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Surviving in Silence: A Deaf Boy in the Holocaust

The Story of Harry Imre Dunai

Written by Eleanor C. Dunai

Chapter 8: (1944–1945)

The Central Ghetto and the Christmas Nightmare

We arrived at Klauzal Square, within an area known as Zone Seven, or the Central Ghetto—now a ghost town. None of us knew that thousands of Jews had been interned in this area. It was a fenced-in area, completely filled with abandoned apartment buildings. Some of the apartments were damaged from the bombing whereas others were still intact. We saw no people. Dr. Kanizsai instructed us to try and stay together as a group. No living arrangements had been made for any of us.

Dr. Kanizsai went in search of an apartment for us children to sleep in for the night. It was an impossible task. All the apartments had been stripped completely—no furniture, heaters, blankets—absolutely nothing. I had to sleep on the concrete floor. The bathrooms were located outside the building. The stench of the ghetto was atrocious. Worst of all, we had no food or water. I was hungry, tired, and cold. That night, I almost froze to death.

By the next day, I was starving. Everyone spent the day searching for food. That night seemed colder than ever. Through the night, my body shivered and my stomach growled. Dr. Kanizsai continued searching for food.

The following day, I noticed some laborers had come to our area and had set up a table. The Arrow Cross Party had decided to provide us with a bit of something. Everyone rushed to the table, pushing one another to get there first. Dr. Kanizsai called order to the group, instructing everyone to form a line. I received my first cup of extremely bitter black coffee. The coffee was made from barley, not coffee beans. But that didn’t matter because the heat from the coffee warmed my hands and my insides. The coffee made me hungrier. I wished that I had never complained about the bland food from the Red Cross.

After we had our bitter coffee, Dr. Kanizsai informed us that we could no longer stay in the apartment building. More people were expected to enter the ghetto. We sought out shelter again in another abandoned apartment building. We still had no blankets, sheets, or heaters. I searched the building for whatever I could find. Jancsi, the fifth-grade student, and I stumbled on a blanket at the same moment. Jancsi was bigger than I was. I fought him for the blanket. Even though I was in third grade, I was very strong from all my farm work. I held out and won, ending up with one blanket and many cuts and bruises. I would have shared the blanket, but it was small.

That night, I laid my prize on the cold concrete floor, lying on one half and folding the other half over my body. Settled inside the blanket, I reflected on my fight with Jancsi. I now realized the meaning of survival. We were all on our own, and I might have to fight with other Jewish people to make it through, like I had done for the blanket.

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