Kusnice (Czechoslovakia), Mukacheve, Auschwitz, Gusen II, Gunskirchen
Zoldan was born in 1926 Kusnice, a village near the Hungarian and Ukraine border, which was part of Czechoslovakia. He was the fourth youngest of eleven children of an Orthodox Jewish couple. His father was a lumber contractor and estimator. Kusnice had a population of about 200 families, half Jewish, half gentile. He attended both public and religious schools and was exposed to relatively little anti-Semitism in his early years.
In March 1939, after Germany’s takeover of Czechoslovakia, the part of the country he lived in was ceded to Hungary. Three brothers and one brother-in-law were drafted into the Hungarian labor force. His own education was reduced, but his father continued to be employed for a while. In 1944 the Hungarian authorities ordered all Jews to assemble and then transported them by train either to ghettos or the transit camp at Mukacheve, a city with a population of about 100,000.
After being at Mukacheve for about three weeks, Zoldan, his parents, and five siblings were taken by cattle car to Auschwitz. He and two brothers managed to stay together during the selection process. The others did not make it.
After about a week in Auschwitz, Zoldan and his two brothers were sent to the Gusen 2 camp in Austria near Mauthausen. They managed to stay alive even though Zoldan suffered a broken shoulder. They were there approximately eleven months.
About a month before liberation, Zoldan, his brothers, and other Jewish inmates of Gusen 2 were taken to Mauthausen and from there on a forced march of about 60 miles, lasting three days, to the Gunzkirchen camp. Since only Jews were taken every one thought it was for the purpose of extermination. At Gunzkirchen the inmates received no food. Zoldan and his brothers survived by cooking tree bark and drinking the liquid.
Zoldan describes in detail the conditions at each camp, as well as his specific experiences. These present unusual examples of survival and perseverance.
Gunzkirchen was liberated by American forces. Zoldan believes that subsequently about 50 percent of the former inmates died quickly from overeating. After his release, Zoldan and his two brothers gradually made their way back to their home village, often traveling long distances on foot. They were aided by newly established Jewish organization.
In his hometown, Zoldan found that his former neighbors had turned against the Jews. Jewish property had been looted or destroyed, and the returnees were not welcomed. Consequently, the three brothers, and two other brothers who had also returned, decided to make their home somewhere else. After trying several places they opted for Palestine. They journeyed through Austria, Germany, and France to board a small ship for an attempted illegal entry into Palestine. The ship was intercepted by two British destroyers, and Zoldan and the others on the ship were taken to Cyprus. Four months later, in 1947, the British allowed them to enter Palestine. There he resumed his schooling and then fought in Israel’s war of liberation.
Zoldan came to the United States in 1953. He found employment and has worked since then as a tool and die maker. He married, had six children, and now has nine grandchildren.
From his immediate family consisting of parents and eleven siblings only six survived, four brothers, one sister, and himself. Most of his uncles, aunts, and cousins perished. He is very bitter about his former hometown and most of Europe, but has very fond remembrances of his time in Israel.
Date: October 11, 1995
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Format: Video recording
Length: 2 hours 43 minutes