Furst Brothers    BRATIA FÜRST


Childhood in war

Nové Mesto

At that time, a new, beleaguering reality had begun. Although we did have some savings, we already had to tighten our belts.

A new order was published: Jews were not allowed to reside in major cities. We were forced to leave Bratislava.

We tried to gain some time, but in vain. We moved to Nové Mesto, into aunt Lidia’s home. By then, she already was a widow. In her small home, we did our best to begin life in new conditions. Shmuel studied at a Yeshiva for five months, and I attended another Jewish school. I recall my teacher, Mr. Frieder, who used to hit me with his ruler. Why? Because in music lessons I sang out of key… Mr. Frieder lives now in Netaniya, and he is a professional authority in the field of education.

At the time of our stay in Nové Mesto, the Slovaks introduced new measures of persecution: Jews had to hand over their suits and furs. Like in the case of the radio, dad threw away the family’s garments before anyone would confiscate them. He was very firm in such matters.

By March 1942, the first transports of Jews left for Poland. At the beginning, it was commonly believed that they were being taken for labor, mainly because young women were the first ones to be deported. The Slovak “Hlinková Garda” (Hlinka Guard) carried out the transports: they hunted the Jews, assembled them, loaded them onto wagons, and shipped them to the east. In fact, members of the Hlinka Guard took upon themselves all other oppressive measures against the country’s Jews. The Slovaks paid Germany 500 German Marks for every Jew deported to death camps, on condition that he or she would never come back. The gentiles who obtained stores formerly owned by Jews – without having to pay for them – were compelled to be members of the Hlinka party.

In the course of the following months, deportation of Jews went on rapidly. Whenever the search after Jews, named Razia, came about, we moved from one place to another, just to escape the danger of being caught.

At that time, uncle Laci, his wife Stela and daughter Marika were detained in Bratislava. The rest of the family spared no efforts to release them, but to no avail. In 1942, they were deported to a death camp in Poland.

Prior to that tragic event, uncle Laci, who already sensed the gloomy days to come, was afraid that he would not be able to celebrate my Bar Mitzvah. He explicitly told me that, and gave me in advance a golden Schaffhausen watch as a Bar Mitzvah gift. Miraculously, that watch survived all turbulences, and after many years I presented it to my grandson Tom on his Bar Mitzvah, as a symbol of love and continuity.