Etelka Gardos

Babies in a Row

Etelka Gardos remembers that special but painful time when she nursed her son as he laid across a long table with other newborns in the ghetto hospital.

Etelka Feurstein, from Kolozsvar, Romania, married Laszlo Gardos in September 1942. Two years later, shortly after the Nazi occupation, Etelka, then pregnant, was ordered to walk for miles to the Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest, where other Jews were gathered. Etelka was kept there for four days, in crowded conditions and with little food and water. Hungarian residents spat and cursed at them. From there, Etelka was taken to a giant field, where thousands of Jews were gathered.

Suffering from hunger and sleep deprivation, Etelka was able to conceal her pregnancy because she was tall and slim. A Nazi approached Etelka and quietly said to her, “Go home.” Etelka just looked at him incredulously. Once again, the Nazi repeated, “Go home.” Thus saved, Etelka returned to the ghetto. Shortly afterward, she found a job printing passes in the Swedish embassy outside the ghetto and was given a pass by Raoul Wallenberg himself.

On December 29, 1944, Etelka gave birth to her son, Ivan, on the very same day that her husband was killed. Etelka stayed in the ghetto hospital where all the newborn babies were laid in a row across a big table. Since there were no chairs, Etelka, nourished with only a bit of sweetened water, stood with the other mothers beside the table to breast-feed.

Etelka remained living in the ghetto with her infant son until she was liberated by the Russians in the winter of l945. Tragically, Etelka’s father was killed while lining up to buy bread, and her brother froze to death in a work camp in the Ukraine.

Etelka remarried in 1947 and immigrated to Montreal, Canada, in 1957. She had two more children, four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren and today lives in Calgary, Alberta.