Éva Fahidi-Pusztai, born in 1925 in Debrecen (Hungary), who in May 1944, as a Jew, was deported by the Nazis via Auschwitz to the Buchenwald women's sub-camp in Stadtallendorf. She there had to do forced labour in the production of arms. Following her liberation, she returned to Hungary and now lives in Budapest. She represents Hungary on the International Buchenwald Dora and Commandos Committee. In 2011, she published her experiences of persecution and survival under the title Die Seele der Dinge [The Soul of Things], and elaborated this process through the medium of dance theatre. Èva Fahidi-Pusztai had been scheduled to deliver her speech as part of the commemorative act at the German National Theatre on 5 April 2020.
Dear Comrades !
We’ve been preparing for and eagerly awaiting the 75th anniversary of our liberation in Buchenwald. We’ve been going back there for many years now, at first with over twenty people from one country, men and women separately, and then in smaller or larger groups. At a later stage, our grandchildren started accompanying us, for we felt it critical that they witness first-hand the camp and that they build a better life than we ever could. And down through all those years many of us always came back to the site; we were happy to meet the others, happy to be still alive and that the staff at the memorial site at our former Buchenwald camp were looking after us: everybody got whatever was needed: eyeglasses, hearing-aids, and above all those invariably humane speeches and voices, to which we had gladly grown accustomed.
My personal experience, which I always like to call upon, tells me that we need to take this current virus situation very seriously. We’re sitting here, locked up; our children won't allow us outdoors and they are looking after us: The roles have switched; it’s now our turn to be obedient and we can live with that. All of a sudden we have so much time on our hands; all at once we have time for everything. On waking up, I’ve got to tell Bandi just how much I’m in love with him and how happy I am to have met him. We’ve lived through such times before; we survived those times they locked us up; now we lock ourselves up voluntarily. My son Gergely, a cellular biologist at McGill University in Montreal, writes me that it might even last months. We have to be patient and we are content.
Dear comrades! I still feel as though I'm holding your hands in mine. We'll meet again, all at once, on that vast parade ground, and the song, our song, will ring out, and we'll all be there together, and until that day we won't let anyone rob us of our courage, for we carry the will to live in our veins and faith in our hearts, as echoed in our Buchenwald song.
Initially, I was unsure of what I should do. And then suddenly, I realized: I’ve got to kindle small fires; I’ve got to send them everywhere so that nobody will feel left out in the cold. I've been feeling cold ever since that first roll-call on the parade square in Birkenau at the break of day on 2 July 1944, when I didn’t know that I would still be standing in exactly the same clothes on a parade square in December, except this time in Hessen in Germany, in Allendorf, where it is freezing in winter if you’re not wearing warm clothes. All I needed to do against freezing to death was to think of the warm lace monogrammed underwear Mommy gave me, to sense that feeling of home and warmth. So, even today, I just have to think about the things Mommy gave me. Hedy Bohm once stated in an interview: If ever she felt helpless during the Holocaust and found herself at a loss as to what to do, she would ask herself what her mother would have done in a similar situation and would then do whatever her mother did. And so is it with those things I received from Mommy; I remember them even decades afterward and they still come to my aid. Whenever the songs I sang as a child come to mind, I once again find myself back home: I’m running up the thirteen steps, open the hallway door where it smells of the denatured alcohol and resin with which the floorboards were scrubbed. And then my room comes into view, with its huge closet full of dolls and toys. I’m a spoiled child, but I have to keep my things tidy and always put them back in the closet whenever I’m finished playing with them so that I don't have to waste my precious time, of which I have so little, tidying up. My Mommy taught me that while neatness is never called for in order to live, you just kept things tidy so that you don’t waste much effort and time on it. I never succeeded in teaching that to my children. I’m just astounded that they usually find whatever they need amidst the chaotic mess that surrounds them.
I wanted to write about truly important things, for we suddenly find ourselves in extraordinary times and it has become extra important that we all enjoy a sense of well-being and feel well-cared for and receive the attention we require from those around us. The good thing to be found amidst every evil is that we humans rediscover ourselves. We can once again do things for ourselves; we can help each other, have fun with each other, skype and read aloud to each other, and show just how important the other is to us. We then cheer up and we can more easily get through even crises with humour and good cheer. Believe me. I know only all too well.
With my fondest regards,
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