Missing Pieces: My Life as a Child Survivor of the Holocaust

Missing Pieces: My Life as a Child Survivor of the Holocaust

Missing Pieces: My Life as a Child Survivor of the Holocaust

Missing Pieces: My Life as a Child Survivor of the Holocaust

Synopsis

Until age seven, Olga Barsony Verrall lived an idyllic life in Szarvas, a small town in Hungary, surrounded by her doting, observant Jewish family. After the Nazi invasion in 1944, Olga found herself, along with most of her family, interned in the Auspitz labour camp. Eventually reunited after the war, the family returned to Szarvas, only to face a different kind of oppression at the hands of the new Communist government. After immigrating to Winnipeg in 1957, Olga met and married Orland Verrall, the cantor at Rosh Pina synagogue. Together they built a new life in Canada, and soon welcomed two daughters, Judy and Lesley. Yet Olga continued to be haunted by her past. Though she was very young during her time in the camp, Olga had vivid and painful memories of the horrifying things she had seen and experienced there. A nagging sense of emptiness and anger stayed with her all her life. After her beloved husband Orland passed away, her emotional state became increasingly fragile, and she became dependent on prescription drugs to numb her pain. A long journey of physical and mental healing, along with the support of her family, helped Olga piece her life back together. For Olga, writing her memoir was a catharsis. For her readers, it will be an inspiration.

Excerpt

In the spring of 1944, Adolf Eichmann arrived in Hungary with the responsibility of deporting the 800,000 remaining Jews within the country. The atrocities committed by the Nazis were already well known, and the political pressure to cease the deportations was strong. Despite the warnings by American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the objections from within the political leadership of Hungary, and the fruitless efforts made by Hungarian Jewish community leaders Joel Brand and Rudolph Kasztner, 437,000 Jews were deported between May 15 and June 9 – the fastest deportation since Poland in 1941. Only the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg managed to save a significant number of Jews by providing them with Swedish passports and housing them in properties he either bought or rented. Dr. Kasztner’s secret co-operation agreement with Eichmann – to exchange Jews for cash, goods, and Kasztner’s promise to keep order in the camps – saved only a small group of Jews, many of whom were elitists, relatives, or residents from his village. It is reported that Eichmann transferred approximately 15,000 Jews to Vienna and Strasshof for labour to “put them on ice” (that is, not for extermination) as a sign of good faith. Kasztner was later accused in Israel of facilitating the Jewish Hungarian deportation. By the end of the war, one year after the Nazi invasion of Hungary, the Nazis had murdered 570,000 out of the 800,000 Hungarian Jews.

It was in late spring of 1944 when the deportation of my family began. The process of transportation from one holding area to another took approximately six weeks until they arrived at their final destination, a concentration camp called Strasshof. There is no explanation as to why their cattle train stopped in Strasshof rather than being delivered directly to Auschwitz as so many others were. Nevertheless, while at that camp, the gesture of one man changed the course of my family’s life forever. This man, an acquaintance . . .

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