BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA-June 10, 2005
Greetingsâ€¦ Thank you very much for your last 2 letters and the gelt as well. I m very grateful to you, especially for your concern and interestâ€¦
You wanted to know something about my past, so here is a short account:
I was born to a poor family in 1919 in what was then Hungary (Austro-Hungarian Empire), but presently Slovakia. When I was six years old I lost my mother and later also my father) he returned sick from WWI and never recovered). As an orphan, I was sent to Romania, where I was raised by my aunt (my motherâ€™s sister). We lived in a small village up in Romaniaâ€™s mountains, in the middle of nowhere. The village was half Jewish and half Christian but the people got along very well and helped each other whenever there was a need.
My aunt sent me to cheder when I was small and that helped me tremendously. It was there that I learned Jewish prayers and songs. That knowledge I am now using as a chazen still today in Bratislavaâ€™s Synagogue and other Jewish gatherings and events where I get invitations to sing and pray. I would never have imagined at that time how that education would be helpful and even appreciated 50 years later in the Jewish life of Bratislava and some [other] parts of Slovakia. I am amazed at that!
In 1939, I was recruited in the Hungarian army and was sent immediately to an arbeitslager [work camp]. For the whole five years I worked in arbeitslagers. In hot summer or cold winter, no matter if it was raining or snowing, we worked daily. I was in Miskoic, Tokaii, and Szob (Hungary) and in 1942 we went to Lavoczne and Lemberg (Poland) where we were until the end of the war. There were about 200 workers in our platoon. Jewish military officers and Hungarian soldiers guarded us. We worked building pipelines, wooden barracks, roads, etc. We lived in old houses where there were neither windows nor doors. We had to build them ourselves. Once we used over 220 pounds of explosives just to pull apart an iron-concrete bunker the Germans had built as protection against the Russians. It was all horrible. I felt I was shortly going to go insane when we were liberated. Nevertheless, I was happy to have survived the horrors of war!
I can tell you more in the next letter if you are interested.
Note: Karol Groszmann passed away in 2006 at the age of 86. He was the last person to know all of the Jewish prayers and songs in Bratislava.