The brick factory in Budapest’s third district, Óbuda, functioned as a holding camp and was one of the last stations used before deportations and death marches. After the Arrow Cross takeover of power, survival was a matter of sheer chance. Individuals performed extraordinary acts of bravery in order to save their own lives and those of their loved ones.
Story: J. Bárdos, March 27, 2014, on the yellow-star house where her family lived at Akácfa Street 59, in Budapest's 7th district.
"I would like to supplement what my aunt, Mrs. Márta Bárdos Fehér wrote. I was born in 1950 and did not experience life in the yellow-star house. I’d only like to add to what others have written or will write, with what I heard from my grandmother.
My grandmother, Mrs. Andor Bárdos, was born Jolán Vajda (1901-1983) in what would become a yellow-star house, at Akácfa Street 59, first floor, no. 2. She lived there before the war, during fall 1944, and up until the Liberation. The house was part of the ghetto. During this period, there were 36 people living in that one apartment. Cousins and relatives (such as Aunt Emma who will be mentioned latter) moved in together, as well as others. For the last two weeks, January 4-17, a cousin of my father Zoltán Bárdos was also there, and who was 15 at the time: Márta Bárdos (later Mrs. Elek Fehér). She described in detail how they lived, how they settled in, and what they ate in those last weeks. She also drew a floor-plan of the apartment (which I am also sending to OSA).
But how could my grandmother, 'Aunt Jolán,' who was then 40, live there until the end of the ghetto? How did she survive the Holocaust?
I’d like to tell this story personally in honor of preserving my grandmother’s memory. Naturally, in the fall of 1944, after her husband Andor Bárdos and her father, Henrik Vajda, were taken away by the Arrow Cross (she never saw her husband again, or, as people would say, he never came back'), she too was taken to the brick factory in Óbuda. They spent one night there. The next day, a man with an Arrow Cross armband started shouting a (false) command for all the people from Akácfa Street 59 to come with him, and then he took them back to Akácfa Street. On the way, they looked at one another and then recognized a boy from their house disguised as an Arrow Cross man: 'This is the Blumenfeld boy.' In order to save his own parents, the boy had taken all the female residents of the house back with him: the men were on forced labor service. My father, Zoltán Bárdos, had earlier been on forced labor service at the Scottish school on Vörösmarty Street, and then ended up in the Günskirchen and Mauthausen camps in Austria, from where he returned home in 1945. This story is also described by another survivor, Erzsébet Sós (later Mrs. Sándor Bihari), whose memoirs have also been submitted to OSA.
She recounts: 'In Kertész Street they stood us up against the wall again, and we stood there for a long time before the line set off, and they escorted us to the Vörösvári Road brick factory… The next morning, Laci Budai arrived in gendarmerie uniform, and gave a public order for us to be taken away from there. And then they let the girls of the house be taken away by him. He escorted us as far as the first streetcar stop, and that’s how we got home. As we learned later, the rest of them were taken to Auschwitz.'
I’ll cite another account of this same story. The writer, critic and journalist Ármin Bálint kept a diary after his son was taken in 1942 on forced labor service with the 2nd Hungarian Army to the Don River. He wanted to record his political and family memories precisely, for his son. (By this time, György was no longer alive. He had died in January 1943. Bálint died in 1945.) The surviving parts of his diary, the 3rd and 4th notebooks, are preserved in the Petőfi Literary Museum.
'November 1, 1944. Today I was with Aunt Emma from whom there were no signs of life for three weeks. Resulting from an individual action, she had endured terrible things. On the morning of October 16, a large crowd invaded the house. All the residents were driven down into the courtyard and all valuables and money were taken from them. On the way down, Vajda and Bandi B. were badly beaten. The men were force-marched to the Tattersaal racing track, the women to Óbuda. The men had to march with their hands in the air for the three-hour journey. They spent 24 hours outside, starving and thirsty, and then repeated the journey back home on the evening of October 17. They found the entire apartment ravaged. All Bandi’s clothes and underwear were missing, and so when he had to sign up on October 20, all he had was a thin overcoat.'
Aunt Emma was Emma Erdély, a teacher at the Jewish orphanage, and Ármin Bálint’s cousin, who was living in the ghetto as a relative in my grandmother’s apartment. Henrik Vajda (who died in the summer of 1945) was my grandmother’s father, and 'Bandi B.,' Andor Bárdos, was my grandfather. Bálint Ármin was unaware of Blumenfeld’s rescue action (did he later go by the name of Budai?). But he gave a faithful picture of what happened in the yellow-star house during an Arrow Cross raid, and the state of the house that people found when they returned.
It would be good to know what happened later to the 'Blumenfeld boy' and his parents. We never heard anything of them. Perhaps over the course of this “yellow-star house” action we will learn something of them."