14, 1945, on a sunny Saturday morning, a tank rolled up to the gates
of our concentration camp in Salzwedel, Germany.
A U.S. soldier jumped
off the tank, opened the gates and announced, "You are free." To us,
he and the others from the U.S. Army were angels from heaven.
I was standing fairly
near the gate and tried to say "thank you" in English, German or even
Hungarian, but no sound would pass my lips.
I ran back to my room
in my hut, where several girls were lying on the floor, burning with
fever, some even vomiting blood. I wanted to tell them that we were
free, but no sound came out. It seems that the excitement of that morning
was too much for my dilapidated condition.
For the past 48 hours,
we had heard gunfire and that morning, we could hear the noise of tanks.
Then, the roaring of aircraft and all of a sudden, the sky was full
of mushrooms floating to the earth. The hundreds of white parachutes
against the blue sky was a miracle.
When our liberators
arrived, the Germans lifted their hands above their heads in capitulation.
A few U.S. soldiers rounded them up. One SS officer started to run
away and was shot dead.
The Army organized
food for us and told us we would be taken to decent quarters. After
we left the infested camp, it was burnt down. A doctor came and took
note of the patients who needed hospitalization. About three days later,
trucks took us to a German air force training school. The buildings
were pleasant and roomy and our liberators had expelled all the cadets,
after having made them clean the place for us. We were told not to
drag anything and should we want to rearrange our rooms, we should
ask a U.S. soldier and he would give orders for it to be done. Each
of us received a bar of soap, the first in a year. We had hot water
for 24 hours a day and so we could shower three or four times a day,
as if to wash away all the our mental hurt inflicted by the Germans.
We had proper beds with sheets and received clean towels every day.
After our first shower, we were asked not to put on our old rags, as
they were full of lice. We were given clean clothes.
On the airfield, we
found white parachutes left by the paratroopers and dragged them back
to our rooms. We made them into underwear and blouses. After not having
had any underwear for a very long time, we now had pure silk.
The U.S. Army had organized
a special diet for us as we had to get used to eating again. We had
the normal facilities of a dining room and we sat on chairs at tables,
like human beings again. There were always several Army people present
to make sure that all was well, and all this at a time when the United
States was still fighting a war.
The most astonishing
thing I found, then and today, was how wonderfully kind they were to
us. How remarkable it was that under the dirt, disease, rags and lice,
these soldiers could see human beings, young girls. Their kindness
and their thoughtfulness gave us back our belief in the human race.
A doctor came around
to each room to examine us, recommended treatment or said, with a smile, "You
will be fine, miss, with good food inside you again."
In the evenings, time
and time again, there would be a knock on the door and soldiers would
come in and do conjuring tricks or other silly things to get us to
laugh or at least smile again. It took some time before we learned
to smile again.
Today, 52 years after
my liberation, I stand in awe and thank you not only for liberating
me, but for being so humane, efficient and kind.
God bless you.