In What Way Does My Grandmother's Life 
Story Correlate  with the One of Elie Wiesel's?


Elie Wiesel


My grandmother Sara Batscha née Mondula

Hand By: Jasmine Batscha

Handed To: Hagar Sheehan

12th Grade – 5 points

28th of September, 2004.

After I read Elie Wiesel's amazing story- "Night", I have realized that in fact my Grandmother's testimony is very similar to what he is been through during the Holocaust. For this reason I chose to do my work paper about the question above.

 Jasmine Batscha

 

Sighet

Sighet was a town in Transylvania, now a part of Romania. In the 1930’s was a town of approximately 25,000 people, in which 10,000 belonged to the Jewish community. On September 1940 during the 2nd world war it was annexed to Hungary.

The Jewish community in Sighet, which was a center for Chasidic and Orthodox Jews, was very organized.

When the Nazis entered Sighet, they built there a ghetto for the Jews from Sighet and the areas near by. The Sighet ghetto was liquidated through the deportation of the Jews to Auschwitz. In four transports, during one week, in May 1944.

 

 Elie Wiesel

 

Elie Wiesel was born in September 30th, 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania.

Growing up in a small village in Romania, his world revolved around family, religious study, community and God. Yet his family, community and his innocent faith were destroyed upon the deportation of his village in 1944.

He was fifteen years old when he and his family were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz. His mother and younger sister perished, his two older sisters survived. Elie and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died shortly before the camp was liberated in April 1945.

        

My Grandmother's story

HISTORY

Cluj - Capital of Northern Transylvania

Cluj capital of Transylvania, Hungaria in 1940 - 1944. In 1941, Cluj had a population of 110,956, of whom 16,763 were Jewish. The Jewish community was one of the largest in the province, with a well - developed network of educational, cultural, and charitable institutions. It boasted many politically active Zionist leaders.

The Ghetto

The ghettoization of the Cluj Jews began on May 3rd , 1944, and was completed within a week. The Jews were concentrated in the Iris brickyard in the northern part of the city. The ghetto had practically no facilities for the approximately eighteen thousand Jews who were assembled there from Cluj county. The concentration of the Jews was carried out by the local administrative and police authorities with the cooperation of SS advisers. The ghetto was under the command of Laszlo Urban, the city's police chief. Its internal administration was entrusted to a Judenrat (Jewish Council), whose members included Fischer (as head), Rabbi Akiba Glasner, Rabbi Mozes Weinberger, and Erno Marton. As in all the other ghettos in Hungary, the local brickyard also had a "mint," a special building where the gendarmes and police tortured Jews into confessing where they had hidden their valuables.

Deportations

The Cluj ghetto was liquidated through the deportation of the Jews to Auschwitz in six transports between May 25 and June 9th , 1944. After the war, the city reverted to Romania. In 1947, it had a Jewish population of close to sixty - five hundred, including not only survivors but also some who moved there from other parts of Romania       

 

 Testimony of Saraleh Batscha (Mondula), Cluj - Napoca

"I was born in 1917. My father was a teacher, and my mother was a housewife. We lived in Cluj, the capital city of Transylvania, and this is how it started. One day, in the beginning of May 1944, I was on my way home when I saw a gathering of people on a bridge, underneath a running stream. Near our house were two homes that belonged to very rich Jews. This time a truck was parked beside them. The Germans forced the Jews, while still in their bathrobes and slippers, out of their houses and onto the street.

After the evacuation, the Germans decided that these two houses would be the Gestapo headquarters.

We did not do anything, and we did not run away. We thought that it would be just that one incident. The Jews in Cluj, at that time, did not even think about the possibility that it could also happen to them. But reality was different. That night at 11:00 o'clock, the Germans barged in screaming: "Open up! Open up! Get out!" Our apartment was in the backyard of the large synagogue. The Germans gave my father and my brother axes and commanded them to go into the synagogue and slash the tables and the benches.

The next day in the afternoon the men of the "Sonderkommando" came, and ordered us to clear out of the apartment. Father went to the city and brought a horse and carriage. We loaded up our things and the whole family moved to my cousin Edit's apartment, which lived on another street. We had to wear yellow patch. We lived at Edit's place for a few weeks. One morning, at about 5:00, o'clock, they ordered us out of the house and moved us to a brick factory. We were only allowed to take one small package of items each for personal use.

All the Jews of Cluj, about 10,000. Hungarian soldiers helped the Germans guard us. When we arrived, they immediately took everyone's watches and jewelry. We lied on the ground, forming lines in every corner.

It happened at the end of May 1944. We were in that factory for a full month. We did not do anything. We were just lying on the floor. People were quiet.

In the beginning of June, during Shavuot holiday. They took us to the train station and crammed us into freight cars that were built to ship cargo. We were together, our whole family. They told us that we were going to some village, and we would work there. We understood what the Germans told us because we spoke Yiddish.

We were crammed into the cars for three days. We did not get anything. In our car there was a family with a baby, 9 months old. The mother mixed some kind of liquid in a cup. I held the cup, and the father held a candle underneath it. This was how she prepared porridge for her baby. The baby stayed alive until Auschwitz.

They let us out of the cars. On the platform stood a German officer, who, I found out later, was Dr. Josef Mengele. He divided anyone who arrived into two groups, one on the left and one on the right. My mother, my father, and Edit's mother were moved to the left. Edit, my cousin, Edit's sister, and I were moved to the right. Also, my brother Lolo went to the right. Then, we did not know that left meant death, and right meant delaying it.

The mother was a young woman, about 30 years old. She held the baby in her arms. The Jews from Poland, who were seniors at the camp compared to us, knew that mothers with babies would be sent to the gas chambers immediately. When they saw the young woman with the baby, they shouted at her to give her baby to an older woman. The mother, without understanding what these Jews meant in their screams, gave her baby to an older woman in confusion. The older woman was also from Cluj. I knew her. She, with the baby, went to the gas chambers. The young mother lived for a short while afterwards. In those hours, no one understood anything about what was going on around us, or with us. Horrible, horrible!

The next day, the mother burst out in shrieks: "Where is my baby?! Where is my baby?!"

Now that I too have children, I can understand her pain. In our transport, there were many babies. After the sorting, they took us to Auschwitz. The gas chambers were in Birkenau near Auschwitz. The blocks were in our camp. When we got there, we had to strip off our clothes and other prisoners shaved the hair off on every part of our bodies. Instead of proper clothes, they gave us rags and wooden clogs. In our section, they had already stopped tattooing numbers on our arms. In those days tens of thousands victims arrived in Auschwitz and the Germans were very stressed because of the situation at the fronts.

They engaged us by making us move stones from place to place, useless work. In our block there were no bunks to sleep on. We had to lie on the bare floors. In Edit's and Yehudit's block, there were bunks. After one of the selections, when people were taken away, some spots became vacant there. Edit sent Yehudit to me and transferred me to their block. There was a spot for me at the bunk. By then, the Germans' order and discipline did not function as before, so this risky transfer could be done.  Prisoners of the block I was in before I was transferred were all killed.  I was saved from death by slave labor. 

They held us in role calls for many long hours. My gown was infested with lice. One day, when the hunger was eating at me and I thought my end was near, I gave my gown to my neighbor and in return he gave me a slice of bread. In October 1944, they took us to a factory that belonged to an electrical firm, "Telefunken", to work there. There, they manufactured tools for the army. The factory was near the Czech border. My knowledge of the German language helped me a lot. I worked in the office, writing serial numbers for the products. For a while, Edit and I worked in different sections. For reasons I cannot explain, they did not take us on the "Death March" to Germany on the night before the liberation.

One morning in January 1945, we heard shouts. The young men who worked   with us in the factory already knew that the Germans were retreating and the  Russians were advancing. They cried: "We have been freed! We have been freed!" The German guards fled. The next day we ran away, and ended up past the border in a Czech village called Pisarova. The Czech villagers welcomed us nicely. We were in the village for a few weeks, and then I returned by train to Hungary.

On the way to Budapest, I saw, in a few places, spray painted on walls, insulting graffiti written in Hungarian. "Itzik, now we won't wait for Auschwitz, we shall finish you now." Itzik" (Itzhak) was a common Jewish name, and the people who wrote this meant this as a generalization, for all the Jews. They were not referring to your grandfather, whose name was Itzik too. The Hungarians were not sympathetic at all.

At the train station in Budapest I saw a large notice on one of the walls. It said, "Anyone who was a member of the Hashomer Hatzair [the Zionist Socialist Youth movement] should come to the following address" (which was written in the notice).  I went to that address. There, a member of the organization, Yosef (Yoshko) Meir, today a member of Kibbutz Gaaton, welcomed me. Yoshko was part of the Jewish underground in Hungary. I went to the Hachshara center (preparatory center to Kibbutz and pioneering life in Eretz Israel) in Budapest and we got ready for migration to Eretz Israel.

I decided to go to Cluj, to see if someone from my family survived. I went home. The house was still standing. The furniture, the clothes, the dishes, and the kitchen - everything was robbed. An empty house. No one lived in our house. I did not find anyone from my family, acquaintances or friends.

I returned to the training center in Budapest and with the group I moved to Israel in 1946."

My Grandmother Sara came through "Hashomer Hatzair" to Kibbutz Evron in the Western Galile where she got married, built a family and lived her whole life till she passed away on December 5th, 1991.

Sitting to the right: father Itzhak Mondula, mother Pesel Tojwe (Josephine) murdered in  the gas chamber of Auschwitz, Yosef (Lulu) survived Auschwitz and other Concentration Camps.

Standing to the left: Carmela Tivon  Mondula z"l, Mordechai Mondula z"l and Sareleh Batscha  Mondula z"l survived Auschwitz.

Comparison

Now, after reading both stories I will answer my research question:

In what way does my Grandmother's life story correlate with the one of Elie Wiesel's?

Similarities:

·        Both of them lived in Transylvania, Hungaria.

·        They both come from a religious family.

·        Both of them state that the people around them did not believe what is going to come.

·        Both of them had the same fate, to be taken to Auschwitz.

·        Like Elie Wiesel my grandmother Sara tells about her strong experience in the train on the way to Auschwitz.

·        When they arrived to Auschwitz, both of them mention Dr. Mengele who made the first selection, divided them to left and right – death or life.

·           Both of them talk about the terrible separation from their families.

·        Both of them talk about the terrible conditions in the concentration camp, the terrible selections, the hard labor, the humiliation and the inhuman behavior towards them.

 Differences:

·        Unlike my grandmother who didn't have the chance to stay with her parents, who found their death in the gas chamber, Elie and his father were always together during the period they lived in the concentration camp. Meaningful relationships were created between them, there.

·        Unlike Elie Wiesel who got number: A-7713, my grandmother tells in her testimony that the Nazis stopped tattooing numbers on their arms: " In those days tens of thousands victims arrived to Auschwitz and the Germans were very stressed because of the situation at the fronts."

Both Elie and Sara have survived the horrors of the holocaust. However, their lives after the war took very different paths.  

After the war, Elie Wiesel studied in Paris and later became a journalist. 

Elie Wiesel -- age 15

He was acquainted with Nobel laureate Francois Mauriac, who eventually influenced Wiesel to break his vowed silence and write of his experience in the concentration camps, thus beginning a lifetime of service.

Wiesel has since published over thirty books, earned the Nobel Peace Prize, and had been appointed to chair the President's Commission on the Holocaust. The most powerful and renowned passage in Holocaust literature is his first book, "Night", records the inclusive experience of the Jews:

"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself, Never."

And Wiesel has since dedicated his life to ensuring that none of us forget what happened to the Jews. 

"Let us remember, let us remember the heroes of Warsaw, the martyrs of Treblinka, the children of Auschwitz. They fought alone, they suffered alone, they lived alone, but they did not die alone, for something in all of us died with them."

Unlike Elie Wiesel it took 40 years for my grandmother to open her heart and tell the whole story to her daughter- my mother Nitza as a last will.

Last Words by Nitza to the Testimony of Sarah Batscha

"The story has ended, but the issue has not... I, her daughter, feel like a demon has forced me to concentrate on my mother's testimony. She spoke with such flow that it was like the demon in her body grabbed her, and when she let everything out, she could never tell the whole story again.

I think to myself, we should have heard this story a long time ago. Maybe if Mother would have told us years ago she would have released the burden on her heart. Maybe we would have made it easier for her if she knew that we are part of her life story, to her fate and to her family's fate. Maybe our family and friends of the Kibbutz would have found more patience, more feeling, and more willing to give her the help and the support she needed.

40 years needed to pass so that our parents, the survivors, would open their closed hearts to tell us about their overpowering and strangling distress.

40 years needed to pass so that we, the second generation, would open our closed hearts in order to hear each other, and maybe, if even possible, to try and deal together with this atrocious horror that could not be grasped, and with this horrible pain that we left our mother's womb with. The pain that we breastfed on, and the pain that we will carry for years until the end of life…"

 My Reflection on the project

 I did not know anything about my grandmother's life story because I was a little girl when she died.

It only happened through reading "Night", while I was working with my mother on it that it occurred to me that Elie's story is very much like my grandmother's life story.

Sometimes during writing the project I felt as if it over floating me, and sometimes I felt that I can not handle it anymore.

Now after I have finished writing the whole project I can say that I feel very proud.

Very soon I will be going with my class to Poland to see Auschwitz, and I feel that a whole part in me is now being completed – I'm closing an important circle in my life. 

Last but not least I feel committed today more then ever to go on and bestow my grandparents stories to my children, and for generations to come.

 


Jasmine Batscha, Age 17, Kibbutz Evron, Israel

Testimony of Saraleh Batscha (Mondula), Cluj - Napoca Transylvania
Testimony of Saraleh Batscha ne'e Mondula z"l, a member in Kibbutz Evron.
She was from Cluj, Napoca, Transylvania, and she tells about her life in Auschwitz. Published in a book "You Tell it to Your Sons", editor Meir Orkin, Kibbutz Evron and "Moreshet", Tel Aviv 1990.

Last updated April 17th, 2005

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