My father's name: David (Dezső) Guttman, who was born in 09/10/1921, in a small village called: Tornal'a, in Czechoslovakia, near the Hungarian border.

His family was an Orthodox Jewish family and he was the youngest son, his parents had eight children, which one of them died a few months after his birth. As a young boy he actually rebelled against the Jewish religious practices.

Starting November 11, 1938 their life became much more difficult, because of the Annexation of Czechoslovakia to Germany and after the outbreak of the Second World War (September 1939), they became very poor, since they were not allowed to remain working at their jobs. Starting 1941 they were forced to wear the   “Yellow star" and during this year he was drafted to the "Hungarian labor battalions".

The last time he saw his family was in February 1944, while he was on vacation. After the German invasion of Hungary, the authorities started to transport the Jews to Auschwitz and the Tornal'a Jewish community was almost eliminated and reduced from about 1,000 up to 100 persons.

Shortly thereafter the "Arrow Cross" party took over the power in Hungary at the end of 1944, the Jewish situation became very bad and the Anti – Semitic actions were beginning.

One-night early in December, he was taken to "Jozsefvaros" railway station in Budapest and loaded in a very overcrowded freight train.  After about two weeks of travelling under inhumane conditions, the train stopped in "Bergen Belsen Station" and they were forced to walk in very cold weather and deep snow about 8 kilometers up to the Camp.

The living conditions in "Bergen Belsen" were terrible. The German soldiers took all their clothes, shoes and all their possessions and gave them a prisoner's poor uniform and a kind of wooden clogs.  The food quantities were minimal, the toilets (called "Latrine") were actually a kind of a big deep hole, which sometimes people fell down in and couldn't get out. A lot of people died, because of the terrible conditions, starvation and disease.  At that time, my father was still strong enough and volunteered to remove the dead bodies of people, who died during the night.

I quote my father’s story:

 "I remember waking up with nightmares many times at night, lots of people were suffering, crying, praying, some of them couldn't control their needs and the scenes were terrible.  Every morning, in the terrible frost and winter cold weather we were forced to stand for hours with our thin clothes and wooden clogs, which caused us much more suffering.

With the progress of the war, planes were heard and some of them dropped leaflets, which the guards kept.

Early April we felt that things had changed. Part of the German soldiers ran away and a mess was created in the camp. One day a 100 cattle cars train arrived and we were loaded on it. Before I got on the train I ate some cattle food, which was thrown beside the train and the next day I became sick with a Typhus disease. Because of the Typhus disease, I was very weak and confused, but luckily one of the prisoners, who was a Doctor, injected me with some sugar and this helped me to survive.

The next few days the train was coming and going, sometimes stopped and we didn't know where we were or where we were going to. One morning we noticed that the guards disappeared. Since I was very weak and I didn't know what was happening, I stayed on the train with a great fear. Although I almost lost my consciousness, I remember that a small group of German soldiers moved among the cars and killed everyone who came towards them. Suddenly despite my very poor health, I saw some American soldiers. One of them tried to feed me a small piece of chocolate, but I was so weak that I was not able to eat.

After the train liberation I weighed about 28 kg and I had been hospitalized in a temporary improvised hospital, where all the Typhus patients were staying and a few days later, I had been transferred to a better post, a German building that was converted into a hospital at Hillersleben, where I ate my first soup since the liberation.

After some weeks, I had recovered and I was transferred to a small village near Magdeburg, while the Red Cross representatives were trying to locate families of the survivors. By mid-June, some of my friends and me were taken by trucks back to Tornal'a (the place we used to live). Unfortunately, at that time the area was controlled by the Russian army and they didn't allow us to go to our homes. By indirect ways we finally succeeded to arrive at our homes and realized that all our homes were taken by local residents and we were forced to find other temporary buildings to stay in. After some conversations with the local survivors, I realized that all my family members were transported to Auschwitz concentration camp and were eliminated".  

In 1946, my father made “Aliya” to Israel. Like all other immigrants, he also participated in the Israel independence war. During his military service he met my mother, (a Budapest Ghetto survivor) and thereafter they got married and established an Israeli big happy family. With every new child born in our family, my father used to say that, “each new born child is a part of my personal revenge on the Nazis, who eliminated my family during the Second World War”.

My father died in 2009. His life story is like mirror image of the revival of the Jewish Israel State, from the Holocaust to our survival.

By Haim Guttman


For the more detailed story with images and all, see:

For the Hebrew version of David Guttman’s story see: