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Oral history interview with Pearl Herling

Oral History | Accession Number: 1997.A.0441.109 | RG Number: RG-50.462.0109

Pearl Herling, born in Budapest, Hungary on August 24, 1924, describes the antisemitism and discrimination against Jews that always present in Hungary, especially in higher education, and its peak in 1938; the increasingly harsh restrictions against Hungarian Jews between 1940 and 1944; how after June 6, 1944, Hungarian Nazis persecuted Jews and established ghettos and labor battalions; how many men in her family were affected and her father disappeared and never came back; moving with her family into a “Yellow Star House” in Budapest; never wearing the mandatory yellow star; how she managed to survive, avoid transport to a labor camp, and posed as a Gentile using false papers she typed herself; an incident during which she bluffed and managed to get herself and all the people in her building into one of the safe houses established by Swiss and Swedish nationals and obtained Schutzpasses; joining her sister, just before the building was raided, at a labor camp in Kelenföld (neighborhood in XI. Kerület, Budapest) that was run by Hungarian Nazis; how she, her sister, and her sister’s two young children avoided a roundup, then got papers classifying them as refugees in Russian-occupied Hungary; her mother and other family members surviving under the protection of the head of a German labor camp; how she all her surviving family members barely survived in Budapest under horrible conditions and still posed as non-Jews, using false papers; the effects of starvation and her attempts to get food for her family; a special transport of Hungarian Jews from Bergen-Belsen to Switzerland and a failed attempt to exchange Jews for trucks; witnessing a death march from Buda; her certainty that Raoul Wallenberg’s rescue efforts enabled her family to survive; getting married to her second husband while both were posing as non-Jews and how difficult it was for him to get his son back from a Catholic family that sheltered him; her experiences in Hungary under the Russian occupation while running two businesses; the Communists wanting to arrest her husband and Russian smugglers smuggled him into Vienna, Austria and purely by chance he ended up in the American sector, which made it possible for them to get to the United States later; escaping from Budapest with her sedated infant after several failed attempts; entering Vienna using papers identifying her as an Israeli citizen; her husband’s seven-year-old son, who was separated from her at this time and had to escape by himself; what happened during other attempts to escape, how she kept her sanity when she was arrested, tormented, and finally managed to talk her way out of detention; living with her husband in Vienna for two years and experiencing discrimination; and how she progressed from not wanting to give up her Jewishness despite severe antisemitism, to renouncing her faith, and finally trying to make her peace with God.

Interviewee
Pearl Herling
Date
1981 March 16  (interview)
Language
English
Extent
2 sound cassettes (60 min.).
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, gift of the Holocaust Oral History Archive of Gratz College
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Record last modified: 2018-01-22 11:00:47
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn515628