chronology of the last days of Miklós Radnóti

March 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

The column of 3600 men sets out from Bor on 17 September 1944. They march by day and camp in the fields by night. A man is shot for leaving the road to urinate in the ditch; another for going into the fields to pick some corn. They have little to eat—bread, marmalade, a little soup; less and less; raw carrots, squash. More men are shot for picking corn. A German militia unit joins the guards and things become much worse. Hundreds are executed on the road. Radnóti’s feet open with wounds. Abscesses in his mouth. At Ujvidék they boil straw to eat.

On 6 October he writes the second Razglednica, or ‘Picture Postcard.’ He has been on the forced march now for 21 days.

On 7 October the column is divided into two groups. The first group of 1000 men is taken to a large pit at Cservenka’s brickyard and shot in groups of 20 by SS troops. The killing stops at dawn. The second group, of which Radnóti is one, meets up with a troop of SS on horseback. They make the men lie down on the road and shoot them at random. The ditches swell with corpses and yellow stars. Miklós Lorthy, who has been shot, tries to rise up and continue marching with the help of Radnóti and another man. An SS man calls out, Der springt noch auf! and shoots him again. On 14 October they arrive at a tanning yard in Mohács and stay for weeks, unloading towboats. The men are urinating blood, a sign that the body is now consuming itself.

Radnóti writes the third Razglednica on 24 October.

They travel by boxcar to Szentkirályszabadja. He writes the final Razglednica on 31 October, on the back of a medicine bottle label for cod liver oil.

During the day’s march the guards begin to make the men run; those who collapse are shot. 6 November Radnóti is beaten—deep gashes to his face and head—at Pannonhalma. On 8 November, twenty-two of the men, including Radnóti, are placed on horse-drawn carts and taken to a hospital, but turned away as there is no room for them. So the two guards take them to a field near a dam on the Rabca River. They borrow a hoe from a local inn, tools from the dam-keeper’s wife, and tell the men to dig a hole—but they are too weak. The guards dig the hole instead, and make several men jump in to smooth out the floor. Then the guards shoot the twenty-two men, one by one. They cover their bodies with soil, and return the tools and the hoe.

The details of this chronology are taken from Zsuzsanna Ozsváth’s In the Footsteps of Orpheus. 

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