Lefkovitz, Elizabeth

Lefkovitz, Elizabeth

Foldes (Hungary), Csorna, Auschwitz, Wroclaw

Lefkovitz was born in Foldes, Hungary (close to the border of Romania) to Jewish parents. Foldes had a population of approximately 10,000 people of which about twenty families were Jewish. According to Lefkovitz the Jews of Foldes were Orthodox and “well to do” financially. The town had its own rabbi and its own Jewish school. Lefkovitz’s father was an agriculture exporter who dealt in wheat, corn, wool, etc. The Lefkovitz family also ran a general store in Foldes.

Lefkovitz was the middle sister of three and received an elementary and high school education in Foldes. And although she had plans to pursue a university education she was not able due to several factors. In 1942, each Jewish man aged sixteen to sixty was called into service which forced Lefkovitz into the family business. The following year a quota was placed on the number of Jewish students who were allowed to attend university.

According to Lefkovitz, Hungarian Jews, especially the children, for the most part, were unaware as to the extent of the horrors that were occurring in countries under German control. The people in her area first learned of the problems from Polish Jews who were seeking refuge in Hungary but even then they had never met anyone who had actually been in a concentration camp.

Lefkovitz recalled that up until early 1944, she and her family had led a mostly normal life in Foldes. She had moved from Foldes to Csorna (in the west of Hungary near the Austrian border) with her older sister who was married and newly pregnant and was gainfully employed. But all that changed on Sunday March 19, 1944, also known as “Black Sunday.” On that day the Germans moved into Hungary and occupied Csorna encountering no resistance. Within two days all the Jews in Csorna were ordered to turn in a complete list of their belongings and within ten days all Jewish businesses were shut down. Approximately fifteen days after the occupation, all the Jews were ordered into the ghetto where they were housed one family per room.

There was roughly one-hundred families in the ghetto of Csorna and the rules were very stringent. According to Lefkovitz the rumors that circulated through the ghetto each day were terrifying and all the Jews were extremely frightened of the future.

On June 25, 1944, Lefkovitz, her sister and her two year-old nephew were taken to another ghetto a few days journey from Csorna. This ghetto was in effect a labor camp. Lefkovitz and her sister were both put to work in the fields. During their stay in this ghetto, they were befriended by a German soldier who allowed them to hide some of the valuables for safekeeping. However the stress of the ghetto was too much for Lefkovitz’s sister and she unsuccessfully attempted suicide. Shortly after Lefkovitz, her sister, and her nephew were deported, aboard cattle cars, to Auschwitz. During their ten-day journey they were deprived of both food and water and there were at least five dead bodies and ten unconscious people in their car upon their arrival at Auschwitz.

Once off the trains in Auschwitz, the women and children were separated from the men and Lefkovitz, her sister and her nephew were separated as well. Lefkovitz was sent with a group of women who were selected as laborers. Her sister and nephew were sent to the “women and children’s” barrack. Lefkovitz describes the following events as “terrifying.” She was now alone for the first time and was forced, along with the group she was with, to strip off all clothing, have her head shaved and to be showered and disinfected.

Selections took place frequently and several times per day Lefkovitz and her group were paraded in front of Dr. Mengele, the camp’s physician, so that he could choose who would be sent to the gas chambers next. These days were especially difficult for Lefkovitz because she was still uncertain as to what was actually happening to those that were chosen and removed from the group. Around this time Lefkovitz received word from another relative in the camp that her sister was still alive and that her father was also in the same camp. Defying all the odds Lefkovitz devised a plan to get into the same barracks with her sister and with the help of some other inmates, she was able to pull this off without being caught.

Lefkovitz and her sister were together for close to four months. During this time the sisters were also able to see their father for the last time. Shortly after this period the sisters were separated for good.

In October 1944 Lefkovitz was once again deported, this time to a labor camp at Wroclaw. The work at Wroclaw was extremely difficult and the weather was very cold. The workers were in the fields all day without gloves or boots and, according to Lefkovitz there was at least one person who froze to death in the fields each day. At one point a guard at the camp crushed two of Lefkovitz vertebras when he hit her in the lower back with the butt of his rifle.

In January 1945, Lefkovitz and the other workers at Wroclaw were marched out of the camp and forced to walk about thirty kilometers per day in the snow, several of them dying along the way. After a week of marching, Lefkovitz and two other girls were able to escape by hiding out in some straw that was being kept in a makeshift barn where they stayed the night. The next day Lefkovitz and the two other girls went to a nearby farmhouse to look for food. When the owner of the farmhouse returned, she found the escapees and called the local police. Lefkovitz and the other girls were arrested and spent three nights in jail before being sent out on a transport.

The driver of the transport, a German, took pity on the girls and told them of a Red Cross station where they could seek assistance. Being highly distrustful of all Germans at that point, the girls decided not to take his advice and instead they went door to door in the town of Mison seeking help and posing as Hungarian refugees.

To buy food in Germany at that time everyone needed food stamps which were only available to those people who were employed. Knowing this, the girls worked their way into the local employment office and used fake Hungarian names to get working papers. Lefkovitz ended up with a job at a clothing factory.

In June 1945 the Soviet army arrived to liberate the town of Mison. At first the girls were too frightened to admit that they were Jewish but after three days of hiding out, they came forward. Although they were immediately arrested by the Russians their identity was confirmed by a fellow survivor and they were released. Once released Lefkovitz returned to Hungary. Her first stop was at a Red Cross outpost in Budapest that had compiled a list of the survivors from her area. It was there that she learned that she had lost eighty-three members of her extended family including both her parents and her two sisters.

Nine months after returning to Hungary, Lefkovitz was married. She and her husband left Hungary in 1949 (due to the growing pressures of Communist rule) and, with the help of fake passports, were able to escape to Vienna, Austria. After being in Austria for several years, their family (they ultimately had three children) moved to Venezuela for eighteen years before being granted a visa for entry to the United States. Lefkovitz and her husband relocated to Florida in 1980.

Interview information:
Interviewer: ?
Date: March 5, 1991
Length: 2 hours 1 minute
Format: Video recording