Veteran Stories:
Eva Olsson

  • The first photo of Eva Olsson, age 21, in Sweden after the Holocaust concentration camps. November 1945.

  • Eva Olsson making a secondary school presentation about her WWII experiences in Barrie, Ontario. December 2001.

  • A map of Olsson's journey through Europe, from the Ghetto of Satu-Mare to her home in Bracebridge, Ontario.

  • A map of the Ghetto of Satu-Mare, where Eva Olsson spent the first eighteen years of her life. The district held 24,000 Jews in 1944.

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"They told us they're taking us to Germany to work in a brick factory. The sign said Auschwitz."


I was born in eastern Hungary in 1924 and my name was Ester Malek. In 1944, March the 19th, Germany occupied Hungary, the part where I was living in. I came from a high orthodox environment and originally there were six children, then five. My oldest sister died and she left three little children. Those children were very close to my heart. May the 15th, 1944, a man came in the square with a drum. He wanted everybody go outside and hear what he had to read from a piece of paper. We were ordered to pack our bags and we were told we have two hours and that we have to march to the railway station that was seven kilometres away from where the ghetto was. We were shoved into the box car, approximately about a hundred people, like sardines in a can. With two pails, one had water in it for drinking and the other one was for to use as a toilet. We cannot imagine unless we had been there the smell of human waste. This pail was flowing over and you're standing in it. And people were crying and people were praying. And I see the images of my mother squatting down in a corner hugging her grandchildren. I was very close to my mum, I asked her, "Why are you crying, mum?" She said, "I'm not crying for me, I'm crying for all of the children. I have lived." She was 49. Hell was in those box cars where people died from lack of oxygen. And to see young mothers not being able to feed their infant. This was a four-day hell. May the 19th, we arrived to our destination, except it wasn't Germany. They told us they're taking us to Germany to work in a brick factory. The sign said Auschwitz. And we have never heard of Auschwitz before, although people have already been dying there for two years. When this cattle car's opened from the outside, some people had a sigh of relief, "Now we are going to have fresh air and we are going to have water." Except for us, there was no water and the air was nauseating. We couldn't relate it to anything we have ever... it was worse than the box cars. There was smoke coming out of the chimney, high towers, machine guns. I turned to my mum and I said, "This doesn't look like a brick factory." No, Auschwitz was not a brick factory, it was a killing factory. The smell that we smelled was the smell of human flesh burning.
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