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Magda Mozes was born on June 7, 1927 in the northern Transylvanian town of Cluj. She was the only child of Gus and Bertha Mozes. At the time of Magda's birth, Cluj was part of Rumania, but in 1940 northern Transylvania was taken over by Hungary, an ally of Nazi Germany. Magda, a thirteen year-old schoolgirl at the time, found out overnight that she was no longer Rumanian, but Hungarian.
Hungary was a staunch ally of Nazi Germany. As such, the Germans did not 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 passed many discriminatory laws against the Jewish population. Magda continued her studies at the local Jewish high school until her seventeenth year.
Realizing by 1943 that its German ally was losing the war, Hungary 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. With the help of Hungarian collaborators, the Germans began deporting local Jews to concentration camps. Magda and her family were rounded up and herded into a brickyard where they were kept for three weeks.
On June 6, 1944, they were deported to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. Because Magda was a healthy seventeen year-old, she was not sent to the gas chambers, but was put to work as a slave laborer. When she attempted to stay with her mother, camp guards broke her shoulder and collar bone. Magda and others were transported to work camps in Germany, as the Germans were forced to retreat from eastern Europe. Near the very end of the war she was liberated at Meklenburg by allied soldiers. Magda returned to her home town, Cluj, on August 26, 1945, but could find no trace of her family. They had all been murdered by the Nazis.