On June 21, 2014, Judit Bárdos organized a commemorative event in the former yellow-star house at Akácfa Street 59 in Budapest's seventh district where her aunt, Márta Bárdos, lived in 1944. Márta (seated on the far right-hand side of the photograph)
Story: Márta Bárdos, March 27, 2013, on the yellow-star house at Akácfa Street 59 where she lived in Budapest's 7th district:
"The house was designated as a yellow-star house on June 21, 1944. Since the twenties, Henrik Vajda and his wife, Andor Bárdos and his wife Jolán Vajda and their son Zoltán born on January 13, 1924, lived at Akácfa Street 59, first floor, apartment no. 2. Among the old residents, Henrik Vajda, Bárdos Andor and his wife Jolán remained in the apartment. Mrs. Vajda died years later.
Zoltán was on forced labor service, in division 101/99. His division was stationed at the Scottish school on Vörösmarty Street. They went to work in the Hős Street military base. Later, after a long series of hardships, he was liberated at Mauthausen-Günskirchen, and returned home to the apartment. Andor Bárdos was taken away during the Arrow Cross reign, together with the other residents, to the highway to Vienna. He was shot in December at the “Ilona farmstead” near Hidegség [at the border with Austria]. I learned this from Géza Kertész, born 1928, a ground-floor resident who had been taken away with them.
During the summer forcible relocation [into yellow-star houses], the family’s distant relatives moved into this apartment.
Aunt Ida (Mrs. Baumöhl), and Aunt Emma Erdély, who had been a teacher in the orphanage.
Aunt Nelli Erdély and her daughter Olga, József Mattát and his wife Elza, also ended up in the apartment. From August until the end of October, Éva Bárdos and I (Márta Bárdos) went over to see them for lunch, from Eötvös Street 2.
On January 4, 1945, after an Arrow Cross attack, I ended up at the Swedish protected house at Pozsonyi Street 12 in a first-floor apartment, where there were already 36 people crammed in together. I registered with the house supervisor, Dr. Emil Hermann, who added me to the list of residents. The daily ration of bread was 50 grams per person.
During the siege, bombings and shootings, the residents spent most of their time in the coal cellar. In the middle room, Uncle Vajda and Aunt Jolán slept on a set of twin beds. Laid across the end of the beds was a divan where Aunt Ida slept, and which she shared with me after I moved in. Until the very last day, I refused to go down into the cellar.
On January 17, Red Army soldiers broke through the back wall of the refuge at Nagyatádi Szabó (today Kertész) Street and immediately pulled out the telegraph lines. A Soviet soldier shot through the window at the German air-defense guns erected in the empty plot opposite, and they shot back. The solider died and was laid out on my divan. On that evening, I went down to the cellar.
There was no electric lighting, and there was an oil lamp burning in the middle of the front room so we could find the way to the WC. We used some of the existing oil to burn in the lamp, and the rest to roast potatoes in a skillet.
Bearing in mind that Aunt Jolán and family had been living in the apartment before, there were some food reserves in the pantry which, because of the lack of supplies, ran out very quickly.
On the last day, Uncle Vajda opened a tin of liver conserve, cut it into four, and that’s what we ate: him, Aunt Jolán, Aunt Ida and I, with a slice of bread.
The next day, Soviet soldiers brought potato pasta (“grenadír mars”) in buckets, which we gladly ate with our hands. They asked for girls to come forward and peel potatoes.
I would have volunteered, thinking that they had to fight and had better things to do than peeling potatoes. But Aunt Jolán didn’t let me go. She knew from experience that they wanted the girls not only to help out in the kitchen.
After the liberation, most of the family moved back into their own apartments, but József Mallát and his wife Elza stayed and rented the far room next to the street.
In the middle of summer 1945, Uncle Vajda died. Uncle Bandi (Andor Bárdos) was unable to survive the experience of the highway to Vienna, and so it was just Aunt Jolán who greeted their son Zoltán returning from Mauthausen. On May 1, 1946, Zoltán married Lívia (Lili) Grósz in the Heroes’ Church. On February 24, 1950, their daughter Judit was born. After a long illness, Lili died and Zoltán remarried. Aunt Jolán and Judit lived in this apartment until the summer of 1981.
On January 18, 1945, the plank boards surrounding the ghetto were knocked down, and Uncle Misa, who lived at Akácfa Street 20, came to get me and together we went through the demolished gate on Wesselényi Street back to our Eötvös Street 2 apartment. Aunt Annus (Mrs. Weiner) also joined us.
With Uncle Misa, I went back to Pozsonyi Road 12. There had been much shooting on Lipót (today Szent István) Boulevard, and the “battle of the Víg Theater,” which Béla Illés wrote about in one of his novellas.
The Pozsonyi Road apartment had been completely looted, we found nothing from the stuff we’d left behind. However, in the middle of the courtyard, there was a huge pile of dried peas. We stuffed them into an empty briefcase, and lived off these for days. There was a large stove in the kitchen of the Eötvös Street apartment, and lots of residents came to use it to cook. For fire wood, two of my uncles (Misa and Emil) used the beams of a house that had collapsed to light the fire. The only water was from a tap in the courtyard, and people queued up here for water.
The Soviet soldiers learned that Uncle Misa was a tailor. He used Aunt Annus Singer’s sewing machine to mend many uniforms, and in exchange they gave us the square soldiers’ bread.
They also bought a large piece of black leather to make gloves from. But the leather was too thick for the sewing machine. Later, the leather was used for my first pair of shoes, the sole of which was made out of car tire scraps, by Ignác Dániel, the shoemaker from Dombóvár.
A few days later, Uncle Emil walked into the Kőbánya Maternity Home, and I went with him too. We walked out there in heavy snow. On Teleki Square, we found ourselves under fire from a low-flying airplane, but luckily, the bullets missed us.
There were two rooms in the cellar of the Kőbánya Maternity Home. One was the ward where women gave birth. One woman had been brought here by relatives in a wheelbarrow. In the other room were rows of berths for the doctors, babies, and nurses, and a stand used for bread in bakeries. This is where the little babies in swaddling lay in rows, like loaves of bread. There was no space for me, and I so lay across the highest shelf.
Once, a Soviet soldier came with a beautiful horse who had a shrapnel injury.
“Vrach, vrach!,” he shouted. For want of a doctor, they called my Uncle Emil, who was a gynecologist.
Seeing the horse’s serious injury, he said “Kaput,” whereupon the soldier shot the horse in the head. The house supervisor immediately cut up the fresh meat. Finally, the midwives and workers had something substantial to eat. They prepared it with a tomato sauce.
My Uncle Emil received a nice piece of boned and trimmed meat, which he had sent with someone going into town to Misa and family at Eötvös Street 2 so that they too had something to eat.
One or two weeks later, we arrived home. Misa asked Emil:
“Where did you get that piece of beautiful beef?”
Laughing, Emil confessed:
“It wasn’t beef, but horse meat.”
And Misa started retching because he’d been forced to eat that “wasn’t kosher.”
Ever since I was a little girl, I’d had long hair almost down to my waist. During the many hardships, I managed to keep it clean. However, in the Maternity Home (a hospital!), I caught lice. Then I went back home to the Eötvös Street apartment. A nurse who lived nearby came to see me regularly. She rubbed my head with petrol, and used a fine comb to get rid of the lice. It worked.
My long ponytail was cut off in the summer of 1947, after my high school matriculation exam. I still have the hair wrapped in newspaper! They told me: “university students shouldn’t have ponytails.”
Later, I grew my hair long and wore it in a bun.
After we moved back in, the glass in every window had been smashed, and we stuck waxed wrapping paper up in the frames.
The surgery was lined with dark green linoleum. It was thick and filthy, and it fell to me to clean it. It wore me out, I wasn’t used to this work.
On March 15, 1945, I walked with Uncle Emil to Veres Pálné Girls’ Grammar School. The headmistress, Ilona Haitsch, allowed me to continue my studies. I finished Class VI that academic year. They issued me with a copy of a certificate that I’d completed Classes I-V.
In 1945, we started to live again, adapting to the changed circumstances.
We didn’t know anything about those who had been snatched away. Dr. Emil Komlós returned to his apartment at Eötvös Street 2, and continued to work as a gynecologist. Miksa Komlós returned to Dombóvár. He found nobody from his large extended family.
As I remained without parents, Uncle Emil took me into his care. I continued my high school studies at the Veres Pálné Girls’ Grammar School and graduated from Class VI in 1947.
For a while, Aunt Annus Weiner took care of our household. At weekends, she brought her grandson, Tibi Lichtmann, from the orphanage to be with us. Tibi’s father had been killed during forced labor on the Eastern Front, his mother in Dachau.
In 1950, the apartment was split into two. The room facing the courtyard was turned into a small kitchen, bathroom and entrance hall, with an entrance into the far room on the street side. In January 1951, I married my classmate, Elek Fehér. In 1955, we attached the room from Aunt Weisz’s apartment next door. And so the Eötvös Street 2x3-room apartment became a 3x2 room apartment, looking onto the street.
We lived here until March 1960. Our son András was born on October 13, 1954.
In March 1960, we exchanged apartments and moved one block down. I still live now at Teréz (formerly Lenin) Boulevard 12. I am now a widow, and live with my youngest son Zoltán, born January 9, 1963."