This testimony is taken from the Lempert Family Foundation website and the
additional testimony from 2005 can also be found there:
"A person had to help, and he helped."
Testimony of Sanyi Papp
June 17, 2002
Oradea was a mixed community, with the Jews, the Romanians, the Hungarians. But
there were no differences, it didn't matter if you were Jewish or Hungarian until the
Iron Guard came and then the Arrow Cross, and then it was terrible. Between 1940 and
1944 when the Hungarians came in, it was a terrible time.
Then came the deportations, they pulled all Jews together, here at the end of this
street they locked them into the wagons. It has a terrible effect, the memories of
crippled people, small children, pregnant women.
About sixty or seventy people stayed behind, sick ones with typhus. Among them was
a writer. His book tells about what I did. This is the writer whom I rescued and who
was then able to write the book. The book is in Yad Vashem in English. Here he writes
how I saved them, out of good will, how I saved him and the others, there were many
others and the border was nearby, in Felix Furdo. And I took them [those I could save]
out to there and then they went on into Romania.
These 60 or 70 people stayed here, they had typhus. I would go to the market -- he
writes about this in the book -- to go shopping, and when I saw them there inside the
ghetto guarded by the gendermes, they would throw notes to me, listing things they
needed. I helped them with medicines, food, whatever I could, and I talked it over
about this writer and it cost about a thousand pengos, I was in a good financial
situation, they should let him leave one evening. And I took him out to the train station
to Budapest, and he went with his wife.
I met him after the liberation at Janos Hospital in 1945, I was playing soccer [able to
travel for that reason]. He was terribly distraught, like someone who had decided that
he'd had enough of this life. He was very depressed. His daughter had gone with the
grandparents, she hadn't stayed in the ghetto, but went [to Auschwitz, where she
died]. And a few years later he also died.
Yes I think so, they put the Gypsies in [the ghetto, after it had been emptied of Jews].
The Gypsies enjoyed themselves, in the evenings they made fires and they danced and
sang as though there was nothing wrong. They made them work here, I don't know if
they deported them. This is what I saw with my own eyes, here at the end of the
street. When they packed them up, it was in May, it was very hot, and they packed
them up and took them away. But then who knew where they were going [to
Auschwitz]? They didn't know it.
How should I say it? What did the people look like, who spent weeks crowded together
like animals, I don't want to speak about myself or brag, don't misunderstand me --
what did they look like? They were terribly distraught, it was very very hot, these
rooster-feather gendermes treated them like animals, and then they closed the doors
of the wagons and took them. They looked terrible, the old, the pregnant, the children,
they threw them in.
The thing I can't understand from a political standpoint -- there are those who deny
the Holocaust. There are those, and mostly in my opinion, they are the ones who were
responsible. If they ask us here, in Oradea, was there a Holocaust, then we can say
that we saw it with our own eyes, here, how the Holocaust started and we don't need
to say that we heard about it. We saw it with our own eyes, and how they were
fenced in here in this big area, and how they took away their valuables.
The Jewish people are a talented people, a good people, this is what I say.
The writer referred to by Sanyi Papp is Bela Zsolt and his book which describes his time
in the Oradea ghetto hospital is Nine Suitcases. Professor Ladislaus Lob, the translator
of the English version of Nine Suitcases, has kindly given us permission to reproduce a
selection of the many references to Papp:
"the patients relations, who were up and about, also became aware of a young man on
a bicycle who turned up six or seven times a day and threw things - cigarettes, bread,
onions, newspapers, sometimes even flowers - over the fence every time he zoomed
past, without slowing down, so that the policemen wouldn't notice......"
"He was a tailor's apprentice and the best striker of the Nagyvarad football team. His
name was Sanyi Papp, his father was a Hungarian, his mother a Romanian. The hospital
had established direct contact with him. Somebody was always waiting for him to
approach on his bicycle, and at the last moment threw out a paper pellet. The
footballer, like a galloping cowboy, bent down from his saddle at full speed and picked it
up. If somebody, in his despair, remembered a last, unlikely address, the footballer
forwarded an SOS or at least a farewell message-in-a-bottle from a sinking ship on
"Thanks to the bribed policeman, the women and children had been escaping steadily,
almost methodically, after sunset. So far we hadn't heard that any of them had been
caught - the football-playing Pimpernel was functioning magnificently."