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When the Danube Ran Red

Zsuzsanna Ozsváth with a Foreword by David Patterson

Publication Year: 2010

As a scholar, critic, and translator, Ozsváth has written extensively about Holocaust literature and the Holocaust in Hungary. Now, she records her own history in this clear-eyed, moving account. When the Danube Ran Red combines an exceptional grounding in Hungarian history with the pathos of a survivor and the eloquence of a poet to present a truly singular work.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xxii

Zsuzsanna Ozsváth opens her extraordinary remembrance of the Holocaust horror with the memory of a child: a little girl named Hanna (like the mother of the prophet Samuel), a survivor who had fled to Hungary from a mass grave called Poland. Thus from the outset Ozsváth presents us with two designated targets in the Nazis’ extermination of the Jews...

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

The large story of my life that played itself out during the Holocaust comprises many small, individual stories about which I have oft en spoken to my family, friends, and students. They are part of my life, my past, and my present. But as time has gone by, I have suddenly and unexpectedly felt a great need to tell the whole, larger story...

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1 Hanna

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pp. 1-9

It was evening, I remember, and I was in the third grade. Darkness settled outside, and only the streetlights lit up my room. The long, strange shadows of tree branches stretched along the wall. I cowered on my favorite pillow, whose embroidery showed a happy dachshund in a red-blue-green orchard. ...

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2 Relocations

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pp. 10-16

The impact of Hanna’s story on my life was immediate and overwhelming. Recalling those times, I remember waking up night upon night, screaming, “They shot my father! They shot my father! Let’s run!” Or I cried in despair, “We are homeless! We are homeless!” ...

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3 Past and Present

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pp. 17-22

Thinking back to this period in our life, I remember that my mother suddenly felt the urge to tell me about her life and family, both of which, she said, she wanted me to know about now, because—and she looked at me crying—nobody can foresee the future. ...

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4 A Dream Disrupted

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pp. 23-28

The new pharmacy in Békéscsaba did quite well, although not as well as it could have, not as well as my parents had hoped. “What can I do?” my father asked my mother once. They thought I was outside, but I was hiding under the table. His face was pale, his eyes glistened with tears, but he knew that there was no answer to the question. ...

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5 Changes

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pp. 56-62

“Hungary forever! Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!” Iván was beside himself. He ran through the kitchen when he heard that the Hungarian troops had arrived in the “Southern Region” (Délvidék in Hungarian), one of the regions of ancient Hungary that had been annexed to Yugoslavia by the Peace Treaty of Trianon in 1920. ...

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6 Erzsi

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pp. 36-40

Back in the early summer of 1941, when I first became aware of my parents’ decision to move to Budapest, I felt terribly sad. To say farewell to Békéscsaba meant giving up my best friends, Márta and Juti, and with them to leave behind our games, our plays, my whole life. ...

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7 Options

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pp. 41-44

As time went by, it was more and more obvious that school had lost its importance in my life, while music would become of the most essential, shaping significance. I became serious about playing the piano. From the age of eight, I practiced two to three hours every day and listened to music all the time. ...

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8 Pali

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pp. 45-50

Th e year 1941 expired; 1942 stepped into its place. We listened to the BBC every day. Iván and my father followed the war on the map, and they were very optimistic. “There can be no doubt,” said my father, “the Russians are winning on the Eastern front, and soon the Americans will land in France or Italy.” ...

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9 Before the Storm

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pp. 51-57

I no longer remember when I thought of committing suicide for the first time; I only remember thinking about it more and more. And I know that this thought came quite naturally to me. During those years, we had known a whole family who had committed suicide, and my parents had several friends and acquaintances who had done so as well. ...

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10 Disaster Strikes, March 19

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pp. 58-59

On February 12, 1944, my father and I went to a concert by Walter Gieseking, the world-renowned German pianist. He played beautifully. But we felt strange and intimidated in the Vigadó, the big concert hall in Budapest, which was crowded with German officers. ...

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11 Plans for the Future

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pp. 60-67

On the same Sunday morning, I got up early. But I did not go with my father to meet Lulu; I was preparing for an 11:00 a.m. piano lesson with Mr. Faragó. I wanted to practice a few hours before I had to leave. Planning to study five Chopin mazurkas with him that morning, I hoped to play excellently because I had been invited to perform them at a recital on March 26. ...

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12 Measures Taken

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pp. 68-74

Th e rest of the afternoon of March 19 passed as if in a haze. Erzsi arrived in the evening. She had just heard what had happened from her Russian friend Marina, who had fled from the Reds with her parents in 1917 and lived now with her mother in Buda, in the same apartment house as Erzsi. ...

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13 The New World

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pp. 75-84

I remember, it was after the first few weeks of the German occupation that I noticed something strange: people around me, including our friends, acquaintances, even members of my own family, stopped speaking about (perhaps even ceased to consider) the threat we were facing. ...


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pp. 85-88

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14 Ghettoization

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pp. 89-91

When the requirements for the registration of apartments and buildings where Jews lived had been issued back in the beginning of April, I overheard my father whispering to one of our neighbors that this process might be followed by our concentration and evacuation. ...

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15 The Ghetto House

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pp. 92-94

From June 17 through June 24, about 200,000 Jews in Budapest were on the streets: moving. Getting up early the day after the decree on ghettoization was posted, my father stayed home, and we watched the hurrying masses of people from the window. Some carried their belongings in horse-drawn wagons, others in wheelbarrows...

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16 The Children of 10 Abonyi Street

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pp. 95-104

It was about noon on June 20 when the Beers appeared in the doorway of our apartment, with one of them pulling a cart, the rest carrying blankets and pillows in their hands and on their backs. They smiled kindly, but behind that smile their faces looked dark and deeply disturbed. ...

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17 A Miracle

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pp. 105-112

Suddenly, at the end of June, the world turned dark. Doomsday, it seemed, loomed near, with bad news circling around the ghetto house. At first, I noticed that my father and Iván were constantly whispering to one another; sometimes they talked in a low voice to my mother as well. ...

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18 The Return of Horror

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pp. 113-117

Th en came October 15. It was around noon, I remember, and I had just started to practice Bach’s c-minor prelude and fugue, trying to play the prelude staccato, or at least not legato, searching for ways to recreate the percussive sound of the harpsichord on the piano. ...

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19 Evil Tidings

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pp. 118-124

A loud discussion between my mother, my father, and Erzsi next morning woke me up, making it clear to me that they thought we must flee immediately and find a place to hide. Erzsi left hurriedly, but she returned within a few hours bringing bad news. ...

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20 Together

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pp. 152-129

The days passed. The weather got colder. One day Erzsi came home; she was out of breath. She had just met one of my father’s contacts, who was a member of the Zionist Hehalutz organization. He convinced her to go to the Nunciature and stand in line for “protective passes,” which he said the Vatican had just started to issue...

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21 Homeless

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pp. 130-131

Waking up next morning, we got dressed immediately and sat down to eat a piece of bread on which we spread cherry jam, my mother’s last jar, which she had prepared the year before. A few minutes later Erzsi appeared, her lovely, heart-shaped face unrecognizably hard and strict. ...

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22 The Vatican House

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pp. 132-134

We picked up our backpacks, which held food for two days and a change of underwear. Mine also had a nightgown, two blouses and two skirts, one pullover, a biography of Bach, and the last two volumes of The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas. ...

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23 Witches' Shabbat

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pp. 162-142

But for that we had to wait for a long time. On December 3, 1944, in the Vatican house, we woke up again to the screams of the Nyilas, the gang of Hungarian National Socialists. “Out of bed, lazy swines,” the call echoed all over the house. ...

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24 Alone

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pp. 143-149

Next morning, I opened my eyes and saw the girls standing near my bed, staring at me and laughing. Among them was a tall teenager with black curly hair, Erika; a small one, with big green eyes, Borika; and between them, a smiling redhead, Anna. They said they were glad to see me. But we did not have much time to chat. ...

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25 The Siege

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pp. 150-156

I slept until the morning, when explosions started to shake the room. The front windows of the house opened to the Danube: they were exposed to the barrage. Within seconds the concussions and shrapnel from the artillery and mortar rounds pounded the blinds, shattered the glass, and broke every piece of furniture in the room...

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26 Walking Across the Underworld

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pp. 157-158

Later, when the air raid stopped, the two of us left . As soon as possible, we turned right from the street parallel to the Danube into a side street, leaving behind the road running alongside the banks of the river. Out of breath, we hurried as much we could, meeting on our way just a very few civilians...

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27 The "White Cross Hospital"

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pp. 159-162

Our asylum for the next twenty-four days, the makeshift “White Cross Hospital” on Kisfaludy Street, claimed to be a branch of the highly reputable White Cross Hospital nearby, which had specialized in the health and welfare of children since the late nineteenth century. ...

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28 Going Home

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pp. 163-168

The bombing was continuous. The buzzing of the airplanes never stopped, nor did the constant explosions. “Come under my coat,” I screamed at my parents when I heard that buzz. I became convinced, and it was their opinion too, that I had survived the blast that morning because of the coats I had pulled over my head and body. ...


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pp. 169-171

E-ISBN-13: 9780815651109
E-ISBN-10: 0815651104
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815609803
Print-ISBN-10: 0815609809

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 7 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Holocaust survivors -- Biography.
  • Jews -- Hungary -- Budapest -- Biography.
  • Jewish ghettos -- Hungary -- Budapest -- History -- 20th century.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Hungary -- Personal narratives.
  • Ozsváth, Zsuzsanna, 1934- -- Childhood and youth.
  • Fajo, Erzsébet, d. 1995.
  • Righteous Gentiles in the Holocaust -- Hungary -- Budapest -- Biography.
  • Jewish children in the Holocaust -- Hungary -- Budapest -- Biography.
  • Budapest (Hungary) -- Biography.
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