Kingwood march honors Holocaust victims, survivors, heroes
The German army entered Hungary on March 19, 1944.
By April 5, Zsuzsanna Ozsvath and other Hungarian Jews wore the yellow star. On the first of May, ghettoization started. By May 15 - not two months after the Germans entered Hungary - they started the deportation, and by the end of June, 500,000 Jews were deported from Hungary to Auschwitz.
“They all went to Auschwitz, except two trains, and they were virtually all killed,” Ozsvath said. “There were 500,000 Jews, out of whom some one- or two-thousand came back.”
Ozsvath spoke during the annual Holocaust March of Remembrance event in Kingwood on Saturday, April 22.
During the event, hundreds of people marched along the streets of Kingwood to honor the memories of the victims of the Holocaust. The procession ended this year with a walk around the future site of the Holocaust Garden of Remembrance at Kings Harbor in Kingwood.
Guests filled the seats at Kings Harbor, facing the waterfront as survivors and descendants spoke about the Holocaust.
Michael Cahn, Kingwood resident and Holocaust descendent, discussed the importance of remembering those who died during the Nazi genocide. He introduced Ozsvath.
“As you listen to her words, those of you who are parents and grandparents, think about what you would have done in the situation her parents found themselves in,” Cahn said. “Just think about that and think about the sacrifices and the fear that these people felt on a day to day basis.”
Ozsvath’s story is one of survival.
As children, Ozsvath and her brother had a babysitter, named Erzsi, who was not Jewish.
“When the Germans came in, my father said everything was over,” Ozsvath said. “Erzsi said, ‘It’s not over because I am going to save you.’
“That was a nice sentiment, and I remember thinking, ‘That’s going to be wonderful when Erzsi saves us.’ But then at night, my brother told me, ‘How will she save us? She doesn’t have an apartment. She doesn’t have a house. She doesn’t have connections. How can she save us?’”
A rule was implemented in May 1944 that said Jews were not allowed on the street except for one hour a day - between 9 and 10 a.m. At the time, there were approximately 250,000 Jews in Budapest.
“We would have starved, like most people, had not Erzsi come in every day smuggling in food,” Ozsvath said.
In the summer of 1944, there was a great hope the war would soon be over. Ozsvath and her family were living in a ghetto house. One day, the leader of Hungary decided to create an armistice to stop the war. He made a declaration on the radio.
“Within two hours, a Hungarian nationalist took over and the new period of killing of people started. That means men were again drafted between the ages of 50 now and 60 and they were marched towards Germany,” Ozsvath said. “They made people walk that, or shot them on the way. They drafted women between the age of 18 and 50 and they did the same. Many women and men - about 70,000 - died this way.”
Ozsvath’s father was drafted, but escaped and returned home.
The Vatican embassy, among others, began issuing passports for Hungarian Jews. Many passports were falsified.
Erzsi made arrangements for Ozsvath’s family to hide for a couple days while she tried to obtain Vatican papers for them.
Erzsi went to the Vatican embassy where she waited in line with thousands of other people looking to obtain papers.
“Then a Hungarian national socialist came and started to shoot those standing in line,” Ozsvath said. “Most of them died. Erzsi stayed in line.”
Ozsvath’s family went to live in a Vatican house for two weeks before national socialists came to take them to the ghetto. Her parents were told to remain where they were, but she and her brother were taken to the ghetto.
“Two days later, Erzsi came in with false identification papers and found our apartment where we were,” Ozsvath said. “She came and got us and she told those who asked for identification papers, ‘These are my cousins. I just came in to visit them and now they want to see the city. They are from the countryside, so let them out.’ The national socialists let us out.”
Ozsvath and her brother were taken to separate locations. Ozsvath went to live in a cloister until the nuns discovered she was not a Christian. Erzsi was notified and returned to get her.
“I was in some 17 places from that time on, until she took me to my parents, who she found a place for in a so-called ‘white cross hospital,’” Ozsvath said.
During this time, Budapest was being bombed regularly.
“Budapest was the eighth most bombed city during WWII,” Ozsvath said. “During these bombings, Erzsi was walking with me and my brother, or alone with my brother, or alone with me. She took us one by one to the white cross hospital, where we survived.”
They were liberated in January 1945. As they made the long walk back to their street, Ozsvath recalls passing corpses and destroyed homes and cars.
“Finally, we walked into our street, and as we walked in, there was a little figure coming from afar, running towards us,” Ozsvath said. “It was Erzsi. She said, ‘I knew that you were coming home today.’”