Lilly Rosenfeld Stern Hecht

(Born March 5, 1923 in Moskolzt, Hungary. Married to Alberto Hecht)

Lilly remembers being 5 or 6 years old. She came from a very happy childhood, nothing was out of the ordinary. She remembers going to school and at the age of 16 she could not continue her education. Although it was not a religion Jewish school she attended a Jewish education school. Until 1938 things were normal for Lilly.

Her father was a singer-sewing salesman and her mother was a homemaker. They kept a Kosher Jewish home but the father did work on Saturdays. Problems started to happen around 1938. Lilly went to an evangelical school at the age of 16. She noticed that other students were bothering the Jewish students. They separated them by religion so everyone knew that Lilly was Jewish. They did this so that for a few hours a day each religion could be studied but this did have an effect on her as she was being made fun of. Her brother was older and he was able to finish school but at 16 this was not an option for Lilly. She was always surrounded with Jewish friends.

Lilly remembers the Star of David, the yellow start that would mark her as being Jewish as she went places in 1939. Jewish people felt threatened and going to school was uncomfortable.

Lilly knew that with the problems in school, she was looking to find a trade to rely on. She wanted to sell cosmetics.

Her father did what he could to maintain his job but eventually this job was taken away. Lilly went to Budapest to help a cousin.

Lilly returned to her parents in the Nyiregyhaza Ghetto to be with her parents at Passover. Lilly remembers the last Seder at Passover in 1944. Her father told the family that if they ever saw these beautiful dishes again, we would be very lucky. It was just after Passover. And on Shavuot in 1944 she entered Auschwitz. The transport took 4 or 5 days, sitting on the floor of the transport train. The family did bring food but the biggest problem was going to the bathroom in a bucket. The family had doubled on clothes and items. Once they got to Auschwitz she remembered being so thirsty and that they were warned not to drink the water once they got there because it was poison. She got to the point that it just didn’t matter that the water was contaminated so she drank it anyway.

All the clothes were removed and it was the first time she saw her mother naked. This shocked her. She didn’t say goodbye to her father. He was killed in Auschwitz.

Auschwitz was her home for 4 or 5 months. She did not get tattooed because they were “disorganized” by then. They gave her rags to wear. She doesn’t remember if the Jews shaved her or the Nazis.

Lilly passe Dr. Mengele only once but was never examined by him. Her mother was to be sent to the gas chamber but Dr. Mengele changed his mind. Her mother always kept her at a distance so that no one knew they were Mother-Daughter.

With clothes on she remembers waking up very early in the barracks. They stood for hours just waiting and each day, they got up, got counted and stood until they were told they could go back. They even counted after being counted. Her barrack was Barrack C. While in Auschwitz she lost her period. Once the hair started growing, the Nazis would take the razor and go right down the middle of their head to humiliate them. They no longer felt like humans. Food was not even fit for animals. “The portion they gave you was just enough to survive, it was just like weight watchers.” There were bathrooms but there were no showers. They got word that showers could mean the gas chambers. The plan was to never let the Nazis know they were related and this kept them alive.

Lilly and her mom were sent to the gas chamber but the chamber did not work that day. Her mom said, “I think they forgot to pay the gas bill that day.”

Her mother was incredibly smart. Lilly’s mother recorded days and even remembered when Lilly’s birthday was. Her mother had saved the portion of bread and gave it to Lilly for her birthday. One of the cousins told Lilly’s mother that she just couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to give up. Lilly’s mother kneeled down next to the cousin and told her that she could dream about food that she was eating and just try one more day. “Think about the chocolate cake that you are eating with the cream dripping out of it.” Lilly never thought about giving up because there was no thinking but with her mom near her, she knew that she couldn’t give up. People gave up by simply stopped eating. Lilly and her mom always talked about delicious food and made up recipes that they only dreamed about.

After Auschwitz, she went to a factory where they made bombs. She doesn’t remember the name of the factory. They were transported in buses to this other camp. Her mom also was with her when making the bombs. The clothing were mostly the same, when they worked they got warm food. They did not have protection when working on the bombs. In the factory she got Scarlett fever and she went to an infirmary. It was a miracle that they just didn’t kill her. The food was much better in the hospital. She remembers her mom working in the factory but then would go to the window of the hospital and scream, “Lilly, I am here I am here.” So Lilly would know her mom was still watching over her. While in the hospital she was so sick and didn’t even know that the Russians had arrived. She was on a transport to Theresienstadt.

I asked Lilly if she remembered any of the Nazi guards and she replied that they never introduced themselves to her.

She was now sent to Theresienstadt. Still very sick she was now heading back to Hungary. With the help of her uncle she stayed with him on a ranch in Újhely, Hungary. There was plenty of food but there was time to reflect and it was so hard to know that her father was gone. As mentioned Lilly had a brother but he never went to the camps, he went with a relative to Mexico. An agreement was made that if the family survived this ordeal, they would all meet in Mexico one day. She even remembered the phone number to the relatives in Mexico.

Before the war, Lilly had met a man named Alberto Hecht. He was from Czechoslovakia and as miracles happen, he was able to find her after the war in Hungary. As sick as she was, he wanted to marry her immediately. He was an accountant and even distant cousins. The age difference was 11 and half years.

He never talked about his ordeal with anyone except that he was in hell for 4 years of his life.

I am not afraid to die, I’m okay, and I’ve had a wonderful just with a small nightmare in between …………

Alberto Hecht, holocaust survivor

He even told a Chabad Rabbi that he has proof that G-d does not exist and if he does he’s going to sue him! Alberto was worse outside the camps because there was nothing, no food, so he returned to the camps. There was a moment when Lilly didn’t want to marry Alberto because she wanted to be in Mexico with the relatives, Alberto took a chance and helped her and the mother get the papers for Mexico and then finally Alberto followed her. Alberto could not get a visa to Mexico but he got one in Cuba. Lilly flew to Cuba so that she could marry Alberto. It was the family in Mexico that worked together to help one another. After they got married they returned to Mexico.

Lilly didn’t want to have children but today is most grateful for her 3 most talented beautiful, daughters. 2 daughters were conceived in Mexico and one in Cuba.

With the daughters growing older and living in the United Sates, both Lilly and Alberto followed their children and came to Chula Vista.

2 things that were strange for Lilly; people in the United States were blowing their nose in paper Kleenex. She was always using the cloth for these. Also, the lingerie was not very pretty. It was cotton, and not silk as in Hungary.

One thing about the war, it is the pessimists that survive and the optimists that don’t. Lilly’s mom was a pessimist. Lilly’s mom survived. Lilly remembers her mom saying that one day we will all live in Mexico.

The most tragic ordeal was arriving in Auschwitz.

Who is Lilly today: she belongs to WIZO: Women’s International Zionist Organization (Haddasah), she meets every Monday for classes and gatherings with her friends. Someone donated the money to pick up Lilly from her home and take her to San Diego for classes. All classes are in Spanish with other Jewish women who speak Spanish. She loved to bake, knit, and was a copper enamel artist. She feels that you should keep your coffee maker busy and you will always have friends over.

Lilly is easy to find. She always wears polka dots. Polka dots was a sign of freedom after being told at the age of 19 that she had to remove her polka dot scarf by a Hungarian soldier.

Lilly has a message for us today: “Try to be careful so that this never happens again, but I don’t know how to ever stop this from happening again.”