Twins András and Károly Brichta were born in Ujpest (today a part of Budapest), Hungary in 1935; their parents were Margit and Laszlo Brichta. In 1943 Laszlo was sent to the Hungarian Army Labor Battalions along with many of the Jewish men. After the German occupation of Hungary in 1944, the large deportations of the Hungarian Jews began, and Margit and the twins were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
On their arrival at Birkenau, the children were separated from their mother and sent to Block 15, where Mengele carried out his medical experiments on twins. The numbers 17456 and 17457 were tattooed on the nine-year-old brothers' arms, and thus, because they were twins, they were saved from the certain fate awaiting any other child of their age – death in the gas chambers. András and Károly were lucky; the experiments performed on them were not the most severe, and thus their lives entered a protected routine of games and discussions that were sometimes interrupted by blood tests and various comparison measurements. The twins used in Dr. Mengele's experiments were fed better in order to maintain their physical well-being, and András and Károly did not suffer from hunger.
The twins' mother Margit remained in Birkenau, and from time to time the children managed to see her going off to forced labor with a group of prisoners. However, after a few months in Birkenau, their mother fell ill and continued to grow weaker.
In his testimony, András describes the chaos reigning in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in January. During the period between the flight of the German soldiers and the arrival of the Red Army, the camp was cut off from electricity and water, and every so often, German soldiers who had escaped from the front would arrive at the camp and continue to threaten the lives of the prisoners.
"I already knew then that the front was approaching… at any rate, that is what I saw, that the Germans were escaping, and already for a few days the ovens were not active… it was a retreat, they jumped onto jeeps, motorcycles, trucks…
Between the time the Germans left and the arrival of the Red Army, a group of (German) soldiers came as well; they took us to work in the Kanada camp… it was terribly cold… I had clothing that was full of holes with short-sleeves...when the German soldier looked the other way, I saw a sweater, I took it, and I was not shot…"
From the testimony of András Brichta – today Motti Alon.
The twins found their mother, who was mortally ill in the women's block, and they cared for her until the arrival of the Red Army soldiers:
"The door of the barracks opened and a soldier came in… dressed in completely different attire...he entered and there was [in the barracks] a kind of wave of women who were really skeletons, then they said: 'Russky’… They went to him and he stood there and he did not know what to say… it was clear even to me that we had been liberated."
In early May 1945, Margit and her twin sons, András and Károly, returned to Budapest where they were reunited with the father of the family, Laszlo, who had succeeded in escaping from the Labor Battalions and managed to hide until the end of the war.
The sweater that András took from the clothing storehouse after the flight of the Germans remained in his possession as a symbol of the end of the war.
Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection,
Donated by Mordechai Alon (András Brichta), Jerusalem