My name is Oskar Rajsky. I was born Oskar- Moishe Zvi Rosenzweig on September 22, 1929.
My family history in Kezmarok goes back five generations, to the1800’s. My great, great grandfather, Shaul Rosenzweig lived in Huncovce, and died in the year 1892. My great grandfather, Shmuel Israel Rosenzweig is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Kezmarok, and I recently visited his grave. His tombstone is intact, and the inscription is clearly legible.
My father’s name was Shaul (Alexander) Rosenzweig. He was the eldest of three brothers, the second brother was Salamon (Shloime), and the third brother was Maximilian (Meyer). The brothers jointly owned two businesses, a textile and a furniture store. Shaul and Shloime operated the textile store, and Meyer operated the furniture store.
The two brothers, Shaul and Meyer, married two sisters, Edith (Esther) and Aranka (Golda) Gluck. The sisters came from Chust, which was in the eastern part of Czechoslovakia.
My parents had three children: my elder sisters, Iby and Hedy, and then me. Meyer and Aranka had two children, Hermy and Pubi. Hermy’s mother died in 1942, and our parents regarded Hermy and her brother as their own children, and we regarded them as siblings.
In 1939 when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, Slovakia became an independent state allied with Germany.
In 1942 before the deportations of the of the Jewish population in general began, a law was passed, that young men and women over the age of 16 had to report to the authorities, in order to be sent to work camps. My eldest sister Iby, who was over the age of 16, would have had to report, but my mother realized that they would not be sent to work camps, and decided to hide Iby. This, is in fact, saved my sister’s life.
In 1942 a law was passed, that Jews could no longer own businesses. Non-Jews could apply to become managers, and eventually owners of Jewish businesses. These people were called Arizators. The idea was for the Arizators to learn enough about the businesses, and then dispense with the Jewish owners, who would be deported. Many of the Jewish owners did not cooperate with their Arizator, and as a result the Arizator got rid of them as quickly as possible, and eventually these owners were deported. My father was a very pragmatic person. He treated the Arizator, a man called Kabat, very generously, and developed a very good relationship with him. As a result my parents were exempt from the deportations and were classified as “Economically Important”.
Towards the end of 1942 when the bulk of the Jewish population was deported, there were approximately 20 families in the same situation as my parents, and were able to stay in Kezmarok. Needless to say everyone was still concerned about the future.
Between 1942 and 1944 there were a number of Polish refugees who managed to escape, and came through Kezmarok. Somehow, through the underground grapevine, they learned that they could always find shelter for a few days in the Rosensweig house.
This is when my parents learned the details of the atrocities the Germans had committed in Poland, and some of the details of the extermination camps.
The situation in Hungary was very different for Jews. There was anti-Semitism in Hungary, and the government did pass racial laws, but there were no deportations or killings of Jews. My mother’s sister, Blimu, lived in Hungary, married to Henry Moskowitz, and they lived in Debrecen. My parents decided that while they would continue to stay in Kezmarok, we, the children would be safer in Hungary. They arranged to have us smuggled illegally into Hungary, where we stayed in Debrecen with auntie Blimu and uncle Heimi until the spring of 1944. My parents, who had passports and travel permits, came to visit us in Hungary. They thought that for the time being it was relatively safe in Slovakia, and arranged for forged passports for us, to enable us to return with them. We spent the summer of 1944 in Kezmarok.
In the summer of 1944 when the Allies had already landed in southern Europe, and were fighting their way north in Italy, it became evident that the Germans would lose the war. Even though the Hungarians were allied with Germany, the Germans didn’t trust them, and invaded Hungary. This is when things changed very drastically for the Jewish population of Hungary. The Germans started to herd the Jewish population into ghettos, and then started to deport them to concentration/extermination camps.
We were fortunate that at the time we were in Slovakia. At the same time, when the Russian army was advancing towards Slovakia, the Slovak partisans staged an uprising. It took the German army about two weeks to defeat the partisans. It was at that time that they decided to send in the SS, and round up the remaining Jews, and send them to concentration camps.
Many of our friends had made arrangements for just such an eventuality. Some had arranged for some non-Jews to hide them until the war would be over, others found hiding places in the woods. My parents had made no such arrangements. It was only in the last minute that my mother thought of a solution. A few months earlier my mother had met a woman called Rajcianova. This woman had come to our house and told my mother that she had a document that would entitle her to take possession of our apartment. My mother was very perturbed, and tried to reason with the woman. In the end the woman admitted that she really did not need our apartment, and knowing that my parents were well off, she thought that if my parents were to give her some money, she would not pursue the claim to the apartment. My mother was very relieved, gave her some money, and that was the end of the problem at that time. Now when things looked very bad, it occurred to my mother, that perhaps this woman would hide us for a short while. Knowing that the Russians were advancing, and were expected to be in our town quite soon, the woman agreed. It is hard to say what motivated the woman, perhaps some gratitude for the money she had already received, or the prospect of getting more money, and perhaps thinking that when we were liberated, it would be a good mark for her, to have helped Jews.
She lived across the street from us and we moved over in the middle of the night. The following day we saw that the local police, and the SS helped by local collaborators, were rounding up those Jews that had not gone into hiding.
At the time a very close friend of our family, who was doing business with my father, was staying with us. His name was Eugene Sandorfy. He had forged documents that indicated that he was only half Jewish. People of mixed parentage, half Jews and half Christian, were exempt from racial laws, and therefore not subject to deportation. Eugene was in fact not half Jewish, but three quarters Jewish. Actually his parental grandfather was a Catholic priest, who had converted to Judaism. Eugene had his documents forged, as if his grandfather had been his father, thus making him only half Jewish. As a result he felt quite safe. We didn’t realize at the time, that the SS and their collaborators no longer made a distinction between half Jews and Jews. So the following day, when Eugene went from our house to the store, he immediately got arrested and dragged to the police station. We witnessed all of this from our hiding place across the street.
We were in hiding for a few days, when it became obvious that the Russians were not advancing as quickly as we had thought. It appeared that it might take weeks, if not months, before the Russians would be able to liberate our town. When Rajcianova realized this, she probably got cold feet, and thought that the only way out would be for her to go to the authorities and report us. One day, after we had been there for about a week, she told us that she would have to go out for a few hours, and she took her young daughter with her. Not long after there was a banging on the door, and police and SS men accompanied by a few local thugs whom they had armed, barged in, arrested us, and took us to the police station.
The police station had a number of holding cells, and by the time we got there, there must have been between 50 and 70 Jews that they had rounded up. For the SS this was just a temporary facility. They knew that there would be many more Jews to be rounded up from the neighboring towns and villages, and that this would require a larger facility to serve as a transit center from which to deport. At that point they decided that they would keep some of the prisoners to take them to the new facility as staff, and to deport all the remainder, who were taken away by trucks. We were very fortunate that the SS commander in charge of the entire operation selected our whole family to be part of the staff. We only found out later that the people who were sent away were driven a few kilometers to Zakopane across the Polish border, taken to the woods, and immediately killed.
Another group was sent by the usual freight trains to the extermination camp Auschwitz. Among them was Eugene Sandorfy. Before the train reached Auschwitz, he and a Polish friend of his, managed to jump off the train, and were able to meet up with a group of partisans, and thus survived, until they were able to join with the advancing Russian army. After the war Eugene married my mother’s younger sister Lilly and became my uncle.
A few weeks prior to our arrest, my aunt Blimu and uncle Heimi and my uncle Meyer, who were at the time in Hungary, managed to escape, and come to Kezmarok, where they hoped to survive the war, went into hiding, but were eventually caught.
When most of the people from the police cells were taken away, they moved us to a new transit facility. It was an old school building. There were about 25 of us. Our family consisted of my father and mother, my mother’s younger sister Lilly, my two sisters and my cousins Henny and Pubi. All of us had different housekeeping tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, carrying supplies, and serving food. In the ensuing weeks more and more Jews were rounded up by the SS from neighboring towns and villages. When there were sufficient numbers, they would take them away in a transport. After a few weeks among a group of people that they caught, were Henny’s father Meyer and also our aunt Blimu and uncle Heimi. When Hermy’s father, under questioning, revealed that his two children were there as well, the Germans realized that they were actually not part of our immediate family. As a result, a few days later, when the next transport was scheduled, they included Henny and her little brother Pubi. It is difficult to imagine the heartbreak it caused all of us who remained, to see this little girl of 12 and her younger brother to be taken away.
We only learned after the war was over, that they had all been taken two concentration camps in Germany, to Bergen Belsen and Rawensbruck. Miraculously Henny, Blimu and Heimi survived. Unfortunately, Meyer and Pubi did not.
I should mention that the SS man who was in charge of the entire operation, whose name was Walter Melchior was a very decent person. There was never any atrocity under his direct command. He was a soldier and he had to obey orders. While he was in charge of the prison, the staff, of course, treated him like a king. They cooked and baked for him, and make sure that he had all the possible luxuries available at the time.
A few months passed, and even though we had no access to radio or newspapers, we knew that the Russians were getting nearer and nearer. We still could not imagine how we would ever become liberated. We were sure that once the Germans had to flee before the advancing Russian army, they would kill us. One day in January, the commandant came to us and told us that the Russians were getting nearer, and the Germans would be leaving the following day. He told us that during the night he would release us all. He suggested that we take as little as possible with us, make our way quietly to our home as that the occupants would have probably fled, and we should quietly wait for the Russians to liberate us. We were not sure whether this would actually happen, but in fact it did. It was in the middle of a cold winter, we made our way to our home, which was abandoned, no running water or electricity, but fortunately we had a roof over our head and windows to keep out the cold. We had very little food and spent a few days there very quietly.
One day my parents sent me and my sister to see if we could get some food. We knew some people who owned a large store, and we knew that they were not anti-Semitic, so we were hoping that they would help us. It was very quiet in the streets, because most people stayed inside, not knowing what was going to happen. As we were starting to walk, we saw in the distance a group of young men probably in their 20s, and immediately decided that it was probably not safe to go there, and returned home without food. It turned out that it was the right decision, because we only learned later, that there were some thugs and hooligans who had not yet left, and they still killed several Jews whom they caught. We also found out later, that one of the women who was released with us, I believe her name was Bergman, immediately upon returning to her home, went to the neighbors, to try to retrieve whatever she thought was her property. The neighbors simply killed her.
A couple more days passed, it was a sunny winter morning, there was snow on the ground, and suddenly we saw a column of horse-drawn carriages pulling artillery behind them, accompanied by a group of soldiers who looked rather bedraggled and quite drunk, with their fur hats askew, so we thought that this must be the Russian army. It was quite different from the picture we had in our mind of the glorious Russian army. Nevertheless, we were overjoyed, for we felt that now were liberated. After a while one soldier carrying an automatic gun came up to our apartment. He was obviously quite drunk. He looked around, but did not seem hostile or threatening. We tried to make him understand in Slovak, that we were Jews, and somehow he seemed to understand it. There were no beds in the room, only a few mattresses on the floor, and after a moment he just lay down on the mattress and fell asleep.
A few days later a contingent of the Russian army, composed of Czechoslovak volunteers, arrived. We had a lot more in common with them, and they stayed for a few weeks, and were instrumental in getting our town to a somewhat more normal life.
Shortly after my father decided, and all of us agreed, that we did not want to continue to have the German name “Rosenzweig”, and we changed our name to Rajsky.
We stayed in Kezmarok two more years, where we went to school. In the meantime my parents spent a great deal of time in Prague, where my father was doing business. In 1947 we moved to Prague and continued our schooling there. At the beginning of 1949 we decided to leave Czechoslovakia, and emigrated to Canada, where I have been living since.
The daisho is a Japanese term for a matched pair of traditionally made Japanese swords worn by the samurai.
The concept of the daisho originated with the pairing of a short sword with whatever long sword was being worn during a particular time period.
Daisho mode provides flexible and responsive project grid for your portfolio showcase.
You can configure this drag-down tab to display any information or disable it in WordPress admin panel settings.