“My name is Štefánia Lorándová and I was born in Košice on Noveber 22, 1919. That was a long time ago. My parents’ names were Margita and Ludvík Loránda, my mother’s maiden name was Strelingerová. I had one younger sister, but she is no longer alive. My father’s family was quite orthodox; he himself would not have been so orthodox, but he had to conform to his family, because they were constantly criticizing him for not observing the religious customs. My mother came from a family which was not orthodox at all, and it was therefore completely new to her.”
Interviewer: “What did you feel when you suddenly arrived into all this horror?” – “It is difficult to describe, because I was not able to grasp it nearly for the entire time that I was in Auschwitz. I think that I was realizing it only afterwards. I was unable to grasp that something like this could even exists. Exterminating people with gas just like pest. We knew that it was bad in concentration camps, but this? We were not even able to imagine this. It took some time. Our ears could hear it, but it took you some time to realize it. But I was lucky, because unmarried girls from Slovakia went first, and they somehow learnt about the work I was doing in Hungary, and they hoped that I would save their loved ones.”
“In order to obtain the documents I was going to registry offices and making up some names and requesting them to issue a birth certificate for this or that name. Naturally, they wouldn’t be able to find that name, because it was an invented name. ´Miss, we don’t have it here.´ I would say: ´But it has to be here. Find it, my friend is getting married, and she can’t marry without the certificate.´ I would nearly break into tears. You know, I never wanted to pretend to be somebody else, but when I was there I had to pretend all the time, pretend, pretend, pretend. The clerk would eventually get angry and say: ´You know what - just look for yourself that it is not here.´ That was precisely what I needed: then I would try to remember as many names as I could hold in my memory. When I came out of the office, I would write these names down, and then I would go to request specific birth certificates. Then I was able to get Hungarian documents for our people. But that was not all, it was also necessary to register them with the police. In Hungary the police registration was extremely improtant.”
“Although I was born in Košice, my real birth certificate was still valid for a certain period of time. But what happened soon after was that some of our people got caught and some of them were not able to withstand the interrogations and they confessed, and the name Lorándová was therefore very well known. When I got into their hands, they asked me about Lorándová, too. ´I have never met her.´ (laughing).” Interviewer: “What cover names did you use then?” – “Various names, but for the longest time I was using the name Margita Deméter.”
“We used to have meetings and usually we would get somebody who could give a talk about the life in Palestine. We were preparing ourselves for going there and building the country and doing physical work, because economy-wise the life of the Jews was very unhealthy so far, and it was necessary to do physical work as well, and not to focus only on the intellectual. There were very intelligent people among us, and they also agreed on working this way. We were founding so called nests - ken in the towns where we were meeting, and where we were sharing information about life in Palestine of that time and getting ready for it. Apart from that, when we became adults, we were organized in so-called plug - these were groups of people where all the members tried to get some employment where they would be doing physical work. I, for example, was working on a construction site for several months, and it was a very hard work.”
I´m not in fact Margita Deméterová, but if you spill it, I migh even hang
Štefánia Lorándová was born November 22, 1919 in Košice in eastern Slovakia in a Jewish family. It was her father who observed the traditions and holidays in the family, while her mother was not too fervent in her Jewish faith. After the death of her father, Štefánia moved with her mother and sister to Žilina to her grandmother and uncle. While living in this town she also got to know the Hashomer Hatzair movement, and later she became one of its members. Hashomer Hatzair was a Zionist organization, which was preparing its members for physical work in anticipation of the creation of an independent Jewish state. Štefánia took part in physical work as well and with a pickaxe and spade in hand she joined in on the construction of the dam in Malé Leváry. When she was nineteen years old, she was appointed to the leadership of Hashomer Hatzair in Bratislava, where she also participated in the preparation for the emigration of Jews to Palestine. When the persecution of Jews began in 1942, Štefánia was chosen to do illegal work in Hungary, where she was sent in order to help with obtaining false birth certificates, police registrations and accommodation for Jewish and non-Jewish emigrants from Slovakia. She arrived to Budapest on March 9, 1942 and after a short time she became a skilled counterfeiter. While in Hungary, she was keeping her Jewish identity secret - she didn‘t look Jewish at all and she was using cover names, going under the cover name Margita Deméterová most of the time. When was arrested for falsifying documents, it was under the name of Margita Deméterová, and not Štefánia Lorandová. She served her penalty in the interment camp Bačka Topola. After her release she continued working for Hashomer Hatzair, and thanks to her excellent knowledge of foreign languages, she was even offered a job in a German press agency. After the arrest of two refugees, however, Margita Deméterová was sent to the so-called Shuphaus and then to an interment camp in Budapest. She was eventually released, but her true identity became revealed. Moreover, Horthy‘s regime was no longer able to resist Hitler, and Hungary became occupied by the German army. In spring 1944 Štefánia and her sister were deported to Auschwitz. In the concentration camp she met female prisoners from Slovakia who have been surviving in Auschwitz since 1942 and who were serving at higher positions. They already knew that she had been helping Slovak Jews, and they requested a work position in the typing room for her. Štefánia eventually agreed with them on a transport out of Auschwitz for her and her sister. They didn‘t know where they would be sent, but compared to Auschwitz everything seemed more bearable at that time. They were transported to a quarantine facility near Trutnov and eventually to a camp in Bernartice near Trutnov. By a miracle, her mother had been sent to the same place and she was reunited with Štefánia and her sister there, and the entire family has thus survived. After the war Štefánia was working in various high-ranking jobs. She joined the Communist Party, she worked as a secretary to the deputy of the prime minister, she worked in the press department of the Ministry of Interior and in 1947 she was also working on the repatriation of Volhynian Czechs. She also worked in the personal and press departments at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She was expelled from the Communist Party in 1955. She lived in Prague until October 2012, when she died.