Growing up in Hungary during the Holocaust, Erika Hecht was a “hidden child,” one of many Jewish children who were provided with false identities and survived the war as Christians. But when the village where they were hiding became a battlefield between the German and Soviet armies, Erika and her mother were forced to flee, hiding in damp cellars, seeking shelter on the porch of a house occupied by soldiers, and living in mountainside caves. It wasn’t until many years after the war that Erika reconnected with her Jewish identity.
Erika’s harrowing story is the subject of her new memoir Don’t Ask My Name: A Hidden Child’s Tale of Survival, published by East End Press in June 2021.
This program explores Erika’s experiences during the Holocaust and her struggle with identity, reinvention, and resilience. She is interviewed by the Museum’s Senior Public Programs Producer Ari Goldstein.
Watch the program below.
Ari Goldstein: i'm Ari Goldstein Senior Public programs producer at the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust and it's a real pleasure to welcome you to today's discussion with Eric.
00:01:08.880 --> 00:01:19.050
Ari Goldstein: hecht a remarkable hidden child of the Holocaust and retired interior designer originally from hungry Eric is joining us today from sag harbor New York welcome Erica.
00:01:19.950 --> 00:01:20.610
Erika Hecht: Thank you.
00:01:22.560 --> 00:01:37.920
Ari Goldstein: Eric I spent the last many years beautifully writing her story and reflecting on it in the memoir don't ask my name a hidden child's tale of survival just released last month by East end press you can order the book at the link in the zoom chat.
00:01:39.090 --> 00:01:52.230
Ari Goldstein: All and Erica today for about 40 minutes and then we'll have time for audience questions, so please feel free to share questions in the zoom Q amp a box throughout the program and we'll address as many as we can, towards the end of the hour.
00:01:53.280 --> 00:01:57.270
Ari Goldstein: That further ado let's get started Erica Thank you again for being here.
00:01:58.470 --> 00:01:59.100
Erika Hecht: you're welcome.
00:02:00.540 --> 00:02:16.050
Ari Goldstein: I want to begin the conversation today in the same way that you begin your book, which is what the story of your conversion from Judaism to Catholicism in 1937, can you tell us a little bit about your early childhood in Budapest and why you converted.
00:02:18.450 --> 00:02:32.430
Erika Hecht: Well, my conversion of course had nothing to do with this season by me and was it the season of my mother's I was three and a half years old and I, you know, I was packed longer to the Church, I do remember it very clear.
00:02:33.810 --> 00:02:46.530
Erika Hecht: Due to the fact that I think little children remember traumatic experiences and for one reason or another, that experience my mother taking me to church and having first communion and being so.
00:02:47.100 --> 00:03:00.660
Erika Hecht: Totally nervous and upset about it is something that stuck in my mind and I clearly remember it as I wrote in my book, including the priest, and the kneeling down and all the things and her.
00:03:02.490 --> 00:03:19.140
Erika Hecht: joy and sorrow when we live to church i've not being a Christian and not having to worry about being in danger, and now we are safe, we are Christians, he said so that my memory of conversion but.
00:03:20.940 --> 00:03:30.450
Erika Hecht: But I grew up with it from then on, I mean I was a Catholic, but I was also Jewish my grandparents, whose House I stayed in most of the time.
00:03:30.870 --> 00:03:43.770
Erika Hecht: My mother been been divorced at that point and not yet remarried David Jewish never observant so I was to is there, but then, when I started to go to kindergarten I was registered a scholarly.
00:03:44.820 --> 00:03:58.290
Erika Hecht: I was all four years old, four and a half, so it was a mixture, from the very beginning, from my wage three and a half, four years old, I was the Catholic and I was to to feel.
00:04:00.030 --> 00:04:05.040
Ari Goldstein: Erica or your memory freeze of Budapest from before the war, mostly happy ones.
00:04:06.000 --> 00:04:11.400
Erika Hecht: My memories from Budapest from before the war one my memories, with my grandparents are pretty happy one.
00:04:11.400 --> 00:04:13.110
Erika Hecht: Especially before I really started.
00:04:13.110 --> 00:04:22.800
Erika Hecht: School but beginning of school was not bad, either, but by second grade, by the time you had to wear a yellow star I no longer qualify there's a non Jew.
00:04:23.400 --> 00:04:40.350
Erika Hecht: I was registered as a non one at one point, but I was not qualifying I did not have for non Jewish grandparents, so I had to wear a yellow Star and from that time on, when the yellow Star and things changed in school, when all that started.
00:04:42.570 --> 00:04:48.870
Erika Hecht: It was a conflict and it always remained a conflict for the next I don't know 50 years I guess.
00:04:50.490 --> 00:04:59.580
Ari Goldstein: We have an amazing photo of you as a little girl around the time that you're talking about so i'm going to pull it up on screen and can you tell us about who this is on the right with you.
00:05:00.420 --> 00:05:03.960
Erika Hecht: that's my father my real Father my original father.
00:05:06.360 --> 00:05:14.160
Erika Hecht: And I just that's like I must have been well on the left, I was about six, I suppose, and on the other, one I must have been about eight.
00:05:16.770 --> 00:05:22.710
Ari Goldstein: he's a really remarkable photos and i'm grateful that they survived the war two, so we can see them today.
00:05:23.100 --> 00:05:23.490
00:05:25.230 --> 00:05:26.580
Ari Goldstein: Aaron yeah.
00:05:27.420 --> 00:05:28.740
Erika Hecht: No, I was just gonna say that these.
00:05:28.740 --> 00:05:30.120
Erika Hecht: Pictures came out of my leg.
00:05:30.330 --> 00:05:42.300
Erika Hecht: My leg mother's collection few her collection survive with some friends, she gave it to some friends and I got them back after the war, I didn't have any leftover pictures or anything like that.
00:05:43.140 --> 00:05:49.980
Ari Goldstein: I should mention that all the photos that you'll see during today's discussion are featured in the book, along with other photos from from Eric is life.
00:05:50.610 --> 00:06:06.510
Ari Goldstein: And so Erica you mentioned your mom converted you and her and that's in 37 because she felt that being Catholic would be safer for you can you talk about the the increasing restrictions on Jewish life that you remember at that at that young age.
00:06:06.780 --> 00:06:09.240
Erika Hecht: The what i'm sorry I didn't get it.
00:06:09.810 --> 00:06:15.960
Ari Goldstein: It became increasingly challenging to be Jewish when you were a young girl yeah how much do you remember about the progression over time.
00:06:16.950 --> 00:06:21.330
Erika Hecht: Well, it was Oh, it was extremely difficult for us, the reason that.
00:06:22.440 --> 00:06:35.370
Erika Hecht: The Catholic instruction at school was very rigid and very strict and I was being prepared for first communion I had to learn the catechism by heart as a Catholic and.
00:06:36.900 --> 00:06:44.640
Erika Hecht: And I was taught a lot of things, including the fact that you know Jews killed Christ, and all of those old fashioned.
00:06:46.650 --> 00:06:56.490
Erika Hecht: Basic facets of anti semitism given to people who didn't know any better, so that was going on, but on the other hand.
00:06:57.000 --> 00:07:04.530
Erika Hecht: It was fascinating I was looking forward to my first communion I remember that the White dress to sing in my hair.
00:07:05.340 --> 00:07:18.000
Erika Hecht: And all the festivities that went with it, which was something that was that was fun that was nice and a lot of girls in my class my first communion so It made me part of the group.
00:07:19.050 --> 00:07:20.250
Erika Hecht: I guess how did.
00:07:20.820 --> 00:07:24.570
Ari Goldstein: How did your observing Jewish grandparents react to the conversion.
00:07:25.770 --> 00:07:28.410
Erika Hecht: My grandfather was an observant Jew and.
00:07:29.610 --> 00:07:41.190
Erika Hecht: He his opinion was, and I do remember that because discussions happen, quite often and before I went to school, before I started first grade I lived with them due to the divorce.
00:07:41.790 --> 00:07:52.380
Erika Hecht: And he said to my mother anything to save your life is permissible in these times you whatever you can think of to do whatever you're going to do.
00:07:52.800 --> 00:08:10.080
Erika Hecht: don't worry about it, you have been obligation and that's to save your life i'm not sure my mother repeated that often I don't know whether she really believed it or whether she wanted to sue Sir Constance I don't know but that sentence became part of like the family.
00:08:11.160 --> 00:08:12.330
Erika Hecht: The family believe.
00:08:13.560 --> 00:08:24.450
Ari Goldstein: hmm I guess that obligation to save a life, above all else is part of Jewish religion, so if your grandparents were observant that would have been a real religious meaningful religious.
00:08:24.900 --> 00:08:25.320
00:08:27.390 --> 00:08:44.700
Ari Goldstein: So restrictions were being added, and you were experiencing anti semitism at some point, you were required to wear a yellow Star and then your life really changed when German forces occupied hungry in March 1944 is that right.
00:08:45.450 --> 00:08:58.260
Erika Hecht: Yes, well, they tend to more two more serious because that's when all the deportation starting we're not only world was restricted from doing things and going places and buying food and.
00:08:58.800 --> 00:09:09.150
Erika Hecht: And going for a walk and living in designated house is marked with big yellow stores, too, but they were now they were not allowed to.
00:09:10.710 --> 00:09:17.880
Erika Hecht: to congregate anywhere or to visit anybody, and they were around it up when you never know when you are going to be around it up.
00:09:18.330 --> 00:09:24.660
Erika Hecht: And they were mostly rounded up by the Hungarian arrow cross, with the help of the German Gestapo.
00:09:25.320 --> 00:09:41.850
Erika Hecht: I put into trains first into big factories outside of Vienna and then into trains and brought to one of the concentration camps, not necessarily always offered, but any one of the already existing concentration camps and.
00:09:43.080 --> 00:09:51.960
Erika Hecht: This was something that was known, and it was kind of whispered about and by this time, and this was happening, I was 10 years old, I remember it distinctly.
00:09:52.920 --> 00:10:09.240
Erika Hecht: And I also remember how one had to do everything to avoid being rounded up or doing anything that would bring attention to you so that you will be around it up or doing anything that went against regulations.
00:10:11.520 --> 00:10:20.040
Ari Goldstein: I 10 where you taught to be more fearful of the German Nazis, or the Hungarian arrow cross the the sort of local Nazis.
00:10:20.760 --> 00:10:27.960
Erika Hecht: What the local market or, in some way more dangerous, but it was a German Nazis, that really kill you.
00:10:28.860 --> 00:10:30.120
Erika Hecht: The local Nazis took it.
00:10:30.120 --> 00:10:33.240
Erika Hecht: away you never really know what happened, and they were.
00:10:35.430 --> 00:10:50.640
Erika Hecht: I am not sure whether they they put you on the trains, they brought you to the Germans to put you on the train, so I don't know the exact way it happened, but if it's in by Hungarian it came and got you, you were just as dead as a fisherman laughter came to get you.
00:10:52.830 --> 00:11:01.770
Ari Goldstein: So, by the time the Germans occupied hungry you even though you had converted to Catholicism you were once again being treated as Jewish and persecute.
00:11:01.980 --> 00:11:03.600
Erika Hecht: yeah absolutely yeah.
00:11:04.110 --> 00:11:12.030
Ari Goldstein: did your mother at that point, regret the decision to convert or do you think it's still save do in some fashion in those intervening years.
00:11:13.470 --> 00:11:23.730
Erika Hecht: I don't know if he ever regretted it because, after the war, when it was over, and she could have easily returned to being too much of you know, officially to it, she didn't.
00:11:24.270 --> 00:11:33.240
Erika Hecht: She wanted to remain officially Catholic she wanted to have Catholic papers, she wanted to never ever having to face anti semitism again.
00:11:33.780 --> 00:11:48.480
Erika Hecht: But at home, she remains roots you weren't allowed to use your flesh again milking dishes together and you I don't know there were other things that were from the Jewish religion that she kept and.
00:11:50.160 --> 00:12:05.490
Erika Hecht: No see and then my grandmother was by then veto veto after the war, she came to live with us, and she kept some of the Jewish positions so it was very much the Jewish traditions on the inside, and the Catholic life on the outside.
00:12:07.080 --> 00:12:17.010
Ari Goldstein: Eric I want to keep asking you about your story, but i'm thinking and listening to you that what you're describing is so similar to the stories we hear about the converses in Spain during the Inquisition.
00:12:17.040 --> 00:12:26.550
Ari Goldstein: The managers who converted but kept up to practice internally, did you then or do you now feel some sort of connection to those people.
00:12:26.730 --> 00:12:35.280
Erika Hecht: But it was a book that I don't know if you ever heard about, but I read and I read it again and again for the gomez's into madonna's foot.
00:12:36.180 --> 00:12:50.970
Erika Hecht: With have to do with the Spanish converted juice, that in order to teach the message that they have to kiss when they came into the House they hit it in a Madonna statues foot and they kissed the foot of the Madonna when they came to the House.
00:12:51.240 --> 00:12:51.660
Ari Goldstein: wow.
00:12:51.780 --> 00:12:53.040
Erika Hecht: Have a delightful book.
00:12:54.390 --> 00:12:56.610
Ari Goldstein: wow i've never heard that before.
00:12:56.820 --> 00:12:57.240
00:12:58.830 --> 00:12:59.430
00:13:00.600 --> 00:13:09.030
Ari Goldstein: Once the Germans occupy hungry it's 1944 your father and a really remarkable Act was able to secure fake papers.
00:13:09.300 --> 00:13:20.640
Ari Goldstein: and arrange for you and many other of your family members to go into hiding in the village of kish long man, can you tell us about how the escape was arranged to the best of your knowledge.
00:13:21.600 --> 00:13:26.910
Erika Hecht: Well, I know that it was arranged by my real father, because my stepfather vista.
00:13:28.980 --> 00:13:33.210
Erika Hecht: has been has been taken to work camp and with.
00:13:34.350 --> 00:13:41.220
Erika Hecht: The Russian from digging ditches for the for the Hungarian and the German army, but.
00:13:42.600 --> 00:14:00.960
Erika Hecht: But we've arranged by my father's a servant might somebody that worked for my father who arranged his ability, which was a godforsaken place in the Center of Hungary in the western part of Hungary but Islam and Islam was his.
00:14:01.980 --> 00:14:17.280
Erika Hecht: Birth village, and it was actually run by his uncle an ounce and whatever so basically he owned that village or his family on that will it and they were extremely grateful because this man work for my father for long time.
00:14:18.480 --> 00:14:26.250
Erika Hecht: I so he arranged for us to be able to go and live in that village if we had papers that said that we were Christian.
00:14:26.970 --> 00:14:39.060
Erika Hecht: papers going back, for you know for grandparents, so my father in those papers on the black market, and it was a long maybe a week so preparations when he came.
00:14:39.510 --> 00:14:50.610
Erika Hecht: To the designated house their mother and I and my bed then half sister live to indoctrinate us in our new names our new history, our new.
00:14:51.630 --> 00:14:57.300
Erika Hecht: friends, our new relatives, a whole created world of.
00:14:58.410 --> 00:15:07.200
Erika Hecht: of people and occasions that weren't true including this fake father, who was a famous officer on the front.
00:15:08.400 --> 00:15:12.840
Erika Hecht: Fighting the Russians, I mean the whole story, and all of that was.
00:15:14.250 --> 00:15:24.540
Erika Hecht: was told to my mother and part of it to me and I was taught my new name our new name I was still running history, I was taught on how to.
00:15:25.650 --> 00:15:29.040
Erika Hecht: react if people ask me things and.
00:15:30.810 --> 00:15:46.470
Erika Hecht: And I know that I found it very difficult to do that and I did I learned it all, but then you know, this is actually where the title of my book comes from because one day, just before we left the designated house and escaped to Islam.
00:15:47.400 --> 00:15:56.190
Erika Hecht: My mother woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me my name, because she wanted to make sure I remembered it, but it was my mother.
00:15:56.730 --> 00:16:10.890
Erika Hecht: So I didn't tell her my fake name I told her my real name, and I think she beat me up like i've ever been beaten up before do not ever do that again for us to die and i've never ever mentioned that name again.
00:16:12.900 --> 00:16:16.830
Erika Hecht: On the historical image much later, but I mean I never ever mentioned it again.
00:16:18.180 --> 00:16:24.510
Ari Goldstein: What a heavy burden for a 10 year old to have to learn how to adopt that identity and understand the stakes of it.
00:16:26.280 --> 00:16:33.630
Erika Hecht: yeah, especially the year before that I used to go to the synagogue to visit my grandparents were still going to synagogue.
00:16:34.830 --> 00:16:48.540
Erika Hecht: Because I learned in my Catholic lessons it was a deadly sin for for me to go into as integral you don't go insiders you know go that's a deadly sin, so you know the conference day was sort of.
00:16:50.490 --> 00:16:50.910
Erika Hecht: anyway.
00:16:51.960 --> 00:16:54.900
Erika Hecht: It was quite quite remarkable, I think.
00:16:56.160 --> 00:17:00.690
Ari Goldstein: Confusing yeah, can you tell us about what life was like hiding in case long.
00:17:02.130 --> 00:17:14.490
Erika Hecht: Well then, we got to finish line, the first maybe eight months or a year, or whatever it was or however long, it was the quite pleasant, we have this little house in which we live, and we had an.
00:17:15.090 --> 00:17:24.660
Erika Hecht: A person called workable she was a relative of the person who got us there who brought us to food and news and everything and the owners.
00:17:25.320 --> 00:17:36.630
Erika Hecht: The teachers living across the street I wasn't really allowed to go to school, because they felt that will be asked, too many questions and whatever, but I went for private lessons to the.
00:17:37.260 --> 00:17:47.100
Erika Hecht: Teachers house and they will lovely and they had two children and I felt quite comfortable and except for the restrictions on you know.
00:17:47.520 --> 00:17:57.780
Erika Hecht: You must didn't tell anybody you mustn't talk with this, that you have to be careful don't bring attention to yourself, except for those things, it was quite pleasant, then there was enough food.
00:17:58.770 --> 00:18:20.850
Erika Hecht: And they were there were two horses and and and to house at the at the peter's house and several chickens and over some good food, so it was quite pleasant until the first occupation by the lessons in December early December 1945 and it was.
00:18:22.650 --> 00:18:24.240
Erika Hecht: really, really.
00:18:25.770 --> 00:18:33.180
Erika Hecht: Quite miserable but it only lasted two nights and became out and we were not under the Russians.
00:18:34.500 --> 00:18:35.010
Erika Hecht: and
00:18:36.180 --> 00:18:45.720
Erika Hecht: Somehow or jewishness became known I guess it was already suspected in this village, but it was safe but now it became general knowledge.
00:18:46.800 --> 00:18:56.700
Erika Hecht: And that was quite comfortable until the Germans came back because there was a part of Hungary that was reoccupy, I think, maybe three or four times between German Center.
00:18:57.450 --> 00:19:07.290
Erika Hecht: And the Russians, so the Germans were coming back and as an officer who became a friend and who was Jewish himself, so it seemed.
00:19:08.400 --> 00:19:19.590
Erika Hecht: provided us with some transportation, to get out of that village and to go as far West with the restaurant, as we possibly could and that's when this odyssey of attorney started.
00:19:21.420 --> 00:19:26.910
Ari Goldstein: Before we get into that i'm gonna pull up some photos from the book here from kiss long, can you just describe what we're seeing.
00:19:27.870 --> 00:19:47.070
Erika Hecht: Well, are you see the little house that we were in hiding in have acquired why, in case Lang this was the side of it and and it had a little garden, with a little fence and several chickens and inside there is this.
00:19:48.480 --> 00:20:00.210
Erika Hecht: attic and the adequate accessible by a ladder and later on when he stole my stepfather escape from the work camp and arrive to join us without papers.
00:20:00.780 --> 00:20:10.140
Erika Hecht: And everything else we hit him we had him in the Arctic for about two two and a half months and nobody was supposed to know he was there.
00:20:10.680 --> 00:20:20.970
Erika Hecht: It was very and, most of it was very uh actually it was quite exciting, I thought of it more exciting, but it was also very dangerous.
00:20:21.720 --> 00:20:34.710
Erika Hecht: And nobody was supposed to know not even my little sister was supposed to know that her father was in the same House so that nobody can give him away or as away or whatever, and only until.
00:20:36.150 --> 00:20:42.690
Erika Hecht: The next occupation, because in the meantime we got very occupied by Germans and then the Russians came back and by the last.
00:20:43.800 --> 00:20:50.790
Erika Hecht: restaurant occupation you finally managed to re enter everybody's lives and.
00:20:52.500 --> 00:21:00.000
Erika Hecht: I mean our life and not be in hiding anymore, but that was in a in another place that was important.
00:21:01.290 --> 00:21:07.230
Erika Hecht: To very good luck, by hook or by crook urine goes, you know going into the battles.
00:21:08.490 --> 00:21:16.410
Ari Goldstein: And can you remind us why didn't your your mother's has been piece to have papers like you did that enabled him to live outside the attic.
00:21:18.840 --> 00:21:20.430
Erika Hecht: Sorry, can you repeat that, please.
00:21:21.210 --> 00:21:26.610
Ari Goldstein: Why didn't teach to have papers like you did for fake papers that said that he was doing.
00:21:26.790 --> 00:21:31.470
Erika Hecht: All this stuff was rubbish towards in over a cup in Russia and the Russian front.
00:21:32.490 --> 00:21:36.030
Erika Hecht: Okay, can bite a Hungarian army to dig ditches.
00:21:36.600 --> 00:21:37.380
Erika Hecht: Because you're.
00:21:38.460 --> 00:21:43.530
Ari Goldstein: So your your birth father, who was divorced from your mom was upstairs in the attic and piece, too, is.
00:21:43.800 --> 00:21:58.980
Erika Hecht: No, no, no, no, no, my birth father is the one who gave us the papers in Budapest, I didn't even back to these non Jewish life, which is why he who was a half to ended up being counted as unknown do because he had a non Jewish life.
00:22:00.330 --> 00:22:08.370
Erika Hecht: And he's the one who provided us with all those papers he's also the one who had adequate money because all the Jewish people he used to work for.
00:22:08.730 --> 00:22:28.620
Erika Hecht: The road over the property stadium, so he asked a couple of apartment houses you own the factory and he had lots of money and spend it on saving his family was extremely generous and very, very instrumental in saving our lives, a pistol wasn't there are Mr was on Russia and overcome.
00:22:29.730 --> 00:22:49.440
Erika Hecht: It send it out with a an October, the same day as the vital few historical you know, but there was a puts in Hungary, and what he gave up and and we were supposed to be no longer on the German side, but by that evening we had completely.
00:22:51.660 --> 00:22:52.680
Erika Hecht: Anti Semitic read.
00:22:53.910 --> 00:22:56.940
Erika Hecht: Salah she was the man who took over and.
00:22:58.350 --> 00:23:11.160
Erika Hecht: He was more dangerous than even and then some of the Germans, was a real born anti Semite and a proponent of the German policies anyway so that's one piece the escape.
00:23:12.810 --> 00:23:18.150
Erika Hecht: And my father event to see my father, you see, everybody in those days was friendly.
00:23:18.630 --> 00:23:23.490
Erika Hecht: I mean the fact that they will be born didn't have anything to do with the fact that you had to save lives.
00:23:23.910 --> 00:23:37.440
Erika Hecht: So you could save life and had the money you did it so my father say Peters life and he saved ally and he saved his brothers, but it was it was one of those things receiving people's life became a.
00:23:38.250 --> 00:23:52.020
Erika Hecht: responsibility of those who could afford it all at the means to do it, or the ability to do and that's what was happening so my father taught fished of a river and when he started out to join us in Islam.
00:23:53.070 --> 00:24:03.390
Erika Hecht: It was we were under a new regime, which was no longer German oriented when he arrived, we were under fallacy.
00:24:04.590 --> 00:24:12.720
Erika Hecht: And we had to lighting if we would have been under the other review man known as well, I mean it is crazy but that's how it works.
00:24:12.930 --> 00:24:31.680
Ari Goldstein: Oh so gifts long becomes the Center in late 1944 of its reoccupied by the Germans and the Soviets and then at some point you flee westward with with your mother beast and your baby sister and the following month.
00:24:31.710 --> 00:24:36.660
Erika Hecht: And then ocarina horse drawn carriage given to us by the Russians officer.
00:24:37.800 --> 00:24:44.160
Ari Goldstein: The next few months are really a remarkable and heroin soccer can you can you describe what happened to us, as you left the tone.
00:24:45.930 --> 00:24:48.360
Erika Hecht: Well, get ready for a while and we went for a while.
00:24:49.440 --> 00:25:01.350
Erika Hecht: Like the path of slow the aging process we banked on the side road and this this restaurant officer explained that we should stay on the small road in the middle of the two main roads.
00:25:01.860 --> 00:25:14.400
Erika Hecht: And on the main road on the right, I would have Russians and on demand, or on the left, where to German vice versa, advancing and the older fighting went on over our head so.
00:25:16.530 --> 00:25:19.560
Erika Hecht: It was pretty scary and, as we are.
00:25:20.640 --> 00:25:29.040
Erika Hecht: approaching more and more open territory and more and more darkness, the the carrot in front of us has a full hit.
00:25:30.540 --> 00:25:39.810
Erika Hecht: And it's very scary and things are flying around and all of that, I don't know that scene is pretty hard to talk about but.
00:25:42.150 --> 00:25:50.850
Erika Hecht: What happened was things were flying around, and I see something landing on my mother and it happened to be a leg with a.
00:25:52.140 --> 00:26:09.480
Erika Hecht: shoe on it, and she took the leg, and she put it over the side of the carrot and then I look and next to me, is a soldier looking at me and reaching out to command I think my God he's crying but he wasn't crying it was one of his eyes was running up and down his face.
00:26:10.890 --> 00:26:17.520
Erika Hecht: i'm just looking but he's reaching out and he's falling back and he's dead and so.
00:26:19.260 --> 00:26:27.840
Erika Hecht: And so vista who was holding a horse to not go more crazy than it already was it sort of goes and.
00:26:30.390 --> 00:26:40.230
Erika Hecht: takes the Parish and pulls it around and tells me not to look and we're going we're driving over to this body with the one leg.
00:26:40.800 --> 00:26:50.610
Erika Hecht: And then we are going and looking for a road on the road and we're going on the road, and my mother says something like we have to get off this road.
00:26:51.120 --> 00:27:02.970
Erika Hecht: We can stay on it will get killed and the other people are feel I mean people who were in the first carriage that got hit one of them died on the side and the other one was on the ground, and they were dead.
00:27:04.320 --> 00:27:09.540
Erika Hecht: But we were not and we were going to look for somewhere to stay or to go or to hide.
00:27:10.770 --> 00:27:17.490
Erika Hecht: And so we saw a little road somewhere ahead of us on the left and prevent returned.
00:27:18.930 --> 00:27:25.860
Erika Hecht: And we went to this House, there was a house there, and this is the people that that's the person who letters in.
00:27:27.570 --> 00:27:30.180
Erika Hecht: And that's where we spent a night.
00:27:31.200 --> 00:27:35.190
Erika Hecht: And that house was full of refugees already he left he left everybody in.
00:27:36.720 --> 00:27:37.290
Erika Hecht: mind.
00:27:39.300 --> 00:27:43.290
Erika Hecht: And there was some food on the table, it was really quite.
00:27:44.400 --> 00:27:52.770
Erika Hecht: civilized and he said, all these people are hungry and you are agreeing by the corner and now eat something and go to sleep.
00:27:53.520 --> 00:28:06.870
Erika Hecht: And so, but around early in the morning to Germans for back We were amazed, because they were we were still under the Russians, but early in the morning to Germans came back, and it was banging on the door.
00:28:08.070 --> 00:28:09.570
Erika Hecht: And the Germans came in.
00:28:11.190 --> 00:28:17.760
Erika Hecht: And my mother also my mother always answers one tell speech talk don't talk, let me do the talking.
00:28:19.170 --> 00:28:30.210
Erika Hecht: I, but the Germans are asking if any body speaks German and my stepfather pistol was from Vienna when he spoke German, of course, and he said yes, I do.
00:28:31.350 --> 00:28:37.230
Erika Hecht: And they engaged him as a as a as a translator to go into the villages to find food for them.
00:28:38.460 --> 00:28:54.960
Erika Hecht: Anyway, it's a long story, but what happened is we went with the Germans and they put us on the German truck and we had no papers, at which they had no papers, we still have some papers samples papers published, I had no papers and my mother was scared and krista said don't worry.
00:28:56.310 --> 00:29:08.190
Erika Hecht: And that's when I actually have that story which seal excuse me, but I think it was a very important story and lesson when he said I made sure that.
00:29:09.630 --> 00:29:18.420
Erika Hecht: IP next to domain officer, because Mr being from Vienna was not circumcised so he made sure that the German offices so him.
00:29:19.050 --> 00:29:34.050
Erika Hecht: And realized that he could not have intuition, because he was not circumcised so we didn't need papers to prove the new Star Wars Okay, and we went from there and we stayed, I think, maybe 10 days or so, but the Germans.
00:29:35.190 --> 00:29:38.100
Erika Hecht: And then eventually ended up in this Lang.
00:29:39.330 --> 00:29:40.830
Erika Hecht: Where my mother.
00:29:41.940 --> 00:29:53.100
Erika Hecht: I mean not increase lung cancer, but cancer, because my mother couldn't stand it anymore, and we decided we had enough of the Germans so she pretended to have an appendicitis.
00:29:54.060 --> 00:30:05.520
Erika Hecht: And she was so good at it scared the soul receiver traveling will so they throw us off in the place called can answer because there was a hospital up there and that's how we ended up in Canada show.
00:30:07.770 --> 00:30:24.030
Ari Goldstein: Eric i've heard so many amazing stories of people surviving Nazi ISM but i've never heard of anyone who was embedded with the Nazis like you were for 10 days on their carriage and, and I mean the the fear you must have felt I can't even imagine.
00:30:26.460 --> 00:30:43.980
Erika Hecht: I don't know I don't know how how bad it was for me at that point, because it was very cold, we were all very hungry, as long as these Germans went and got some food and they gave us some on that we lived on the truck we slept on the truck we were on the truck.
00:30:45.270 --> 00:31:03.600
Erika Hecht: And I also had my little sister who became my my chart in many ways, and she was very vulnerable and she didn't have enough food at two or three times during that period of time, personally, I was, I was worried that she's not gonna make it was she was that chicken that.
00:31:04.950 --> 00:31:11.610
Erika Hecht: hungry and whatever so I don't know I don't know how much of it, I realized at that point.
00:31:13.020 --> 00:31:22.860
Erika Hecht: and, frankly, I think that was a very general experience, not if I think about it at that point is German soldiers who was struck with around where our security.
00:31:25.020 --> 00:31:29.130
Erika Hecht: Of course they didn't know we were Jewish had a non we were Jewish he would have been killed, that instant.
00:31:30.270 --> 00:31:34.050
Erika Hecht: So, which is you know, which is a very interesting thing to think about.
00:31:34.860 --> 00:31:47.280
Ari Goldstein: How do you I mean there are multiple times in your story in which there were Germans or Hungarians, who saved you thinking you were Catholic they provided you with food or security or shelter, how do you do you feel.
00:31:48.030 --> 00:31:56.220
Ari Goldstein: attitude towards them or anger, because you know that if they found out the truth, they wouldn't have helped you how do you deal with that set of emotions.
00:31:57.420 --> 00:32:02.580
Erika Hecht: Well, it is confusing it was confusing i'm sure, but.
00:32:05.280 --> 00:32:08.790
Erika Hecht: It was at that time, somehow, rather, it was a fact of life.
00:32:10.110 --> 00:32:13.800
Erika Hecht: You know that being Jewish broad range of with a topping killed.
00:32:14.730 --> 00:32:30.810
Erika Hecht: You didn't think about it, I mean, I think I was too young to really go into the reasons why it was like that except when I was taking Catholic religion, they told me I killed I kill Jesus, but I don't think I took that very seriously, but I think it was.
00:32:32.010 --> 00:32:34.020
Erika Hecht: It was unexplained it was not.
00:32:35.550 --> 00:32:36.210
Erika Hecht: You know.
00:32:38.010 --> 00:32:41.940
Erika Hecht: You do think and you do want to make sure you know what's happening.
00:32:42.420 --> 00:32:55.950
Erika Hecht: But when you are hungry and when you are in ancient danger and when your main preoccupation is to think where your next food is coming from, and the fact that if you don't get something to cover up that you're going to freeze to this, by the way, that was the coldest.
00:32:57.360 --> 00:33:07.260
Erika Hecht: coldest winter January months in Hungary in the almanacs and in every book, it was the coldest winter ever and it's still you know.
00:33:07.860 --> 00:33:17.010
Erika Hecht: Now, when we ended up in that these around if you read it in my book, when we ended up in the ditch and the German soldier came and saved us for some reason or another.
00:33:20.040 --> 00:33:25.110
Erika Hecht: It was, it was the coldest most horrendous mentor that they have had.
00:33:26.280 --> 00:33:26.940
Erika Hecht: in history.
00:33:28.320 --> 00:33:28.770
Erika Hecht: So.
00:33:30.810 --> 00:33:31.680
Erika Hecht: It was pretty bad.
00:33:33.060 --> 00:33:39.030
Ari Goldstein: Eric I want to pull up another photo from the next chapter in your story, can you describe to us seeing here.
00:33:40.260 --> 00:33:50.430
Erika Hecht: This is in this is my daughter Marian my oldest daughter and she's in a cave and the cave is in the mountains on the end of Lake Balaton.
00:33:51.000 --> 00:33:59.940
Erika Hecht: For the Turkish man, the third escapes because they were used by the Turks during the turkeys occupation was for storage and for prisons.
00:34:00.390 --> 00:34:08.070
Erika Hecht: And there's several of them on that mountain side, and these were the case that the people from the village mostly women and children.
00:34:08.610 --> 00:34:30.090
Erika Hecht: And older women fled to bento fighting around that this bottom kind of separate very fierce, so we took off also and went to one of these caves and lived in that cave for about 10 days, and we were maybe I don't know if we were 10 1215 it was full it was so full that you couldn't.
00:34:31.710 --> 00:34:46.980
Erika Hecht: You have to lie down on one next to the other straight you couldn't really turn or do anything that's how cool the cave was and believe there with very little food for about 10 days until the fighting was over.
00:34:48.060 --> 00:34:55.770
Erika Hecht: by which time it was the last Russian occupation, maybe the fourth or the fifth and on that trip.
00:34:56.910 --> 00:35:07.770
Erika Hecht: And, and that was it, you know that was that was the liberation, that was the last one after that the Germans never came back, they were beaten back and.
00:35:09.000 --> 00:35:16.320
Erika Hecht: Eventually, after 10 days we came down from the cave and found the village was really destroyed.
00:35:17.730 --> 00:35:35.790
Erika Hecht: And the place where we stayed before where that German soldier to curse was gone, he was dead and the place was done gone and we ended up living on the porch of another house that was occupied by German soldiers to.
00:35:37.020 --> 00:35:40.350
Erika Hecht: Until you know things got a little more straightened out.
00:35:43.470 --> 00:35:50.580
Ari Goldstein: When you returned with your daughter when the photo was taken many years later, how to find the specific case.
00:35:52.350 --> 00:36:02.010
Erika Hecht: Well, but I remember very well, I remember when we went up there, I remember my mother going ahead because she was afraid I won't be any space left.
00:36:02.520 --> 00:36:07.980
Erika Hecht: And we couldn't go first because vista could barely walk I had the baby, who was I had to carry her.
00:36:08.550 --> 00:36:16.350
Erika Hecht: So we were slow so she said, you can I go I find as a cave and I need to work come up come up because it's it's um.
00:36:17.250 --> 00:36:24.810
Erika Hecht: it's it's a walk that leads up to those caves and I don't know if you see the picture in my book, there is another picture.
00:36:25.260 --> 00:36:37.200
Erika Hecht: Of the wall, with the caves and there is a passage that leads up to there, so I knew it wasn't that passage and I knew it was a fair size and it was very much at the top of the mountain.
00:36:38.640 --> 00:36:39.240
Erika Hecht: and
00:36:40.410 --> 00:36:52.800
Erika Hecht: And in fact I was also looking for some bullet marks, because I was being shot at when I was in that cave because I couldn't stand it in the back, so I went.
00:36:53.340 --> 00:37:14.100
Erika Hecht: And I stood outside the camp outside the Cape and one of the German or who knows I don't even know what kind they were but somebody from a plane was shooting at all these refugees in those caves and then and a bullet hit left next to my left leg between my two legs and on the right.
00:37:15.450 --> 00:37:24.870
Erika Hecht: And it was making this up and everybody in the cave started yelling and my mother was screaming and they pulled me in and they never let me go outside the cave again.
00:37:26.790 --> 00:37:27.150
00:37:28.290 --> 00:37:32.880
Ari Goldstein: So this is to sit the very last stretches of the war, you mentioned that the the.
00:37:34.320 --> 00:37:46.470
Ari Goldstein: Russians reoccupied the area, once you felt that was saved your family returned to Budapest, you were 11, what do you remember about returning to the city, who or what was left of your former life.
00:37:47.700 --> 00:38:01.620
Erika Hecht: Well, what was left for us, I was kind of pretty dismal but by then i've been sold the war zones i've seen all the destroyed houses so maybe in Budapest, it was a little more a little more clear.
00:38:02.820 --> 00:38:08.940
Erika Hecht: But it wasn't anything new, I mean i've seen all those instructions and everything but.
00:38:10.710 --> 00:38:27.570
Erika Hecht: But, looking for the, who was the major preoccupation, who is alive well my grandmother was alive, but my grandfather was not and finding him or finding out what happened to him became a preoccupation my mother's sister my cousins.
00:38:29.430 --> 00:38:37.260
Erika Hecht: uncles aunts where are they where they take an hour day alive, you know who is remained who came back.
00:38:37.860 --> 00:38:43.590
Erika Hecht: who came back like when somebody heard of somebody who just returned him back from Auschwitz.
00:38:44.310 --> 00:38:48.900
Erika Hecht: They descended upon this person I remember it because we were looking for my uncle.
00:38:49.380 --> 00:39:06.300
Erika Hecht: descended upon this person with names and questions it you meet such and such did you see so and so is this one alive, is that one alive and that whole time was preoccupied by trying to find out who was alive and who stayed alive and who was going to come back.
00:39:07.320 --> 00:39:10.740
Erika Hecht: My aunt and uncle didn't come back my cousins didn't come back.
00:39:11.760 --> 00:39:25.920
Erika Hecht: and so on, so that was that was what was more impressive even done the mentee destroyed house is we I stayed with my father was a nice apartment which wasn't destroyed my mother and sister and my sister.
00:39:27.720 --> 00:39:38.430
Erika Hecht: State with the grocery store owners around the corner my mother got friendly with and they let her and then stay at in the shop window of the store.
00:39:39.840 --> 00:39:52.950
Erika Hecht: You know, because there was a lot of destroyed places I mean you couldn't and also apartments weren't keep them back right away, so you had to find places to stay at my grandmother was in the hospital on my grandfather was dead.
00:39:54.150 --> 00:40:01.110
Erika Hecht: So just trying to figure out your family relationship is very important, or very preoccupying.
00:40:04.950 --> 00:40:15.780
Ari Goldstein: So in you resettled in tried to rebuild your life and then in 1948 your family fled hungry ahead of the communist takeover yeah.
00:40:16.530 --> 00:40:25.110
Ari Goldstein: You had you were shared earlier your experience with the Germans, and also with the Russians, and it was much better with the Russians, when you were in case long.
00:40:26.070 --> 00:40:34.920
Ari Goldstein: How can you make sense of the difference between those two groups and how did you know what what was in store for you, before the communist takeover hungry.
00:40:35.640 --> 00:40:51.870
Erika Hecht: Most common interest didn't want to let you live properly and the Germans, want to kill you, and that was it there was that that difference was clear to me, because the German the German policy was that you know get rid of the tools all together.
00:40:53.100 --> 00:41:07.590
Erika Hecht: And, and the Communists didn't want to get you to a few per se, but they certainly didn't want to have anything they certainly put you into jail, if you said anything against the regime, it was a different kind of different kinds of.
00:41:08.820 --> 00:41:18.810
Erika Hecht: or story, but it did not end up in depth as easily as the Germans, the Germans just took er of the designated house is still down to detain you and shock you.
00:41:20.520 --> 00:41:27.810
Erika Hecht: They wanted something you are in your apartment acrimony to take they didn't ask any questions, it took to shock you, and then they took what they wanted.
00:41:28.860 --> 00:41:30.030
Erika Hecht: So let's not i'm.
00:41:31.950 --> 00:41:32.970
Erika Hecht: Not a question.
00:41:33.750 --> 00:41:43.770
Ari Goldstein: Sure, and I don't mean to draw a comparison between the two, but you did have sufficient concern of the communist takeover that you fled hungry before 1948.
00:41:44.340 --> 00:41:44.520
00:41:46.830 --> 00:41:49.920
Erika Hecht: You didn't want to live on main we had a nice house by then.
00:41:51.030 --> 00:42:08.790
Erika Hecht: i'll move on support we have we're probably not going to be able to keep it, you were very restricted in what you could do, and what you couldn't do we were I was being indoctrinated I went to may may 1 celebrations, with thousands of kids and banners and everything else.
00:42:11.700 --> 00:42:13.470
Erika Hecht: Thinking the regime was wonderful.
00:42:15.060 --> 00:42:23.520
Erika Hecht: I did, I mean if I look at it, I was, I was a Catholic, I was, I was a Communist I was going to be a.
00:42:24.420 --> 00:42:38.520
Erika Hecht: nun and we're all those things that give you some kind of a strong belief, I meant all of those things and I got disappointed in all of those things and I decided not to keep any of those things, because they are all.
00:42:39.930 --> 00:42:46.770
Erika Hecht: None of them are redemption none of them are going to change the way things are in the world, so.
00:42:47.880 --> 00:42:49.680
Erika Hecht: But you have to find that out, I guess.
00:42:52.110 --> 00:42:57.990
Ari Goldstein: Erica will turn to audience questions in a minute, but I want to ask you one one more question as part of our interview.
00:42:59.010 --> 00:43:05.040
Ari Goldstein: You in 1991 participated in a hidden child conference in New York City that changed your life.
00:43:05.280 --> 00:43:07.500
Ari Goldstein: What happened at that conference and how did it lead.
00:43:07.560 --> 00:43:09.570
Ari Goldstein: to your decision to write this book.
00:43:10.620 --> 00:43:16.110
Erika Hecht: All right, well, first of all, let me say that, eventually, I ended up marrying a Jewish person.
00:43:17.550 --> 00:43:23.220
Erika Hecht: Who didn't care much about who was a distant relative and he lived in Canada and I ended up.
00:43:23.850 --> 00:43:42.900
Erika Hecht: Giving up my medical profession, which I already had and married this person and went to Canada and became a Jewish housewife and I was pretty comfortable and for a while and I became quite familiar with Jewish life in North America and.
00:43:44.400 --> 00:43:49.710
Erika Hecht: And became familiar with Israel, I learned a lot of things like that and.
00:43:51.840 --> 00:43:55.290
Erika Hecht: i'm sorry I lost my train of thought, but did you ask me.
00:43:56.040 --> 00:44:02.490
Ari Goldstein: No problem, and I wanted to dive into the hidden child conference in 1991 and what it meant to you.
00:44:05.730 --> 00:44:07.770
Erika Hecht: Like happened in my marriage was that.
00:44:08.970 --> 00:44:10.950
Erika Hecht: Now, now I was Jewish.
00:44:12.570 --> 00:44:24.960
Erika Hecht: Of I had to recruit I will switch but they had absolutely no interest in my experience as unknown to it didn't even want to know about it, they did not want me to tell anybody.
00:44:25.500 --> 00:44:33.060
Erika Hecht: And I was ever converted that became my next shame like being Jewish was my shame for a long time now, my being tackled equals my same.
00:44:34.020 --> 00:44:42.480
Erika Hecht: So it was not not the redemption in one way or another, I absolutely had to deny all those Catholic backgrounds.
00:44:43.170 --> 00:45:00.510
Erika Hecht: Oh yes, you were in a combat combat schools record, it was good for you to be in a Convent nobody had accepted the fact that I was there, because I was a Catholic, and I was going to be a nun but anyway that's how it was so and then I got divorced, and by then, I was already.
00:45:03.090 --> 00:45:08.580
Erika Hecht: Doing interior design and I had my own business, and I was making a bit of money and.
00:45:10.980 --> 00:45:13.980
Erika Hecht: And I got divorced, because that was not working.
00:45:15.690 --> 00:45:21.840
Erika Hecht: And I read about this conference that was going to take place in New York, and it really spoke to me.
00:45:22.650 --> 00:45:41.460
Erika Hecht: He mentioned the story that was a little bit similar to mine I caught up and register they told me they will have three 400 people I got to New York and they had 1600 people, but they were all very you know it was I will never forget it, because it was so typical of our mentality.
00:45:42.540 --> 00:45:49.200
Erika Hecht: They were people standing there, but if we're all anxious they didn't want to commit to being there, so they came to see what it was like.
00:45:49.710 --> 00:46:02.100
Erika Hecht: They wanted to see what it was like they wanted to they didn't want to commit until they were safe so and I could feel that in the atmosphere, but eventually everybody, I mean a lot of people state 1600 people state.
00:46:03.330 --> 00:46:05.880
Erika Hecht: And all the workshops are all dead by.
00:46:06.990 --> 00:46:11.790
Erika Hecht: By psychiatrists and psychologists, all of them survivors as well.
00:46:12.840 --> 00:46:27.900
Erika Hecht: And I went to the most incredible experiences I wrote in the book of this woman, I call it, she cracked me open, in other words she she really did you know she was really, really, really instrumental for me, being able to.
00:46:29.820 --> 00:46:45.150
Erika Hecht: To talk about it and to admit to it and then all the other people in that I set with every night for three nights in a row, who came from similar backgrounds border converted people all the people who lived as non Jews, for a while.
00:46:46.230 --> 00:46:56.580
Erika Hecht: Well, very interesting, I thought huh and then because of that, and because I spoke up here and there, I got recruited to speaker bureau of adl.
00:46:57.600 --> 00:47:03.840
Erika Hecht: An area send me to various schools, including some in Vermont where I had a country House at the time.
00:47:04.350 --> 00:47:13.860
Erika Hecht: And in in in Montreal and everywhere else to speak to kids in school 13 and 14 year olds and speak about the experiences.
00:47:14.310 --> 00:47:29.010
Erika Hecht: And slowly all these experiences and seems came back to me and i'm talking about it, and my most ardent supporter was my daughter, who said finally i'm going to find out about the things that were just a black hole in my heart.
00:47:30.030 --> 00:47:30.690
Erika Hecht: and
00:47:32.010 --> 00:47:42.990
Erika Hecht: Anyway, so she's the one who encouraged me eventually to write down some of the features that I was making write notes and the notes in the things that I wrote down became the basis for this book.
00:47:44.400 --> 00:47:44.760
Erika Hecht: So.
00:47:44.790 --> 00:48:02.100
Erika Hecht: that's how this book came into being, but it wasn't a continuous afford it took me 91 well I didn't start writing it until 20 something, but still, it took me like 15 years to write it because I stopped and I moved on, I moved on the mark here.
00:48:03.210 --> 00:48:04.710
Erika Hecht: All of those things anyway.
00:48:05.940 --> 00:48:18.810
Ari Goldstein: Erica Thank you so much for sharing and a reminder to the audience that you can read Eric has full story in her book don't ask my name a hidden child's tale is for Bible at the link in the zoom chat we're going to turn to some audience questions now.
00:48:19.920 --> 00:48:27.120
Ari Goldstein: i'm Erica there's a question from mallory who's asking when did you tell your own children your story and how did they react to it.
00:48:28.020 --> 00:48:33.360
Erika Hecht: My own children get to know my full story until after 1991.
00:48:34.920 --> 00:48:42.210
Erika Hecht: Then you'll I mean the people Jewish that's Okay, I was in hiding, but that was just the worst thing they did not know.
00:48:43.590 --> 00:48:52.800
Erika Hecht: about how I felt about it, or what but the whole thing was they didn't and after I went to that conference that to food store became known to them.
00:48:54.990 --> 00:48:59.130
Erika Hecht: very fine I mean they are my children are they went to Jewish.
00:49:00.000 --> 00:49:16.590
Erika Hecht: It did not go to school, except for my son my daughter is meant to secular school, but they went to Jewish religion classes, a been to Israel, they spent summer on keyboards, and I mean they are Jewish kids they are not religious, you know that they're very true.
00:49:17.700 --> 00:49:18.210
Erika Hecht: So.
00:49:19.290 --> 00:49:24.480
Ari Goldstein: there's a follow up from Barbara which says how to your children relate to being second gen.
00:49:24.900 --> 00:49:34.200
Ari Goldstein: survivors now I mentioned Erica when we were speaking earlier you rejected the label of survivor felt that it wasn't true for you, but you are hidden child so.
00:49:34.440 --> 00:49:42.510
Ari Goldstein: Could you talk to us about what term you prefer, and in doing so insert barbara's question about how your children relate to that identity.
00:49:43.380 --> 00:49:57.030
Erika Hecht: Okay, well, so if I ever in my vocabulary earlier years and even later was people who came back from camps, you know that were in that, then our community of Jewish survivors.
00:49:58.500 --> 00:50:14.100
Erika Hecht: It meant that you were an account, and so I felt that I was not going to impose that title myself because i've never been to come and I didn't feel entitled to being a survivor in that same sense but.
00:50:15.870 --> 00:50:22.620
Erika Hecht: Because i'm a survivor I call you know, a hidden child survival, but, but as a survivor.
00:50:24.120 --> 00:50:34.710
Erika Hecht: I objected to that title at the time I don't anymore I don't care what you call me actually as long as you're, you know as long as you hear my story.
00:50:38.070 --> 00:50:53.640
Erika Hecht: But I had a problem with that, in the beginning, but I learned a lot, you know I still have a whole stack of papers and letters and things from children between the ages of 12 and 14 whose classes, I was giving.
00:50:54.630 --> 00:51:04.770
Erika Hecht: talks in about about their reaction to my story and the reaction of finding out where it was like to be you know, in a dual dual life.
00:51:05.670 --> 00:51:14.490
Erika Hecht: And I learned a lot I learned a lot about how it affects people how not normally it is and to me.
00:51:15.390 --> 00:51:28.140
Erika Hecht: Frankly, when you live with the soul your life, I mean I live to be since I was three and a half year so me it was kind of more or less normal yes you're Jewish but no, you are not, you have to survive survival is your religion.
00:51:29.340 --> 00:51:31.680
Erika Hecht: Basically, so.
00:51:33.300 --> 00:51:36.570
Erika Hecht: But then I realized that to other people it wasn't like that at all.
00:51:39.480 --> 00:51:51.000
Ari Goldstein: Erica an audience Member named Joan is asking whether you're still in touch with other survivors or from your community and hungry or people who shared with more time experiences with you.
00:51:51.600 --> 00:52:08.100
Erika Hecht: Well, absolutely there is in New York, after the after this first conference group was established, and so in Montreal, I still lived in Montreal, we established a group in Montreal, but the one in New York was in a particularly.
00:52:09.720 --> 00:52:13.980
Erika Hecht: interesting way it was a Hungarian child survivors.
00:52:15.390 --> 00:52:26.460
Erika Hecht: Hidden type saliva son darien and it was a group of people who are about like 60 people or something gathered from all around and they were all hidden as.
00:52:27.510 --> 00:52:36.030
Erika Hecht: A neighbor or Catholics, they were all Jewish they all had very similar stories of their survival and that group matt.
00:52:36.990 --> 00:52:51.060
Erika Hecht: months and months and we told our stories to each other and cried with each other and it went on for quite a long time in that manner, and it was extremely therapeutic cannot just to me, but to most of the people who participated.
00:52:53.100 --> 00:52:53.550
Ari Goldstein: Oh.
00:52:53.940 --> 00:53:06.030
Erika Hecht: I guess to some of the most some are still alive, like me, but but that some are not, but they are, as a matter of fact, some of them came to my book signing here, and in fact horrible from.
00:53:07.020 --> 00:53:24.420
Erika Hecht: yeah so So yes, we establish pretty strong connections and I went around the world, I mean they were conferences every pair of hidden children, I went to Australia for a conference in Melbourne my event to New Zealand, I went to was the title.
00:53:25.590 --> 00:53:26.640
Erika Hecht: or South America.
00:53:27.840 --> 00:53:33.750
Erika Hecht: And there are several conferences of getting children touch survivors around the world.
00:53:35.040 --> 00:53:48.390
Ari Goldstein: I realized, we have two more photos I want to make sure that we share okay beautiful examples of your life after the war, so here's here's The first, which is justin discussed a bit in 47 or 48 right.
00:53:48.840 --> 00:53:49.530
Erika Hecht: that's right.
00:53:50.820 --> 00:54:02.970
Erika Hecht: What did I think that was 48 that is going from left at vista my stepfather this article my little sister that's my mother and, of course, on the right that's me.
00:54:04.650 --> 00:54:06.330
Ari Goldstein: And there's one more here, much more recent.
00:54:06.630 --> 00:54:18.630
Erika Hecht: movie yeah that one okay on the Left that's me the middle that's my mother on the right my sister Kartika and that's in the home, that my mother was in indiana at TNT uh.
00:54:19.320 --> 00:54:19.680
00:54:21.570 --> 00:54:23.190
Ari Goldstein: And what became of your.
00:54:24.420 --> 00:54:26.070
Ari Goldstein: Your biological father.
00:54:27.030 --> 00:54:27.660
Erika Hecht: You play me.
00:54:28.980 --> 00:54:30.330
Ari Goldstein: When we came with your father.
00:54:31.200 --> 00:54:32.670
Erika Hecht: My father my real father.
00:54:33.360 --> 00:54:41.400
Erika Hecht: Yes, my real my real Father for that time during hungering later than us, but people in 1949 I think.
00:54:42.660 --> 00:54:57.240
Erika Hecht: With my grandmother cartoon me who is in the book and they stayed with us in Vienna for a couple of months till we all live together, my father my grandmother my step Father my mother hi everybody in the same apartment.
00:54:58.230 --> 00:55:10.590
Erika Hecht: I was in Convent school in in some fulton and then my father rejoined his sister my aunt Haiti, who is on the picture of my father's family my art Haiti and her second husband.
00:55:11.160 --> 00:55:24.270
Erika Hecht: who went to Australia and they were establishing themselves in Australia and my father and cartoon and he went to Australia to join my to join her sister and and and and and the family there.
00:55:25.830 --> 00:55:34.500
Erika Hecht: And my father lived in Australia, he came to visit to Montreal a few times with his number five life at five bucks.
00:55:34.740 --> 00:55:41.820
Erika Hecht: mom and what he was he was very nice it was really a very good hug nice man.
00:55:42.900 --> 00:55:54.240
Ari Goldstein: Your memories are remarkable and, I imagine, in part, it's because what happened to you was so extreme that kind of thing sticks with you does your younger sister remember much.
00:55:54.270 --> 00:55:55.980
Ari Goldstein: From from nothing various.
00:55:56.040 --> 00:56:05.130
Erika Hecht: 10 years younger than me she was a baby she's three years old actually when we went to dyslexic was still being a nurse by my mother.
00:56:05.520 --> 00:56:16.260
Erika Hecht: Because my mother wanted to nurse, as long as possible, because then she wouldn't go hungry, so no my younger sister didn't know that she's Jewish until she was 13 years old.
00:56:18.600 --> 00:56:21.810
Erika Hecht: And she found out in a classroom somebody taught her you to you.
00:56:24.360 --> 00:56:24.660
00:56:26.400 --> 00:56:28.650
Ari Goldstein: So does she identify as a hidden child.
00:56:30.300 --> 00:56:32.370
Erika Hecht: No she doesn't identify like anything.
00:56:34.440 --> 00:56:35.790
Erika Hecht: She identifies as.
00:56:37.500 --> 00:56:49.830
Erika Hecht: Jewish but not Christian but not, but the children went to Israel, they were curious they know they know their history, I mean none of them live in denial let's put it that way.
00:56:51.060 --> 00:56:55.650
Erika Hecht: Which is the only thing that to me, is of any importance there's no denial there.
00:56:57.450 --> 00:57:05.610
Ari Goldstein: we're going to conclude in just a moment, since we're reaching the hour, so I want to close by asking you Erica, what do you feel, is the message of your story that you want to leave us with.
00:57:06.780 --> 00:57:11.160
Erika Hecht: Like I want to leave you with what story, I want to leave you in.
00:57:11.760 --> 00:57:13.140
Ari Goldstein: The message of your story.
00:57:14.160 --> 00:57:23.310
Erika Hecht: That what the message of the story Okay, the message of the story, as well, so actually two for the message of the story is that.
00:57:25.410 --> 00:57:29.670
Erika Hecht: survival is the most important human.
00:57:31.350 --> 00:57:33.360
Erika Hecht: A human condition that you want to.
00:57:34.950 --> 00:57:44.430
Erika Hecht: aspire for and it's a it's a it's a it's a it's a very human thing to want to survive, so in order to survive, I think.
00:57:45.510 --> 00:57:47.100
Erika Hecht: Anything is permissible.
00:57:48.810 --> 00:57:54.870
Erika Hecht: I think, to survive, you can lie, you can cheat you can steal.
00:57:55.980 --> 00:58:11.130
Erika Hecht: You cannot feel I make I make a point there, except if you know somebody wants to kill you, but not in self Defense, but I think anything is permissible to achieve survival and I think that.
00:58:13.020 --> 00:58:27.510
Erika Hecht: forgive the world but it's a sacred legacy to do you have to try it that my grant my grandfather said that and he was a religious Jew, but he said, you have to survive that's what that's what you're here for.
00:58:28.560 --> 00:58:29.070
Erika Hecht: and
00:58:30.420 --> 00:58:31.860
Erika Hecht: I very much believe that.
00:58:33.180 --> 00:58:51.600
Erika Hecht: I call myself a survivor nine a different sense, not in the same Jewish sense that it was useful before but i'm a survivor something goes wrong well let's see what we can do about it i'm always on the side of finding solutions, because I think it's, the most important thing to survive.
00:58:52.770 --> 00:58:58.170
Erika Hecht: That would be my dad but also there is another message in my in my book, and in my thinking.
00:58:59.400 --> 00:59:10.710
Erika Hecht: The damage that those kind of things can do to a person I mean I am a survivor and I have put together what I best possibly could, but the damage that it goes to my life.
00:59:12.000 --> 00:59:14.310
Erika Hecht: You know, and it wasn't tested I went to.
00:59:15.930 --> 00:59:36.060
Erika Hecht: Eight see different languages, a different schools, I went to maybe six or seven different houses to marriage is very, very major upheavals in my life from medicine to interior design to up you know to changes and it's because because.
00:59:37.140 --> 00:59:44.280
Erika Hecht: Those were those were the skills to survival skills that I sort of acquired and I had to practice them.
00:59:46.650 --> 00:59:47.250
Erika Hecht: So.
00:59:48.840 --> 01:00:09.330
Erika Hecht: But the damage done the damage done to a person being that much that many changes going through that many changes that many truths that are all lies or that we're all lies, you know, like all the promises of religion or the promises of other things.
01:00:12.060 --> 01:00:19.650
Erika Hecht: Yes, it's not something that you can really absorb and forget it becomes really part of you, and I think that.
01:00:22.260 --> 01:00:33.270
Erika Hecht: that's The biggest problem with a story like mine, the Dmitri thing it imposes upon you, and the healing that's so difficult and it takes a long time.
01:00:34.440 --> 01:00:41.550
Erika Hecht: It took me most of my life to get to a point where I can't even say i'm healed but i'm certainly balanced sort of.
01:00:42.600 --> 01:00:51.300
Erika Hecht: Okay, I understand what happened to me understand how all of those things happened to me but.
01:00:53.790 --> 01:00:57.300
Erika Hecht: But the damage was very consequential.
01:01:00.180 --> 01:01:08.400
Ari Goldstein: Erica Thank you so much for sharing so deeply and honestly your your story and your reflections with us today it's a privilege to learn from you.
01:01:09.420 --> 01:01:18.360
Ari Goldstein: Your book is terrific and I encourage everyone in the audience to order don't ask my name a hidden child's tale of survival at the link in the zoom chat.
01:01:18.630 --> 01:01:31.650
Ari Goldstein: We did record today's discussion and we'll send a copy of the recording to everyone by email tomorrow Erica there are a lot of very nice comments here as well, from people who know you and family and friends so i'll make sure that you get a copy of all of these.
01:01:31.920 --> 01:01:35.730
Erika Hecht: Afterwards, then Thank you so much okay.
01:01:35.820 --> 01:01:36.210
01:01:37.260 --> 01:01:38.610
Ari Goldstein: Talk to the audience.
01:01:40.020 --> 01:01:48.840
Ari Goldstein: Thank you for joining us everything we do with the Museum of Jewish heritage is made possible through donor support, so we thank those of you that are members and donors of our museum.
01:01:49.140 --> 01:01:57.090
Ari Goldstein: And if you're able, we ask you to consider making a gift in support of our work to preserve the stories of survivors people like Erica whose lessons.
01:01:58.350 --> 01:02:04.710
Ari Goldstein: We take in the world with us today, thank you again everyone Erica take care and i'll look forward to being in touch.
01:02:04.770 --> 01:02:07.050
Erika Hecht: Thank you so much okay bye.