Jozef Horváth, born 1916, Železník, Svidník district
The Horváths lived with five other Roma families in a Roma settlement about half a kilometre from the village of Železník. Jozef Horváth, who had three brothers and two sisters, remembers poverty and unemployment. His father earned his living as a blacksmith, a trade that Jozef Horváth and his brothers learned from him. The mother and sons went to sell products from the forge to the farmers; receiving only food in return – as for other casual work. They were paid in cash by the farmers only when they played for them, for example, at a wedding. The school the Roma children attended was two kilometres away and the difficulty was compounded in winter by the fact they did not have any warm clothes. When Jozef Horváth reached school age, he didn’t attend. He describes the poor relations with the non-Roma Slovaks of whom they were afraid, and on the other hand the solidarity between the Roma and the Jews, their mutual assistance and kindness.
At the time Jozef Horváth was taken off to a labour camp he was living with his wife at his father-in-law’s in Kapušany, where many Roma made a living through the lucrative pig trade. A non-Roma acquaintance from the village who had joined the Hlinka Guard came to arrest him; his father-in-law was spared, apparently due to his financial standing. Meanwhile, in Horváth’s native Železník, the local Slovaks stood up for the Roma with the argument that the Roma worked for them. Horváth relates that apart from the Roma they sent with him to the camp a few poor non-Roma men from Kapušany. He was interned for the first time in 1941 or 1942 in Hanušovce nad Topľou in the Petič camp, where he spent perhaps two or three months. He remembers the inadequate food rations, the impossibility of mutual visits and the frequent beatings. It was followed by the camp in Dubnice nad Váhom, which in his words was easier compared to Petič; they collected stones by the river. Later, Roma women and children were interned in Dubnice, but separately from the men. Horváth remembers Jan Lacko from Kapušany and his relative – the two men repeatedly tried to escape. According to Horvath, Jan Lacko killed himself during one attempt when he jumped from a lorry.
Jozef Horváth and his wife had four children during the war. His wife received no money during the roughly eighteen months Horváth spent interned in the camps. After the arrival of the Russians the prisoners scattered and Horváth set out on foot for home, from where he was enlisted to serve in Nitra and Nový Zámky. At that time there were still Germans below the Tatra Mountains, which was why the army was stationed there.
Horváth was discharged from the army in 1946 and left for Bohemia. After the events he had experienced he did not want to go home. He was afraid of the worsening situation and, moreover, in Bohemia it was possible to earn a living. He also remembers the commander from the time of the war who arrested him and sent him to the camp – he then needed his signature on the essential documents to be granted a pension. In conclusion, he says he did not receive any financial compensation for the time spent in the camps.
How to cite abstractAbstract of testimony from: HÜBSCHMANNOVÁ, Milena, ed. “Po židoch cigáni.” Svědectví Romů ze Slovenska 1939–1945.: I. díl (1939–srpen 1944). 1. Praha: Triáda, 2005. ISBN 80-86138-14-3, 470-478 (ces), 479-485 (rom). Testimonies of the Roma and Sinti. Project of the Prague Forum for Romani Histories (Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences), https://www.romatestimonies.com/testimony/jozef-horvath (accessed 11/29/2023)
Origin of Testimony
Jozef Horváth twice provided an interview at his home. The first time was unplanned at the end of the 1980s when he was visited by Milena Hübschmannová [1933–2005] and the specialist in Roma and German Studies Ruben Pellar, who wanted to obtain information on the forced sterilisations of Roma women at Chanov near Most. They did not record any memories of the war, but only made written, fragmentary notes. Employees of the Film & Sociology Foundation filmed Josef Horváth for a second time in 1996; he was older at that time, hard of hearing, and it was more difficult to talk to him. The recorded interview was shortened for publication.
It emerges from Jozef Horváth’s recollections of the camps that he spent about eighteen months there. He must therefore have been taken to the Petič camp in Hanušovce nad Topľou only in the course of 1943, because the camp in Dubnice nad Váhom was liberated by Russian and Slovak partisans and closed down in February 1945. When he was transferred to the camp in Dubnice, it was still a labour camp; in December 1944 it was turned into what was known as a gypsy holding camp. In describing life in the camp in Dubnice nad Váhom. Jozef Horváth concurs with other witnesses in that conditions there were considerably better before the change took place.
Jozef Horváth’s memory of the tragic death of Jan Lacko differs in one detail from Anna Cinová’s description. According to Horváth Jan Lacko wanted to escape, jumped, landed badly and killed himself; while according to Anna Cinová the gendarmes deliberately threw him out of a car.
-  See her recollection in the database.
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