"The Germans were very organized," he says. "I was documented in every camp I was sent to during the Holocaust. The Holocaust Museum collected all that information and handed it to me."
Moreover, Hecht adds, thanks to her he mustered the courage to visit Germany in 2005. Since then, he goes there every year to address students. Since then, he's willing to talk about what happened there – and about what was lost.
Hecht was born in the village of Ruskova in Transylvania into a well-established family which owned land in a village where most of the population was comprised of traditional Jews.
"The Jews were financially established compared to the non-Jews who worked our land," he says. "There was a main street with Jews' houses on both sides, and synagogues at the start and end of the street.
"We had good neighborly relations with the Christians, even though we sometimes encountered anti-Semitism," he recalls. "'Jew, go to Palestine,' the locals would sometimes shout at us – most of them of Ukrainian descent."
In 1935, the Hecht family considered immigrating to Palestine. The father of the family and four of his children, two sisters and two brothers, were granted a visa and looked into the possibility of settling in the city of Rehovot.
"My brother Moshe was the idealist. He encouraged the family to immigrate to Palestine," Hecht says. "Father decided to look into it and traveled to Israel for a visit. Two of my sisters and one brother stayed there, while my father and the youngest brother returned to the village in Romania and decided to further the visa process and immigrate with all of us."
But the war in Europe changed those plans.
While war raged in Europe and the mass murder of Jews was underway, life in the Romanian village continued, as if it were a different planet. Because of the geographical distance between the village and the city, and the fact that the village was technologically disconnected from the world, the village's Jews knew nothing of what was going on.
"There was no radio and no newspapers, and even no electricity in the village," he recalls. "The adults may have known something about the Jews' fate, but the children knew nothing. I didn't know a thing about the Germans. I had never seen Germans before."
Wasn't the extermination plan a big secret until after the war?
"Three weeks later, the SS soldiers ordered us to form lines again and led us to the railway station." The Hecht family boarded the second transport out of four. That was the moment when 12-year-old Martin realized that something bad was about to happen.
"We were put on cattle cars and they began pushing people inside until there was no room to breathe. People were pushed against each other until some of them were crushed to death. It was shocking. You have to understand, it was the first time I ever traveled on a train.
"Several hours later, the train stopped and the doors opened. We stopped at the city of Sighet, where Elie Wiesel lived. There was hardly any room on the train, but the Germans kept pushing in more and more people.
"Today I understand that it was that stage in the war when they wanted to speed up the annihilation of Hungary's Jews, because they realized they were losing the war."
"Suddenly, one of the soldiers pulled my father to the other line. The four brothers were left alone. We were led to the showers, our hair was trimmed and we underwent disinfection and were taken to the huts. It was the last time I ever saw my parents and sisters."
Hecht received a striped uniform and a number on his shirt, but unlike other Auschwitz survivors, the number was not tattooed on his hand. "The situation was so chaotic that they didn't give us tattoos. The transports from Hungary were so full and quick that they couldn't keep up," he says.
Hecht and his three brothers were taken to a hut, where they were greeted by the camp's veteran prisoners. "One of them, who saw the shock on my face, asked me: 'Do you know where you are?' I said no. 'You're in Auschwitz, there's no way back from here. Everyone dies here in the end.'
"I couldn't understand what he was talking about. 'Your family was already burned a long time ago,' he said. 'Look outside, do you see the chimney? This is where Jews are burned.' And I, a 12-year-old boy, didn't understand anything. Who's burning? Who's being burned? Why would they want to kill us?"
The four brothers worked at the Dörnhau camp for about half a year. One morning, SS soldiers ordered the prisoners to form lines and begin marching. The Russians were already beating the Nazis, who began transferring the remaining Jews to other forced labor camps.
"It was a very difficult winter. We were wet and dirty, we marched for a month, and each time someone fell down he was shot to death. When we arrived at the forest the Nazis began a selection process. My two eldest brothers were separated from us and taken into the woods with another group. Jack and I were left all alone.
"Suddenly we heard gunshots. They were executed."
Martin later tried to locate the place where his two brothers were shot to death, but was unsuccessful. "There was a lot of chaos and this murder wasn't registered in the archives," he says.
Martin and Jack were put on another train with the prisoners, when planes suddenly appeared in the sky. They were American jets, bombing the railroad.
"A friend of mine from the village was hit by shrapnel in the jaw. I was filled with blood but wasn't hurt. The SS removed us from the wagon and ordered us to march. One of them tried to separate Jack and me. We were so weak that we couldn't resist, but thanks to the havoc I managed to slip away from my group, grasp Jack's hand again and bring him to mine. The rest were executed."
They marched for days until they reached the Flossenbürg concentration camp in the Bavaria area, where political and Jewish prisoners were held.
"They sent us into showers with a strong flow of water, which was partly boiling and partly frozen. The flow and the temperature were so strong that some of the people died on the spot."
Martin and his brother were sent into a hut near the crematorium. "We were the closest hut to the electric barbed-wire fences and the execution area and road leading to the furnaces were in front of our window. We would see people being executed by gunshots or hanging and people being led to the crematorium.
"Nonetheless, I knew that I must stay alive. I was small but determined not to let them kill me," he says.
Full article: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340 ... 99,00.html