Steven Joseph Fenves
b. Subotica, Yugoslavia, 1931
The column marched slowly along the winding, hilly roads of Southeast Germany toward Buchenwald. The SS lieutenant walked in front, his large Alsatian tugging at the leash, the silver skulls on his “Death Head” collarinsignia flashing in the afternoon sun. The inmates followed in columns of
five, emaciated bodies bent with fatigue, drawn faces soiled from the dust. Their striped uniforms or ill-fitting clothes with striped patches were filthy and tattered. The Russian POWs were in front, the Polish Jews next, and the Jews from Hungary and the Hungarian-occupied provinces of Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia last. Every few rows on both sides marched elderly army guards carrying submachine guns. A truck brought up the rear, outfitted with a platform on which the relief guards slept. It towed an ancient field kitchen.
It was the eighth day of the evacuation march eastward from the satellite concentration camp at Nieder Orschel, which was attached to a Messerschmit airplane factory. At each morning and evening assembly after the lieutenant made a count and recorded it in his notebook, he gave orders, repeated by the interpreters in Russian, Polish, and Hungarian: “Anybody trying to escape, any stragglers, anybody talking will be shot outright.”
The inmates in the first three rows looked a little different from the others: their faces less gaunt, their clothes slightly better fitting, their gait a bit more springy. They were the Kapos (overseers), orderlies, and interpreters. Among them marched a boy of thirteen, wearing a blue student's cap and brown overcoat.
The boy, Jóska,* was one of the two Hungarian interpreters. He was deep in thought as he marched.
The night before, Lev, the leader of the Polish Zionist resistance “brigade, ” had said that his group would escape tonight and had asked Jóska to join them. Jóska was torn between his desire to go and his concern that he might still be needed. He decided that if he escaped with them, he would continue on his own. What would he say to the first American soldier he would meet? … 208____________________