Jewish survivors of the Holocaust

Ciffer, Sigmund (1 of 4) Holocaust Survivors Centre Interviews

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  • Subjects

    Camp experiences

  • Recording date

    1995-01-23, 1995-01-30

  • Is part of (Collection)

    Holocaust Survivors Centre Interviews

  • Recording locations

    interviewer's home

  • Interviewees

    Ciffer, Sigmund, 1925- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Alweiss, Yvonne (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Sigmund (alias Zsigmond), known as Sigi Ciffer, born in the village of Marcalgergelyi in Hungary on 28th May 1925, eighth of ten children. Only two Jewish families lived in this village. Father, Schlomo Ciffer, born 1883 in Nagy Alàsony. A plumber by training, worked as a cattle dealer. After World War 1 took out bank loan, purchased livestock to rear and resell. The following year a new law forbade the export of cattle and father lost all his money, never able to repay the loan. Worshipped at synagogue in the neighbouring village of Nemesszalok where Jews form the surrounding villages also congregated. It was a walk of 45 minutes each way. Grandfather: Herrman Cifer, born in Nemesszalok in 1842. Innkeeper in Dombrony. Because of anti-Semitism, moved to Budapest before World War 1. Mother: Janka née Fischer. Her own mother was a sick woman, so she was brought up by her aunt who ran a corner shop in Marcalgergelyi, situated near the town of Papa. Mother later ran the shop, but by the time Sigi can remember, it was hardly doing any business. Exceedingly poor. Parents owned the house and a large piece of land attached to it. Grew their own food and later kept three goats which provided them with milk. The family lived and slept in two rooms. Straw sacks were laid out on the earthen floor, they slept two to a bed. No electricity, no water. At end of long corridor a lavatory without water which would be emptied every 2-3 years. Festivals were celebrated in one of the bedrooms. The house had a huge kitchen, stables, sheds for the waggons, a storeroom and the empty shop. At age seven Sigi was sent to a Jewish school in another town. Lodged with orthodox families and had to take his meals at a different benefactor’s home each day. Returned home only for Pesach and the summer vacation. Parents never visited him while at school, unable to afford the fare. At age 12 he started bar mitzvah course at a yeshiva. Lodgings had to be paid for and he had to go from home to home asking for donations. He hated having to do this and left after about three months. Started work in a Jewish baker’s shop in 1938. Had to get up and peel potatoes at 5am each morning. Bread was made from a mixture of potatoes and flour. Left after about three months, felt he was being exploited. 1938-44 worked for a glazier in the town of Gyor. In the first year his pay covered rent for lodgings. For meals he had to eat at a different benefactor’s home each day. Sent washing home to mother. After a year was given a contract for a two-year apprenticeship. Completed in 1943. Now salary was sufficient to pay for his own keep. Would go home to family over Sabbath. Friday, 17th March 1944 returned home for weekend. Sunday the Germans came to the village. Did not return to work, thought it safer to remain at home and work on the local farm. He received money and food as remuneration. A month later, together with his parents and 14 year old brother, he was sent to the ghetto in the town of Papa. Sigi’s siblings: brother in Russian labour force; brother in Bor, Yugoslavia working in copper mine; brother in Kőszeg in West Hungary; two sisters in domestic service in Budapest; brother, a polio victim, in Budapest. Able-bodied men between the ages of 18-60 were taken away from the ghetto. Sigi never saw his parents and younger brother again. Sent to Military Distribution Centre in Kőszeg. The centre was guarded by sadistic Sergeant Berzces and a doctor. Divided into work groups of 200 men. Sigi’s group was sent to work in a big agricultural factory in Mosonmagyarovar. Volunteered to work on farm. Hungarian army lieutenant and a sergeant were in charge. Conditions were good. Were permitted to keep Yom Kippur. Even a Sefer Thora was brought out of the ghetto for them. Ate non-kosher food. Felt staying alive was priority number one. Tried unsuccessfully to escape in October 1944. Returned to farm. When work there completed sent to another farm belonging to a big landowner near Aszod. As Sigi looked like a local peasant boy he managed to return to his home village. At the farm he learned that the Germans had installed their headquarters there. He returned to his group which was later transferred to Budapest. Here he left the group and visited his aunt. Learned that his sister was in a Swedish safe house. She had false Swiss papers issued by the Zionist organisation. Tried to find her but told she had been taken away. From Budapest taken to camp in C [?], 28th November 1944. Group of 2000 men put on train – destination; Bruck an der Leitha in Austria. Started work at 6am felling trees. Breakfast consisted of black coffee made from corn or chicory and a piece of bread. Lived in stables. GOUCH – method of torture.

  • Related links

    Voices of the Holocaust - link to learning materials based on the moving stories of Jewish Holocaust Survivors on the British Library Website

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