Ervín Schönhauser

* 1940

  • "We didn't stay in those barracks for long and December 19, 1944, so we were in this concentration camp from September 8, '44 to December 19, '44, because where only one German participated, it already had the name of the concentration camp, which was also true. And we had luck in misfortune, and I say it was a miracle of God. Because what was the tendency there? From all these collection, quasi-labor camps - Nováky, Sereď, Patrónka, Žilina, Vyhne, you straight to the "paradise" in quotes - Auschwitz. And we must have been very lucky, a miracle of God. The railroad tracks were already bombed, so they solved it in a slightly more "human way", so we were not sent to the total extermination camp, but they literally dragged us (which I still cannot understand) in the infamous cattle carriages until December 18 or 19. We arrived at Theresienstadt in terrible condition. The Czechs dragged us in. I won't say it wasn't Pullman's wagons. An awful lot of people died during this transport. There was one bucket for faeces, water- I cannot understand, I would never be able to understand. So it was a journey of unimaginable suffering. We arrived at Theresienstadt and again the tendency- German shepherds, screaming, SS, Gestapo, they had many "helpers" amongst Czechs. We ended up in a large room- "the shower". I remember it, there were showers, there was lice removal, showering, etc. And what is interesting, I don't know how I have arrived at this conclusion, how I mobilised this thought, I said to myself that is the infamous gas chamber! I was four! I don't know how this thought occurred to me. It was the end, I thought, the gas chamber. Something like that was in those gas chambers. Luckily, there were those showers."

  • "Not only the population but also the soldiers took part in this - and interestingly. We sealed the cabinets, I remember. We used to live in another place in Topoľčany, but also on Štefánik Square, next to today's town hall, where the mayor is located. And they came to us, they beat us violently, and my father took a blow to the head with an iron rod, and for the rest of his life, he had a brain scar up to the location of the brain. A scar! Then, of course, it was somehow being solved, etc. I do not know what the result was, who was believed to initiate all this, how legally these people were prosecuted, or whether they were held responsible. Until today, I am shaking from fear, I was four or five, but you can never forget those things, you take them to the grave with you."

  • "The clouds were drawing above us. So the quasi-exception that the father was indispensable, of course, didn't last long. This all broke out, respectively the Germans began to rage austere mainly after the outbreak of the Slovak National Uprising. The result of this rampage, etc., was that ... and there was simply no debating as to the Jewish population, preceded by Aryanization, etc., etc., on September 8, 1944, it could have been two or three in the morning, and that it was such an Indian summer, I remember, even though I was small, I was a few years old. The SS, the Gestapo, the guardsmen, who were accompanied by the at that time typical behaviour: the shooting in the air, around the church in Topoľčany, ostentatiously and demonstratively, one tank was circling... And shooting and screaming and a subsequent fight. So they attacked us in this way and in what we wore - but what we already wore - they took us, or literally dragged us to the court of the local Topoľčianske cinema Topoľ. Of course, there was already a gathered Jewish population destined for liquidation in concentration camps, and from there under the "already known conditions" we were dragged to Sered. I remember that. It was night, typical headlights, shooting, German screaming, tendentious guards and this company around. And in that Sered they drove us across the rails, and vis-à-vis to the other side, to what I already know today was the concentration camp in Sered. "

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    Bratislava, 10.12.2020

    duration: 02:15:04
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th century
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Israel was not my Promised Land

Ervín Schönhauser was born as a twin on May 24, 1940, in Topoľčany into an orthodox Jewish family of a bank clerk. Prior to the deportations in 1942, their family was protected by their father’s exception as an “economically important Jew.” After 1945, the whole family was at the beginning of September transported to a concentration camp in Sered and subsequently into Terezin. All of them survived and they returned to Topolcany, where Ervin was a direct witness of a pogrom on Jews on September 24, 1945. Despite several requests, the Topoľčany authorities did not return anything from their Aryanized property. The family then moved to Bratislava. During 1948/49, the majority of the family emigrated to Israel. After the communist “revolution” the family maintained “kosher” rules in their household. Ervin completed studies at industrial high school, but his studies did not interest him. In 1959, his father was fired on charges of sympathizing with Zionism from his work, and Ervín’s younger brother emigrated to Israel in 1966. In the same year, the witness married and his son was born a year later. Despite that, he decided to emigrate to Israel alone, determined to stay living there. After three months of suffering, he however decided to return. After the invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops on August 21, 1968, his twin Robert emigrated to Switzerland. The witness was often summoned for interrogation by the State Security Service, and until 1989 the regime allowed him only two visits to his brother. In 1990, his younger son died tragically in a car accident. Since the age of 56, he has been professionally singing solo songs, mainly Jewish songs, and represents Slovakia at various events abroad. He is an active member of the Jewish community in Bratislava and The Hidden Child organisation.