Mann, Adalbert (Adorea)
Budoi, Baia Mare, Mauthausen
Adalbert Mann was called Adorea Mann in Baia Mare, his hometown in Romania.
He lived with his parents, Nandor and Magda Mann, and his younger brother, Zoltan. He remembers his grandfather who died when he was five. His father died in Auschwitz along with his mother and paternal grandmother.
His maternal grandfather’s name was Schwartz. He died before Adalbert was born. His grandmother was Marion or Esther. They spoke Hungarian and Romanian. He also had an uncle whose name was Carmen who, together with his wife and child all died. His father’s sister Margaret never returned.
At the beginning of the war, in 1942, he was in Baia Mare and was assigned to building railways. He did this for seven to eight months. There were two hundred or so young men assigned to this task.
Life before that meant working in the mines. The town had about nine hundred people, but the Manns were the only Jews. They attended synagogue, but in another village. He went to Hebrew school in SUPLICH while living with his grandparents. He was sent there to live when he was about eight years old and spent the next four years with them, only seeing his family for holidays. He had a special teacher for his Bar Mitzvah who also taught Zoltan, his younger brother, make Kosher.
He worked in the family store where, at times they would make Kosher. They were closed on Saturday and the family walked to the next village to attend services for Shabbat. Although they were the only Jewish family in town, Adalbert Mann felt there was no anti-semitism. He didn’t know very much about politics as he was too busy with school and work. But his family knew about Hitler from reading newspapers and listening to the radio.
When the war began, he was just nineteen years old and three years later, was taken to a work camp. They were in Hungary, which was formerly Romania. He had no choice in this matter because he was told that he either went to the work camp or he’d be taken to Auschwitz. He was home when the Germans entered and occupied Romania and Bulgaria.
At that point, food stopped coming into their family store and they had less and less to sell, but they were still allowed to go to the synagogue. Their business went downhill rapidly.
He began working for the Gestapo, building roads and underground bunkers. He was informed of this job by letter and asked to bring his belongings with him. There were no other young men required to go from their town, just him. He was not afraid although he never saw his parents again except for the one time that he ran away from the camp. He then remembered that his mother came to camp one day and brought him some food. The workers were given black coffee and one slice of bread for breakfast and soup for lunch. He never mentioned any dinner. There weren’t any barracks or cots to sleep but they slept outdoors in the woods no matter the weather. They weren’t scared because they were never threatened with going to Auschwitz. There were no rebellions. His next camp had electric fences so no one could leave.
He was still building trenches and bunkers. When the workers went from camp to camp, they mostly walked, very occasionally taking trains. People began to die of starvation and disease. There was nowhere to wash and lice was the norm. What kept them going was a seldom heard radio, announcing the whereabouts of the American troops, which they hoped would liberate them shortly. That was in 1941 and 1942.
While in Germany (Austria), a family kept them and left potatoes outside for them to eat. The guards were Hungarian who shot runaways. One day, he was beaten because he was ill and became frightened because the sick were sent away to die. His friends “Aaron” and “Kaufman” held him up and took him to work so he wouldn’t be banished with the sick. The Germans gave each one assignments, certain lengths they had to complete and his friends covered for him until he was well and his fever was gone. “If you didn’t finish, you were beaten with sticks and didn’t get any food at all” he said. Some of his friends began to die. The Gestapo had a separate kitchen and he stole scraps of food which kept him alive.
It took three to four days to walk to the concentration camp, Mauthausen where the SS were waiting and killed many of the four thousand who were in his group. There were Polish people waiting at the gates of the camp who told them they’d be exterminated, but they had no choice but to stay. Again, there were no barracks and they lived outside and didn’t try to escape because of the electric fence. What kept them alive was waiting for the Americans. He ate grass and potato peels. Now people were mostly sick and dying.
The Americans arrived with tanks and lots of food, throwing candy and chocolate at them. People started to die faster as their stomachs were not used to large amounts of food, nor food at all. He left with five of his friends and walked to WELS, a small city near Vienna. Most people went into hospitals and the US gave them clean rooms and small backpacks with a small blanket. He was covered with lice and only weighed 95 pounds. He went to a house nearby and took his first shower and was given food and clothes from German warehouses. He had no idea what had happened to his family.
Three months later, he took a train to Budapest where he was given more help, food and clothes. Adalbert’s brother also survived and eventually found him. They went back to their home which was still there as was their family store. The house was mostly empty. He met a girl who knew about him before the war and when she came to visit, they married. When the Communists arrived, he and his bride moved to a bigger city where they sold clothes for a living. Zoltan moved to Israel. ORT helped them by giving them food and money. His wife was sewed for a living and they lived in a rented apartment. His son was born in ARADIA in 1948 and went to school there. There was a Jewish community and he stayed for sixteen years, all the while trying to get to Israel, but couldn’t get passports.
The Manns came to the US in 1967 (?), but first crossed the border into Austria. His wife’s brother lived in Detroit. They became US citizens five years after arriving. He worked in a butcher shop and she worked at Hughes Hatcher, but the language barrier was great. Then he got a job at Krogers and they lived in Oak Park.
To date, they don’t like talking about their experiences and never discussed this with their son, although he encouraged them to tell him what happened. His son has four children who are the light of their lives and just before this interview; he went back to Romania for a visit because his wife still had family there.
Interview Information: Donna R. Sklar
Date: June 18, 2002
Length: 1 hr., 20 min.
Format: Video Recording