My father was Jozef Balasz; he worked in a bank as a clerk. His father was
born in Svinica, near Kralovske Chulmec. He had an estate in Svinica. He
had gone to America for a while and worked there. He was a rich man, but he
had invested everything in his property. He owned 500 hectares. They grew
all sorts of crops and had vineyards. They would bring their harvest to the
city. They also had horses and chickens. One servant lived in the house,
and workers helped with the land. The shochet would come out to his estate
from the village every week to slaughter chickens for him.
My grandfather had three brothers: they were a doctor, a businessman and a
banking clerk. He was married to Hermina Starck, a very strict and hard
woman. She cared for the children and made sure they received education.
She died of breast cancer during the First Czechoslovak Republic .
My mother was born Malvina Neumannova in Kosice in 1897. She studied
economics at school and after her graduation, she worked in a bank. My
mother had two sisters. Kati Neumann, who got married to Martin Perlmutter.
When World War II began she was deported. She died in Bergen-Belsen. Her
husband didn't survive the Holocaust either. He died in some other
concentration camp, but I don't know which one. The other sister, Helena
Neumannova, was married to Moritz Haber. Moritz didn't survive the
Holocaust, he died in Bergen-Belsen.
Their father, Ignatz Neumann, owned a pub near the railway station in
Kosice. I recall that he died here in Kosice in 1936. He was very kind to
me and he loved having his family around. His pub was on Mill Square
Street, and it simply bore the name of the street. He didn't serve food,
just beer, wine and spirits. He was married to Rosza Lebovitch. She came
from a village near Kralove Chulmec. They went to the synagogue regularly -
the Neolog  synagogue. There was also a Status-Quo synagogue and a
Neolog Jewish school here in Kosice.
I was born on 25th May 1922 in Kosice. Here in Kosice there was a large
percentage of rich city Jews and they invested in the Neolog school and
synagogue. We, children, had snacks and milk every morning, which was
considered a luxury back then.
We lived in a three-bedroom apartment. My social circle was completely
Jewish and as a girl growing up, I belonged to different groups, like the
Maccabi , which even had a center where we could meet. Or, if there was
no organized group, like, say, for ice skating, my Jewish friends and I
would go together.
Things turned bad for us beginning in 1938. My father was fired from his
job after the Hungarians arrived . All the relatives in his family
started helping each other in every way they could. I don't know the
circumstances, but I never heard the issue of emigration being discussed.
Still, I went to school and I graduated from high school in 1941.
When the Germans came here in 1943 my mother and I escaped to Budapest. My
father arranged all this for us in advance, and he was to come later, but
first he had to help his own family out. He didn't make it. He was deported
from Kosice in 1944. My mother and I survived in the Budapest ghetto. While
there, I was grabbed and taken to the train station, on a transport bound
for Germany. My mother came to the station and she just pulled me off. This
happened in 1944. When the bombardment started my mother and I hid in a
cellar. She really didn't look like a Jew, and I think that's partly what
I remember the Russian soldiers who came into Budapest then. [Editor's
note: the interviewee is referring to the liberation/occupation of Hungary
by Soviet troops at the end of WWII.] It was clear some of them didn't have
any idea of where they were.
My mother and I returned to Kosice. We were the city's urban Jews-well
educated and well off. We suffered horribly over the years. First came the
Hungarians, who took our apartment. Then came the Germans and deported
everyone still here. And then came the Communists [see Communist Party of
Czechoslovakia] , who took the houses all over again.
I learned Czech in Brno and went to university there. I received my degree
in pharmacy. My husband receives a monthly pension of around DEM 200 per
month now. He was in Ferramonti [see Italian internment camps] .
Now that we are old we have no family at all to turn to. My son lives in
Bratislava. When I was growing up, I had such a huge family to turn to,
even though I was an only child. Now there's just the two of us, my husband
and I. Each year it gets worse and worse. The pain I feel for having lost
my entire world, my family, cannot be soothed away. That world cannot be
 First Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1938)The First Czechoslovak
Republic was created after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy
following World War I. The union of the Czech lands and Slovakia was
officially proclaimed in Prague in 1918, and formally recognized by the
Treaty of St. Germain in 1919. Ruthenia was added by the Treaty of Trianon
in 1920. Czechoslovakia inherited the greater part of the industries of the
Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the new government carried out an extensive
land reform, as a result of which the living conditions of the peasantry
increasingly improved. However, the constitution of 1920 set up a highly
centralized state and failed to take into account the issue of national
minorities, and thus internal political life was dominated by the struggle
of national minorities (especially the Hungarians and the Germans) against
Czech rule. In foreign policy Czechoslovakia kept close contacts with
France and initiated the foundation of the Little Entente in 1921.
 Neolog JewryFollowing a Congress in 1868/69 in Budapest, where the
Jewish community was supposed to discuss several issues on which the
opinion of the traditionalists and the modernizers differed and which aimed
at uniting Hungarian Jews, Hungarian Jewry was officially split into two
(later three) communities, which all built up their own national community
network. The Neologs were the modernizers, who opposed the Orthodox on
 Maccabi World UnionInternational Jewish sports organization whose
origins go back to the end of the 19th century. A growing number of young
Eastern European Jews involved in Zionism felt that one essential
prerequisite of the establishment of a national home in Palestine was the
improvement of the physical condition and training of ghetto youth. In
order to achieve this, gymnastics clubs were founded in many Eastern and
Central European countries, which later came to be called Maccabi. The
movement soon spread to more countries in Europe and to Palestine. The
World Maccabi Union was formed in 1921. In less than two decades its
membership was estimated at 200,000 with branches located in most countries
of Europe and in Palestine, Australia, South America, South Africa, etc.
split from the Social Democratic Party, it was banned under the Nazi
occupation. It was only after Soviet Russia entered World War II that the
Party developed resistance activity in the Protectorate of Bohemia and
Moravia; because of this, it gained a certain degree of popularity with the
general public after 1945. After the communist coup in 1948, the Party had
sole power in Czechoslovakia for over 40 years. The 1950s were marked by
party purges and a war against the 'enemy within'. A rift in the Party led
to a relaxing of control during the Prague Spring starting in 1967, which
came to an end with the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet and allied
troops in 1968 and was followed by a period of normalization. The communist
rule came to an end after the Velvet Revolution of November 1989.
 Italian internment campsAfter the creation of the Independent State
of Croatia, a fascist puppet state which also included Bosnia and
Herzegovina, an increasing number of Jews tried to find refuge on Italian-
controlled territory. In 1941 and 1942 Italy created several interment
camps for Jews on Adriatic islands and the costal litoral, which it had
seized from Yugoslavia in April 1941. The Italians refused the demands by
Croatian fascists to send back Jewish refugees but interned them in
'concentration camps for war civilians' instead to protect them from the
Croatians and the Germans. The main camps were on the islands of Korcula,
Brac, Hvar and Lopud and in the villages of Gruz and Kupari.