1. (1934-1937) In the Beginning
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IN THE BEGINNING THE DATE was March 15, 1934, and I, Izráel Zachariah Deutsch, came into the world. I have no clue whether I was born in the morning, afternoon, or evening. I do know that I was born at our farm home, situated in the village of Velky Komjata, Czechoslovákia, located in the Carpathian Mountains region between the counties of Bereg and Ugocsa. I was the ninth child in a family of ten children. My mother, Ilona Mermelstein, had dark hair and brown eyes. She was somewhat tall and small framed. She came from a wealthy family and was an industrious woman, taking care of the household, running the farm, and managing our home-based business. She was strict, yet was a loving and caring mother. She was also a good wife to my father, Mordechie Deutsch, or Mór, as he was called by his family and friends. My father had strawberry blonde hair and grayish-blue eyes. He was tall and slim, with broad shoulders. He was a learned man and most loving. I believe my parents were brought together from traditional matchmaking . From what I recall and from what my siblings have shared with me, my mother essentially did everything. I saw my mother as the business-minded one when compared to my father. My father was an educated rabbi, receiving his master’s degree in rabbinical studies, which prepared him to be a rabbinical judge known as a Dayan. He did not have his own congregation or act as a Dayan; however, he was the leader of our local Jewish community. Within our home, my father practiced all the laws of Judaism. I still remember how he wrapped the tefillin around his arm and how he rocked as he prayed. My father’s father was a practicing rabbi in the town of Nitra. Unfortunately , I do not have a deeper knowledge of his status within his community. My father also worked as a merchant at our home1 1 C H A P T E R (1934–1937) ch01_193032_Gallaudet_Dunai 5/14/02 11:05 AM Page 1 based business, which was a general store. The general store was located in the front room of our home and was separated simply by a wall. My oldest brother was Miklós, who had dark brown hair and olive skin. My sister Jolán followed, with auburn hair, fair skin, and hazel eyes. Then came the twins—a sister, Hainsha, with dark hair and olive skin, and a brother, Salgo, with auburn hair, fair skin, and gray-blue eyes. Hainsha died when she was four years old from a bout with pneumonia. Then came three additional sisters—Lenke, with auburn hair, fair skin, and hazel eyes; followed by Magdalena (a.k.a. Magda), with dirty-blonde hair, fair skin, and hazel eyes; and then Irén, with dark brown hair, olive skin, and brown eyes. Sándor (a.k.a. Naftali, Tuli) was the eighth, with dirty-blonde hair, fair skin, and hazel eyes. I was the ninth, with dark brown hair, olive skin, and brown eyes. I was often called Chári, a shortened form of my middle name Zachariah. The tenth and last was my brother Jakab (a.k.a. Jenő) with dirty-blonde hair and fair skin. Our home was beautiful, encompassing approximately 1,500 square feet, with plenty of attic and basement space. There weren’t enough bedrooms for all of us, so my mother, father, Jenő, and I slept together in one bed in the kitchen. Once in a while, I’d sneak into bed with Irén and Magdalena because they gave me comfort and I adored them. The rest of the beds held two children each. The perimeter of the house was laden with red and green grapes, which we ate, crushed into juice, or fermented into wine that we stored in barrels in the basement. We also had enough fruit trees, plum and apple, to provide fruit for our family and fruit to sell in our general store. And my mother made the best plum jam in town. We had acres and acres of farmland and grew a variety of crops, including corn, potatoes, squash, barley, alfalfa, wheat, and sugar beets. Sunflowers that we planted in a fence formation around the perimeters of the fields provided a source of food, protection, and privacy. Our water supply came from a well located at the back of our house. Our bathroom...


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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Hungary -- Biography.
  • Holocaust survivors -- Biography.
  • Dunai, Harry I., 1934-.
  • Jewish children in the Holocaust -- Biography.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Hungary -- Personal narratives.
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