Czuckermann, Margaretta

Czuckermann, Margaretta

Oradea (Romania), Nagyvarad, Auschwitz, Nuremberg (Siemens)

Czuckermann wsa born in 1926 and lived with her parents in a town called Oradea, which belonged to Hungary before and during World War II, then became a part of Rumania. Czuckermann states that Oradea had a population of 130,000 and that the Jewish community counted about 35,000 members. Her father owned a transportation company. Czuckermann was brought up in an Orthodox home and she did not experience any anti-Semitism until the first pogrom in her hometown in 1938.

In 1939 Czuckermann’s father had to sell his company to a non-Jew. All Jewish male between eighteen and forty-five were placed in special Hungarian army battalions. Czuckermann was not allowed to attend public school anymore, so she started to work. On March 19, 1944, the German army occupied Oradea and established a ghetto for the Jewish population, which was under control of the Arrow Cross. At the end of May they started the deportation of Jews to Auschwitz. Ostensibly the Jews were being relocated to Germany, in order to work there.

On May 27, Czuckermann and her family were shipped in box cars to Auschwitz, arriving on June 2. Each family was allowed to bring along just 40 pounds of luggage. At Auschwitz young and healthy prisoners were immediately selected out – the others were executed in the gas chambers. Czuckermann was sent to the women’s camp, where the inmates had to live under intolerable conditions. All prisoners had to line up for over three hours in the morning and again in the evening in order to be counted. During the day they had to carry stones from the railroad station to be used in road construction. Those who did not work “fast enough”, were shot. Resting and washing was nearly impossible in the miserably overcrowded facilities. Prisoners were punched and tortured by the female SS guards and female Hungarian inmates, who worked for the SS. In the fall of 1944, selections took place once a week, but by winter these selections were implemented every day. All weak people as well as pregnant women were sent to the gas chambers.

On October 19, 1944, representatives of the Siemens company chose 500 women, including Czuckermann, to work in a labor camp and shipped them to Nuremberg. In November 1944 the Allied forces started to bomb Nuremberg and the prisoners’ barracks burned down. Czuckermann was wounded in the leg. Out of the 500 women 147 were taken to a railroad station near Nuremberg to continue their forced labor. The others were sent to concentration camps. Because the American army was approaching the German guards locked in the remaining inmates on May 8, 1945, and fled. Czuckermann and the other prisoners were liberated on May 14, after six days without food and water. The American soldiers took the survivors to a hotel, which had been transformed into a hospital. After two months of recovering Czuckermann traveled back to Oradea to look for her family. Only three of the 70 members of her extended family survived the Holocaust. The organization “Joint” provided her with food and financial support. In 1946 Czuckermann married another survivor. After the birth of their daughter they tried to emigrate to the United States. Since Oradea had become part of Rumania and thus a part of the Communist world, it took 17 years until they were allowed to leave the country.

Interview Information:
Date: May 25, 1989
Interviewer: Rabbi C. Rosenzveig
Length: 1 hour 30 minutes
Format: Video recording