Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters

Susan Beer

Susan Eisdorfer grew up in Topolcany, Czechoslovakia, in a traditionally Jewish home. Her father was a physician, forbidden to practice medicine under Nazi law. In an effort to escape an order to report to a labour camp in 1942, she succeeded in crossing the border to Hungary, considered safer because it was not yet under German occupation. In Hungary, however, she lived illegally, in constant fear of detection and imprisonment. After the Germans occupied Hungary she was more vulnerable than ever, and tried to return to Slovakia, but was arrested and taken to Gestapo headquarters in Budapest. There she encountered Hannah Szenes, a fellow prisoner.

Someone Special

In the morning, when they opened up the grills in our cell doors, I saw that in a cell across the way there was one solitary woman. She had dark circles under her eyes. She smiled. We saw her exercising, standing on her head, doing all sorts of vigorous exercises. Her front teeth were missing. I asked her, "Did they beat your teeth out of you?" She was such a gentle person.

She would pass little slips of paper through the grill of her cell, hoping that someone would pick them up. She was always cheerful, even though she knew they were going to kill her.

In the yard she would walk behind me and carefully get closer to me when the guards didn't see. Her mother walked in the same group, but far away. The guards watched that the mother shouldn't get too close to the daughter.

She told me that she was a parachutist. That she really came to save her mother and maybe some other Jews. She parachuted down on the Yugoslav border with two other men. Someone betrayed her. She was caught and brought to the prison. She constantly showed me, with a smile, that she knew she's going to be hung. She did not really hope to live.

I saw her about ten times, in June 1944. I heard from others that she made gifts. When someone had a birthday she would put the gift up to a window and show it.

She was 23 years old at the time. I felt she was someone special. I didn't know exactly what she was, but I never forgot her. There was something special about her. She didn't behave like the others. She wasn't scared, thinking of herself. She was beyond that. She had an aura about her. To me she was very exotic; she was close to my age, and she came from Palestine. In that prison it was good to hear something like this, something beyond our misery.

Excerpts of the interview by:
Bonnie Gurewitsch, 5/25/82


© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.
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