Born: May 12, 1906, Erdobenye, Hungary
One of four children, Ilona was born to religious Jewish parents living in the village of Erdobenye in the highlands of northeastern Hungary. The Karfunkel's house, on the village outskirts, had a large garden in the back and fruit orchards. Ilona's parents had a small vineyard and a little grocery store. Ilona married Ferenc Kalman, and the couple moved to Hatvan, 36 miles northeast of Budapest.
1933-39: Ferenc and I have always considered ourselves Hungarians who happened to be Jewish, and we've always been well-respected in Hatvan. In the last few months, though, right-wing antisemites have grown in power, and the atmosphere here has slowly been changing. Some of our daughter Judith's schoolmates have started to taunt her, and she is learning that to many others, we are Jewish before we are Hungarian.
1940-44: After German troops entered Hungary a few weeks ago, Ferenc was conscripted into forced labor. Now, Judith and I have been ordered to relocate to the sugar factory in Hatvan, where all Jews in the area are being concentrated. The Hungarian gendarmes are letting us take only 110 pounds of baggage into the ghetto. Judith is tough: She refuses to leave any of our nice things behind for someone else, so despite my tearful pleas, she's started to smash our beautiful, never-used glass dishes from Czechoslovakia.
In June 1944, 38-year-old Ilona and her daughter were deported to Auschwitz. Judith was selected for forced labor. Ilona was gassed upon arrival.
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