“In Žilina I experienced one thing I shall never forget – the first transports from Eastern Slovakia to Auschwitz. People locked in cattle cars were laid up to some side rail and no one could get closer to them. We were pupils back then, carrying full baskets of groceries and water, and the people screamed from those little windows: ‘Give us some water, give us water!’ It was warm outside, they weren´t hungry yet, but just very thirsty. It was April or May 1942. And they asked us – the school kids from a Jewish school – to go to these cattle cars and carry food and water to these people, whereas our parents weren´t supposed to find out about that. And we managed it and handed food through the windows. The Hlinka´s Guard watched them very closely, but since we were children, they didn´t harm us. They didn´t look at us kindly, but they let us be. Those were the first transports of young girls and boys, about 16 – 17 years old, only a little older than we were. Thus there was still a big risk we might have been shoved in as well. Fortunately, we all survived it. I will never forget how they looked from behind those bars and tried to reach for the water we were passing them. Although we didn´t know exactly, we sensed what was going to happen with them. I shall never forget that. That´s not something one can ever forget.”
“That house stood near the Danube embankment, on the Pest side. Later on, the Russians were in Pest and there were Germans in Buda, on the other side of the Danube River. And they fought between each other and shoot one another all the time. However, everyone was hungry. Suddenly, somebody said that if walking along the embankment, in about one kilometer, we could find an open storehouse with dry peas. Originally it was meant for planting. So my father and I took a wheelbarrow, I don´t even know from where, and we went. My mom didn´t want to let us go, but we said: ‘We have to go! What shall we eat?’ Since our supplies were getting scarce. Thus we went and tried to walk in between the firing bullets. It was really tough, but we filled two sacks of peas not to starve. Ever since then I don´t eat peas.”
“Once my uncle wasn´t at home, but was searching for some food. The family had nothing to eat and were hidden in a basement, when the house was bombed. When my uncle came back, the family was gone; it was buried in the basement, in the debris of the house. And he literally said this to my mom, that he himself had dug them out with his fingers. They all survived. The basement wasn´t destroyed and he saved them as well as others from the house.”
v Bratislave (Dom seniorov Ohel David), 06.08.2016
I shall never forget faces of young people behind the bars of the first transports, nor the horror of escaping bullets in Budapest, while searching for food
Katarína Bendová was born on January 18, 1929 in Košice as Katarína Skalová. Since childhood she lived with her parents in Bratislava as their only child. When her father lost a job due to anti-Jewish laws, the family moved to live with their uncle from Žilina for almost two years. Thanks to his connections and a status of being an „economic-important Jew“ he temporarily provided them with protection. Since 1942 Katarína, separated from her parents, was hiding under a false identity as a female apprentice in Komárno (part of the Hungary back then). When the fascist Arrow Cross Party radically took over Hungary, Katarína returned back to her parents hiding in Budapest. Here they together survived the occupation of Hungarian capital that lasted for nearly three months. After the end of the war the whole family returned to Bratislava, where she has been living until now. She studied chemical engineering and worked at the Chemical and Food Research Institute. Mrs. Bendová is a widow; she has one daughter and two grandsons.