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July 18, 2012

97-year-old chief of Nazi camp has been arrested in Hungary

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:52 am

You can read the full story of the arrest of Laszlo Csatary here.

According to today’s news:

The case of Laszlo Csatary was brought to the attention of Hungarian authorities last year by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish organization active in hunting down Nazis who have yet to be brought to justice. […]

Prosecutors decided to charge Csatary with the “unlawful torture of human beings,” a war crime that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

This quote is from today’s news:

According to a summary of the case released by prosecutors, Csatary was picked in 1944 as chief of an internment camp at a brick factory, in what was then Hungary, from where 12,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps. Authorities say Csatary was present when the trains were loaded and sent on their way.

An internment camp at a brick factory?  That might be the ghetto in a brick factory in the city of Miskolc, Hungary.

There were 725,000 Jews living in Hungary in 1944, including many who were previously residents of Romania, according to Laurence Rees, who wrote Auschwitz, a New History. After Germany took over Hungary in March 1944, the Jews in the villages and small towns were immediately rounded up and concentrated in ghettos.

If Laszlo Csatary lives long enough to be put on trial, there will be numerous Holocaust survivors, who can testify against him. Most of the Holocaust survivors still alive today are Hungarian Jews, and many of them were first sent to the ghetto which was located in a brick factory in the city of Miskolc, Hungary. There were 14,000 Jews imprisoned in the Miskolc ghetto while they waited to be transported to Auschwitz-Birkeanu.

Magda Brown, who was born in Miskolc on June 11, 1927, said in a speech at a Synagogue in Morgan Hill, CA that her family was marched though the city to the Miskolc ghetto on her 17th birthday in 1944. From there, Magda was transported on a train to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she was immediately separated from her family.

After two months at Auschwitz-Birkeanu, Magda was sent, along with 1,000 Hungarian women, to work in a munitions factory at Allendorf, a sub-camp of Buchenwald. In March 1945, the prisoners at Allendorf were evacuated and marched to the Buchenwald main camp; Magda escaped from the march and hid on a farm until she was rescued by American soldiers.

One of the most famous survivors of the Holocaust is Irene Zisblatt. After Germany invaded Hungary on March 19, 1944, Irene and her family were put into the Miskolc ghetto, which Irene said “consisted of a couple of streets around a brick factory.”

Irene Zisblatt wrote a book, published in 2008, entitled The Fifth Diamond about her time in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. The title refers to a necklace with four diamonds, set into a pendant, which Irene wears around her neck when she speaks to American school children who are studying the Holocaust. As a survivor, Irene is the Fifth Diamond.

In 1994, after Steven Spielberg’s movie Schindler’s List came out, Irene decided to tell her story.  She was chosen as one of five Hungarian survivors to be featured in Spielberg’s Academy Award winning documentary entitled The Last Days, which was released in 1998. A book entitled The Last Days was published in 1999.

In The Last Days, Irene said that she “was about 9 years old” when she was expelled from school in 1939. A curfew was established and “Jewish people were forbidden to leave their houses after six in the evening or before eight in the morning.” Irene’s father lost his business when it was given to a Gentile.

Irene tells students that she was 13 years old when she was put on a train from the Miskolc ghetto to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp during the deportation of the Hungarian Jews in May 1944. She was immediately separated from her family and she was the only one of her 40 family members to survive the gas chambers.

According to Irene’s story in the book entitled The Last Days, Irene’s father was born in 1908, so he was 36 years old in 1944, young enough to be selected for work at Birkenau. In the selections upon arrival at Birkenau, everyone older than 45 or younger than 15 was sent immediately to the gas chamber. Irene says that her entire family was gassed in Gas Chamber #2 on the day that they arrived, including her parents who were of working age.

Irene says that the Jews in the Miskolc ghetto were tricked into getting on the train to Birkenau. “The train came in the night and it was announced that everybody who wanted to go to Tokaj to work in the vineyards should get on the train.”

This quote is from the news article about the arrest of Laslo Csatary:

Csatary “regularly” used a dog whip against the Jewish detainees “without any special reasons and irrespective of the assaulted people’s sex, age or health condition,” the prosecutors’ statement says.

As one train departed with some 80 Jews crammed into one railcar, Csatary refused a request by one of the Jews to cut holes in the walls of the wagon to let more air in, the statement says, according to the AP.

In the book The Last Days, Irene Zisblatt tells how her mother gave her advice, before the train left the ghetto: advice that saved her from being immediately selected for the gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The following quote is from the book entitled The Last Days:

And she [Irene’s mother] told me to say I was twenty years old – I was only thirteen – because then I would be sent to work in a factory where I would get food and I would survive.

Irene’s mother’s advice is an indication that the Jews in the Miskolc ghetto knew that they would be transferred from Auschwitz-Birkenau to factories in Germany if they were of working age.  In fact, that is what happened, and that is why there are still so many Hungarian Holocaust survivors alive today.

Irene Zisblatt could be a witness on behalf of Laslo if he is put on trial.  She could testify that the Jews in the Miskolc ghetto knew that being sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau was not a death sentence because Auschwitz was also a transit camp, from which Jews of working age were sent to work in factories.