How should I have known? I had spared them from hard work, but I had condemned Arvad and my mother to death in the gas chambers.
Formerly a part of Romania, the city of Cluj in northern Transylvania had come under Hungarian control in 1940. Its residents included the family of a well-known Jewish physician named Miklos Lengyel. Assisted by his wife Olga, who was also trained in medicine, he directed a hospital in Cluj. The Lengyels had two sons, Thomas and Arvad. "No one," Olga Lengyel thought before war broke out, "could be happier than we were."
Even as the war years accumulated, the Lengyels "looked upon Germany as a nation which had given much culture to the world" and found it hard to believe the frightening stories of concentration camp atrocities that could be heard in Cluj. All too soon, however, seeing became believing. For according to statistics cited in Israel Gutman's Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, more than 1.4 million Jews lived in Romania and Hungary in 1941. By the end of the Holocaust, half a million Hungarian Jews and more than 270,000 Romanian Jews were dead.
In May 1944 the Lengyel family was deported to Auschwitz. Their journey in the stifling cattle cars took seven days. Upon arrival, the usual routine followed. Nearly five thousand men, women, and children from this Cluj transport "formed fives" in columns that stretched on and on. Men were separated from women and children. Miklos Lengyel and Olga Lengyel's father were in one column, Olga's mother and two sons stayed with her in the other. Then the "selection" started.
Isabella Leitner lost her mother at Auschwitz. So did Olga Lengyel, and her