The bombed Chain Bridge and Royal Castle in Buda.
Budapest was liberated by the Soviets from January 16-18, 1945. On 18 January, 1945, German troops destroyed all five bridges across the Danube, despite protests from Hungarian officers.
Story: O. M. Magyar, March 31, 2014, on the yellow-star house where she lived at Pozsonyi Road 16, in Budapest's 13th district.
"We had to leave the yellow-star house at Ó Street 48 in late October 1944. We lived there with two aunts and three cousins, and Arrow Cross youth escorted us to the yellow-star house at Pozsonyi Street 16 or 18.
Here 16 of us lived in one room. Somehow my Aunt Regina joined us (she had fled from Germany), as did Aunt Ilona's elderly mother-in-law, and another cousin who was about the same age as me.
We got on relatively well together, although of course the crammed conditions made our life difficult. Problems were mostly around use of the kitchen, since there were more than ten people living in the other room of the apartment, and at meal preparation times the women thronged around the small stove, which worked, luckily.
One day my aunt’s elderly mother-in-law had a hernia protrusion, and naturally a warm cover could not ease her strong pains. We couldn’t call a doctor—who wouldn’t have been able to help anyway—and so my aunt asked me to go out in my leather jacket 'without a star,' and try to find a way to get her into hospital. By a stroke of luck, I managed to fulfill her request, and accompanied her, moaning with pain, to the emergency hospital on the corner of Wesselényi Street and the Boulevard, entrusting her to two hospital employees hurrying in front of me with a stretcher. She was operated on immediately, and as far as I know, she managed to survive the rest of the siege of Budapest in the ghetto hospital.
Around noon one day, a state of agitation took over. News spread that people in military uniforms and boots had entered the house, whose intention we could only suspect. Upon hearing this news, my Aunt Rózsi immediately left the house, and Aunt Ilona didn’t hesitate much either. Even today I can still remember the image of her climbing down from the street-facing window of our high first-floor apartment and, with open arms, asked us to pass her three-year-old daughter down to her, who then followed her down the street. And that’s how the family left, escaping into nothing, and we learned later that they had found refuge in the nearby yellow-star house at Főnix Street 5.
In the ever-roomier apartment I was left with my Aunt Regina from Germany, but I don’t remember how long for. Maybe 8-10 days. Armed youth with Arrow Cross armbands appeared in the house again, and ordered all the residents to line up immediately in front of the house. I picked up my briefcase that contained my belongings and joined the line. We turned left onto Szent István Boulevard (and luckily, not in the other direction towards the Danube, but at that point we didn’t realize how lucky we were), and among lines of staring crowds, we went to the 6th-7th district central ghetto, where they dumped us behind the ghetto gates sealed with wooden boards.
I won’t continue with the story from here, since this is where the yellow-star house chapter comes to an end. In the ghetto however, every house had to have a star, how could it not be marked with a yellow star (but I don’t remember this detail precisely, who paid attention to what was on the front gate?).
But to finish I must describe the emotions I felt, and which I still feel today when I recall the scene.
In the ghetto house, towards the end of January (?), because of the bombings, I spent a couple of days in the basement air-raid shelter, we had to spend our time in the dark in the hiding place, with only a few oil lamps here and there. One could sleep well in the dark, and hunger is a good sedative.
One morning, I woke up to find that the hiding place was empty. Climbing up the stairs into the blinding daylight, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the pile of wooden boards piled up on top of one another. Of course I didn’t understand what had happened or how, or why…?
And then I saw the man dressed in a completely unknown kind of military uniform, with a fur cap on his head and probing in front of him with his gun …
And then I understood, I understood why the hiding place had emptied out, where the pile of wooden boards had come from, the unknown soldier, whom I DID NOT HAVE TO FEAR, and most important of all that my fate had been transformed, in that I had been a persecuted (why?) child who had now become a free citizen.
'Imprinting,' says Lorenz Konrad, but who cares what it’s called!
I can only think of the Soviets, the state of mind described above!"