Before the War
Clara Rona, in Hungarian - Klara Schlesinger, was born in Pecs, Hungary in 1920. Clara was the only child of a successful, non-kosher butcher. They lived very comfortably in a large house, had two maids, owned a car, and lived a secular life. Her father had six employees. She had completed two semesters at the University of Pecs, studying art history, when the war began.
During the War
In May 1944 Clara and her family were moved with the other Jews to a temporary ghetto in Pecs, where they stayed for a couple of weeks, living in a stable. On July 5, 1944, Clara and her parents were taken by train to Auschwitz in a crowded cattle car. After three days they arrived in Auschwitz. On arrival, her mother and aunt were sent to the line on the left, which Clara later learned went directly to the gas chambers. Her group was pushed into a wooden building, stripped down, shaved of all body hair and sent to a shower. They were given a uniform and assigned to barracks. In Auschwitz, they had “Cel Appel” (roll call) twice a day. On September 18, 1944, they were making selections to leave the camp. Clara made sure she and her cousin were chosen. They were sent by boxcar to Bergen-Belsen work camp where she was severely beaten. Clara was then sent to Markkleeberg where she worked in the Junkers airplane factory. On April 13, 1945 the Allies were closing in, so the Germans started to evacuate the camp, forcing the prisoners onto a Death March. Unable to go on, Clara and her friend, Frieda, hid one morning and escaped. A Wehrmacht soldier hid them and brought them into Sudetenland (Western Czechoslovakia). They walked to Liberic, which was liberated in May 1945.
After the War
Clara and Frieda went to Prague, where the Jewish community helped them. Clara later returned to Pecs and learned that of the sixty people in her extended family, only four had survived. In 1947, she took a ship to Haifa, Israel to start her life over. Clara married Carl Rona in 1955. They later moved to Toledo, Ohio, where she worked with children at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Toledo.
Clara died on January 30, 2016. You can read her obituary here
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