Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust
Name: Magda Herzberger (1926 – )
Birth Place: Cluj, Romania
Arrived in Wisconsin: 1960, Monroe
I had no idea that those were the furnaces, because no one could imagine such a thing.
Magda Mozes Herzberger was born on February 20, 1926, in Cluj, Romania. On August 30, 1940, Romania was annexed by Hungary, an ally of Nazi Germany. Life for Cluj's nearly 17,000 Jews grew steadily worse over the next four years. In March 1944, the Germans occupied Romania and took large-scale anti-Semitic measures. The Mozes family, along with thousands of other Jews, was forced into the Cluj Ghetto. It was liquidated only a month later. Magda and her family were sent to Auschwitz, where most of them perished.
After six weeks in Auschwitz, 18-year-old Magda was shipped to Bremen, Germany. She did forced labor as the city was bombed by Allied forces. In March 1945, Magda was transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Her job there was to dispose of thousands of bodies that had accumulated in and around the barracks. On April 15, 1945, she collapsed from exhaustion. Magda was near death when she was found among the corpses by a liberating British soldier.
Magda returned to Cluj late in 1945. In April 1946, she began medical school, where she met and married Eugene Herzberger. Fearing persecution under communism, the Herzbergers fled Romania for Israel in 1947. The British, who severely restricted immigration to Israel, captured her ship in the Aegean Sea and brought it to Cyprus. The Herzbergers were held in a makeshift prison camp until permitted to leave for Israel in January 1949.
In 1957, after nine years in Israel, the Herzbergers immigrated to the U.S. They and their two children settled in Monroe, Wisconsin, where Magda's husband practiced medicine for 20 years. The Herzbergers moved to Dubuque, Iowa, in 1976 and to Arizona in 1994.
Magda has spoken extensively about her experiences. She has published two memoirs (Eyewitness to Holocaust and Survival), and several volumes of poetry and fiction. They are available from her website. Magda is also a former mountain climber, skier and runner. She competed in a marathon the summer this interview was conducted.
Audio and Transcript Information
Below are the highlights of each tape. They do not list all topics discussed. Recordings of only one tape side are marked: (no Side 2). Documents may be printed or downloaded at no cost. See Rights and Permissions. Also, Magda has published this interview in paperback with an audio CD. See Amazon or her website to order.
Listen to Magda's testimony and view transcript
- Magda's reasons for sharing her story
- Family background
- Jewish life in Romania in the early 20th century
- Schooling and anti-Semitism
- Annexation of Romania by Hungary, 1940
- Occupation by German troops, March 1944
- Family and religious life in Cluj before the war
- Zionism and early immigrants to Palestine
- Growing anti-Semitism
- Knowledge of Hitler and the Third Reich
- Oppression by Hungarian police, 1940-1944
- Increased anti-Semitism
- Living conditions under German occupation
- Creation of the Cluj Ghetto
- Her family's imprisonment in Cluj Ghetto
- Brutality of life in the ghetto
- Deportation to Auschwitz, June 1944
- Magda's first impressions of Auschwitz
- Conditions at Auschwitz
- Selection of inmates for forced labor or death
- Description of crematoria
- Life at Auschwitz
- Tortures and beatings
- A typical day
- Emotional and psychological condition of prisoners
- Smuggling at Auschwitz
- German collaborators
- Futile acts of resistance
- Forced labor in Bremen
- Bunkers and Allied bombings in Bremen
- Conditions in winter
- Transfer to the Bergen-Belsen death camp
- Attempt to escape Bergen-Belsen
- Magda prepares to die
- Last-minute rescue and liberation
- Rehabilitation and repatriation to postwar Cluj
- Deciding to leave Romania
- Imprisioned by the British in Cyprus for one year
- Immigrating to Israel, 1947
- Life in Israel, 1949-1957
- Immigrating to the U.S.
- Impressions of New York, Connecticut and Georgia
- Settling in Monroe, Wisconsin, 1960
- No Jewish community in Monroe
- Magda's first speaking engagements about the Holocaust
- Family life and children
- Americans' understanding of the Holocaust
- Magda's social life
- Her daily activities and reading habits
- Depictions of the Holocaust in the media
- Travels in Wisconsin
- Anti-Semitism and American Nazis
- Attitudes toward American culture and politics
View more information by clicking the link below each picture.