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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Sara Kraus-Lefkovits was born in Bratislava in 1933 to very Orthodox parents. Her father was a descendant of the Chasam Sopher and her father’s father was head of the community in Tapolcany. Her mother was from a Chassidic family who were followers of the Vishnitz Rebbe. The family were in the textile trade and were very wealthy, although they did not flaunt their wealth. They lived in the Jewish area of Bratislava in 27 Pannenska and Sara attended the Jewish Orthodox School for a short while. They attended the Great Synagogue where Yossele Rosenblatt was the Chazan and she belonged to Agudas Yisroel. For holidays they went to Tatra, the Czech Alps. Sara had a younger sister born in 1935.
She remembered having to wear the yellow star once the Germans invaded and being frightened of going in the street. Her father’s business was taken away and they had to move to the outskirts of town. The Nazis burst in at Seder Night looking for men but miraculously did not take her father. In April 1942 her parents arranged for her to be smuggled over the border to Hungary at night and she had to hide under bales of straw. The Nazis prodded the straw with forks but she was not found. She arrived in Budapest on Shavuot and was sent to hide with her cousin the little town of Rakospalota. Her cousin’s husband Duschinsky was Rabbi of that place. After 3 months she had to move and was taken to Miskolc to a family who had lost a child and she took on the identity of that child for which the family were paid. After 3 months she moved again to an elderly couple called Roth in Nyiregyhaza, where she was caught on the street but released after she gave all the correct information about her false identity. She then moved to another family with children and took on another identity. It was not safe to stay too long in one place. Her mother arranged all the false papers since she looked Aryan and could move around undetected. Eventually she was allowed to go to her parents and sister and they became legal immigrants after staying in a nunnery for 3 days. This was Autumn 1943. She was sent to Munkacevo to her grandfather and aunt and uncle and she caught Scarlet Fever but was nursed at home. On recovery she attended lessons each morning.
In 1944 the Germans marched in. After Pesach they had to move into the ghetto and they lived cramped in her cousin’s flat. She often had to hide on the roof from the Germans. Her mother organised new papers and she was smuggled out to her parents in Budapest. She, her sister and 3 cousins were sent to a non-Jewish family who ran a children’s home, where they had to stay 4-6 months. That was very hard since they had to eat treife and pretend they were not Jewish. They had to attend church. She found this very hard. At the beginning of the Summer of 1944 she was told that it had been organized that she and her family would be taken to Spain with a big transport of about 2000 people. They met in the town square and were put onto cattle trucks. The journey was terrible. The train stopped in Lintz where they were deloused and elsewhere and they had to change trains at one stage. They ended up in Bergen Belsen in July 1944 as part of the Zonderlager Transport. They were put into barracks of 100 each. They remained in their own clothes and still had meagre possessions with them such as siddurim, tephillin, candles and her father had his gemorrah. They also had a bag of tins of food which they were able to exchange and eat. The rations were minute and they were soon all starving. They were together with the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitlebaum, whose beard was not cut off. Mrs Rozsa Frey (Rubinfeld) gave the Rebbe her bread ration so that he did not have to eat treife. The Freudigers were in a position of authority. They did not have kapos. Their day was roll call until lunchtime and then lessons were organised for the children. On Rosh Hashanah a guard was bribed to bring them a shofar. They were in a better position than the Dutch Jews in the next camp and the Polish Jews on the other side, who were dying daily.
Eventually in December 1944 they were put on a train and taken to Switzerland in exchange for German POWs and money. Her father pulled the emergency cord at one stage because a man was being left behind and he was removed from the train but was miraculously brought back. They were put in an internment camp in St Gallen and eventually arranged for a kosher kitchen there. Her mother cooked. After 3 months they went to Zurich to a family and stayed there until September. Sara attended school.
In September 1945 they caught a train to Bary in Italy and the last legal boat to Palestine called the Wild Orange. On arrival they entered the camp at Atlit and then went to an aunt in Tel Aviv. The children went into an Agudah children’s home in Jerusalem because her father was not earning any money. Her brother Shaya was born in 1946. Her parents eventually got a flat outside Tel Aviv and Sara attended Penimyat Chorev and then Beit tzirot Mizrachi Seminary. There was great rejoicing at the declaration of the State in 1948. She was teaching in a Beit Yaacove School in Tel Aviv and then she worked in Rishon Letzion.
The next night the train stopped, before we got to Bergen-Belsen that is and we had to change trains, it was late at night, we had to go from one train to the next, we had to get off one train and go to, and as I got off I lost my parents, I was very scared, because I was, they find a child they shoot, no question. My mother gave me this very heavy bag to carry, with all these tins in it which was at least food, and I lost my parents in the middle of the night, it was dark, and people are running to the other train, I was holding this very heavy bag and I was running to the other train and looking for my parents, and the way I was running the handles came off, the handles of this bag, it was very heavy, I throw away the handles to keep the food, and eventually I found my parents and we got onto the other cattle train and we continued there. In the end we continued another few days and we got, eventually we got to Bergen-Belsen... Anyway, we got to Bergen-Belsen, years later my mother told me that in the handles was some diamonds. She didn’t tell me, I was a child so she didn’t tell me, it is good that she didn’t tell me, I don’t know what I would have done with those handles to hide them, where would I have put them. But, I couldn’t be careful with them, I don’t know, anyway we lost them, that is how, it is what I said, in the war we lost everything, and this went on, everything we lost.
My father was a very strict man, but very, very loving. It was a good combination. A deeply religious man, but we had to listen, we had to obey. There was a lot of love there, and that gave me the basis for my life. My life, and that I survived and the way I live today comes from the love and the strength that my father gave me as a child.
My mother was very good all during the war; thanks to my mother we were saved. She was very ambitious, she wasn’t frightened. She found her way and had a survival instinct and with that she helped a lot of people and us. That is how we survived.
I believe in being good. There is nothing to replace goodness to people, being good to each other.