Interview mit Martha Wieder

Martha Wieder Interview on May 11th, 1999, in New York

Robert Streibel

Hello, can you please tell me your name?

Why do you need my name? For a book?

No, just for myself.

OK, my name is Martha Wieder.

You were born in Hungary?

Yes, I was born in 19** in Hajdúhadház.

I want to ask you about your history in Hungary, as I will travel to ……….. in a few weeks.

Oh, yes, thatËšs where Iím from. What are you going to do there?

I want to visit the place where your family lived.

How interesting! I always think back that we had such a beautiful relationship with the Hungarians. They were such fine people. After the war my father had a small business . He cut timber and they made furniture and wine barrels. Everybody loved him. The Mayor always said that he wonët let anybody do him any harm because he was such a nice man. Itís such a terrible thing that a person can turn into such a terrible creature, like animals! We always went to school together and were the best friends. And when it came to this situation….. Itís so unbelievable that human beings can be so … I dnít know, I have no words… expression for that. We were so close. we ate only kosher food. They loved to visit us. We played together and talked together, and when it came to this terrible situation they became different. Certainly not everybody. The police were so cruel, even young people. I cant talk to my children about that, they should not know that human beings can behave like that.

What was your address in Hungary?

???? Your were born in 19.. and you went to school at

Yes, of course. Once I wrote a very nice poem and they sent it to , the region…. He was really a good man, he didnët want these things to happen. I cantít say that everybody changed in that terrible way.

Can you remember any schoolmates?

I had a very good friend, she went to Sweden and used to write me letters. She told me what I should go there too. I only went to elementary school, may father didnít want us to go to High School. For Jewish girls itís different, they did not want us to mix with the boys. I would have liked to go to highschool, I loved school. I was plain sick from not being allowed to go to highschool. Our principal (School direktor?) came to my father to convince him that I should get a higher education, but no way! He was a good father. Now I understand the reason why it was not possible. It was hard not to mix with other people.

So you did not go to highschool, although your teacher tried to convince your father?


Do you remember antisemitism or something similar when you were a child, before the War?

No, not really. The jewish children had a higher level, that was the Ñproblemì, but in general I do not remember anything like that. On Sabbath we went to school. I was a child, I was always very observant in these things, but I did not realize anything.

What is the first thing you remember when the war began, what changed?

I remember very well the very first time when the Germans came in. It was so scaring, they handled with their guns …. Even peopleës faces changed. Everybody was shocked. We did not know what was happening, we had heard about all that, like Poland, but we would not believe that it would happen to us, we where so close with the people. We could not hear this aggression.

Your neighbours were jews? Not only, they were of all kind, everybody lived together. We always played together, went to schoool together.

You say the faces changed? Probably it was out of propaganda and a lot of things. They left everything behind, we lived in a ghetto.

And the ghetto was in the same place?

We had a personal tragedy, my mother died in that ghetto. Probably she had a heartattack. It came so suddenly. It is hard to talk about these things, it hurts that human beings could be this way. In the ghetto I had a room, we had food, Ist terrible to think and to talk about it. I cannot read about these things, it affects me too much. like animals

How did you get to Debrezin from

We had a train to Debrezin. It was humiliating, like cattle, no toilet, unbelievable. It could happen to you too. What was it? I am sure you read a lot and you are a sensitive person, what caused that?

Hard to say How long did you travel

The journey did not interest me. We wanted to be in Auschwitz. We were in such a lethargy that we did not care. Suddenly the train turned back and they took us to Theresienstadt. We happended to be in that train going to Theresienstadt, like animals, lying there and waiting.You did not realize what was going on around you. You were like …… And then we came to Th and then they took us to Austria, and there they treated us like human beings.

Do you remember when you came first to Dross?

Oh , yes, they treated us like human beings there. It was nearly normal. We had a bed and a kitchen, it was a decent room. An elderly lady cooked for us. We worked very hard, but they did not yell at us. We had no relations, it was very hard for a young girl like me.

Was there anybody who looked tfter you, did you have to work, did anybody watch your work in the forest?

Yes, there were two people. An elderly man who came with us. Once in a while an ÑAufseherì came to see how the work was going on. The old man was not cruel, he talked to us, we joked, like you do with young girls. And the people of Dross where very nice. They talked to us, we saw that they felt sorry for us. We had no idea what was going on. We had no idea what Auschwitz and all these places meant. After the war the French came and took him to a prison camp. We did not speak French, but some of them talked German and they told us what was going on, we did not believe it. I dont have much to tell about our life, it was very simple. We worked every day, I think on Sunday we had our day off. We had to eat, we made our own bread (maze). They gave us flour.

There was another group of people with more men, we were mostly women, young girls. A lady and an elderly man got married after the war. We had freedom to come and go.

Was this woman who married the one who cooked for you?

It is interesting, she was the 2nd wife of my husbandës grandfather (Wieder) The manís name was Goldberger, he had lost his wife. They were in a good condition. They lived in Willersburg for quite a few years.

Do you know the name of the other familiy .

Yes. Goldberger.

They did not stay in Dross?

No, they went home, to a very small place, I dont know what it is called. I cannot say anything bad about the Austrians.

How did you communicate with them?

My father spoke German very well, we didnít. There are certain places in Hungary where German is spoken, but we didnët. We did not talk much, they used to give us thnings, they were really very nice.

Was it possible for you to walk around in the village?

Yes, we could walk around, there were some stores, a fruitstore, we bought vegetables, as we did not eat meat, because it was not kosher. So most people bought vegetables and rice and such things. We did not get payed. I donít remember, I was not involved in this. We came home very tired and fell into our beds. We had a laundry and a bath, we kept us clean, and.the basic necessities were covered.

Do you know the other families who stayed with you in Dross? Yes, there was a big family, the Spitzers.

And they live in the States?

Yes, they lived in ?? They still live here. The mother died, there were a few sisters. My Aunt was also there, they lived in … We lived in one room, nothing outstanding happened. Some young boys were around. Somebody broke his leg once. My aunt lives in Israel. We were mostly girls We used to visit ….. on sundays

The people from Dross gave you to eat?

Yes. I donít remember where we got it from, but probably from them. They felt sorry for what was happening. They were very human, my goodness. Human beings for other human beings.They were definitely very nice.

Do you remember the old man who worked with you?

Yes, but I dont remember his name

His name was….

Oh, yes, what did he tell you? He was a young boy at that time.

He told me about your brother, that he was too young to work, he used walk around, trying to get some food. He said that it was not so easy to get food, sometimes he was taken by the police.

Oh yes, that could be. But I remember times when they used to give us food.

My brother was young. I was 16, he was a child. We had only bread and potatoes, anyway. Or soup.

You were building the street?

No, we worked in the wood. Cutting wood, moving big stones. We built a highway in the wood. They wanted to make something secret.

You were also cutting wood?

Yes, today I cannot image that we did all this work. We cut wood for the highway. It was hard work for a young girl.

Your group of people from Dross and the Goldbergers were working there?

Yes. I donët remember exactly, but probably we worked together. The boy with the wooden (or brfoken?) leg worked there too. He died only a short time ago.He got married and had children. But I cannot tell you anything outstanding.

Do you remember the time after the war?

Sure. It was in May, we were free and we could go, but we had no money, no transportation. First we came to a big Schloß, a big building. We went there, we did not know how to communicate with the French prisoners. Anyway, the Russians came, that was a nightmare. They are plain animals. Much worse that the Germans. When we saw them we did not go out, we had to hide, when they saw a girl……….my father and my brother used to bring us food. I donít remember the details, I did not pay so much attention, but I remember this very well, that was the worst. But in the end we came home, we were save. We went home by train. You know, how funny, when we came home, we met German soldiers from other train, they wanted water, I felt sorry for them. We asked them for water, but they did not give us any. Such things should not happen.

And you came home to ?

Yes, we found our house, some furniture; we lived there for a few years. My sisters and my brothers. I was the youngest and I stayed with my father as he did not marry again . I got marrried, in Hungary.

What did he work?

We got some help when we came home. It was never the same again, the relations with the people. Either they resented that we came back or they felt guilty, I dont know. I wanted to get out of there and my husband too. At that time they came already from ……. It was very hard to get away, we had to cross the border at night.

And when did you leave Hungary?

As soon as I got married, in 1948. I donët want to go back, no way. Some people go back.Iit hurts, but I donët want to go back. Hungary is a very beautiful country. I donët want to have to deal with the people. I donë t speak Hungarian well. Some people speak Hungarian, but I try no to. The hurt did not go away.

I think he went back, he was not so young any more and I know that he had not much money. I had a very nice husband.

Your husband is also from ….

No, he is from He was only eighteen at that time, he has not been in Germany, he was working somewhere near the border, he did not go through all this terrible experience.

Where did you meet him?

Somebody introduced us. He was a very strict orthodox person. I was not so. I wanted to have somebody intelectual, and he was. You see all the books. Jewish life is very interesting, for others it must be very strange. All our traditions. You are a historian, let me tell you something: Thereís so much benefit of being a religious jew.

I am very observant, I see other people, how they live, the blacks etc. they have no family life. Why is it, that Jews have such a good family-life? We could really be an example. I read papers and I see whats going on, beginning with the president. The Jewish people went thourgh so much. The religion helps you so much. The non-religious are lost. The religion makes you a person with decency, responsibility, discipline. You have a marriage, your familiy, your children.

I have 4 sons, they call me every day to ask how I am. They are married, they are working hard , we have a very tight connection to our children. School teaches the children only knowledge, not the most important things like decency and moral values. Itës the familiy who teaches that. And these things are not tought here in the United States.

I dont know what Europe is like, but here it is terrible. I am not interested in other peopleë s bedroom stories, but thatës what you can read in the papers. There is no deepness, no values, you should know that you have responsibility for your family, for your country and for your fellow people, I am very upset about this. What do you think?

I think it is similar in Europe, but not so bad like in the USA

It is such beautifiul, rich country. Everybody came here with nothing, without a penny, we worked hard and we reached everything. When my youngest child went to Kindergarten I started to work and we bouhgt furniture and this and that.

Can you try to describe how you decided to leave Hungary.? You mentioned that it was not easy to cross the border.

Not at all! We left Hungary because of communism, we dont like communism at all. We did not want to settle. My husband was a student and we had nothing.

You corssed the border to Austria?

No, to Checoslovakia

And then…?

We went to Italy and then to Israel. We lived there for four years, but my husband did not want to stay there. He saw already the Godlessness. His father lived here, he was a cantor, a very famous singer, and we came here and we struggled and struggled.

What did your husband work there?

He designed and produced shoes, he had a very good hand. We were not rich, but we both worked.

When you came to the states, you came directly to Brooklyn?

No, first we went to Canada we lived there for four years, and then we came here. You need your sorrounding, like a synagoge etc. You can^ët live elsewhere. If people would know what a good life we have here. Not in the materialistic sense. People donët understand, they only see the surface.

Your father left Hungary with you?

No, he got married and went to Israel with my sister. We stayed behind. My husband was theaching in a school. But he got bored and then we left.

What did your father work in Israel?

He was already a pensioner, only my sister worked.

Your sister is still living in Israel?

No they all died, only me and my two brothers are still living. I was the youngest girl and my brothers are younger than I.

One of your brothers lives in The second brother is more religious, he lives in I donët know if I did tell you anything interesting.

Oh, yes, it surely was interesting.