#Biographie - Allemagne

Magda Perlstein

On her 17th birthday, Magda Perlstein was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. She survived the selection. The SS took her to a satellite camp of Buchenwald Concentration Camp for forced labour in an armament factory.

Magda Perlstein had a happy childhood. Together with her elder brother Miklos, she grew up in a Jewish family in Miskolc, a town in north-eastern Hungary. Her parents owned a butchery and a house in which the family lived together with an aunt and an uncle. Since the late 1930s the Perlstein family, like the rest of the Jewish population of Hungary, suffered under the Hungarian government's anti-Semitic laws. Finally, in March 1944, the German Wehrmacht invaded Hungary. The German occupiers immediately began to prepare for the murder of the Jewish population. The district in which the Perlstein family lived was declared a ghetto. From that point in time they were forced to share their house, in which only the six of them had lived until then, with 40 people. In May 1944, deportations to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Extermination Camp began.

On June 11, 1944, her 17th birthday, Magda was crammed into a box waggon together with her parents and over 80 other people. Her brother Miklos previously had to leave the family as a forced laborer for the Hungarian army. The journey took three days, with no water and no food. Once they arrived in Auschwitz, Magda was separated from her parents. Her father and mother were murdered in the gas chambers shortly after. The SS doctors declared Magda fit for work, so she survived the selection. Two months later, Magda was taken to Allendorf (currently: Stadtallendorf) in Germany along with 999 other Jewish women. An armament factory had requested the women as forced laborers from the SS. In day and night shifts they had to fill grenades with explosives without protective clothing. The toxic chemicals turned the women's skin yellow, their hair orange, their lips purple.

When the camp was cleared at the end of March 1945, Magda managed to escape with other women. They hid in a barn until the American troops arrived. After the liberation, Magda looked for relatives in her Hungarian homeland. Of over 70 family members, however, only six survived the Holocaust. In 1946 she emigrated to the USA and started a family with her husband Robert Brown. After more than 18 years she was reunited with her brother Miklos in 1962. Magda Brown worked tirelessly as a contemporary witness until her death at the age of 93.