MARIKA Weinberger, 83, still vividly remembers the last Pesach seder she shared with her family in Košice, formerly part of Hungary, just before being moved to the ghetto in 1944.
This week, as Jews around the world celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover, I recently sat down with her to record her memories, and hear her harrowing tale of how she defiantly observed the holiday again the following year — in the Glöwen concentration camp.
This is her testimony.
“Pesach happens to be a hag which is mixed in emotions. In Pesach 1944, the Germans were already in our town. A date was given, and we knew that we would be taken out of our home and taken into the ghetto. That day happened to be the second day of Pesach. So according to my mother’s wishes, we cleaned and proceeded as if everything was normal. I was particularly young and I asked, ‘Why? What’s the use? We know that tomorrow we are out of here?’ But that’s what mother wanted, and that’s what we did.
We had our first seder, and it was conducted as if nothing had happened. By this stage, it was my parents, my sister, my paternal and maternal grandmother, and my uncle and aunt.
The food was not the same, but my mother insisted that the table was set, and as always we had flowers on the table from early spring. My mother still managed. The last seder with my family, even if I tried, remains something I cannot forget. It was something so special.
The next day we were moved into one room in the ghetto. As young as I was, about 15, I said this was fine. Compared to what was to come, I had a feeling this was good. We were still together as a family. We kept the Pesach strictly until the end of the eighth day.
We were in the ghetto for a short time. On June 3, we were transported by wagons to Auschwitz. That was the last time I saw my mother, my father, and my grandmothers.
Later on, we were transferred to Glöwen concentration camp and on the first day of Pesach, my sister and I managed not to eat bread. We only had the one Peach in the camps, and I said, even if it kills me, I will try. There were not many who did it, and I don’t blame them. We exchanged our bread for soup with those who went on eating bread. I don’t know how we lasted — 12 hours of labour, outside in practically no clothing, with that sort of hunger. But we managed. Ever since then, I believe in spiritual resistance. I didn’t fight with guns, but I thought, I’ll show them and I did. For that one day, I had regained a little bit of my pride.
These days, when I sit at the seder, I’m grateful to Hashem because my children, my grandchildren, and now my great grandchildren sit with me. I feel that I have fulfilled my obligation. I didn’t let my parents down.”
Marika, her sister and her aunt were eventually liberated. However, the majority of her family perished in the Holocaust. Today, she lives in Sydney, Australia, and has written about her experiences in the book, Surviving Survival.