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Oral history interview with Isaac Kurtz

Oral History | Accession Number: 2011.177.1 | RG Number: RG-50.677.0001

Isaac Kurtz, born November 12, 1925 in Košice, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), discusses his loving Polish/Hungarian Orthodox home; his mother and father, a homemaker and a merchant; his four siblings; his first experience with antisemitism in the first grade; how his bar mitzvah was thwarted by a synagogue raid; hearing survivor reports of Jews digging their own graves; the ceding of Košice to Hungary in 1938; the forced liquidation of his family’s store; arrests of Jewish citizenry; sharing a cell with doctors and lawyers; the family’s deportation and transport by cattle car to a brick factory; his attempted escape and beating upon capture; injuries he received from the beating; his family’s arrival in Auschwitz; seeing “big chimney-flames flying to heaven”; the clubbing of the elderly and ill upon their exit from the train; encountering Dr. Josef Mengele; his realization of the gravity of their situation; his mother’s final hope that they would not be tortured; the murder of his mother and disabled uncle; life as a prisoner along with his father and brother in the concentration camp; forced labor on the railroad; miserable conditions in the barracks; the murder of his oldest brother; a prisoner doctor who diagnosed him with a severe leg infection as a result of his beating; his four week recovery in the hospital; the murder of sickly patients; an accident on a work detail from Gross-Rosen camp; his assignment to peeling potatoes in the kitchen; being rewarded by a kapo for singing Shabbat songs; sneaking whole potatoes to others; being caught; keeping track of and observing High Holy Days; enduring other beatings; prisoner hangings; his attempted suicide; being assigned to latrines; visiting his father in the convalescent block; the cries and prayers of fellow prisoners; liberation by the Russians; conditions in the camp after liberation; having to clear roads in frigid conditions to reach a village; enduring torture in a village and nearly freezing to death; his joy in finding his father and brother; their month long journey, reaching their ransacked home; the few Jewish survivors in Košice; learning that his mother and older sister had perished; other survivor stories; reclaiming his mother’s jewelry; regaining his health (describing skeletal photographs); rebuilding his life in Austria, the United States, and Canada; becoming a cantor; and his feeling that the fact he survived is all together miraculous.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Isaac Kurtz
interview:  2011 June 13
1 videocassette (DVCAM) : sound, color ; 1/4 in..
Credit Line
This testimony was recorded through a joint project of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University
Record last modified: 2023-11-16 09:26:11
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