The Pendant

My mother gave me a gold pendant
when I was about four.
It is the only thing I have
from when I was a child
and against all the odds it survived
with me through camp,
slave labour and a death march.
I wear it every day.

After Germany invaded Hungary in 1944,
Jewish people had to wear the yellow star.
Then you couldn’t go out after 6pm.
Every day came another restriction.

When they said we had to give up our jewellery,
my brother put my gold pendant
in the heel of my mother’s shoe.

A few weeks later they put us in a ghetto,
in the poorest part of the country.
One day in July we had to go to the station.

Cattle trucks were waiting for us.
They put 70 or 80 people in one truck.
They put in two buckets, one for water,
one for human waste. The door closed
and our journey began.

I don’t think that anybody could imagine
what it was like. You had no place
to move, you had babies who had no milk,
you had no food, the smell, the heat…
It is indescribable.
A few people, maybe the lucky ones, died.

Every so often they opened the door
to take out the dead
and they gave us a pot of water.

A day before we arrived my mother said
maybe we should change shoes.
I don’t know why, but we did.

After five days they opened the doors
and said, Quick, quick you have to go down.
We had to go and stand in fives.
This German man was there with his shining boots
and with one movement of his hand,
he said to go right or left.

Old people, children, babies
were sent to the left
and young people to the right.
The people sent to the left were taken
straight to the crematorium.
That was the last time I saw my mother,
younger sister and younger brother.

My other two sisters and I were taken
to a big place. They cut our hair.
They said, Undress, leave everything outside,
put it nicely together. When you get out
from the shower you will find everything there.

When we came out from the shower
all they had left us was our shoes.

We saw fire coming out from a chimney
and there was this terrible smell
and we asked the people who were there already,
What is that? Is it a factory? and they told us,
that is not a factory
that is where they burn your parents
and the children they came with.

We did not believe it.
But very quickly we saw it was true.

It was an upside-down world
where good was bad, bad was good,
where you had no food,
where they didn’t treat you as humans.

A few people who could take no more
went and touched the electric fence.

With time, my shoe heels got worn out.
So every day I put the pendant
in the piece of bread we got
and like that the jewellery survived.
I think it was the only gold
that went into Auschwitz
and came out with its original owner.

If somebody there had wanted to give me
a little piece of bread for it
I would have been very happy to change it
because bread was life.

Today I would not part from this jewellery
for all the money in the world.
Source: Lily Ebert’s Auschwitz survivor account printed for Holocaust Memorial Day in The Telegraph, ed. Sophie Wilson, 28th January 2013

  

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