Before Hitler took over Hungary in 1944, young Jews like George Kaldore were excluded from the draft but required to work in factories or special Jewish labor gangs instead. He was working in Budapest when the Germans marched in, and although he had false papers supplied to him by the Zionist underground, he limited their use to visiting his family in the provinces. Using them at all was risky, and instead of posing as a Gentile and chancing discovery, Kaldore gambled that joining one of the Jewish labor battalions would prevent his deportation. He lost.
Sent to Auschwitz, Kaldore spent most of his time there at the camp associated with the Buna works at Monowitz, at first digging fortifications for the German Army and then stringing cable in the Buna factory itself. He describes mingling of Gypsies and Jews at the time of his arrival at Birkenau that was not typical and invites further research. He also makes some useful distinctions between his treatment by Wehrmacht and SS men and between Jewish capos, Polish overseers, and professional criminals in the camp hierarchy. It is clear from his unusually lucid narrative that cleaning up for his block senior provided him with extra nourishment that enhanced his chances of living. Kaldore notes that the barracks were infested with fleas and bedbugs, but he credits the Germans with stringent and successful measures to eliminate lice. It was not typhus but an infected foot that landed him in the sick ward at the end of 1944. He must have sensed that the hospital was the safest place for him to be since he feigned slow recovery from an operation to assure a prolonged stay. That is where he was when the SS panicked during the evacuation of the camp and left the sick behind. He was one of only a handful of survivors of Monowitz/Auschwitz III who managed to be liberated by the Red Army in January 1945.
Returning with difficulty to his hometown after the war, the twenty-two-year-old survivor went to work for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, aiding refugees who were in worse shape than he. His interview, held at the kibbutz DP camp at Tradate, Italy, reveals a man refreshingly free from self-pity and eager simply to get on with his life in Palestine.
From FRESH WOUNDS: EARLY NARRATIVES OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVAL by Donald L. Niewyk. Copyright (c) 1998 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. www.uncpress.unc.edu