Several weeks after the last train transporting deported Jews from northern Transylvania had stopped by the death platform at Birkenau, the Lagerschreiber1 suddenly showed up in the Appellplatz2. It was for the first time we were not required to form into a column of fives when somebody talked to us:
"The camp command" the Lagerschreiber began in a placid tone "has approved of your corresponding with people in your countries. Write to your friends, to your acquaintances, to officials in your native towns and villages, to anybody you like. Actually, the text has already been printed. You'll only have to sign your name and fill in the address."
Then he emptied his bag of postcards on an makeshift table, took out one of them and read: "Ich bin gesund und es geht mir gut". -- I'm in good health and fine.
"That's all. Next time you'll be allowed to write more".
"Come on, get it started", the Blockälteste broke in, this time without accompanying his urge by blows with his cudgel, as he used to.
I could not make up my mind. It was a blatant lie. The people in northern Transylvania were asking about the fate of the deportees, and the Horthyst authorities had appealed to the Gestapo. Withdrawn in a corner of the Appelplatz¸ I watched such-like scenes over and over again...
In one of the fifty locked wagons of the train that, on June 6, 1944, had set out from Cluj bound to the unknown, my family, my parents and six brothers, were stuffed, too. The seventh, Tiberiu, was not among us; he was taken into a forced labor detachment. As we approach Oradea, the train slows down, because the railway track was not been completely repaired after the bombardment of June 2. Someone looks out of the only latticed window of the cattle van: young men wearing yellow armbands on the left arm and belonging to a forced labor detachment are removing the debris.
"Perhaps Tiberiu is among them" father bursts out and rushes to the window. We are all crowding round him, my younger brothers on top of the suitcases. Father keeps shouting:
"Is Lustig Tiberiu of Cluj among you? Does anyone know Lustig Tiberiu?"
"He's in our detachment," someone answers.
The train rolls for several tens of meters and then comes to a halt. There is a goods train on a parallel track and after it there is a ditch where young men wearing yellow armbands are working.
"Tell Lustig Tiberiu that his family is on the train, tell him to come here" father shouts again.
"He's coming right away, he's at the other end of the ditch".
Overwhelmed with excitement we try to arrange ourselves so that all of us could look out of the bared window, but that is impossible as the window is too small to allow eight people to look out of it. Only five of us can look out at a time and we promise our younger brothers who are crying to let them look out when Tiberiu comes.
Those in the detachment are exceeded too. The new that Tiberiu Lustig's family is on the train of deportees has spread instantly and no one is working anymore. Even the old Horthyst warrant officer lets himself caught in the general excitement and pretends not to see what is going on.
Tiberiu is running desperately along the ditch. His mates are guiding him: "Forward... there more vans... here it is, stop!" He jumps over the ditch and stops between two wagons wherefrom he can see us.
"Tiberiu, we are here!" we all burst out and tears are gleaming in our eyes.
He looks up but he cannot litter a word. He collapses over the buffers between the two vans and cries his heart out. We cannot hear him but we can see his body shaking. Then he pulls himself together:
"Are you all there? Where're the twins? Where's Valentin?"
"We are all here" father shouts back and lifts the younger ones, one at a time, to the window.
Mother cannot talk. She is crying and all mothers in the van are crying too. The train sets out and everybody in the van starts crying. The young man with yellow armbands in the labor detachment, spread out along the railway track is crying too. The trains speed up. Tiberiu keeps running and shouting:
"Write me, by all means! Don't forget my address: Detachment 110/66 Oradea! 110/66 Oradea... Oradea..."
The Lagerschreiber was about to leave when I made up my mind. I went straight to him and I asked for a blank postcard, as I wanted the text written in my own hand. He agreed, handed me a pencil and told me to write down my name, birth date and the name of a locality: Am Waldsee.
The evening they announced Tiberiu Lustig that he had received a postcard from his brother, the whole detachment dashed into the barrack: "Where is he writing from? What's his address?" The postcard passed from hand to hand but nobody read the text on its back. It was only the sender's address they were interested in so they kept murmuring on: Am Waldsee... Am Waldsee... But nobody had ever heard about that locality, nobody knew were it could be.
The next evening they got an atlas, they tore off its pages and started to look, by groups, for the Waldsee on the map. At long last, somebody exclaimed:
"Bingo!" And he solemnly read. "Waldsee".
"Great! Where's it? What's the sanitary?
"Switzerland" his answer came and a dead silence fell over the barrack.
1 The camp military clerk. 2 Platform for roll-call.