"Stay Together"

The Fate of Jewish Families in 1944

The Jónás Family

Sacaseni, Romania

In 1944, the family was deported to Auschwitz
May-June 1944, Birkenau:  Women and children on the selection ramp

Page from the Auschwitz Album

Izák Jónás, his wife Ilona-Lea née Zelikovitz, and their children, Roselia (b. 1929), Miklós (b. 1937), Fredy (b. 1939) and Bözske (b. 1941) lived in a small agricultural settlement near the town of Sacaseni (Săcășeni), in northern Transylvania, Romania.

In the summer of 1940, the region was returned to Hungary, and the land belonging to the Jónás family was nationalized.  In March 1944, the area was occupied by Nazi Germany, but the deportations were carried out by the Hungarian authorities.  In April 1944, a Hungarian gendarme ordered the family to leave home within just a few hours.  They were told to leave their valuables behind, and to take just some clothes and four loaves of bread.  Izák baked five loaves – and was beaten for bringing the extra loaf.  The family was taken to Sacaseni, where they were housed in a locked school building, together with other Jews from the town and from surrounding villages.  The next morning, gendarmes arrived with horses and carts, and brought the Jews to the train station.  Some of the locals watching the deportation clapped hands and rejoiced, but others cried, some even trying to throw the Jews food and parcels.  Izák asked his Christian friends not to throw him packages, for fear that he would be beaten again by the gendarmes.  The deportees were taken by train to the Szilágysomlyó (Şimleu Silvaniei) ghetto.

The Jónás, family was housed in a ramshackle hut, together with other relatives.  One day Izák was caught praying, and as a punishment one of the gendarmes tied him to a tree, while still wrapped in his prayer shawl.  When he eventually lost consciousness, they doused him with water, and when he recovered, he was re-tied to the tree, and so on and so forth, until he was finally allowed to return to the hut. 

In late May/early June 1944, the family was brought to the railway station and deported in cattle cars to Auschwitz.

In the course of the selection, Roselia was separated from her father, and stayed with her mother and younger siblings. Her mother, Ilona-Lea, who was nine months pregnant, instructed Roselia to take her little brother and pass him off as her own son.  Roselia moved forward, holding her brother.  A German stopped her and asked:  “Whom does the child belong to?”  When Roselia answered “To me”, the German responded:  “You’re a child yourself.  Put him down.”  She was beaten, and fell while her mother looked on, helpless.    Roselia never saw her mother, her two brothers or her sister again.  She saw her father once, for a moment, when he passed her in the camp dressed in a striped uniform.  She ran towards him and tried to speak to him, but was caught and beaten, and after that, she did not see him again.

Roselia was transferred to a forced labor camp in Germany, where she was liberated.  She immigrated to Israel in 1965. 

The photograph of her mother and two of her younger siblings is in the Auschwitz Album.

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