Furst Brothers    BRATIA FÜRST


Childhood in war

Escape to Piešťany

We left for Piešťany, filled with hope that we will find there a haven of rest and rescue. However, as we arrived in town, we found out that the situation was grim. The whole town was taken over by the Germans. In fact, we returned into the lion’s mouth. We left liberated land and entered and occupied city. Right upon capturing Piešťany, the Germans began hunting the Jews. They annulled all yellow certificates and other documents of protection. A clear-cut order was given: all Jews of Slovakia should be sent to death camps.

We feared both the Germans and the Slovak Hlinka Guard men. Already on our first night in Piešťany, we had to go into hiding, but found no place to hide. We arrived at Šererova Street where grandma lived. Her neighbors across the street offered their attic as a temporary refuge for us. We stayed there for two nights, in unbearable conditions. The entire space was tiny, and had a very low ceiling. We could hardly squat, not to mention stand. Dad could not sleep because he was snoring, mom did not sleep because she kept him awake, and we all were afraid that he might be heard. That was a horrible experience! Our parents decided that we should separate into two groups, because it was impossible to find a hiding place for a family of four. So we parted.

Shmuel: Mom and I were sent across the river, to look for a safe place in a home of gentiles. We walked back and forth for more than a day, but found nothing. We did not have enough money to pay the amounts they demanded. Empty-handed we returned to Piešťany. Although we knew the risk of being together, we all met at grandma’s home. Our only concern was survival. After two days, mom and I went to an acquaintance of hers, Mrs. Quitner.

Later, mom and Mrs. Quitner stayed together in a concentration camp in Germany. They were side by side on the day of liberation, and remained good friends thereafter. By now, Mrs. Quitner lives in Nove Mesto. She is ninety years old, and we call her every once in a while. Her daughter, Eva, lives near Prague.

Mom and I were captured by the Hlinka Guard in Mrs. Quitner’s apartment. They immediately handed us over to the Gestapo.

All captured Jews were taken for investigation. The investigators tried to obtain information from local residents on the whereabouts of Jews and their property. Our inquiry did not last long, as we told the inquirers that we came from the Sered camp, and have no relatives in town.

On that spot, I saw for the first time men and women being tortured. They came out of the place bleeding and spitting their teeth. Investigations took place at nights, and could only be described as inhumane maltreatment.

Two days later we were told that they would transfer us to Sered. We were glad. Compared to all we went through during the last days, Sered seemed to us a paradise. At that time, we did not know that Sered was no longer up to our expectations.

Naftali: I was about to meet dad at the Termia hotel in Piešťany. Before I came there, I heard that mom and Shmuel have been arrested. I had to share the bad news with dad. When I did, dad cried in despair “Shma Israel! Shma Israel!”

Dad and I returned to grandma’s home. We learned that before his arrest, Shmuel took his best shoes to a shoemaker for repair. We knew he did not have any other footwear. Somehow we found out in what prison mom and Shmuel were being held. We picked up his shoes and tried to pass them to Shmuel inside the prison. It was impossible to meet any of the detainees. Mom and Shmuel were inside, while dad and I were outside, helpless. The contact between them and us was cut-off, and we did not know what was in store for us.

Two days later, dad sent me to the town. As I walked on Šererová Street, a pick-up truck loaded with Hlinka Guard men came in my direction. Instinctively, I hid behind the gate of a nearby building, and watched their move. The truck stopped in front of grandma’s house. I did not know what to do. Should I have returned? Or maybe hide or run away? I knew that dad and grandma were home. As I was weighing my next step, a local gentile who stood on the street pointed at me, and turning to the Hlinka Guard yelled: “There he is! He is trying to hide!” They grabbed me and put me on the truck. I heard gunshots, but did not comprehend what was happening. Later on, I found out the following: as dad knew that I was not home, he jumped over a high fence and began running towards the railway station, which was five or six hundred meters in front of him. The Hlinka Guard men sniped at him. They missed.

Grandma stayed in her home and hid in a box full of flour. The hunters found her in no time, and took her – all white from the flour – to the street and up on the truck, next to me. They drove us first to the police station in town, and later to the prison. I thought we might meet mom and Shmuel, but they were no longer there. Grandma went through the dreadful experience Shmuel described. For me, those days were most traumatic. All of a sudden, I was alone, without dad and mom and Shmuel. That was horrible!

We too were taken to Sered. As one would expect, we went directly to the barrack we lived in before. There we met mom and Shmuel.