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Survivor Stories


Helen was 23 when the Jews in her Romanian village were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. She survived hunger and deprivation, finally escaping with her sister when they were on a Nazi-guided death march away from Auschwitz.
She made her way back to Romania by walking and hopping freight trains, reuniting there with her prewar fiancé, Joe. The couple eventually settled in Burlingame to build a new life in America.
In 1974, Farkas talked to her daughter’s high school class about her Holocaust ordeal, and then became a frequent speaker with the JFCS Holocaust Center. Helen Farkas z’l passed away at the age of 97 in January 2018.

Excerpt from Video Testimony

Helen describes the daily challenges of living in a concentration camp and the effects it had on the people living in those conditions.

Video Transcript

You know, you become like an animal; although, I can´t say that we would harm each other. We were always, the good will to help each other was always there. But you, somehow you get to be different than you are in real life, you know, because everybody´s fending for themselves. Everybody wants to survive. But I cannot remember one incidence that somebody would have harmed the other, or would have stolen the bread from those who saved it. Yeah, Sometimes it happened that we were sleeping outside, and there are all kinds of people. No matter how small and there are all kinds of people. No matter how small that little piece of bread. Some of us would say, “Oh, I must have a bite of bread in the morning. I’ve got to save these two bites of bread for tomorrow morning, because if I am able to put two bites of bread into my stomach, then I can start the day.” And they would save it and then they would sleep. And then they would fall asleep forever.