David P. Boder Interviews George Kaldore; August 31, 1946; Tradate, Italy

  • David Boder: [In English] August 31st, 1946. Italy... the Castle Tradate between Milan and Como. The Interviewee is George Kaldore, twenty three (23) years old, born in Hungary.
  • David Boder: [In German] And so, George, tell me how old you were and where you were when the war started. Tell us again your name, etc.
  • George Kaldore: My name is George Kaldore. I was born in Hungary in the city Szombarthiem [Szombathely?], at the Austro-Hungarian border, and I am 23 years old. When the war started, I was in my home town, and I had just completed my "maturity examinations."
  • David Boder: How old were you then?
  • George Kaldore: I was then 18 years old. I then moved to the capital, Budapest, because they had already started in Hungary the "Jew laws" which the Hungarian government decreed. I came to Budapest to learn a trade, because I couldn't continue my studies, because the Hungarian government in those "Jew laws" prohibited Jews from continuing with their studies.
  • David Boder: Tell me, George, how many were there in your family? Where were your father and mother, and how many brothers and sisters did you have?
  • George Kaldore: My father and my mother and my brother lived in Szombathely, in Steinamanger, which is my home town, and I was alone in Budapest. We were a very old family in our home town. My father had a business which in '39 celebrated its anniversary.
  • David Boder: What kind of business was it?
  • George Kaldore: My father had a clothing business in Hungar--in Szombathely, which he had inherited from his father, and this one in turn from his father. I learned in Budapest the trade of weaving and knitting, and after that, in the year 1940 I was drafted into the Hungarian labor service. That is, in Hungary all Jews were assembled in a work lager which was called Hungarian labor service. There we were all wearing our own clothes. We built fortifications and airports for the German and Hungarian army and for the Hungarian government.
  • David Boder: Were there in the lager the SS or the Hungarians?
  • George Kaldore: Only the Hungarian officers. They treated us very badly. We got food but we had to sleep in one hall, very many people, and we were forced to work, and they were the kind of officers who beat the people very much. Afterwards I was discharged and I was employed in a war plant, where I continued working at my trade.
  • David Boder: What does it mean, "you were discharged"?
  • George Kaldore: It means that I was given leave from the service and I was assigned to a so-called war industry, where we were manufacturing for the Hungarian and German soldiers pull-overs [he uses the English term], gloves, and other warm things for the fire.
  • David Boder: Wait a moment. You were in the labor service, to which you had, so to speak, been drafted like a soldier, isn't that so?
  • George Kaldore: Like a soldier.
  • David Boder: But the Jews were not permitted to be soldiers.
  • George Kaldore: Jews had no rights to be soldiers.
  • David Boder: [continues] ...so you were drafted. How old were you?
  • George Kaldore: I was at that time 20 years old.
  • David Boder: So under other conditions you would have been a soldier.
  • George Kaldore: Yes.
  • David Boder: And so you were drafted.
  • George Kaldore: Drafted into the labor service.
  • David Boder: And then you were given leave.
  • George Kaldore: ...leave. And there I was.
  • David Boder: Where there?
  • George Kaldore: In the plant where we made gloves and shawls and warm things for the soldiers, for the winter. I was there until '44. In the year '44 the Germans arrived in Hungary, on the 8th day of March. This was a bitter day. We have seen it. It was on a Sunday, and all we saw on the streets were the tanks coming in and German SS men and German soldiers. I still managed to return that evening by train. One already couldn't go home, but I, with Christian identification papers, went home to see my mother and what was going on at home.
  • David Boder: How did you get Christian identification papers?
  • George Kaldore: I got the Christian identification papers from the Zionist organization to which I once belonged, and then they were already "making" Christian documents, the so-called false papers, Aryan papers. When I returned home, I spent one day at home, and my mother had a premonition, that she told me: 'My dear son, I am seeing you for the last time.' And I said, 'No, my mother, I shall be home for the Seder [the Easter supper]. ...Seder is not far away; Pesach [Easter holidays], and I shall be together with you.' But she only wept, and I left, and I never saw my mother again. I was then already in Budapest, and in Budapest we were already wearing on the streets the yellow star 10 centimeters in diameter. We could not enter the pastry shops or the stores. We were given only two hours for shopping. Then there appeared on the streets the big posters that all Jews 18 years old and up must present themselves for labor service. I went to labor service not far from Budapest [name of town is not clear].
  • David Boder: They were compelled to present themselves?
  • George Kaldore: Yes, they were compelled--on posters--mobilization for Jewish labor services. I presented myself in June. I was given my so-called soldier's book, pay book [He seems to be using the word "pay" in English, possible learned by the time of the interview from the UNRRA terminology.]. And I was there only a short time because they sent us away from there. But we didn't get very far. Ten kilometers from there in the small town, Jaszbereny, Hatvan ...we arrived there at night, at 12 o'clock. There was an air raid alarm, the gendarmerie, the Hungarian gendarmerie--
  • David Boder: In what year was that?
  • George Kaldore: That was in the year '44, in June. The Hungarian gendarmerie were lined up at the railroad station and told us--with rifles and sticks--told us, 'All Jews disembark.' We thought that maybe they would take us into the bunker because it was an air raid alarm, the English air force had come. They would take us into a bunder or maybe into an open field, so that we should not be standing at the railroad station. But they did not take us to an open field. Within two minutes from there, in a sugar factory, there was the Ghetto, a small ghetto, a small ghetto where the Jews of the city lives. It was--the Jews already lived there together in the factory. We arrived there. It was pitch dark. We were ordered to put down our baggage on the floor and sit down. Nobody should say a word; nobody should tear anything up--money or documents; and one should be very quiet.
  • David Boder: How many people were there of you?
  • George Kaldore: We were there 150 of the labor service. We only noticed that in another place there were bundles, which we recognized as the baggage of people from other labor services. We were sitting there for half an hour and the trumpeted the end of the air raid. There came a German officer with Hungarian officers and policemen, and then came a Jewish policeman and told us that all valuables and all documents we had on us should be put down on the floor. We did so. We didn't know yet what would happen to us afterwards. The gendarmerie came and searched our pockets for things we still might have had in them. We had nothing. We were afraid. We knew that if we did not give them up we would get a bad beating. We surrendered everything, and they took it for themselves. We saw ourselves that they put it in their own pockets. After we had surrendered our things, the Hungarian officer told us in Hungarian, and then came a German officer who really wasn't a "German" officer but a Hungarian officer [in German uniform], the famous captain Zöldy. Captain Zöldy, who ordered the pogroms in Novi Sad of which the whole world has been talking. He was a "German" SS man, and he told us, 'Jews, you are here in the Ghetto. We shall transfer you to a work lager. You will work there, and you should behave well. Now go into these barracks. You will remain there until morning, and in the morning you will know what will happen to you next.' At six in the morning the Jews in the lager - not in the lager that is, in the Ghetto - got up, and we were given a warm vegetable soup, and we saw that the Jews were crowding together. A policeman came and asked what was going on here in the Ghetto and they said that today the whole Ghetto would be shipped away. Yesterday a transport had gone, and today we, the rest, were going. Again the SS officer appeared, 'Those who are not Jews and those who are citizens of other countries, who are not Hungarian citizens, should step forward.'
  • David Boder: Jews or non-Jews?
  • George Kaldore: Also Jews, if they were not Hungarian citizens. There stepped forward three people. One had a Swedish passport; he took him and led him away. Two Jews stepped forward and said that they were Christians. So he said, 'Do you have documents?' So they said, 'But yesterday you took away our documents.' So he said, 'I haven't taken away any documents; you gave them to me. Step forward, I shall examine you wheter you are Christians or not.' And so in the presence of everybody he stared to examine "their race." He examined their eyes, their hair, their fac. So he said, 'My friend, it may be that you are a Christian, a convert to Christianity, but your father was a Jew, and you are also a Jew.' And he beat them with a stick that he had in his hand.
  • David Boder: He examined just his face and his eyes, nothing else?
  • George Kaldore: He did not examine anything else. Only the face. He said, 'You are not of the Mongolian race; you are of the Jewish race.' We did not stay for a long time in the Ghetto.
  • David Boder: Why Monogolian?
  • George Kaldore: The Hungarian race belongs to the Mongolian race.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • George Kaldore: We did not remain for long in the Ghetto. We remained there until 12:00. That is, altogether we remained in the Ghetto only 12 hours. At 12:00 [noon] we were ordered to take the sacks that we still had and take them to the control. The control took out any good thing from the baggage. We really didn't have anything. When we entered the Hungarian labor service, we took with us some clothes and some underwear and such things which we needed in the Hungarian labor service just for work. We thought they could send us later some things [from home], that we remain in Hungary. Then without food and with nothing to drink we were pushed into the railroad cars, 85 people to the car; and the train was standing there, the one train not a Hungarian train, but the German state railroad train stood there at the Hungarian station.
  • David Boder: Where did they get so many people? You said that there were altogether 120 people.
  • George Kaldore: We were 120 people, the ones from the labor service. But in the Ghetto there were the people from Budapest, that is, from Hatvan, and from the surroundings of Hatvan. There were a total of two or three thousand people. At 12:00 we got into the railroad cars. Soon the cars were sealed, and first of all one was named commander of the car. And they didn't give us any water or nothing. The Hungarian gendarmerie with the police stood next to the cars. And they walked with their guns and nobody could get out from the inside the cars. Nobody could do that. We just had to sit inside. And we sat there, and were thinking where they would take us. One said they would take us to Austria; another said they would take us somewhere in Hungary, or they would take us to the German labor service. But we, the Hungarian Jews, and the Jews who didn't know anything about Auschwitz--they had not heard over the radio about Auschwitz, and when there would come Polish Jews or German Jews [and tell us about it] they would say, 'No, that is impossible. It is not possible that they are burning German and Polish Jews in Auschwitz.' We did not belevee that.
  • David Boder: What did you say about the radio?
  • George Kaldore: We had not heard about Auschwitz over the radio. We heard about it secretly, from the London radio, and the London radio also didn't say so. It was said that they burn Jews. We believed still that it was just propaganda. We did not believe that they burned Jews. And at 4:00 in the afternoon the train departed, departed toward the south [??], towards Miskolc [??]. At Miskolc we arrived at night. In Miskolc they added further the Ghetto of Miskolc. We left Miskolc at 12:00 at night, and at one station still on the Hungarian side the train slowed down. In the train people said, 'Comrades, we could save ourselves. We could jump out of the car.'
  • David Boder: They were sealed?
  • George Kaldore: They were sealed, but high up are the bars. The iron bars. And we had a little saw and we sawed them through and five men from our car jumped out, and these five men--afterwards, when we returned from the lager, we talked to these men--these five people saved themselves. The cars were watched by the Hungarian gendarmerie up till the Hungarian-Slovakian border, up to Kosice. The Hungarian gendarmerie were sitting on top of the cars and from there they could see what was going on in the cars. Up to Kosice the cars were not opened even once. It was a trip of 24 hours. We were in the cars, one standing, the other lying down. The people had already grown beards, looking like wild animals. We already had two dead people in our car. There were three of four who went completely insane. They couldn't speak any more from thirst. In Kosice they opened the cars. Now the SS police came in and gendarmerie, not SS, the gendarmerie. They gave us in each car about 10 liters of water, and this was for 80 people, so that each person got only a very little to drink and--
  • David Boder: In what did they give you the water?
  • George Kaldore: The water was brought in a kettle, in some kind of kettle they brought it over and the kettle they took back.
  • David Boder: And how did you drink?
  • George Kaldore: We drank from a small glass of two deci [deciliter, about 3.4 fluid ounces].
  • David Boder: What?
  • George Kaldore: Of two deci.
  • David Boder: Of two decigrams?[Footnote: The interviewer, possibly taken by the story was unable to recall the right unit of measurement, and Kaldore failed to recognize the error.]
  • George Kaldore: Two decigrams.
  • David Boder: Did they give the same glass to everybody?
  • George Kaldore: Nobody was given the "same glass". People were pushing each other for the water. One drank more; another got nothing. And they took off the cars the dead people. Again at the border there came the Hungarian officer, and at the border in Kosice he said, 'He who considers himself not a Jew should come down.' But now there was nobody to claim that he was not Jewish. Everybody was now a Jew, and all together we traveled in these cars ahead. The cars went to Slovakia. In Slovakia, with the Germans, it was thus, 'Jews, I know you still have guldens on you. I know you still have Hungarian money on you. But you are being taken to a place where the gulden is going to be of no use, where food is going to be of no use. You won't be able to use anything. You will get everything there. Give us the food, give us the money.
  • David Boder: What kind of food?
  • George Kaldore: Oh, some food, canned food and clothing. And one asked for gloves, and the other asked us for stockings. They all "knew" the Jews had the best things.
  • David Boder: Did the Jews have the best things?
  • George Kaldore: Yes, we had then the best things. We took them from home. 'And for that, if you give it to us--'
  • David Boder: What do you mean by the 'best things'? Better than the Christians had, or that the Jews took their best things with them?
  • George Kaldore: The Jews had their best things with them.
  • David Boder: Their own things?
  • George Kaldore: Their own things. Yes. They said, 'If you give us these things, you shall get from us water.' And the Jews produced some money, and they got water from them, a little bit of water.
  • David Boder: And the Jews still had money?
  • George Kaldore: The Jews still had money; even after the search they still had money in their pockets. And we traveled on from Slovakia to Poland. In Poland at their pockets. And we traveled on from Slovakia to Poland. In Poland at Krakow we asked the Germans, through that little window which was already closed up in Kosice, we asked what would happen to us. So the locomotive workers, who were Germans, because Krakow was already a German city, told us, 'You are going to Birkenau.' We didn't know what Birkenau was. Birkenau, we thought was the sky [another world]. They told us that where it burns--we didn't know a thing about where and for what we were going.
  • David Boder: Did you think it was something good or bad?
  • George Kaldore: We thought it was something bad. We talked among ourselves--the few people who still could think--because most of the people already couldn't think. There were--
  • David Boder: How old were you then?
  • George Kaldore: I was then 23 years old.
  • David Boder: And now how old are you?
  • George Kaldore: Now I am past 23.
  • David Boder: In what year was it? In '45?
  • George Kaldore: No, that was in the year '44. Oh yes, I was 22 years old then.[Footnote: The confusion of dates, and numbers in general is a common occurrence in these interviews, especially if the memories are prone to evoke emotional stress.]
  • David Boder: Go on, Gerorge.
  • George Kaldore: I was 22 years old then. And the people, the 85 people who could not get out of the car, they had to satisfy their needs inside the cars.
  • David Boder: What do you mean by that?
  • George Kaldore: Their small needs--toilet needs.
  • David Boder: So what did they have to do? They had no toilet in the car?
  • George Kaldore: Yes, it was a car for cattle. It was a cattle car. We took our bowls, our dishes that we brought with us for food, and we "did" into them and threw out the windows. And there was a stench in the car, and it was warm, and we had no water to drink. And the bit of food which we had saved, which we had hidden in the sacks, that was also gone. And so we arrived at Auschwitz--and from Auschwitz it is two kilometers to Birkenau--at the station. We were taken to a track on which there was only one train. When we arrived on the tracks at Birkenau, we saw people in blue-white striped costumes. And they run to the train, and they say in Yiddish, 'Jews, get down from the train with everything and line up here.' We stepped down.
  • David Boder: Were these Jewish capos?
  • George Kaldore: No, these were not the Jewish capos, but it was a commando [detail] which we later found out was the so-called Canada [??] detail.
  • David Boder: And what was that?
  • George Kaldore: It was the detail which would receive the transport that arrived.
  • David Boder: Why did they call it the Canada detail?
  • George Kaldore: Canada, because they had food which they were stealing from the cars, because they were carrying the things of the Jews from the transports to the storeroom, and there they had plenty to eat.
  • David Boder: Were they Jews?
  • George Kaldore: Yes, yes, they were Jews, deported Jews, who worked in this detail. And they all looked very well because they were eating of that which the transports would bring, what they could still find there. We arrived, and we saw children running around very small children, and mothers and people completely out of their mind, with their hair all tangled and with long beards. Our people from the cars gathered, and they told us to line up and to go into the bath. And there we saw at the lager a large sign on which is written: "WORK MAKES FREE." We waked over to the gate. There stands an SS chief physician. We later heard and found out the name, Dr. Wengele [??].
  • David Boder: What happened to him?
  • George Kaldore: Happened where?
  • David Boder: I mean happened now. Was he arrested?
  • George Kaldore: I don't know. I think he was arrested. He is before the law in Munich. I am not sure, I am not sure of it. And he stood there and said to our people, 'Your are going to work, and who feels that he is strong enough to work should march, and those who do not feel strong enough to work, and are not strong enough to walk, should go over to the other side, and he will be taken by automobile, and he shall be taken to another place, where he will get easier work. He wouldn't have to work so hard.' And there went the mothers with small children and there went women and old people, and from among us the young people who said, 'The leg hurts, I can't walk, I don't know how much I will have to walk,' and they went. And from the whole four thousand people of the transport we remained one thousand.
  • David Boder: Did you go with the feeble ones, too?
  • George Kaldore: I did not go with the feeble ones. I went with those selected people. I went
  • David Boder: Why?
  • George Kaldore: I had a feeling that I still had strength to work. My soul was still strong, I felt I could still work. And I went with the transport, and we were led into the washroom. In the washroom there waited already the SS police. And before we entered the washroom out on the street there was music. We heard music. There were prisoners who played trumpets. A whole musical orchestra. They played jazz music. So we aked what was going on. 'Yes,' they told us, 'there comes a new transport, and they play so that on shouldn't suspect anything.' And the men tell us we shouldn't ask so many questions.' And we see people running and asking, 'Jews, where are you from?' And Hungarians ask in Hungarian. And the only drink we ask is, 'Jews, can one drink the water here?' 'Yes, you may drink, but don't drink too much.' We enter the washroom and there already is the SS with the Polish capo, that is, the Polish non-Jewish capo, and they order us, 'Jews, take off everything; you will get entirely new clothes. Take off everything, and leave it here. Completely naked, you are to take only your shoes and the belt for your trousers.' And then we went ahead into the second room. And we entered then the second room, where there were sitting on long bench Jews, Polish Jews, who had in their hands hair clippers. They shaved us entirely; that is, wherever we had hair, it was completely shorn off with clippers. The hair from our heads, our beards, and then we proceeded to the next door. At that door there was standing a capo who looked into our mouth to see whether we had anything in our mouth -- anything hidden there, guldens, or diamonds, or such other things of value.
  • David Boder: And if one had gold teeth?
  • George Kaldore: The gold teeth still remained in the mouth. And we entered the disinfecting room on the "unclean side". We were completely disinfected. We were given a small piece of soap, and there was a shower.
  • David Boder: A water shower?[Footnote: The fact that the gas chambers also were provided with shower equipment apparently accounts for the question.]
  • George Kaldore: A water shower, a shower of warm water. And we washed and I felt that I shall be a completely different man. I got back some of my strength. First of all, we hadn't been given anything yet. We drank the water that was there.
  • David Boder: From the shower?
  • George Kaldore: From the shower. Because the shower was in German style. There would come very hot water, and then the hot water would change to completely cold water. That was called a German shower bath.
  • David Boder: What do you mean? There was cold water--
  • George Kaldore: No. From the shower there was running hot water. Then it would come warm slowly and colder and colder until it was completely cold water. And after we were washed completely with alcohol--
  • David Boder: Who did that?
  • George Kaldore: The capos there who were working in the washroom. And then we marched ahead to the clean side.
  • David Boder: Were the capos decent at this work?
  • George Kaldore: There were Jewish capos, and there the Jewish capos did not beat the people. They were decent, and they helped us.
  • David Boder: Which lager was that?
  • George Kaldore: That was in the central lager Birkenau, because one must know that Birkenau was the central lager. Auschwitz was already a labor lager.
  • David Boder: And the crematories?
  • George Kaldore: ...were in Birkenau, not in Auschwitz. It is just called Auschwitz. After that we went over to the "clean" side and there were the clothes. That is, clothing consisting of the striped blue-white suits like I saw in the film "Sing-Sing," the way they looked there. Blue-white uniforms. Long trousers, short trousers, just any way they happened to come. A small youngster would get long pants, a big one would get small pants with a small jacket, which were made of cotton material. These were very cold things, so that in June, when we a rived there, the weather was still very cold, and to us it was still very cold. And we still had our shoes in our hands. Those who had boots--boots were taken away from them, and in place of boots they were given wooden shoes, and they put them on. All were given also some underpants and a shirt, but they were very nice things that they gave us, one might say new things. Those were the underpants and shirts that had been taken away from the transports that had arrived. We left that room, and we were lined up and marched in into a large block.
  • David Boder: And what happened to the people who had to go to the other side? Do you know?
  • George Kaldore: At that time we knew nothing. We asked what happened to the people, but we knew nothing. We just marched and marched, and we knew nothing about them. We entered...
  • David Boder: But the crematories were in Birkenau.
  • George Kaldore: The crematories were there, yes. Soon I will talk about them. It was already evening. The things I am talking about now. It was already eight in the evening when we were through with the bath. Afterwards we entered a big hall that was called Birkenau Block 13. That was the Gypsy lager. Before, the Gypsies had lived there. These were not Jews. They were the Gypsies who lived in Hungary. The Gypsy musicians, the Gypsies from Germany, those who were not of the so-called race of Germans. They were not of German race. There were also people of "the race" [??], but these were wearing very funny clothes; the big hats that were taken away from the rabbis. The big hats that were taken away from the rabbis. These chassidic hats.
  • David Boder: The Gypsies?
  • George Kaldore: The Gypsies. And dressed in suits, and their suits had on the back a red cross, a large red cross.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • George Kaldore: So that they should not escape from the lager. That was a mark that they, too, were prisoners. We were called prisoners here.
  • David Boder: Tell me, were there women with the Gypsies?
  • George Kaldore: Their women, their children, were there together with the Gypsies. We also saw there Gypsy women who were pregnant.
  • David Boder: They were all in the same block.
  • George Kaldore: All in the same block, living together. Our block trusty was also a Gypsy. And we were ordered to lie down. We were 1500 people who remained from the 4500 from the transport. All in one block.
  • David Boder: And how many Gypsies were there?
  • George Kaldore: There were no more Gypsies in the block; only the block trusty with his large family. About the block I have to tell you also, that the lager Birkenau was before the war a riding stadium; there were horses there before the war. It was a horse riding stadium. We were told, 'Jews, lie down on the ground and things will proceed.' And we wept: 'Man, bring us something to drink.'
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes ...... this concludes Spool 97. We are going over to Spool 98. George... eh, George Kaldore being interviewed at the Camp Tradate, or the cooperative place Tradate for displaced Jews.
  • David Boder: This is Spool 98. Italy -- the Castle Tradate between Milan and Como, in a camp of displaced persons, of the so-called Kibbutzim groups, or the Hashara, which is preparing the young people to go at one time or another to Palestine. The interviewee is George Kaldore, 23 (twenty three) from Hungary.
  • David Boder: [In German] Now let us proceed.
  • George Kaldore: I interrupted my story. Well, we were ordered, about five hundred of us, to lie down in one of the halls and to keep quiet until somebody would come and tell us what was to happen next.
  • David Boder: Excuse me, I wanted to ask you a question. Do you know what happened to the Gypsies?
  • George Kaldore: Yes, I know. Two months later I heard [about them] when I was already in the other lager to which I was transferred; that one night there was an Appell and all the Gypsies were called out, and all the women and all the children and all the men Gypsies who had remained there were that night burned, so that nobody was left of the Gypsies. Nobody left in that lager. That I know from the tales of comrades who came from the lager and told us about it.
  • David Boder: Now, go on with your story.
  • George Kaldore: And so there came an interpreter--he had it written [on a band] on his left arm. An Hungarian-German interpreter together with a Gypsy and our block leader. He stood up on a box and made a speech: 'Jews, you have come to Auschwitz, to Birkenau. This is an extermination camp. He who cannot work is being burned. And the one who can work will work as long as he can work. Here you cannot hide anything. I have brought with me a lamp'--there had come in a SS man with a lamp--'This is an x-ray lamp. Look through whether you still have on you some guldens or valuables or things that you are permitted to possess. That is, you may possess nothing.'
  • David Boder: And what was the x-ray lamp for?
  • George Kaldore: Oh, yes, the x-ray lamp. I will tell you how it was. He brought also pliers and hammers, and he ordered that we should tear off the soles from our shoes. 'Maybe you have hidden away there something, and we may not have noticed it when you came into the block.' And he came around, and the Jews took off the soles and there still appeared gold, and there still appeared money. And one Jew pulled out a work book--a German work book. He said, 'This is my work book. I am a working man and I shall work.' And he said, 'Just drop it here.' Our pictures of the mother, of the father, that we had managed to save, I don't know how, in the shoes, they just had managed to hide them in the shoes or wherever--I can't describe it. I really cannot imagine how they hid them after such a thorough search. And then he said, 'Has everything been surrendered?' And the Jews said, 'Yes.' Then he said, 'Yes, I see you are Hungarian Jews. You haven't anything on you. You are the kind that are afraid. Hungarian Jews are all afraid. I shall not search you with the x-ray lamp.' Later we learned that it was no x-ray lamp. It was a plain ordinary large lamp that he brought in. And he took the guldens, and two days later we learned that with the guldens he had bought from the Polish workers who worked in the lager, who did not live in the lager but just came there to work, and from the SS soldiers, he bought bread and bought fat and ate it.
  • David Boder: Didn't he get enough to eat otherwise?
  • George Kaldore: No, he was getting just his ration. He only had food that he could steal from the jews. And he said, 'Soon they will bring here black coffee. Everybody will get the coffee.' And sure, they brought the coffee, and he said, 'Jews, you are not permitted to leave this place. You may step out two paces. There is a box inside the block for you small needs, and outside the block two paces away is another box, where you can satisfy your big needs. But do not go any further, because beyond that are already the wires and the SS people in the big towers which had those large reflectors and the dogs. If one takes three paces, they grab him and shoot him immediately.' And we again lay down on the ground, without blankets, without anything, and we slept. That was the first night, after the railroad cars, that we could sleep a bit. In the morning at six there was a bell to ger up for Appell. We stepped out. We were counted up [to ascertain] how many people we were. Then we were told that now we had to clean the block. We had to scrub the block. We were given mops and brooms to clean it up well.
  • David Boder: What were you given, brooms?
  • George Kaldore: Brooms and mops, yes. And to clean up. At ten they brought the first soup. That was a German soup in which they threw together everything possible. It was served for ten people together in a large pot. The pot was dirty. It was a pot that was taken out from the railroad cars where the Jews were, without washing them out. We knew what these pots had been used for. The Jews had "done" into them while in the cars. And we had no water to wash them out. A few people would not eat. I said, 'I shall eat what they give me.' That is, [although] it is impossible to eat it. One cannot eat it [but] I, too, [for my part] shall eat it, because I know that if I don't eat I won't have the strength to go on with the work. And there were two people, diabetics, who became so ill that they said, 'We need injections.' And they were led away. They were led away, and we haven't seen them any more. By eleven--we already dared to make a few steps outside--we saw something burning. It burns, it burns, it burns. In the morning at eleven we saw flames, and a stenchy smell. We asked the Gypsies, 'What are they burning?' So they say, 'They are burning the clothes that you brought with you, rags, since it cannot be used. It is none of your worry what is burning.' And afterwards they told us, 'now go and lie down again.' We did nothing. Another day passed. A day later came an SS. We were told to get up. The SS looked at us, looked us over, and ordered those who were once soldiers to step forward, who were soldiers before the war, those who are strong people, for hard work. And they stepped forward. They divided us into two groups: the strong people and the not very strong people.
  • David Boder: And where were you?
  • George Kaldore: I was among the strong men. And there were with us two stout men, very stout men--100 kilo. And the SS men said, 'Are you strong?' So they said, 'Yes.' 'Well, then I shall arrange a bout. You shall fight each other, box each other. Such a fight that the one who is stronger will go on the side with the strong people, and the other one will go on the other side.' And so we--the one got to one side. And the Jews even laughed about it. What did they know about what was going to happen? And those men, the strong men who were lined up, there were 500 of us.
  • David Boder: What happened to those two stout people?
  • George Kaldore: That I don't know. They remained there. They were not--no, they were not taken away immediately. Some months later I met one of them in a work camp where he was assigned afterwards. And he told me they were taken to Auschwitz to work in a factory. They went to the so-called quarantine lager, that is, Block I in Birkenau. In the quarantine lager they were given one blanket for three people, and there were single-level beds; that is, in one bed there slept ten people. They were not really beds, they were simply knocked together of wood, plank beds. And ten people slept with five blankets. And by that time we were approached by the Jews, the Polish Jews, who wanted already to barter with us for our shoes. One wanted to give a piece of bread with other shoes. And they told us that the shoes here amount to life. The one who has shoes lives, here. And we didn't want to barter. We were taken to quarantine, because there was scarlet fever in the Gypsy lager. And we were in the quarantine lager four days. Afterwards there came an order after the Appell that all of us have to move on. So these five hundred men marched in formation, four abrest, holding each other's shoulder, four people all the way. And with us marched ten SS men with guns in hand and led us through Auschwitz, through the streets. We saw the people, we saw stores, people walking the streets, the Poles, the Christians. There were some that looked at us with sadness. There were some that laughed at us. And we marched away 10 kilometers. We entered a camp which was called the Buna lager. That belonged to the I.G. Farben Industry, the big company of the lager, a big plant of synthetic rubber, Buna. We marched in there. The block leader soon lined us up at the Appell square and said, 'You get ready to go into the washroom.' And again we were led into the disinfection chambers. Again they took away the clothes which we have gotten before. We went into the chambers. We are being disinfected again. We came out to the "clean" side again. There was standing a doctor who examined us, and we were given very bad things, again these blue-white striped things, but in very bad condition, torn ones of small sizes, and we were led again into a block, the quarantine block and they told us, 'Men, you shall remain here, and you are not permitted to leave the quarantine block until you will be assigned to commandos [to squads] in the lager; ' because we had come from a lager where there was scarlet fever. And for what ever reason we don't know, we were assigned to the punishment detail; that is, it was called an outside detail which worked outside the lager six kilometers away. We were building fortifications for the Germans.
  • David Boder: Why did they call it the punishment detail?
  • George Kaldore: The punishment detail, because we marched barefooted. They told us to take off the shoes.
  • David Boder: They made you take off your shoes?
  • George Kaldore: We had to take off the shoes before we left and walk barefooted the whole way on stony roads, and at times we had to run, at times we had to walk slowly, and every time we started out we had to fetch our food for the midday meal. That is in 50 litre barrels. Two people had to carry it on the road barefooted, the hot food. And after every two or three hundred men again two people were carrying a barrel. Those who carried the barrel barefooted had to run at the same pace as the others did. They were not permitted to fall behind the group. And we went out there and worded there. There were the SS men and Wehrmacht. The Wehrmacht, not the SS--there was only on SS man, a superior company fuehrer. The rest were the Wehrmacht. The old people. And we talked to them and they talked to us. They were such old people who were quite good to us, and now and then they would hand over a little piece of bread. They themselve had not much to eat, the Wehrmacht. But when the SS superior company fuehrer would approach, the Wehrmacht men would immediately tell us, 'Now work, here comes the SS,' and we worked hard, very hard. From four in the morning when we were getting up, everybody had to wash in the washroom, and then there was breakfast. At breakfast we were given 300 grams of bread with 20 grams of margarine, not the synthetic margarine that did not contain fat. The German margarine. And that was all the breakfast.
  • David Boder: What was the synthetic margarine made of?
  • George Kaldore: We don't know what they made it out of. It was made synthetically from something but it had no fat content. I smelled pretty good and tasted pretty good but it had no calories. And we got bitter black coffee. The water in the lager, not in Auschwitz, in Birkenau, not in Monovitz [??], [but] at the Buna plant--one couldn't drink the water because there was typhus. It was typhus water. One would get typhus from the water and the water was also very bad. And [so] we would go out to work. First we would go out to Appell. The Appell was at five o'clock. It lasted the whole hour until six. At six at the Appell they counted the men and each one reported the number he had in his detail; and when the number was not correct, we had to stand until the number was correct.
  • David Boder: But you had to work?
  • George Kaldore: We had to stand there until the number was correct. We marched out. At the exit, at the gate was standing a physician; and the ones who felt sick stepped before the physician, and anyone who was really sick could remain in the lager. If the illness lasted only two or three days or a week, he was cured and went again to work. But if he had an illness that could not be treated, he was taken by automobile to Auschwitz, and there he was burned.
  • David Boder: How do you know that?
  • George Kaldore: We know it because people would come who had met others who came from there. And later we talked to some people of the [dead handlers] detail, Hungarians who had worked in that detail. The burning detail. There [at this] people worked only three months. And in three months they were relieved and transported away to other lagers.
  • David Boder: Go on.
  • George Kaldore: We went out to work at the gate; we were counted again, taken to work, and there we were working until twelve. At twelve we went to eat. The food consisted of a half a liter of soup. The soup was a half a liter of water. That's what it was. Green leaves cooked in that warm water. And from twelve to one we were free and we would lie down on the grass and sleep a bit. At one we would return to work and work until five. Later on, when the time, when the weather got darker, we didn't work so late anymore. We always worked as long as it was light. At dusk we would get back with the details into the lager. We would assemble at the Appell square, and at the Appell square we were counted again. We had already been counted at the entrance but we were counted again on the Appell square. And after the count we went to wash. Everybody had to wash, and after washing we would get the evening meal. The evening meal was three/fourths of a liter of soup, three/fourths of a liter of soup. This soup was a little heavier, not so thin, and it had some potatoes, or turnips cooked in it. The turnips that used to be served in Hungary to cattle, those red turnips and white turnips. And after eating, once a week we had to shave. The hair was clipped down completely with a zero clipper and every week we were shaved. They used two knives to shave two, three hundred men without sharpening the knife. Each shave was [a surgical] operation. And the people would get the so-called beard eruptions, infections, and because of the infection one would look terribly ugly. And people with such infections were not shaved anymore, so that these people would walk around with month-old beards, with six-weeks-old beards, two-months-old beards, and they looked very very ugly. After that we would lie down and sleep. It was a very bitter life. We had two-deck beds. There were two blankets on each bed and nothing else. Two people slept on each cot, one with his head at the other fellow's feet, and the other one on the other side. The cots were approximately 50 cms. wide. These beds are full of bedbugs, full of vermin, fleas, and bedbugs.
  • David Boder: Lice?
  • George Kaldore: There were none in the lager. Four times every week there was louse control. Everyone had to carry his shirt to the doctor. There was in every block a doctor who inspected the shirts, the underpants. One marched completely naked to the control, and if one had lice, he would get a very, very bad beating, and all his things were taken away immediately for disinfection together with the beds. Everything was disinfected. I was a whole year in the lager but I never had lice in the lager.
  • David Boder: Did you wash your things?
  • George Kaldore: Every week we washed our shirts once. The shirts--we did not have any shirts, because we were selling our shirts outside, when at work to the Polish workers. We would get two or three kilos of bread for a shirt. So we didn't have any shirts. We had only the clothes on us.
  • David Boder: Wouldn't they ask you what became of your shirts?
  • George Kaldore: First we were ordered to do it every two weeks, afterwards only every month, to surrender the old underwear. And we would take in a rag and say that the shirt had gotten torn and we surrendered the rag. That was our shirt and we were given other shirts. These other shirts were also torn.
  • David Boder: You speak about the Poles. What kind of Poles were they?
  • George Kaldore: These were Polacks, not Jews. Those were Polacks that just worked there. Those were the work foremen. We washed our underwear every week, one, twice, depending on how dirty the underwear was. We had a little piece of soap. We would get it every week. And people saw in it that they would get some kind of special assignment in the lager. Everyone who had some function in the lager got already a bit more food. I personally worked for the block trusty. I washed his underwear for the block trusty and I darned his socks.
  • David Boder: Oh, yes. You are--what was your trade?
  • George Kaldore: I was a textile worker. I had learned to knit socks, to make new socks and knitted underwear, and other such things. But I was already accustomed that I would have to work, and I washed the block trusty's shirts and I darned the socks, and in return I was getting supplementary food every day, that is, a double portion of three/fourths of a liter of soup.
  • David Boder: How about bread?
  • George Kaldore: Bread I wouldn't get. That was impossible; 300 grams of bread, that was all; and we ate it right away in the morning. All of it. And so our life went on for about two months, that is until August. In August they started to select. They asked who had a trade, and such a man was placed in the trade details. These were such details that consisted of locksmiths, engineers, or bookkeepers or carpenters, glazers, painters; and these worked inside the plant, the factory. And approximately 100,000 men worked in the factory. It was one gigantic lager. There were not only prisoners, Jews, there. But there were Polish lager, Polish Christian correctional camps. There was a lager for German subjects, such who were there for punishment. Communists, such who took part inthe Spanish revolution, that kind of Germans. There were [men of] the French labor service. There were English, American soldiers as prisoners of war who lived in the vicinity of our lager. There were also Polish and German free people, and we jews, and Ukranians, and all kinds of people. From all over the world, people from Flanders, Belgians, from every nation, from every nation.
  • David Boder: That was where.
  • George Kaldore: In the Buna works. And I was then assigned to a locksmith detail, to a detail of a technicians. I went to work to the power plant with a detail, not as locksmith, but as an electrical worker. I worked there with the A-E-G, the General Electric company which supplied the whole plant with electrical power, and we handled there the connection, we worked on the high tension equipment, on the cables. I had it pretty good there. We worked from blueprints and it was very pleasant work. And there I worked together with Poles, Christian Poles, who would give me stale bread or some food. They did not have much themselves but they gave us, and every day I went to clean up the office, and I would pick out from the garbage can throw-away tomatoes; because I always used to say, 'I must eat what I see, because when I eat I have the strength to go on working.' But the capo did not look at it with good will, that I would get something to eat, and he assigned me to his detail, to his detail, to heavy work. I later worked five stories underground, the whole plant was built five stories underground.
  • David Boder: The Buna works?
  • George Kaldore: The Buna works. And there I was layin cables. It was very, very cold. It was already September. Our nerves have become completely apathetic, We were not thinking anymore. We knew of nothing. Now and then we would find a German newspaper to read, but they were full with the German [business]. We saw in the lager terrible things. During the Appell we saw people hanged, three people at once.
  • David Boder: What for?
  • George Kaldore: At times two people, three men, were hanged because during an air-raid three Jews have stolen bread form the storehouse, a little bit of bread not much, and they were hanged.
  • David Boder: Right at the Appell square?
  • George Kaldore: On the Appell square. But how that happened. It happened like I read in Latin history, in a circus. The Caesar was looking on how the people went to their "kaputt"[Footnote: The work kaputt ordinarkly refers to the breaking of an inanimate object.] So we looked on. We arrived at the Appell square and there standing already--what is it called?
  • David Boder: The gallows?
  • George Kaldore: The gallows were standing, three next to each other. There were standing three reflectors.
  • David Boder: What was it, in the evening?
  • George Kaldore: In the evening, yes, about six. It was already September, it was already dark there. And never before in my life have I seen a human being going "kaputt." Not a hanging, not a shooting [had I seen before]. And I asked, 'What is happeneing? What is going to happen?' 'Oh, Jews will be hanged,' that is what I heard. We stood there already for an hour. They led up the three Jews. The three Jews, their hands tied, the SS man brings them to the gallows. The SS lined up their guns.
  • David Boder: At the gallows?
  • George Kaldore: At the gallows, yes. And they were raised upon the gallows, and the SS was standing there and telling us in German that by orders of Himmler, three Jews will be hanged, because during the air raid alarm they have stolen bread. 'Jews, you should know that during an air raid alarm you should not steal. You should not steal. You are getting enough to eat and you should eat what you are getting here.' And the [condemned] Jews were standing there and shouting, 'Comrades, comrades, we are the last ones. Keep your heads up. All the Fascists will die. The Russian is coming. The Russian will liberate us.' And meanwhile the SS approached the, kicked them with his feet, and beat them right at the gallows. And they called out from the detail three Jews, their "brothers." If there was a Hungarian they called three Hungarian people, and they had to stand and watch. The gallows were so constructed that there was a lever and he stepped with his feet on the lever. First the rope was put around the neck, and the scaffold would fall down. They are standing on a scaffold. The scaffold would fall down and the Jews were hanging. And we looked on. After ten minutes one [of them] still wanted to pull out his neck from the sling. The others went "kaputt" immediately. And they had to remain there. They became grey.
  • David Boder: What do you mean, 'they became all grey'?
  • George Kaldore: Their faces became grey.
  • David Boder: They left the faces open?
  • George Kaldore: Yes. Afterwards all commandos [details] had to pass by the gallows and everyone had to look at them. If anybody wouldn't look at them he immediately got badly slapped in the face by the SS.
  • David Boder: So the faces were uncovered.
  • George Kaldore: No, no, their faces were not covered. And afterwards, we all saw it, there came a capo from the hospital. He took a knife, and cut the rope. The dead men fell down, and right away he took a pencil, spit on the stomach, and wrote down with an indelible pencil his number, and also wrote down his number on his legs; and the body was taken to the K-B, that means quarters for the sick. Form there they were taken, on automobiles that would come every day, to Auschwitz, to burn.
  • David Boder: Excuse me, you have a tattoo number, what is it?
  • George Kaldore: My number is A14187.
  • David Boder: And where were you tattooed?
  • George Kaldore: I was tattooed in Birkenau.
  • David Boder: H-um.
  • George Kaldore: We had to look on [at executions]. And it happened not once, it happened very often.
  • David Boder: They hanged people very often?
  • George Kaldore: Often they hanged people.
  • David Boder: For what?
  • George Kaldore: For nothing, for attempts to escape from the lager, and from the lager, from the plant. They would try, the Polish Jews who could speak the Polish language. There was together with me a Polish physician who lived before three kilometers from the lager.
  • David Boder: A Jew?
  • George Kaldore: And he could see his home from the roof, and such people could escape. They had possibly a way to get away, but they were always caught, and for that the penalty was death.
  • David Boder: Was the physician also hanged?
  • George Kaldore: Yes, he was also hanged. We have seen him hanged. After the hanging we went to eat and everybody ate. There was such an apathy, everybody ate, and did not talk any more about what they had seen.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 97 [incorrect -- this is the end of Spool 98] of George Kaldore and we are going over to Spool 98. Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording, August 31st, 1946, Tradate, Milano -- Tradate, Milano.
  • David Boder: This is Spool 99, a continuation of Spool 97, 98. August 31st, 1946 at Tradate near Como and Milan. The interviewee is George Kaldore. The third spool of his interview.
  • George Kaldore: [In German] As I have told you already, we became there very apathetic, and the people went indoors after the hanging. When they had seen their own comrades hanged, they went indoors and ate their evening meal which was given to them, and continued with their prisoner's life. We continued doing our hard labor unitl...I continued until December. In December it was frightfully cold. It was raining and we were wet through and through. In just our only suit which we had made of cotton, that blue and white striped suit, in December, standing at five in the morning on the Appell square, and going out to work. And that work--I worked underground five storiesm and worked there in the greatest cold.
  • David Boder: What were you doing there exactly?
  • George Kaldore: I was laying cables. I hung up cables overhead cables. They are very big cables of large width, and I had to hang them up on the walls. I already felt that I had a fever, but I did not want to go to the K-B--the hospital was called there K-B--the sick building. I didn't want to go there, because I feared that whoever was going in there was not being cured. And I was already so sick that I couldn't work anymore. I had blood poisoning on my leg and I couldn't put on my shoes anymore. I went into the dispensary and the physician measured my temperature, I had 40 degrees [Centigrade] fever and the physician told me that tomorrow morning I should go to the hospital. It was such a rule that if one was assigned to the hospital, the list was given to the block trusty; the block trusty brought the people in the morning. I was not on the list. I wept, and I went to the hospital and told the physician that he should accept me. I cannot put on my shoes anymore. I was going around barefooted with 40 degrees fever, in December.
  • David Boder: Why couldn't you put on your shoes?
  • George Kaldore: Because my feet were so swollen that the shoes wouldn't go on anymore on my feet. It was already the twentieth of December. I was accepted in the hospital, That was no so easy. We were examined, then came the SS Chief physician, and the SS chief physician accepted us. All the clothing we had on was taken away, that is, the pants and the shoes; and we were left completely naked. And naked we entered the disinfection hall. We were disinfected, and then led to the division where the [particular] illness belonged.
  • David Boder: How were you disinfected?
  • George Kaldore: There were showers, and we were all rubbed with kerosene, and again the hair was shorn off and we were completely shaven. And so we got in. There was a stench. In a small hall there were three hundred people, all with surgical sicknesses. One was already operated on, the other one was still sick or dead, or people who were little short of dying. I went in there, two people to a bed, so completely naked, I lay down. There was a heat supply from the plant. Steam was coming in from the plant; so there was a bit of heat. There again we had only two blankets. The comrade who was lying with me in the same bed had--pus was flowing from his hand, and I was lying with him in the same bed. At first they gave me compresses on my feet for two days, and the third day I was operated on. That was on Christman day.
  • David Boder: There were two people in one bed?
  • George Kaldore: Two sick people in one bed.
  • David Boder: Where were you operated on?
  • George Kaldore: They operated on my legs. They cut them open. It happened this way. I was listed for the operation. Every morning they made a list of twenty, thirty people to be operated on. These twenty people were selected by a physician who would say, 'These are the people to be operated on today, they should go and "do" their necessary things, toilet affairs.' And so, naked, as we were, we went in to be operated on, and each one waiting for his turn. The operation was taking place in the same room, only a curtain was provided that separated [the operating table] from the rest of the room, and we went in there. There was a Hungarian physician from Kosice, a German physician, and I begged him to operate on me after putting me to sleep. I was given an anesthetic, and he operated, and after the operation I had to go back, naked, on one foot. They did not carry me out.
  • David Boder: That is, after you came out from the anesthetic?
  • George Kaldore: Yes, the narcotic lasted only for the operation. Only two--three minutes during the operation.
  • David Boder: On what did he operate?
  • George Kaldore: He cut open my feet, the bottom of my feet, and bandaged it up, so that after such an operation I returned to my bed.
  • David Boder: How are your feet now?
  • George Kaldore: My feet are cured now. They are now very well.
  • David Boder: Did he operate on both feet?
  • George Kaldore: No, only on one foot.
  • David Boder: Were both swollen?
  • George Kaldore: No, only one foot. And so it was on Christmas day. The food in the hospital was not better [that day]. We got 300 grams of bread in the morning and a half a liter of soup at midday and a three/fourths liter of soup in the evening. And the whole day we were lying, doing nothing.
  • David Boder: What kind of soup was it?
  • George Kaldore: The midday soup was the Buna soup, water, warm water with green leaves. In the evening we got soup with a bit of potatoes, or turnips or some cabbage in the soup. And we believed--
  • David Boder: What were you eating it from?
  • George Kaldore: From a bowl. We drank the soup. We had no spoons to eat it with, and no knife to cut the bread. Only drinking it from the bowl. That was on Christmas day. They believed that on Christmas, on Christmas we would get some additional rations, Christmas, the great holiday of the Christians, but we got nothing, no additional rations. I was lying there until the third of January. The first of January was my birthday. I went to the block trusty and told him, 'Mr. Block Trusty, today is my birthday. I want to ask you, give me today an additional portion of food.' And he gave me another portion. The other people saw that, and they said, 'I too have a birthday.' They said it on the next day, and also approached him. But he had the card indexes of us and so he would say, 'Good, you get food, but if it is not your birthday, you will be killed.' And I saw him beating a sick person with a whip.
  • David Boder: There in the hospital?
  • George Kaldore: In the hospital, because he had approached him and said it was birthday and that he should be given another liter to eat. After that I got a bit better but I still could not stand on the other foot. I was taken to another room where the patients had been already operated on and who felt already a little better, and I remained there until the tenth of January. They wanted already to move me out from there because my wound was healed, but I myself would scratch the wound before the [doctors made their] rounds so that they wouldn't see that it was healed. And they measured my temperature, and I also--the temperature...I heated up the thermometer.
  • David Boder: How did you do it?
  • George Kaldore: I rubbed it on the blanket, the thermometer, so that it should go up so that I should have "fever".
  • David Boder: Where did you have the thermometer, in your mouth or in--
  • George Kaldore: No, under the arm. When the physician would come to look, and he would see that I have fever, and would not discharge me. I know that if I leave the hospital with my linen suit, I shall die from the frost, and afterwards we heard people talking that the Russians were coming.
  • David Boder: Who would talk?
  • George Kaldore: The block trusties. They were already packing their things. They physicians and people were sewing already knapsacks from the blankets. Things were being distributed for the hospital, medicines and boxes to pack up the whole hospital. And so we remained in the hospital, and we heard that the Russians were coming. And one day the lager did not march out [to work], and it is because it was 10 degrees frost or 15 degrees frost, and at 15 degrees of frost the lager is not being taken to work. But we already knew that the Russians are coming and that the lager would be evacuated. And one night at eight all people were lined up for Appell. They handed out 600 grams of bread, 4 deca of margarine, 40 grams of margarine, 20 grams of some kind of liver sausage, and they told that the lager...'You are going to march ahead.' In the hospitals those who could not walk were left there. The lager marched away that evening, at twelve, and remained only a few hundred, possibly four hundred menof the whole lager in the hospital.
  • David Boder: How come, four hundred people? That many were in the hospital?
  • George Kaldore: Four hundred people were in the hospital, out of ten thousand. The lager of prisoners at the Buna works counted ten thousand people. Among these ten thousand people there were four hundred who could not go ahead. I was then nearly all well. And we remained there without clothes, without anything, entirely naked.
  • David Boder: And the physicians?
  • George Kaldore: The physicians also departed. Only the sick were left. And among the sick there remained some sick physicians. And they took everything away. They took everything with them. Medicines, surgical supplies, everything, everything they took with them.
  • David Boder: Food?
  • George Kaldore: Food--we also got a ration, that was given to those who went. They told us to distribute it, because it was the last food they were giving us.
  • David Boder: Did they tell you then that they were leaving you to the Russians?
  • George Kaldore: No, they said that we should remain and the SS detail would be sure to come and will take care of us. They knew that taking care of us meant they would destroy us. The next morning early I stepped out barefoot. I covered myself with a blanket, and so I stepped out from the block to look for clothing. I found some discarded old pants and wooden shoes that had been thrown away.
  • David Boder: Who threw them away?
  • George Kaldore: The people who left. They couldn't take these things with them. Only one change of clothes. And I dressed and I had the nerve to go further outside. My life I knew wasn't worth anything. We shall be destroyed, or destroyed trying get away, and it so happened I dressed and stepped into the clothing storehouse.
  • David Boder: There were no SS?
  • George Kaldore: Yes, there remained ten SS in the whole lager. They didn't even come in to us. And then I went in to explore what was going on in the kitchen. We always looked whether one couldn't find there a turnip or something; and everything that the Jews from the hospital could find, those who could walk a little bit collected all the things in one place. They dressed, those who could dress, and they hid the things under the beds. I found quite a few things. I dressed up like a civilian, and under the civilian clothes I still had the striped clothing. I went into the shop and I found several pairs of pliers.
  • David Boder: Did anybody work in the shop?
  • George Kaldore: There was a shop of the SS where they repaired the automobiles of the SS.
  • David Boder: Well, was anybody working there?
  • George Kaldore: They worked...Oh, that time, nobody was working anymore but before...
  • David Boder: Before, not when you came in there.
  • George Kaldore: Yes. Nobody was working there at that time. We took the pliers and hid them away too. There was in my bed with me a Hungarian engineer. And we said, we will cut the wires because the wires were still loaded at high tension, and we will cut it and get out into the bunkers. We should not remain in the lager. The same night there arrived a great American, English demolition attack. We were in the hospital in wooden barracks, and bombs fell within a few hundred meters from us, and the whole barrack was shaking, shaking. Large bombs, small bombs, and afterwards the incendiary bombs. And the lager was hit. The last bombs fell on the lager. And the lager was hit by an incediary bomb, and the wooden barracks were burning, burning, and there was no electricity in the wires anymore. And the Jews all went outside. And there came the SS and said nobody should go out. If one goes out he will soon be dead, everybody should remain [inside]. And there came the fir engines from the plant and they extinguished the fire. And a miracle happened. The fire reached as far as the hospital, but the hospital did not burn down. The whole lager burned down, only the hospital did not. And then--
  • David Boder: Did the hospital have a red cross on the roof?
  • George Kaldore: No, no, no, no, no, no. A red cross--they did not have a red cross. The hospital did not have a red cross. And we, my comrade and I, had already taken our things into the bunker.
  • David Boder: What kind of bunker?
  • George Kaldore: The SS used this bunker before during the air raid alarms, and we took our things there, and we said we will go on. During that night there came in the SS and asked us whether we haven't any water that was left in the canteen. There was some soda water in the canteen, a kind of mineral water. And we gave it to the SS, two bottles of mineral water. And they departed, and after that we say no more of the SS. And we remained in the bunker.
  • David Boder: Why did you need water?
  • George Kaldore: The water system was no more. It was all bombed out. There was no more water, there was no more current, there was nothing left. Nothing to eat, nothing.
  • David Boder: And the SS behaved decently?
  • George Kaldore: No, the SS didn't say a word anymore. They only asked us if we had water, and they took the water and left instantly. They said nothing to us. And we see a stream of vehicles coming along the road.
  • David Boder: Where did the SS come to get water, into the hospital?
  • George Kaldore: They came into the hospital.
  • David Boder: Then they left?
  • George Kaldore: Then they left.
  • David Boder: And where were you?
  • George Kaldore: We were in the hospital. Our things were in the bunker and we see on the street in front of the lager there go crowds of SS men, soldiers are marching, automobiles, tanks at high speed, and there walk Polish people and Reichs-Germans and Volks-Germans with wagons, and they transport their clothes and move on. We see that something was in the offing. That liberty is coming for us, and we walked away from the bunker. We entered the first village. We went into [the house of] a Polish peasant, and we told the Polish peasant to let us come in. He could see that the Germans are running away and that the Russians are coming. He took us into his house and gave us a bit to eat. He himself did not have much. For two days we were hiding with this peasant, and at night the Russians arrive. When the Russians arrived we ourselves went back to the lager and in the lager people were rejoicing. But of the four hundred people there remained only about two hundred people. The others had died from starvation, had died from typhus which started to ravage there, and we had nothing on our bodies. We had already long beards, three--four weeks old, and there were these musselmen who had only bones and flesh--flesh, do I say? They had nothing on [their bodies], only bones and bones.
  • David Boder: Why do you call them musselmen?
  • George Kaldore: I think the musselmen are also so emaciated, like Ghandi, he also is so emaciated. These people were so [badly] emaciated. And they looked like just bone and bone. And the Russians photographed it all, and the Russians gave us food. They gave us bread. They slaughtered a whole cow and brought us the meat, and we cooked it.
  • David Boder: Where did they get the cow?
  • George Kaldore: From the Poles. They took it away from the Poles, the cow. And they gave us canned food and we ate it. I knew that one shouldn't eat much, because we had not eaten for a long time. Only turnips, only potatoes, and dirt that we found there. And we asked a Russian officer what we should do. So he said, 'Where are you from?' We said, 'We are Hungarians.' So he said, 'You should go to Krakow, and from Krakow the trains are already running and you can go home already.' That was the twenty-fifth of January in 1945. And soon we marched on. We took two other comrades and, with my comrade, the four of us marched on foot. Krakow was 60 kilometers away and I, with my foot that still had pus, we marched on, on foot. And all along the road we asked the Russians for some food, and they gave us a bit of bread--some would give us a bit of canned food, and we ate.
  • David Boder: You didn't go on a vehicle?
  • George Kaldore: No, we didn't travel on a vehicle. At night we would step into [the house of] a Polish family who lived there, and we asked them to let us lie down. We slept there, they gave us a bit of warm soup, and we marched on. Twenty kilometers from Krakow there stood the Russian outposts. They gathered us all together and transported us to Krakow. In frakow there were already a lot of people, liberated people assembled in a large place, what do they call it? An armory. The Russians fed us there. They give us food and they ask us the next day...we were there Jews, Christians, Frenchmen, all kinds of nationalities, and they asked us 'Who wants to be a Russian soldier?' Who wanted to become a soldier and enter the Russian Army? I saw things wouldn't be good there. It was already very dirty, there were already lice. And I and my comrades went to town and looked for the Red Cross. We found there the Red Cross. The International Red Cross. We went in. I knew French and my comrade also spoke French well, and we told a little lie. We told the Polish physician, since he is a physician and I am a physician, too, and now we have come from the lager, we are very weak. I didn't want to tell him that I was a Jew, because if I say that I am a Jew they wouldn't have accepted me. We said that we were Frenchmen and that we come from the lager.
  • David Boder: Why wouldn't they accept the Jews?
  • George Kaldore: There was already then Anti-Semitism there. And they accepted us and took us in and gave us a clean white bed, and we stayed there for two weeks, and after two weeks we worked; we took care of the sick. And we went into town to ask how we can get home.
  • David Boder: To Hungary?
  • George Kaldore: Hungary, yes. We heard that there were no trains. We couldn't travel as we expected. So that we remained in Krakow for a whole month in the hospital, and we had it very good. We got there some money and we got a bit [of money]. We got to eat very well, so that I gained 10 kilos. When I arrived I weighed 48 kilos, so that afterwards I weighed already 85 [?] kilos, already pretty good. And then--
  • David Boder: How did you get to Italy?
  • George Kaldore: We went--in Krakow I got documents from the Russian authorities and I went to Tarnow, Przemysl.
  • David Boder: How did you travel, by train?
  • George Kaldore: By train, yes. We went in railroad cars.
  • David Boder: Did you need tickets?
  • George Kaldore: No, they didn't ask for any tickets. They asked nothing. We would go along the road and beg for food and we traveled to Tarnow, Przemysl, and I wanted to get through there across the Russian border to Hungary, but they could not let us through there, and we went back to Tarnow, Rzeszow, Przemysl. We returned to Tarnow, and from Tarnow to Krosno [there follows a string of names of small Slavic towns] into Slovakia to Hungary to Miskolc. In Miskolc we were again disinfected. There I looked for a Jewish relief committee. A Hungarian policeman, I asked him, 'Does there live in Miskolc, a Jew?' 'Yes.' There I go the first help, and from there I went to Budapest. In Budapest I still saw the dead on the streets. At the time Budapest had been liberated from the Germans. The Russians were there. Conditions were very hard in Budapest. There was no food. And I didn't find any of my relatives. And I went to the American Joint [JDC] which had already started to work there and found work with them. I worked there as a secretary with the American Joint in Budapest. And from there, I was sent to Szombathely to my home town which was then free from the Germans. And in Szombathely I worked again from the Joint at the station for Austrian people, those who came from Austria to Hungary, the deported people. There we would give them the first assistance, and I, who had been through all these experiences, did it with all my heart and without pay, and I did it readily.
  • David Boder: What do you mean 'without pay'? Didn't the Joint pay?
  • George Kaldore: We did not get pay from the Joint. We only got there our food and quarters from the Joint. and clothing from the Joint. and we did it without money. I did not find anybody of my relatives. Nobody remained from the big, large family that we had. I remained with one cousin who lives in New Zealand. I have nobody. There in Szombathely in my home town I got married. And I told the Joint I want to go on, I want to go to Palestine. And from Hungary I came to Italy.
  • David Boder: Why to Italy?
  • George Kaldore: Because from Italy we knew the Alya goes to Palestine.
  • David Boder: Alya?
  • George Kaldore: Alya. Alya means to depart, to travel forward. It is a work in Hebrew, a Jewish word.
  • David Boder: How did you make connections with the Kibbutz?
  • George Kaldore: Already for a long time in Hungary before the war, as a child I already belonged to an organization, to an organization of the Hnoa [??], of the Zionists. A juvenile organization, I was already in the juvenile organization Hanoa [??]. Finally I arrived here, I was accepted. I joined Kibbutz.
  • David Boder: Where?
  • George Kaldore: First I was in Merano [??]. From Merano to Rome, from Rome I was sent to Bari. In Bari in a transit camp, I was registered by the UNRRA, and from there they sent me to Santa Maria Campania. There was a UNRRA camp; there I lived in a Kibbutz until July. In July I was taken to Rome. In Rome again I was in Hachshara, and from Rome I was brought here to this place.
  • David Boder: Tell me, did you enter Italy legally with a visa, with a passport?
  • George Kaldore: No, I came illegally into Italy.
  • David Boder: How did you get across the border?
  • George Kaldore: We.....I don't know--I can't talk about it.
  • David Boder: Well, don't, but from Hungary, is there a border directly with Italy?
  • George Kaldore: No, there is not border. We went from Hungary to Yugoslavia, and through Austria I went through Yugoslavia to Italy.
  • David Boder: But once you are in Italy, you are not being sent out.
  • George Kaldore: No, from Italy one is not being sent out. The UNRRA registers one. Now already, not the UNRRA or the Joint, but the Kibbutz take the people through UNRRA registration, and in this way the people become legalized.
  • David Boder: They are being legalized.
  • George Kaldore: They are being legalized.
  • David Boder: How many people are there in the Kibbutz?
  • George Kaldore: Now there are seventy people in the Kibbutz.
  • David Boder: Yes. And your wife is with you in the same Kibbutz?
  • George Kaldore: Yes, in the same Kibbutz.
  • David Boder: Have you a room for your wife and yourself?
  • George Kaldore: No, we are...thirty-six people in one room, men and women together. All of us married so that we live in one bed, two together the wife with her husband.
  • David Boder: And there are other husbands and wives in the same room.
  • George Kaldore: In the same room. Ten cm. away is the nest bed.
  • David Boder: How can people live that way?
  • George Kaldore: It is very hard to live. But we readily live that way because we know that possibly the time is not so far away when we will have a free life; we shall be in our country, where we are striving to go. In Palestine, we will be again human beings, we will be able to work; and we won't eat anymore the bread of UNRRA and of the Joint.
  • David Boder: Does the UNRRA know that you live that way?
  • George Kaldore: The UNRRA doesn't know. If UNRRA comes we show them the other side of life. And if UNRRA knows, they pretend not to know about it, about such a life. If UNRRA wants to do something, they can also register the other people.
  • David Boder: What do you mean,'the other people'?
  • George Kaldore: The ones that are not registered, who come illegally now.
  • David Boder: But to live that way--the way you life--families...does UNRRA know that?
  • George Kaldore: Yes, yes, yes. That UNRRA knows. There came from UNRRA the control, a medical inspector from the Joint, from UNRRA, and they have seen it. They measured out the room in cubic meters, and they said that it is possible for so many people to live in one room.
  • David Boder: But men and women? Are there children in the same room?
  • George Kaldore: Yes, they are together in the room.
  • David Boder: Well, did nobody request that you get better living conditions?
  • George Kaldore: There are no better living conditions. We know it, and we don't want now any better living conditions. We want better conditions in EREZ, in our country. We don't want to be here for long. So far ahead, and we hope we will get there.
  • David Boder: Did some people go already?
  • George Kaldore: Yes, they went. Many, many of my comrades have gone. My brother-in-law who was together with me, my best comrades have gone.
  • David Boder: Did they get certificates? To get into Palestine.
  • George Kaldore: They did not get certificates. They went illegally.
  • David Boder: And now since the English are taking them to Cyprus, to concentration camps?
  • George Kaldore: Still we will go. Still we will go. Legally or illegally. We shall go illegally but we shall go. And when we are taken to Cyprus we shall still go, because we know that when we are taken to Cyprus, we will be taken to EREZ. It won't take a long time in Cyprus.
  • David Boder: How does one get the ships to go?
  • George Kaldore: We know nothing about it. That I don't want to talk about.
  • David Boder: Oh, yes, yes. I don't want to ask you either. And wher do new people come from?
  • George Kaldore: New people come from Poland. In Poland there is anti-Semitism. They go to Austria. They live there for some time. How it is written in the newspapers, the Jewish papers, that they come from Poland. Czechoslovakia has issued an ultimatum to America to permit the Jews to enter the American Zone, to admit the Jews to Austria, and from Austria they could come here.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 99 taken at Tradate between Milan and Como on August 31st, 1946. This concludes Kaldore, George Kaldore. Illinois Institute of Technology Wire Recording.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Dagmar Platt
  • English Translation : David P. Boder