The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

Anna Molnár Hegedűs

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Born
August 02, 1897 Szatmár, Hungary

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

Immigrated
1952 Montreal, Quebec

In the spring of 1944, as Germany occupied her native Hungary, Anna Hegedűs barely had time to notice the flowers blooming around her. One year later, as the lilacs blossomed once again, she returned to her hometown of Szatmár and set her memories, raw and vivid, to paper. Her unflinching words convey the bitter details of the Szatmár ghetto, Auschwitz, the Schlesiersee forced labour camp and a perilous death march. At forty-eight years old, Anna had survived a lifetime of trauma, and as she wrote, she waited, desperately hoping her family would return.

Warning: Memoir contains graphic violence.

About Anna

Anna Molnár Hegedűs was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire on August 2, 1897. She married Zoltan Hegedűs in Szatmár (Satu-Mare) on June 14, 1921, and had two children, John and Agnes. Anna Hegedűs immigrated to Israel from Romania in 1949 and to Canada in 1952. She died in 1979.

Photos and Artifacts

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    Anna’s father, Henrik Molnár. Szatmár, Hungary (now Romania) date unkown.

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    Fanny Moskovits, Anna’s mother, as a young woman.

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    Molnár family portrait. Standing, Anna’s brother Lászlo. Seated, left to right: sister Margit, brother Ödön, and mother, Fanny; Anna; Anna’s father, Henrik, and sisters Iren and Erzsike. Szatmár, Hungary (now Romania) circa 1905.

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    Wedding photo of Anna and Zoltán Hegedűs, 1921.

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    Anna and her son, János, at six months. January 21, 1928.

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    Anna's daughter, Ágnes, age five, circa 1928.

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    The Hegedűs family at their holiday home. Left to right: Anna, her son, János, daughter, Ágnes, husband, Zoltán and niece Zsófi. Bikszád, Hungary (now Romania), circa 1935.

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    From left to right: Anna's husband, Zoltán; son, János; Anna; and daughter, Ágnes, circa 1937.

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    Anna's daughter, Ágnes, age fifteen, dressed up for her first dance. Szatmár, Hungary (now Romania), 1938.

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    Anna's husband, Zoltán, and son, János, circa 1939.

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    Anna and husband, Zoltán in St. Mark’s Square, Venice. Date unknown.

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    The family celebrating Anna’s mother’s eightieth birthday. Seated: Anna’s sister Erzsike (left) and their mother, Fanny. Standing, left to right: Anna's son, János; husband, Zoltán; Veronique; Anna; daughter, Ágnes; brother Lászlo; and Erzsike's stepson, Lali. Bikszád, Hungary (now Romania), April 24, 1940.

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    Ágnes, Anna's daughter. 1943.

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    Pali Radváner, fiancé of Anna's daughter, Ágnes, wearing his labour service uniform prior to his deportation. Date unknown.

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    Anna's daughter, Ágnes, and her husband, Pali. April 1943.

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    Anna's son, János, approximately age twenty, in Milan, Italy, after the war. 1948.

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    Anna, age fifty-one, in Nagybánya, Hungary, after the war. 1948.

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    Anna and her son, János, on the occasion of their first reunion in North America. Montreal, November 28, 1952.

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    Anna. Montreal, 1957.

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    Anna. Montreal, 1969.

The Book

Cover of As the Lilacs Bloomed
2015 Independent Publisher Gold Medal 2015 Literary Translators' Association of Canada John Glassco Award

As the Lilacs Bloomed

Six months have passed since I arrived home. Six months full of hope, waiting, heart-gripping anxiety and dark despair.

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As the Lilacs Bloomed

A Glimpse at Life and Missing Auschwitz

All of a sudden, we arrived at a city. It was well-lit and we could see the streets from the station. My God, how this made me feel! Never before had I experienced such bitter heartache. Was it true that there were still people with a life? Elegantly dressed women, babies with smiling faces. We hadn’t seen children for five months. During those five months, our minds had dulled – perhaps we didn’t even have a soul anymore. All that interested us was not to starve and not to be so cold.

From the train, I could see through a window into a house. The gentle light of a lamp fell on a table covered with a white cloth, a family seated around it. A father, mother and four children were having dinner. No, this was impossible to bear, too much of an ordeal for us who had not sat on a chair for five months, who instead had to crouch, backs bent, to avoid hitting our heads on the bunk above. We thought of our old homes only as if they were part of a beautiful dream, from which we would awaken to the harsh reality. I sensed that we would never see our loved ones again; I didn’t know where to locate them in my thoughts. My weak, tall, lanky son, János, who lived only for his books. My dear husband, who shared my very thoughts. Where could they be living, if they were living at all?

The tears were streaking down my face as I closed the train curtains, and the optimism that had filled us at our departure evaporated as the train pulled away. We were like falling leaves in the current of the autumn wind…. A miserable night passed and toward dawn, while it was still dark, we arrived at our unknown destination in the pouring rain. As we got out of the carriages, I saw an undulating, menacing body of dark water in front of us. There was water wherever I looked and water streaming down our necks. At last we could decipher the name of the station: Schlesiersee. This was the name of the lake and also of the small town situated on its shore.

Rows of five and marching. The outlines of a pretty little town became visible in the grey, pre-dawn light. Mansions, each one more beautiful than the last, and tidy streets. Not a soul to be seen at this early hour, but behind a few windows a woman’s hand would pull aside a snow-white curtain, so suggestive of a peaceful home, and a pair of curious eyes peered out. I wonder what they felt, what they were thinking, as they caught sight of two thousand women marching in a downpour.

We marched for hours. We left the town behind us and all we saw around us were barren fields. Not a factory chimney in sight, even though it had been our hope to work in a factory. After all, it was almost the end of October – what could we possibly do in the fields? We saw all sorts of windmills, which, previously, I had only seen on Dutch postcards. My first time seeing a windmill, soon to become the thousand times cursed backdrop to the tragedy that played out on these fields, whose ill-fated protagonists we would become.

“ We talked about Auschwitz as we had before about our dear old bourgeois homes. ”

We passed through two villages. People who had just gotten up were shaking their heads, watching our sad, drenched company. The rain that had plagued us since the beginning of our exile was still cascading down on us incessantly, trickling down our skin. Our new attire, which we were so proud of, turned into wringing-wet, foul-smelling rags. My stockings, which I had stopped readjusting, slipped down, and I trampled on them; they were in tatters by the time we arrived in front of a small farm that stood all by its lonely self in the fields.

Fear pierced my heart. Could this be the place where we were going to live? In the autumn? In the winter? No! This was unbelievable, surpassing even our most pessimistic imaginings and yet, at the same time, nothing was impossible or unbelievable. We marched into the courtyard of the farm and were made to stand in a quadrangle- shaped formation. Never, not even on my arrival at Auschwitz, did I feel this level of hopelessness. The lack of civilized amenities had been my fear all along. In Auschwitz, I had been reassured by the presence of electricity and Waschraums. Now, even the gas chamber seemed better than perishing in this place. From the outset, I was convinced that we would never survive a winter here.