Besser (Gluck) Lily, b. 1924 and
Stricoff (Gluck), K., b. 1928
Nyiregyhaza (Hungary), Auschwitz, Harangod, Landsberg
This is an interview of two sisters.
The Gluck family was a non-Orthodox, middle class family consisting of three daughters (ranging in age from 11 to 17 in 1939) and two parents. The father was a businessman. The entire family miraculously survived. However, of their approximately forty extended family members, only two cousins survived.
The Gluck family lived in Nyiregyhaza, Hungary, where the daughters attended a Jewish school. They went to a public high school and received Hebrew language training from a tutor. Besser states that until 1944 there was no anti-Semitism, though she admits that this was from a child’s perspective. According to the sisters, the experiences of Jewish refugees from Poland and Czechoslovakia were not believed by the Hungarian Jews until they themselves were deported. Hence, their annihilation was a complete surprise to the Hungarian Jews and was met with no resistance.
When the Germans occupied Hungary in 1944 the situation drastically changed. Besser’s most vivid memory stems from the beginning of the German occupation. The sisters went bathing, having not yet comprehended the significance of the new curfew, and stayed out past the official time. The sisters were discovered and verbally harassed by a Hungarian police officer until they fled in terror. From their home in Nyiregyhaza the Glucks were moved to the town’s Jewish ghetto for two weeks and then to the ghetto in Harangod for another two weeks. From there, the family was moved to Auschwitz and stayed in the camp from March through May 1944. One of the sisters stated that even on their way to Auschwitz, the Jews knew of their fate, but did not believe it.
In Auschwitz the four women were separated from the father. The mother was saved by a fluke, Dr. Mengele at first sending her to the gas chamber and then changing his mind. During a selection, based on the appearance of their hands, the family was separated. Through an extraordinary act of kindness by a “Blockfuehrer,” though, the four women were reunited, and the very same night the entire “Block” was transfered to Landsberg.
In Landsberg, the sisters were terrified by having to take a real shower, having already heard of the gas chambers. The sisters also talk of inmates commiting suicide at the camp by throwing themselves against the electrically charged barbed wire fences or being tricked by the Germans to do so. The sisters also remember that “everything was done to music.” The strongest memory of Stricoff was having to march past five young inmates hanging from gallows.
After refusing an offer to remain behind in Landsberg, the four women joined a forced march. As part of the march, they narrowly escaped being gassed in Dachau with the help of an air raid. From there they were marched to a Russian P.O.W. camp. There they were abandoned by the SS guards and the inmates hacked to death the camp kapo. The Americans soon found them and the women resided in a small German town for a year, until they were reunited with the father.
Besser states that for years she did not speak about her experiences. It was not until her children started asking questions as teens that she began to speak about the past. Stricoff states that one daughter is very inquisitive, whereas the other avoids the topic. They also say that no outsider can ever fully understand their experiences and they called their experiences mild in comparison to accounts given by other survivors.
Date: November 29, 1989
Interviewer: Esther Weine
Length: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Format: Video recording