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<<  -- 4 --  Bill Newman    THE HUNGARIAN NIGHTINGALE


'Later, he became ill. He was in America, and eventually they took him to hospital. We were living at Bäuerberg, a small village some three kilometres from here. They telephoned me, and somehow I knew. I went to collect his things -- personal possessions, clothes and so on. At the time I did not cry, but I arrived in this house, saying to myself "Never more". I phoned Toni immediately -- "He died" -- and because he loved him very much I still remember his remorseful cry of anguish. Toni took me with him to London, then onto Israel where he was giving concerts. I cried for half a year, then thinking I would be glad for something, I vowed to start a new life.' Although Tibor died on 15 January 1960, they never married because of the Nazis. 'He was an Aryan, and although I was not Jewish by religion there was always this complication.'

'Do you know, looking back to the 1930s I was living in Berlin, but didn't like to read the newspapers. I never knew about Hitler, and my first experience happened when we were on the Kurfurstendam, Berlin's Fifth Avenue. Suddenly, a fleet of lorries descended on us. We were caught there like sardines, and all I could hear was the German cry: 'Juden varecke!' That was my introduction to Nazi corruption, and the first thoughts that entered my head were the words, 'How cheap!' Although Hans and I were not then married, I wished to say that we were husband and wife as a cover. He asked me to leave him, but I refused to do so. My place was by his side, at least until the official outbreak of war. I was a blond, and nobody realized I was Jewish, even though someone might have known. We didn't fear danger; perhaps ... sometimes. A man would stand before our house every day staring upwards. Although it was not at all agreeable, the lady in the house next door believed he was trying to tell us that Hitler wanted everyone to believe he was behaving naturally!'

'We went to the latest movie premières, and there were Furtwängler concerts. I always had the feeling that I shouldn't be there -- but still I was there. Three days after the outbreak of war, I took the evening train for Budapest. I went to the Austrian Embassy to tell them that my husband Hans was in Vienna. We could meet and he would hand me over the rest of my belongings, including my clothes. We had three very sad days together in Budapest where it was dark. Not war dark, that came much later. The Germans came there, and those were dangerous times for me. Women between 25 and 45 had to be there. I decided to flee from Budapest on 17 October to reach Berlin on 28 December 1944. Remember that Budapest, where my parents still were, was then in Russian hands. They had 'won the war'. I told the Russian officer what I wanted, showed him my passport. His reply was: 'You Berlin, stay Berlin!' I never saw my father again -- he died in 1948. The sweet and wonderful letters from both my parents were a joy to read.'

'The flat that Hans had in Berlin was burnt out. Everything was very dirty because of the Russians and now I had another flat which I cleaned out. There were the different sectors -- German, English, French and Russian -- and Grunewald was in West Berlin. One day a placard announced that we had to go back to where we were originally. But the English soldiers turned us out on three occasions. I went on my bicycle to the English officer, explaining that I was of Jewish origin and hoped he would explain to the radio people that I was here for the whole war. I was very happy when I came to Berlin, but now you throw us out! What do you mean by this? He handed me a bill to produce when the soldiers next came with a promise to allow me to move into a larger flat together with the lady in charge of accommodation, who was also Jewish. So this wise man fixed us up with this seven-room flat, with room for all of us, and this was where Yehudi Menuhin found me. Through intelligent American soldiers, Toni had located me.' A Private and Lieutenant introduced her: 'This is Toni's sister!' Menuhin she didn't know, although as a plump little boy of eleven, he had performed in Budapest -- the Beethoven Concerto with Fritz Busch. 'Who are you?' I enquired. He appeared astonished that I didn't know. 'Oh, I am Yehudi Menuhin'. When he was 75, I wrote again to him.'

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Copyright © 10 April 2006 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK


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