We began the day by walking the really short walk to the shul (synagogue in Yiddish), which is extremely beautiful, it reminded us slightly of a Russian Orthodox church. We were met by the President of the Jewish community, we felt it only proper to address him as 'Mr. President', which he thoroughly enjoyed. Well, if it's good enough for Obama it's good enough for Targu Mures! The shul was created in 1900 and amazingly was not destroyed by the Nazis as they only got to Targu Mures a year before the war ended. We are going to go to a Shabbat morning service there tomorrow morning, which should be good!
After a short tour of the shul we went to meet Dr. Eta Tusa, a wonderful lady who spoke excellent English although she was super impressed at the Hungarian we are learning (as Targu Mures used to be part of Hungary many people still speak Hungarian, over Romanian)! She presented us with a lovely lunch of salad and schnitzel! After chatting about the Queen and Kate Middleton (she is a big fan) we sat down so she could tell us her experiences during the war. She was taken with her sister to Auschwitz where they were imprisoned but they were taken on a death march to Germany in the freezing cold of January 1945. They were then imprisoned in a number of camps in Germany until May 9th when they were liberated by the British army. She came to Targu Mures and married an amazing man who she spent fifty-six happy years with until he passed away.
We then met another survivor Mrs. Diamantstein, who like Dr Tusa, survived Auschwitz but was taken to Plaszow labour camp near Krakow and other labour camps in Germany with her mother by train once the Russian's were closing in. Both Mrs. Diamantstein and her mother were put to work however one day her mother became ill and was not selected to work but instead of being kept at the barrack she was put on a cattle car, kept there for a day without food or water and then was transported back to Auschwitz where she was gassed. Mrs. Diamantstein was the only survivor from her entire family.
Both Dr. Tusa and Mrs. Diamantstein spoke very elquently about their experiences but without much emotion. Mrs. Diamantstein told us she can't allow herself to access her emotions. The events from their past are so traumatic that they are simply unable to talk about them in that way. Many of the survivors that we have spoken with feel the same way and they simply recite their stories to us. None of us can really imagine what it was like and we must be eternally grateful that they are able to tell these stories at all.
One thing they have all mentioned is how important the work that we are doing is. They want people to remember that the Holocaust took place. They want people to remember their stories and they want people to make sure that people never turn on each other in such a way, ever again. Even if it is just to fulfil their wishes, is the very least that we can do for these wonderful but traumatised people.