David P. Boder Interviews Arthur Breslauer; August 28, 1946; Genève, Switzerland

  • David Boder: [In English] Spool number 90 continued, Spool number 90 continued, at about fourteen minutes. The interviewee is Mr. Arthur Breslauer, fifty-four years old. The interview is taking place in the knitting shop, in the knitting training shop of the ORT in Geneva, August 28th 1946.
  • David Boder: [In German] So, do you, Mr. Breslauer, want to give us your full name again, and tell us how old you are and where were you born?
  • Arthur Breslauer: My name is Arthur Breslauer, I am fift— . . . fifty-four years old, I was born in Hungary.
  • David Boder: I see. Tell us, Mr. Breslauer, err, where has, where were you, when the war began, where did you experience the beginning of the war and what happened to you afterwards?
  • Arthur Breslauer: When the war began, I was in Budapest, where I had lived for thirty-five years, and where I had been an independent corn- and stock-broker.
  • David Boder: Corn- and what?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Stock broker.Translator's note: Breslauer uses the German words "Effektenhändler" and "Wertpapierhändler," which in today's usage are more or less equivalent. In contemporary usage, however, the term "Effekten" may have had a slightly different field of reference.1
  • David Boder: Yes. If you don't talk loudly enough, this lamp here will light up, alright? It shows that, err . . . corn and ?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Stock broker.
  • David Boder: What does that mean, "stock broker"?
  • Arthur Breslauer: [pause] Securities dealer.
  • David Boder: Oh! So, corn and with securities.
  • Arthur Breslauer: At the Budapest stock exchange, I worked for thirty-five years, twenty-five years of those as an independent dealer.
  • David Boder: Yes. So you were a member of the stock exchange.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes, a commission agent.
  • David Boder: You were a commission agent at the stock exchange and dealt in corn on commission and . . .
  • Arthur Breslauer: Also on commission.
  • David Boder: And . . .
  • Arthur Breslauer: Partly on commission, partly pro per . . .
  • David Boder: So, you were born in Hungary, but you lived in Romania.
  • Arthur Breslauer: No, in Budapest.
  • David Boder: Oh, Buda— . . . Excuse me! I thought you said Bucharest.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Budapest, the capital of Hungary.
  • David Boder: Budapest. The capital of Hungary. Well, where were you, when the war started?
  • Arthur Breslauer: I was at home in Budapest. And when the deportations started in 1944 and when they took place in a large scale, in the province . . . Following the German occupation of Hungary, a series of decrees brought about the isolation, marking, plundering and ghettoization of the Jewish population. Deportation of Jews from the Hungarian provinces to Auschwitz began on May 15, 1944. From then until July 9th, 1944 when the deportations were halted, 434,351 Jews were deported. Most were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau upon arrival. During this time, the Jews of Budapest, the Hungarian capital, were spared.2
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: We felt very threatened and so, we were, together with the known group of seventeen hundred souls deported to Germany, namely to Bergen . . . Bergen-Belsen.
  • David Boder: So, wait. That is a bit too fast for me. When did the Germans arrive in Bucharest?
  • Arthur Breslauer: In Budapest!
  • David Boder: Arrive in Budapest!
  • Arthur Breslauer: On March 19th, 1944.
  • David Boder: Well, what did they tell you then?
  • Arthur Breslauer: They . . . [unintelligible] then calmed everybody down . . . that . . . the Jews, the Jewish, the Jewish people . . .
  • David Boder: Society.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Society, that, if not already happened, everybody can practice their Jewish culture . . . and as it turned out, err, this announcement had only the goal to, to, not to . . . The deceptive practices of the Nazis in combination with the naiveté of the potential victims contributed to a tragic outcome.3
  • David Boder: Not to stir things up.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes, not to stir things up, so that they could carry out their plan unhindered.
  • David Boder: And what was this plan?
  • Arthur Breslauer: The plan was, as it turned out, the annihilation of the Jews.
  • David Boder: Ah, I see. And then?
  • Arthur Breslauer: The systematic annihilation.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: And when the Jews in the province got deported, that is, when it was already happening, and the deportations were approaching Budapest, in [unintelligible; could be "Kispest"?], we decided to join, err . . . this group . . .
  • David Boder: Which group?
  • Arthur Breslauer: The seventeen hundred souls [people] . . .
  • David Boder: What kind of group was this?
  • Arthur Breslauer: A so-called deal had been made, with these seventeen hundred people.
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Arthur Breslauer: They were brought to Germany, with the promise that they would be brought further later on . . .
  • David Boder: Oh! So, it was . . . a deal was made that . . . there were seventeen hundred people and they wanted to go to Palestine and they should . . . [unintelligible] . . .
  • Arthur Breslauer: They told us Spain.The transport ostensibly left for neutral Spain or Switzerland but was diverted to Bergen-Belsen.4
  • David Boder: Yes. Well?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Over a detour.
  • David Boder: How was this arranged? How was this possible?
  • Arthur Breslauer: We were led, err, ordered in a camp.
  • David Boder: No, I mean, how was it possible that this whole thing was agreed with the Germans?
  • Arthur Breslauer: It was a man called Dr. Kasztner. He organized it. And that was a great, a generous, a great plan, which was only realized in part. Our group was a so-called model-group.Breslauer is referring here to Rudolf Kasztner. He is obviously and understandably a staunch defender of the Kasztner plan.5
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: As an experiment.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: And since we were in danger that the deportion . . . dep— . . . dep— . . . deportation was also . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, threatening . . .
  • Arthur Breslauer: Threatening us, we ventured on . . .
  • David Boder: On this undertaking.
  • Arthur Breslauer: On this undertaking. Yes, and because everything was very, very uncertain.
  • David Boder: Yes. Well?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Then we were put into rail cars, that is sixty to seventy-five people in each carriage, and we rode the train, err, many, eleven days.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Until we arrived in Bergen-Belsen.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: There, the seventeen hundred people were put into two barracks.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Under very difficult conditions.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Crammed together. There we were for six weeks. During these six weeks, I lost my unforgettable, older daughter of seventeen and a half years.
  • David Boder: How?
  • Arthur Breslauer: She died.
  • David Boder: How did she die?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Pneumonia.
  • David Boder: Where was this?
  • Arthur Breslauer: In Bergen-Belsen.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: It was terrible, dreadful.
  • David Boder: How many people were there altogether in your family?
  • Arthur Breslauer: We were four.
  • David Boder: Who was that?
  • Arthur Breslauer: My wife, a high school teacher, with a doctor in mathematics.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: My two daughters.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Two very kind children.
  • David Boder: Where is the other one now?
  • Arthur Breslauer: The other one is now with us.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: She goes to the "Gymnasium" here.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: A very talented person.
  • David Boder: How old was she, when you, err, went, when you were deported?
  • Arthur Breslauer: The little one was eleven years old.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: She's now thirteen and a half.
  • David Boder: Well, how long was the train ride from Budapest to Belsen-Belsen?Boder repeatedly mispronounces "Bergen-Belsen" as "Belsen-Belsen."6
  • Arthur Breslauer: Eleven days.
  • David Boder: What kind of train was provided?
  • Arthur Breslauer: A livestock cargo train!
  • David Boder: A livestock cargo train!
  • Arthur Breslauer: A livestock cargo train! Yes.
  • David Boder: And that was the "model-group," right?
  • Arthur Breslauer: A livestock cargo train.
  • David Boder: Were you also locked into this train?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes! Yes. We weren't locked in, that is, err, . . . the doors were open.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: But it was a horrible ride.The train ride Breslauer describes was no doubt terribly trying, yet it cannot compare with the nightmarish rail journeys taken by several million Jews to extermination centers on which the old and the very young often perished before the journey's end.7
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Into a train car, which normally only holds forty people, they put, err . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: They put in sixty, seventy-five people.
  • David Boder: Yes. Men, women and children?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Men, women, children. All together.
  • David Boder: Was there a restroom on the train?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Never.
  • David Boder: So, how did you satisfy the elementary needs?
  • Arthur Breslauer: From time to time, the, err, the train stopped.
  • David Boder: And the children?
  • Arthur Breslauer: The children did, err, also . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, I mean, when they needed to use the bathroom?
  • Arthur Breslauer: They couldn't relieve themselves.
  • David Boder: Well? . . . Well?
  • Arthur Breslauer: So, they, err, they suffered.
  • David Boder: Did they not try to somehow do that in the car?
  • Arthur Breslauer: I think, it happened, quite often. It was avoidable. [He clearly means "unavoidable"]
  • David Boder: Yes. And how was that done?
  • Arthur Breslauer: In front of the people. In front of everybody, yes.
  • David Boder: Yes, well, err, then, after eleven days, you arrived in Belsen-Belsen?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Bergen-Belsen.
  • David Boder: Do you want to describe a little bit . . . what did it look like, when you arrived there?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Well, we were in a so-called "privileged" group.A so-called Hungarian camp was established at Bergen-Belsen on July 8, 1944 to hold the Jews of the Kasztner transport. The prisoners were allowed to wear their own clothes but also had to display the yellow badge. As noted by Breslauer, they were not made to do forced labor and did not have to subsist on starvation rations.8
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: That meant that we only had to do chores in the house, that is, what we . . . in the camp . . .
  • David Boder: Needed.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Needed.
  • David Boder: Were women and children in the same barracks as the men?
  • Arthur Breslauer: No, women had their own barracks. Men, too.
  • David Boder: Who was with you? Just the Hungarian group?
  • Arthur Breslauer: The Hungarian group, to which also many Yugoslavs and Romanians belonged.Breslauer might be referring here to Jews from Romanian and Yugoslavian territories, northern Transylvania and Backa respectively, annexed by German-allied Hungary in 1940 and 1941.9
  • David Boder: Christians or Jews?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Only Jews.
  • David Boder: Only Jews. Well, they didn't force you to work.
  • Arthur Breslauer: No.
  • David Boder: How were you fed?
  • Arthur Breslauer: We received the usual food. It was a kind of stew with . . .
  • David Boder: Well?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Beets.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Very rarely, potatoes. We also got an acceptable amount of butter ration.
  • David Boder: That was margarine, of course.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Also, half-half, margarine, but also butter.
  • David Boder: Butter, as well. So?
  • Arthur Breslauer: And we also got a bread portion. But the bread was very bad.
  • David Boder: That was in which year?
  • Arthur Breslauer: 1944.
  • David Boder: '44. Which months, approximately?
  • Arthur Breslauer: We were put on the train on June 30th, and arrived in Switzerland on August 18th.
  • David Boder: Ah, I see. So it was June 30th.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes.
  • David Boder: Then you were there only from July to August, weren't you?
  • Arthur Breslauer: From July, July 11th to August 18th.
  • David Boder: Well, that wasn't too long. Five weeks, six weeks.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes, but only three hundred people were taken away. The rest stayed there until December 7th.The second Kasztner transport actually left from Bergen-Belsen for Switzerland on December 6, 1944.10
  • David Boder: Well?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Excuse me? And on December 7th, they were also brought to Switzerland.
  • David Boder: Alright. Shall we move on? You only waited in Belsen-Belsen. And how did your daughter get sick?
  • Arthur Breslauer: She got the measles.
  • David Boder: The older daughter.
  • Arthur Breslauer: The older daughter.
  • David Boder: Well, where was she, then, err . . .
  • Arthur Breslauer: And since, because she, err, couldn't be properly cared for, complications arose . . .
  • David Boder: Well. The lungs.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Hungary. There, she couldn't be cured either, as would have been necessary. She couldn't get the nourishment that would have to be given to a very sick person.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: So, she . . .
  • David Boder: Was she in the infirmary or with you in the quarters? With your wife in the quarters?
  • Arthur Breslauer: With my wife in the quarters.
  • David Boder: And she died in the quarters?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes.
  • David Boder: Were you allowed to bury her?
  • Arthur Breslauer: No, they took her away. We brought her only as far as the gate.
  • David Boder: Well? And then? Then, in August?
  • David Boder: Well, in August? What happened then? [pause]
  • David Boder: Then, in August, you were brought to Switzerland. How was this announced to you?
  • Arthur Breslauer: An "Obergruppenführer" came and told us, and then decided who would come and who would stay.In the SS, an Obergruppenführer (literally, "Senior Group Leader") was the equivalent of a general. Here, the term is most probably used by Breslauer to refer to a high-ranking SS officer.11
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: And, we travelled again in livestock cargo train.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Just like from Hungary.
  • David Boder: But you were brought there together with your family?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes, well?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Then, on August 21st, we arrived here in Basel.This was the transport sent from Bergen-Belsen to Switzerland on August 18, 1944.12
  • David Boder: So, can you explain this a little bit to me? In America, if I understand you correctly, we have heard very little about this group. But I already talked to a boy, who studies here in the ORT, err—his father is also in this country—who also came with such a group. I think twenty-five people were chosen from somewhere and came here with this group. Who had organized all of this?
  • Arthur Breslauer: The Zion—, err, the Zionists had.
  • David Boder: Which Zionists?
  • Arthur Breslauer: The Kolozsvár-Zionists had.
  • David Boder: What is Kolozsvár?Kolozsvár, also known as Cluj, was the capital of Hungarian-ruled northern Transylvania. It had a number of politically active Zionist leaders including Rudolf Kasztner. Kasztner visited Kolozsvár on May 4th and 5th, 1944. Shortly thereafter, 388 Jews, including many of his relatives and friends, were transported from the city's ghetto to Budapest where they became part of the Kasztner transport.13
  • Arthur Breslauer: That's the capital of Transylvania.
  • David Boder: Where is that?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Hungary.
  • David Boder: Oh! The Zionists of Hungary had done what?
  • Arthur Breslauer: They, this group, the so-called "Alia-[unintelligible, possibly "Waren"?]-Group".
  • David Boder: Oh! It was the Alía. And they put this group together?Breslauer might be referring here to the Hungarian Zionist movement's Relief and Rescue Committee in which Kasztner and several other Jews from Transylvania played a role.14
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes.
  • David Boder: Were these mostly rich people?
  • Arthur Breslauer: No. Partly. Partly it was rich people, who had paid a lot of money, to join this group. But there were, most of them were poor.
  • David Boder: How much did you have to pay?
  • Arthur Breslauer: I . . . [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: So . . . but you did pay?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes.
  • David Boder: Also for your family.
  • Arthur Breslauer: [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: So, with this money, other, poorer people could be taken with this group as well. Well. And? How did you manage the risk to trust the Germans?
  • Arthur Breslauer: We had no other choice.
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Arthur Breslauer: We were dead certain, that if we stay we would get . . .
  • David Boder: Annihilated.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Annihilated.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: So we calculated that our chances were around ten or twenty percent . . .
  • David Boder: Were the Germans paid for this? Was it a bribe?
  • Arthur Breslauer: It was an agreement. This group in exchange for goods . . .
  • David Boder: In exchange for what?
  • Arthur Breslauer: For goods. For goods, [they] were taken.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: War-relevant goods. But I don't know any details.In fact, this exchange for war-related goods never took place due to the opposition of Allied governments.15
  • David Boder: Yes, well? Tell me, what did the other Jews do, when they learned about the formation of this special group?
  • Arthur Breslauer: It was, the organization wasn't really well known. And as we, even before we left, a second group was formed.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: With the goal to free . . .
  • David Boder: To free more people in this way.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Free more people in this way.
  • David Boder: Did it work out?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Unfortunately not.Indeed, Kasztner saw the transport he organized as an initial effort to rescue Jews. He hoped, in vain as it turned out, that it would set a precedent for subsequent transports.16
  • David Boder: So, you left, about three hundred people. They were . . .
  • Arthur Breslauer: Where?
  • David Boder: Belsen-Belsen.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes.
  • David Boder: They were put into these livestock carriages and where were they taken? To Basel?
  • Arthur Breslauer: To Basel.
  • David Boder: Who received you on the Swiss border?
  • Arthur Breslauer: In Switzerland, the, err, the Red Cross received us.
  • David Boder: They already knew about it.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes. We had been announced.
  • David Boder: So, how far did the Germans go with you?
  • Arthur Breslauer: To the border.
  • David Boder: Were you [frisked] there?Translator's note: The German original uses "verpediert." Even though it sounds like a German participle, no such word exists in German. What he means, probably, is "searched" or "frisked."17
  • Arthur Breslauer: Oh yes! Very thoroughly.
  • David Boder: How?
  • Arthur Breslauer: They rummaged through everything. Everything.
  • David Boder: Why? What did they want now?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Papers, letters, books, valuables?
  • David Boder: People still had valuables?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Some might have rescued some things.
  • David Boder: Yes. Well, and they took all that away? And then what did they do with the train?
  • Arthur Breslauer: They cleared the train for customs and let it pass the border.
  • David Boder: The locomotive pulled . . .
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes.
  • David Boder: Pulled the train. Yes, well? And the Red Cross was already on the other side?
  • Arthur Breslauer: They already welcomed us. The happiness that the group felt at that point is indescribable!
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Switzerland received us very well. Right away, it . . .
  • David Boder: A little louder!
  • Arthur Breslauer: Right away, then, we were given soup and fruits; we were taken to a bathhouse. And afterwards, they accommodated us and after three days we were taken to different places in the country. We came to Montreux.Although neutral Switzerland took in Jews from the Kasztner transport and some other Jewish refugees as well, Swiss officialdom was on the whole hostile to Jews seeking refuge in their country and, both before and during the war, abandoned to their fate many thousands fleeing for their lives.18
  • David Boder: The Zionist organization, the representatives were there?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Only those who had come with us.
  • David Boder: Only those who had come with you.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes.
  • David Boder: So, now Zionists from Switzerland received . . .
  • Arthur Breslauer: No, they didn't meet us then yet.
  • David Boder: Well?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Only later the group leaders met with the organizations.Major international Jewish organizations such as the Joint, World Jewish Congress and the He-Halutz Zionist body had branches in Geneva, Switzerland. They engaged in rescue and relief efforts on behalf of European Jewry.19
  • David Boder: Yes. So, you . . . altogether Belsen-Belsen wasn't that bad for you, except the tragic incident with your daughter. Personally, how were you treated?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Oh! We were treated very strictly.
  • David Boder: Were fights rare?
  • Arthur Breslauer: There were, err, no fights in our, our group. But next door, we saw how the people were beaten. They were Jews from Holland.Breslauer is referring to Bergen-Belsen's "star camp," so-called because inmates could wear their own clothing but had to wear a yellow badge. The "star camp" was the largest of the five satellite Belsen camps and was located next to the camp in which Breslauer and his family were lodged. Most of the prisoners in the "star camp" were Jews from the Netherlands. They were classified as "exchange Jews," ostensibly designated for potential exchange for German nationals under Allied rule whom the Germans wished to repatriate.20
  • David Boder: From Holland?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well?
  • Arthur Breslauer: They were, they did hard . . .
  • David Boder: Labor.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Labor.
  • David Boder: Hmm.
  • Arthur Breslauer: And were very much abused.
  • David Boder: Well? But that didn't happen in your barracks?
  • Arthur Breslauer: No.
  • David Boder: And the Blockältester was elected by you or by the . . . ?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes, the so-called "Jewish Elder."In German, "Judenältester."21
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Was . . . by us.
  • David Boder: Well? And then, what happened in Switzerland? What did you do then?
  • Arthur Breslauer: We then came into an "Auffangsaal" and after six weeks they . . .Translator's note: Literally, something like a reception hall. "Auffang" in combination with "lager" usually refers to a refugee's camp. Breslauer probably means a room, or a hall, in which refugees were received and housed.22
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Brought us to a home. And I have been here since six months and am doing the embroidery training.
  • David Boder: I see. You've lived here since six months and why . . . [unintelligible]
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible] Well, as you say, you were a businessman before?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes.
  • David Boder: Didn't you have any plans to go back to the same profession?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Well, if I had the opportunity to emigrate, to be able to emigrate to America, I could find a job in it.
  • David Boder: Do you have relatives there?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Unfortunately we don't have relatives, only acquaintances. My father-in-law—God bless him—was a very famous scholar.Since Mrs. Breslauer's maiden name is not indicated, the identity of her father could not be determined.23
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Arthur Breslauer: In Hungary. And he is also well known in America, and very renowned and respected.
  • David Boder: So you do have relatives!
  • Arthur Breslauer: Relatives, no, only acquaintances, and err . . .
  • David Boder: So, the father-in-law is already dead.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Dead, since 10 years.
  • David Boder: Oh! And now? What is your plan, after you've learned the trade? What do you want to do?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Either to Erez.
  • David Boder: So, to Israel . . .
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes, or, which is something I'd rather do, to America, because in America I would have better chances. I am after all an experienced businessman and experienced stock broker.
  • David Boder: Did you not think of South America?
  • Arthur Breslauer: If necessary. It's not out of the question.
  • David Boder: Because, you see, in America they don't want, at least that's what I think, don't want the businessmen right away, but in South America, most of those people, most of the craftsmen who later became businessmen have established themselves very well.
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes indeed! After I have learned this new trade, I do not view myself only as a businessman, but also as a craftsman. And I could sustain myself very nicely with my new profession.
  • David Boder: And what does your wife do?
  • Arthur Breslauer: [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: Your wife, your wife does the same job?
  • Arthur Breslauer: My wife is also learning a new trade.Like so many other survivors, the Breslauers were diligently preparing to begin new postwar lives.24
  • David Boder: Is she here now?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Unfortunately not, she is with the kids.
  • David Boder: Where is the kid? Out in the country?
  • Arthur Breslauer: Yes.
  1. Translator's note: Breslauer uses the German words "Effektenhändler" and "Wertpapierhändler," which in today's usage are more or less equivalent. In contemporary usage, however, the term "Effekten" may have had a slightly different field of reference.
  2. Following the German occupation of Hungary, a series of decrees brought about the isolation, marking, plundering and ghettoization of the Jewish population. Deportation of Jews from the Hungarian provinces to Auschwitz began on May 15, 1944. From then until July 9th, 1944 when the deportations were halted, 434,351 Jews were deported. Most were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau upon arrival. During this time, the Jews of Budapest, the Hungarian capital, were spared.
  3. The deceptive practices of the Nazis in combination with the naiveté of the potential victims contributed to a tragic outcome.
  4. The transport ostensibly left for neutral Spain or Switzerland but was diverted to Bergen-Belsen.
  5. Breslauer is referring here to Rudolf Kasztner. He is obviously and understandably a staunch defender of the Kasztner plan.
  6. Boder repeatedly mispronounces "Bergen-Belsen" as "Belsen-Belsen."
  7. The train ride Breslauer describes was no doubt terribly trying, yet it cannot compare with the nightmarish rail journeys taken by several million Jews to extermination centers on which the old and the very young often perished before the journey's end.
  8. A so-called Hungarian camp was established at Bergen-Belsen on July 8, 1944 to hold the Jews of the Kasztner transport. The prisoners were allowed to wear their own clothes but also had to display the yellow badge. As noted by Breslauer, they were not made to do forced labor and did not have to subsist on starvation rations.
  9. Breslauer might be referring here to Jews from Romanian and Yugoslavian territories, northern Transylvania and Backa respectively, annexed by German-allied Hungary in 1940 and 1941.
  10. The second Kasztner transport actually left from Bergen-Belsen for Switzerland on December 6, 1944.
  11. In the SS, an Obergruppenführer (literally, "Senior Group Leader") was the equivalent of a general. Here, the term is most probably used by Breslauer to refer to a high-ranking SS officer.
  12. This was the transport sent from Bergen-Belsen to Switzerland on August 18, 1944.
  13. Kolozsvár, also known as Cluj, was the capital of Hungarian-ruled northern Transylvania. It had a number of politically active Zionist leaders including Rudolf Kasztner. Kasztner visited Kolozsvár on May 4th and 5th, 1944. Shortly thereafter, 388 Jews, including many of his relatives and friends, were transported from the city's ghetto to Budapest where they became part of the Kasztner transport.
  14. Breslauer might be referring here to the Hungarian Zionist movement's Relief and Rescue Committee in which Kasztner and several other Jews from Transylvania played a role.
  15. In fact, this exchange for war-related goods never took place due to the opposition of Allied governments.
  16. Indeed, Kasztner saw the transport he organized as an initial effort to rescue Jews. He hoped, in vain as it turned out, that it would set a precedent for subsequent transports.
  17. Translator's note: The German original uses "verpediert." Even though it sounds like a German participle, no such word exists in German. What he means, probably, is "searched" or "frisked."
  18. Although neutral Switzerland took in Jews from the Kasztner transport and some other Jewish refugees as well, Swiss officialdom was on the whole hostile to Jews seeking refuge in their country and, both before and during the war, abandoned to their fate many thousands fleeing for their lives.
  19. Major international Jewish organizations such as the Joint, World Jewish Congress and the He-Halutz Zionist body had branches in Geneva, Switzerland. They engaged in rescue and relief efforts on behalf of European Jewry.
  20. Breslauer is referring to Bergen-Belsen's "star camp," so-called because inmates could wear their own clothing but had to wear a yellow badge. The "star camp" was the largest of the five satellite Belsen camps and was located next to the camp in which Breslauer and his family were lodged. Most of the prisoners in the "star camp" were Jews from the Netherlands. They were classified as "exchange Jews," ostensibly designated for potential exchange for German nationals under Allied rule whom the Germans wished to repatriate.
  21. In German, "Judenältester."
  22. Translator's note: Literally, something like a reception hall. "Auffang" in combination with "lager" usually refers to a refugee's camp. Breslauer probably means a room, or a hall, in which refugees were received and housed.
  23. Since Mrs. Breslauer's maiden name is not indicated, the identity of her father could not be determined.
  24. Like so many other survivors, the Breslauers were diligently preparing to begin new postwar lives.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Dorothea Walter
  • English translation : Dorothea Walter
  • Footnotes : Elliot Lefkovitz, Dorothea Walter