The Jews of Kaszony
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Kaszony (properly Mezökaszony) is a small market town in Subcarpathia, the province that became part of Czechoslovakia after World War I, that was ceded to Hungary in 1938 and that finally became part of the Ukraine in 1945. Subcarpathia (Podkarpatská Rus) had a population of 800,000 in 1938 of which 12 % were Jewish. At that time Kaszony had some 2,700 inhabitants including 479 Jews (1940). An exodus of a kind had begun and there were already 295 Kaszony-born Jews living in other parts of the world, mostly in Budapest, but also in e.g. the USA and Palestine. That is to say that 38 % of all the Kaszony-born Jews were emigrants in 1940. In 1987 only three Kaszony-born Jews were left in their home town.
A few years ago, one of the former Kaszonyers, Józsi Einczig (born 1920), edited a book, The Jews of Kaszony, resulting from a collective effort of a group of Jewish Kaszonyers living in Israel, the United States, and Hungary. Mr. Einczig himself, who as an American (residing in Great Neck, NY) has assumed the name Joseph Eden, was taken prisoner by the Soviets in 1944. He was then offered the opportunity to serve in the Czechoslovak army that was set up in the USSR during World War II. He estimates that at least 60 % of this army consisted of Jews who had somehow managed to survive. The Jews of Kaszony was intended as a complete account on the war-time fates of all the Kaszony Jews who were alive in 1938.
Unfortunately, the authors have not gone so far as to investigate the various causes of death for all those who are supposed to have perished in Auschwitz and other German camps. (This would have been very difficult indeed.) Nevertheless the book contains many photographs of persons with subtitles reporting these as “murdered in Auschwitz.” It is rather obvious, however, that all that is really known about these persons is the fact that they never returned from German internment – for whatever reason. The fates of the individual survivors are certainly better known, but only a dozen individual survivals are described in the book. Among these are four young children who survived Auschwitz: Cili and Lenke Halpert, Sári Auspitz (who was only 1-2 years old) and Alex Schneider (12). Sári Auspitz now lives in Budapest.
Among the grown-ups, two landed up in Soviet custody and managed to get out: Rózi Ackerman-Weissman and Józsi Einzig. When Hungarian Jews were captured by the Red Army, their Jewishness didn’t make much of an impression on the Russians. The Jews were packed together with Germans and Hungarians and treated as enemies. Young men could opt for enrollment in the Communist Czechoslovak army, but those who didn’t (or couldn’t) were probably sent to some camp instead.
One person, Dezsö Rapaport, is said to have survived Auschwitz (aged 53) though he never arrived home afterwards. In the key register on victims of the Holocaust, Dezsö is listed among the dead in Auschwitz. Three persons are reported to have escaped deportation by means of false identities: Siku Klein (as a Christian priest), Jenö Ackerman and Rezsi Veres. It wouldn’t surprise if many others assumed (and kept) non-Jewish identities after having being betrayed by their government and having suffered the hardships of Auschwitz, all precisely because of their native Jewish identity. Such persons would definitely not be traceable by any investigator 40 years after their “defection.”
Others who are mentioned individually as survivors from Auschwitz are Lea and Jenta Schneider (who were moved to a camp at Zitau), Miska Klein (51) and Magda Iczikovics. No special circumstances are mentioned in the last two cases.
This is a sample-card on the various modes of surviving. Obviously small children were not 100% exterminated in Auschwitz, since even little Sári Auspitz survived. It is also established that some people found themselves in Soviet custody before the war ended. It is not likely that all of these managed to escape from there. Some may have died as POWs and others may have disappeared in slave camps or places of banishment. It is impossible to estimate the number of such cases. The practice of false identities seems to have been widely used. Not all of those who posed as gentiles reassumed their old identities after the war. (One of the two Hungarian Jews in my own municipality did reassume his original name, the other kept his alias until his death – although he revealed himself as a Jew in his memoirs). Again it is impossible to estimate the number of all those who never reassumed their Jewish identities.
All this means, of course, is that people who were not heard of after liberation may not necessarily have died in the camps. They may have lived for months or years or even decades after the war without being known by their former neighbors. Because of these shortcomings the statistics offered by The Jews of Kaszony is not entirely dependable. Anyway, let us have a look at it. If we subtract those who had moved outside Europe, there remain the following categories, see table 1.
In 1941, 122 men were drafted into the Hungarian Forced Labor Camp. That would mean most of the men between 20 and 45 years old. Only 53% of these reported alive after the war. The rest are listed as “dead,” but as we have seen, some of the missing persons may have been taken prisoners by the Russians and sent to slave camps within the USSR. All the women, children and older men were left unmolested until 1944, at least as far as they were living in Hungary. The expected mortality among these (from natural causes) would amount to about 60 dead in the period 1938-44. The Jews of Kaszony lists, however, only 26 persons as having died in Kaszony within these years. The most likely explanation to this discrepancy is that the authors weren’t able to find the traces of all the Kaszonyers, especially if they disappeared early enough. This certainly reflects on the accuracy of their statistics. It gives us one more reason to take the figures with a grain of salt.
It is now quite clear that the number of Kaszony Jews who died in Auschwitz was not 401. The word “Auschwitz” in the table stands for German camps in general, and even if 500 were actually sent to Auschwitz in the first place, they were (sooner or later) transferred to other camps – provided they were still alive, of course. It is well known that the mortality was extremely high in most German camps in the last few months of the war (when Auschwitz had already been abandoned). When e.g. the Dachau camp was liberated, 32,000 internees were found alive, but 13,158 had died during the last four months, making up a death rate of 29 % for that period of time. The 99 Kaszonyers known to have returned from German camps may in fact have survived both Auschwitz and a subsequent concentration camp. A sizeable group of them may even have survived the final evacuation from Auschwitz with its tremendous high death toll. (Elie Wiesel in his La Nuit mentions 12 survivors out of a hundred in his own railway wagon.) Judging from the survival figures alone, some 300-400 Kaszonyers could have been murdered in Auschwitz. But for all we know, the 99 who are known to have survived may just as well constitute only a minority of the real number of survivors. And 200 or even 300 out of the original 500 could well have died from typhoid fever, from freezing and starving, and even (occasionally) from allied bombing.
Some years ago the death certificates from Auschwitz for the years 1941-43 were found in Moscow. The certificates amount to about 66,000. It seems likely that 30,000 or 40,000 more died in 1944. These deaths relate to the 406,000 persons who were registered as Auschwitz internees (according to the Encyclopaedia Judaica). In other words, those who stayed in the camp for some time ran a 25 % risk of dying there. Suppose this applies to the interned Kaszonyers too, and suppose they were all registered and none of them gassed on arrival. In that case about 125 out of the 500 would have died anyway. Now suppose that another 125 were transferred to various labor camps after a preliminary sojourn in Auschwitz. These 125 certainly suffered an extremely high mortality rate during the last weeks of the war; let us assume 25 % once more. This would mean 31 more deaths before liberation.
We are left with a hypothetical 250 Kaszonyers alive in Auschwitz on January 18, 1944, when evacuation began. We may out of hand dismiss the death rate reported by Mr. Wiesel as exceptional and not applying to the great majority of evacuees. Instead of Wiesel’s 88 %, let us assume 35 % as a possible death rate for the 250 evacuated Kaszonyers. That makes 87 more deaths. In the generally overcrowded terminal camps we now have 163 Kaszonyers, progressively emaciating from starvation. Again the death rate must have been high, let us assume 25 % i.e. 41 more deaths. Thus, altogether 284 Kaszonyers would have died from epidemics, hypothermia, starvation and occasional violence. 216 would have survived. The Jews of Kaszony gives the names of 70 former Auschwitz internees who were alive in the free world in 1987. Considering normal death rates this group of 70 should have comprised about 150 in 1945. Some 80 persons should have died during 42 years in order to leave a group of 70 survivors. The book, however, reports only 29 deaths among former Auschwitz internees during the period 1945-1987. It is rather obvious that the authors don’t have information about all who survived Auschwitz. On page 85 in The Jews of Kaszony we read:
“The end of the war didn’t stop the Jewish suffering. Many died from exhaustion, from irreversible sicknesses and from malnutrition, in hospitals in Germany and Austria, in displaced persons camps, and on their way to look for a new home in Palestine, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the United States, or any other country in the world that might be willing to accept them.”
Carl. O. Nordling, born in 1919 in Helsinki, Finland, as “Finland Swede,” fought on the Finish side during the Finish-Soviet war and has resided in Sweden since 1944. Educated as a town planner, he briefly taught this subject at a college in 1948. He is a specialist for general and regional planning, including demographic prognoses. Since his retirement he has been active as a freelance researcher.
It is quite clear that many survivors must have died in the ‘forties under these horrible circumstances. However, only one of these many victims is found in the book. Her name is Magda Veres, and she settled in Subcarpathia after liberation and died there before 1950. Even normal conditions would have resulted in 10 to 15 deaths in the five years before 1950. In the wretched post-war Europe we should have expected this to double. The number of reported deaths in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties (four cases) is also much too low to be credible. Pure probability tells us that altogether some 150 Kaszonyers survived the German camps and settled somewhere in Israel, the USA, Hungary, Czechoslovakia or Subcarpathia after liberation. Since about a third out of such a group should have already died within the first 25 or 30 years, most of the early deceased Auschwitz survivors seem to have been overlooked in 1987 and counted as victims instead.
It is striking that as many as 45 % of those who survived the Hungarian labor camps were reported as dead in 1987, although very few of them could have been more than 40 years old in 1944. The other Kaszonyers who included even higher age groups should have suffered a heavier death toll (especially if 109 children were already dead, as the book would have it). Another striking fact is that an expected 54 % mortality (1945-87) is reported for the easy-to-trace group of survivors in Budapest and Subcarpathia as against only 24 % for those living spread all over the world. This discrepancy applies to other former Kaszonyers (non-molested) as well. It is obvious that many such survivors who emigrated and died within a couple of decades must have been inadvertently classified as “dead in Auschwitz” in the key table on page 82 in The Jews of Kaszony.
But early death may not be the only cause for overlooking the existence of survivors. It is striking that the Auschwitz survivors are reported as living almost entirely (94 %) in five countries, although some Kazonyers are reported as living in altogether eleven countries all over the world. Except for the 93 survivors reported as having settled in Israel, the USA, Budapest, Subcarpathia and Czechoslovakia, there are only two registered for each of Canada, Australia and Austria (none for e.g. in the USSR, England and France). We note especially that The Jews of Kaszony doesn’t mention any-one at all who would have settled in Germany. This should be compared with a passage on page 429 in Eichmann’s autobiography:
“For nearly five years did I reside in West Germany after the War, and I saw much. Everywhere there were Jews [...] in the Lüneburg Heath. Everywhere it stank of garlic. I used to deal in wood and eggs with the Jews and to say to myself ‘Damn it, these would all have been killed by us, wouldn’t they?’”
It seems that the authors of The Jews of Kaszony took it for granted that no survivor from Auschwitz would be alive in Germany – however much they may smell of garlic. But after all, the liberated internees were staying in Germany when the War ended. Palestine was forbidden and emigration to the USA was restricted. We shouldn’t expect these and other foreign countries to be within reach of everybody. Made to choose between Soviet Subcarpathia and West Germany many may have chosen the latter. (Only 14 chose Subcarpathia.) Maybe there are still Kaszonyers alive in Germany, living under assumed names and passing as Gentiles. In that case they would hardly make themselves known as former Kaszony Jews. After the ordeal of Auschwitz some thought “I will never more believe in Yahveh,” others perhaps “I will never more live in Europe (Hungary, Czechoslovakia),” and if they thought so, they were certainly free to reveal their thoughts to anybody. But those who reacted with the conviction “I will never more appear as a Jew” are forever barred from letting the world know about their decision. As Jews they are virtually “dead” to the Jewish communion – just as much as the daughter who married a goy in Fiddler on the Roof. But even if they don’t exist as Jews anymore, it is wrong to count them as “murdered in Auschwitz.” Now, let us summarize our hypotheses in the form of a table (see table 2).
|May 1944: The Kaszony Jews arrive at Auschwitz:||500|
|Out of these, 25% die during their stay in camp:||125|
|Some are sent to other camps in 1944:||125|
|Out of these, 25% die, the rest survives:||31||94|
|Left in Auschwitz on Jan. 18, 1945:||250|
|Out of these, 35% die during evacuation:||87|
|Left in provisory internment:||163|
|Out of these 25% die before liberation, 75% survive:||41||122|
|Total of dead and surviving 1944-45:||284||216|
|Thereof possibly ended up in the USSR:||39|
|possibly settled in Germany:||39|
|possibly settled elsewhere and died early:||39|
|found and listed in The Jews of Kaszony:||99|
This totally hypothetical version of what happened is composed of nothing but probable figures and rates. It shows that when all these rates are applied to an initial 500 Jewish deportees, it is quite natural that 99 survivors should be identified in a survey made 42 years after the event. And as we can see, this low proportion of 20% identified survivors out of the 500 who were deported by no means implies that the rest were murdered, not even that a minor group among them were actually murdered. According to Table 2, about 57% of the 500 deportees would have died just as did 51% of those not deported are supposed to have died – without mass murder! The average for all the Jewish Kaszonyers in Europe would thus be 55%. It is in fact highly probable that quite a good half of the Kaszonyers succumbed to diseases, starving, hypothermia, occasional murder and enemy action during the Second World War. The proportion is comparable to the death toll taken in Leningrad, Dresden and Hiroshima during the war. The case of Kaszony is certainly one of the many great tragedies of the Second World War.
This scrutiny of The Jews of Kaszony indicates that it is in most cases impossible to make reliable sample investigations of the wartime fates of Jews from a whole village or town. The authors of The Jews of Kaszony have no doubt done their best, and they are worthy of great praise for their effort. All the same, we must realize that they apparently hadn’t had a chance to find all the data about all the persons in the group under discussion. And they were, like so many of us, afflicted with a preconceived assurance that Auschwitz was a “Death Factory” and that only miracles could save the deportees from being gassed to death there. As it turns out, the book gives a fundamentally wrong impression of the kind of affliction that the pitiful Jews of Kaszony were forced to endure in the last year of World War II. With regard to the aim of mutual understanding between peoples it is regrettable that an expression like “The Victims of Hate” should appear in a memorial book. Millions of people perished in the War, but even the intentional killing was usually not inspired by hatred. And The Jews of Kaszony offers no proof that any single victim was killed intentionally.
In the early 1990s, Carl O. Nordling published several excellent papers on population statistics on the Holocaust: Revue d’Histoire révisionniste (RHR) 2 (1990) pp. 50-64; Engl.: The Journal of Historical Review (JHR) 10(2) (1990) pp. 195-209; RHR 4 (1991) pp. 95-100; RHR 5 (1991) pp. 96-106; Engl.: JHR 11(3) (1991) pp. 335-344.
This paper was first published as “Die Juden von Kaszony” in Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung 1(4) (1997), pp. 251-254.
|||J. Eden, The Jews of Kaszony, Subcarpathia, New York 1988.|
|||Ibid., starting on p. 38: “The Victims of Hate.”|
|||E. Wiesel, La Nuit, Paris 1958.|
|||Staatliches Museum Auschwitz (ed.), Die Sterbebücher von Auschwitz, Saur, Munich 1995.|
|||R. Aschenauer, Ich, Adolf Eichmann, Druffel, Leoni 1980.|
|||This musical, first performed in 1964 on the Broadway, is based on a play by Joseph Stein, Tevje und seine Töchter, 1912, which in turn is based on a Yiddish story by S. Rabinovitz (Tevye der Milkhiger, 1894). It was performed 3,242 in New York and 2,030 in London. 1968 saw the first German performance in Hamburg. The Komische Oper in East Berlins performed this musical between 1970 and 1985. Since Sept. 20, 1997, it was shown in Malmö, Sweden, and since Oct. 11, 1997, in Stockholm (Spelman på taket, see Svenska Dagbladet, Sept. 16. & 21, 1997). It is about a racist Russian Jew who collapses at the very moment his daughter marries a non-Jew (Goy).|
Additional information about this document
|Author(s):||Carl O. Nordling|
|Title:||The Jews of Kaszony|
|Sources:||The Revisionist 3(2) (2005), pp. 173-177|
|First posted on CODOH:||July 30, 2012, 7 p.m.|
|Comments:||First published in German as “Die Juden von Kaszony” in "Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung, "1(4) (1997), pp. 251-254|