Lilly, the daughter of Sara and Sandor Klein, lived with her mother and seven siblings, in the city of Debrecen, Hungary. When the Germans invaded Hungary in March 1944, Lilly was a seventeen year-old student.
Hungary was a staunch ally of Nazi Germany. As such, the Germans did not, at first, invade the country, but urged the government to deport its Jews to concentration camps. The Hungarian government was not willing to send its Jewish citizens to their deaths, but did pass many discriminatory laws against them. Young men were sent to forced labor camps. Lilly was able to continue her studies at the local Jewish high school until her seventeenth year.
By 1943, the Hungarian government realized that their German ally was losing the war. Hungary, therefore, tried to break its alliance with Germany. In a fit of rage, Hitler ordered his armies into Hungary. In 1944, German troops occupied the entire country, and with the help of Hungarian collaborators, began deporting local Jews to concentration camps.
Lilly and her family were rounded up and herded into a sealed-off ghetto where they were kept for two months. The Germans began sending the Jewish residents of Debrecen to the Auschwitz death camp. Towards the end of June, Lilly was put on a train going to Auschwitz. The train could not get through, because the tracks had been bombed in allied air raids. The train was instead diverted to the Strasshoff concentration camp in Austria. There, Lilly was forced to work to the point of total exhaustion. Food was scarce, and those who couldn't work were murdered.
When the camp was liberated in April 1945, eighteen year-old Lilly was barely alive.