Witness to the Holocaust
Magda BrownMagda Brown was born in Miskolc, Hungary in 1927. She grew up in a safe, loving home and enjoyed a normal childhood. At the time Hungarian Jewry as a whole lived in comparative personal and physical safety.
Although an ally of Germany, Hungary refused initially to deport Jews with Hungarian citizenship. However, in March of 1944, German troops marched into Budapest and with them Adolf Eichmann, who was sent to establish special details for implementing the “Final Solution” of the Hungarian Jews.
The deportations of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau started on May 15 and lasted till July 7, 1944. Nearly 444,000 – half the Jews in Hungary – were deported to Birkenau. On average 75% of each transport was gassed immediately upon arrival.
In the summer of 1944, with the war clearly going against the Germans, Hungarian Head of State, Admiral Miklos Horthy, informed the Germans on July 7th that the deportations of the Jews must cease and all transports came to a halt.
However, on October 15, 1944, Horthy’s regime was overthrown by the Nazi backed Arrow Cross militia. The Nazis and the Hungarian police soon created a transition camp in Miskolc, called the “brickyard”. Magda and her family received orders to move into this area. They walked through the city in a public march to the camp, where around 14,000 other Jewish people were placed.
On June 11,1944, Magda’s 17th birthday, she and her family were crowded onto a rail car together with 80 other people. They travelled for three days without water, food or any idea where they were being deported. Their transport’s final destination was Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. After her arrival Magda and her family were part of a selection and were split into two groups. Magda was seperated from her entire family. It was the last time she saw them; they went directly into the gas chambers.
Magda was imprisoned together with 500 others in a barack. After two months she received advice from a friendly woman, who worked in the camp’s transportation office that she should particpate in the next selection and not hide. On August 9, 1944, after the selection, Magda and a thousand others, mostly Hungarian Jewish women, were transported to Allendorf, Germany to a subcamp of Buchenwald concentration camp. There, Magda worked for Münchmühle, one of the largest ammunitions factories in Gemany. The factory produced rockets and bombs for the war effort.
In Münchmühle, Magda and the women worked as long as 8 to 12 hours a day, with a half hour break. They were not paid for their work. In addition to filling bombs with poisonous TNT, the women were often forced to carry the bombs and shells, which weighed up to 50 kilos each. As a result of their work they became ill with powder scabies (orange hair, yellow skin, purple lips, blood and liver diseases).
At the end of March 1945 Magda and the other workers were evacuated from the camp and sent on a death march for three days to Buchenwald. Out of this group Magda and several prisoners attempted to escape. They hid in a pile of straw in a nearby barn and after one and a half days, were liberated by American soldiers.
After liberation Magda spent 6 months in a displaced persons camp in Niedergrenzenbach, Germany. With the assistance of the United States governement she was able to return to Hungary and search for her family. Magda was specifcally interested in locating her brother Miklos, who served in the Hungarian military’s Jewish labor force, and was captured and imprisoned by the Russian army. Upon her return to Hungary, Magda was only able to find 6 of her cousins, out of an extended family of seventy.
Soon after arriving in Hungary Magda received sponsorship from relatives in America and various Jewish organizations and received her visa to the United States. Magda arrived in America on September 17, 1946 and was eventually reunited with her brother Miklos in 1962.