The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

Eva Felsenburg Marx

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Born
October 21, 1937 Brno, Czechoslovakia

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

Immigrated
1949 Montreal, Quebec

Two Jewish girls born six months apart – Judit Grünfeld (Judy Abrams) in Hungary and Eva Felsenburg (Marx) in Czechoslovakia – are separated from their parents and forced to "pass" as Christian children. Theirs are the amazingly parallel but unique stories of two children who were able to survive when so many others perished.

About Eva

Eva Marx was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, on October 21, 1937. She immigrated to Montreal in 1949, where she became an elementary school teacher. She and her husband, retired Quebec Superior Court Justice Herbert Marx, live in Montreal. They have two children and four grandchildren.

Photos and Artifacts

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    Eva's paternal grandfather, Heinrich Felsenburg.

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    Eva's maternal great-grandparents, Ignacz and Rosa Berceller Rosenbaum.

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    Eva's maternal grandfather, Gabriel (Gabor) Weisz.

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    Eva's maternal grandmother, Sari Rosenbaum Weisz.

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    The prayer book that saved the life of Eva's paternal grandfather, Gabor Weisz, when he was shot during World War I.

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    Eva's mother, Helen (Ilonka) Weisz, left, with her younger sister, Hedi, circa 1916.

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    Eva's father, Eugene (Jenö) Felsenburg, standing on the far right, when he served in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. 1918.

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    Eva's parents, Helen and Eugene Felsenburg, in 1929.

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    This postcard, sent to Eva in 1980 from her devoted caregiver Marka Piesikova, shows what Vráble’s main street looked like before World War II.

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    Eva at about two years old, soon after her arrival in Vráble, with her aunt Hedi (left), her mother (centre) and her grandmother, Sari Weisz, 1939.

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    Eva's maternal relatives in Paks, 1940. Second from the left is her second cousin, Wilie Rosenbaum; third from the left is her mother; Eva is standing in the centre beside her grandmother, Sari Weisz; and third from the right is Eva’s great-uncle Matyi.

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    Eva (centre) with her friends in Vráble, circa 1942.

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    Eva at about five years old in Vráble, 1942.

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    Eva's caregiver, Marka Piesikova, in 1944.

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    Eva (third from right) at a Purim party after the war. Brno, 1947.

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    Eva, far right, at ten years old with her friends Karl Hanak (left), Rudy Hanak (second from the left) and Jiří Kadlec. Konĕšín, Czechoslovakia, 1948.

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    Eva and her friend Jiří in Brno, 1948.

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    Eva (left), with her aunt Hedvig (centre), her father’s eldest sister, and her mother (right) on Mount Royal. It was Aunt Hedvig who sponsored the Felsenburg family’s immigration to Canada. Montreal, 1949.

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    Eva at age eleven in Brno, 1949.

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    Eva at nineteen years old with her mother at Eva’s graduation from MacDonald College. Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, 1956.

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    Eva's hometown of Brno, with a view of the Spielberg Castle in the background. 1987.

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    The department store Dom Moderne Brnĕnký (DMB) – “The House of the Modern Brnoesse” – where Eva’s parents had their fur boutique before World War II. Brno, 1987.

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    Eva's grandparents’ house in Vráble, Slovakia. 1987.

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    Eva's family at her daughter Sarah’s wedding. Left to right: (back row) Eva’s husband, Herbert Marx, and son-in-law, Andrew Shalit; (middle row) Sarah; Eva’s son, Robert; Robert’s wife, Rena, and Eva; (seated in front) Eva’s mother, Helen Felsenburg. 1995.

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    Eva's mother, Helen, celebrating her ninety-fifth birthday. Montreal, 2003.

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    Eva's granddaughters Ella (left), nine, and Hannah (right), six. 2010.

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    Eva's grandsons Harry, six, and David, one. 2011.

The Book

Cover of Tenuous Threads/One of the Lucky Ones

Tenuous Threads/One of the Lucky Ones

My mother always credited my father for his keen instinct of self-preservation. “He saved our lives,” she said. “Without him we wouldn’t be here.”

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Tenuous Threads/One of the Lucky Ones

Seeking Sanctuary

As the war raged around us, we heard on the bbc that the Germans were losing ground and in retreat. We were overjoyed. One would have thought that the Germans would concentrate their efforts on ways to shore up their strength. Instead, they continued to obsess about annihilating Jews. They went door to door, searching houses for hidden Jews, Jews who had gotten away. They searched our apartment building and went as far as the third floor.

A widow whose late husband was Jewish lived on the third floor apartment, located directly below ours. She knew about our presence upstairs and was sympathetic to our situation. After the SS searched her home, she said casually, “Don’t bother going upstairs. There’s nobody there.” Fortunately, the SS listened to her and didn’t search any further. That was a narrow escape. The kind widow had risked her life and saved ours.

At the end of March 1945, the bloody conflict of war exploded in Slovakia as the Soviet Red Army pushed its way toward Vienna to attack German strongholds. Sirens blared in Nitra, warning the population to take shelter as a blitz of Soviet bombs fell all around. Airplanes carrying their deadly cargo shrieked above us, but we had nowhere to take cover. During the bombings we were afraid to flee; as Jews, we had to remain hidden. But at the same time, it was too dangerous to remain in the apartment. So we realized that the time had come to abandon our hiding place. We were terrified that we would be identified as Jews, but we had no choice. We dressed as unobtrusively as we could and left the apartment, never to return.

People streamed out of Nitra, carrying what they could, searching for shelter from the bombs that were mainly directed at urban areas. We were a mass of moving humanity. Jews and gentiles alike ran for their lives, travelling on foot in the direction of Mount Zobor.

My father was understandably nervous that we would be spotted and singled out as Jews. I remember that I wore a blue kerchief and he shouted at me, “Take that off! Don’t you know blue is a Jewish colour?” How paranoid one could become under stress.

We trudged all day, trying to escape the bombardments and devastation that had enveloped Nitra. Houses and buildings lay in ruins all around us. Explosions and the sounds of gunfire and sirens accompanied us. We three fugitive families stayed together on this long and painful trek that led us to the mountain. As night fell, we found a deserted cave. Damp and cold as it was, it had to do as our shelter. I slept on my mother’s lap all through that long night. Grateful for her love and protection, I still recall her selfless, tender loving care and self-sacrifice. I knew how uncomfortable she must have been and how little sleep she got in that God-forsaken place.

In the morning, we continued our long and difficult journey, although we didn’t know our destination. All we knew was that we were fugitives trying to stay alive, avoiding the bombs falling around us and hoping we wouldn’t be shot by the Germans. Suddenly, deep in the forest, we came upon a large, wooden building that we soon realized was a monastery. There, on the mountain, in the middle of the forest, we had come upon the Zobor monastery, a potential safe haven. We were bone-tired and in desperate need of shelter, food and respite. What kind of reception would we get?

We knocked on the large front door. A monk in a long, brown cassock appeared at the entrance. When he saw our dishevelled and exhausted appearance, he kindly let us in. He must have realized immediately that we were Jews on the run. He ushered us upstairs into a large, comfortable room with enough beds for all of us. He explained that because we were Jews, he would allow us the privacy of these quarters. Apparently, there were also many non-Jewish refugees from Nitra on the large ground floor of the monastery. We gratefully lay down to rest, relieved to have been given sanctuary