarily donating, would only be used in the country’s interests and that they would keep none of it. But if anybody tried to pull one over on them and they caught them in a raid, they would be immediately executed. Then the voluntary donation took its course. They took everything from us: money, jewellery, wedding rings, worthless little silver chains that the girls begged for because they really only had sentimental value. In vain. One by one we walked up to the table where all the money and jewellery was collected and, under the greedy eyes of the Arrow Cross men, gave up our share and then signed off what we had donated.

[...]

On 12 November, around 6 p.m., we arrived in Süttö, one of the most terrible stations on our way of the cross. […] We gathered at the market place. The sick were housed in the so-called tent. But that was just made up of a tarpaulin fastened to four posts, the rain came in and the wind blew through it. There was no fence around the market place, they just put a rope around it and announced, to rattling gunfire, that anyone who came within a metre of the rope would be shot on the spot. And that was repeated every half hour, all night.

[...]

In the morning we were given a thin floury soup and bread and set off on the longest stage of our route. Towards midday we reached Györ, where I was determined to escape. I thought that I might be able to hide somewhere in a large city with hospitals and churches. But Evi had no courage and thought that if they found us it would be all the worse.

[…]

It was already late evening, but we walked and walked. Our escorts were relieved now and then, the new ones drove us on with fresh vigour. Totally exhausted, we stopped after every step. We did not dare sit down for fear of not being able to get up again. So many were left behind that there were no longer any guards near them, but it would have been pointless to escape here because there were no houses anywhere nearby, just fields, and the country road we were walking along.

[...]

We begged constantly, it was the only way we could come close to keeping our strength up. We were not ashamed to beg, we just didn’t understand why we were begging for a piece of bread on the road and had to sleep on straw in stables, be insulted by uncouth Arrow Cross men and handed over to them and the gendarmes. We and our parents had worked decently all our lives, had a respectable home, food and our soft beds. On the road, a farmer shared an entire van of cabbage among us, we were given a head of cabbage and also bought a jar of plum jam for 30 pengő.

[...]

In the afternoon we arrived in Hegyeshalom. They housed us relatively comfortably in the stables. The weather was so sunny that we could dry our wet clothes and wash. But the cabbage and plum jam had their effect. With my fellow sufferers, I spent the whole night sitting on the straw moaning or ran out, to the amusement of the guards.

Source: Linde Apel, Constanze Jaiser: Zwei Schwestern. Geschichte einer Deportation. German translation from the Hungarian by Barbara von Boroviczény. Berlin: Metropol 2001 (excerpt). Photos courtesy of Dr. Linde Apel and Metropol Verlag.

 

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