As a girl in Simleu Silvaniei, Elly Berkovits studied Jewish and Romanian subjects. In 1940, after Hungary, a German ally, invaded, Jewish children weren’t allowed to attend school. Elly still continued her education in Yiddish and Hungarian in classes organized by the Jewish committee.
Two years later, Elly’s father was sent to a work camp. His group was later locked in a trailer and burned to death. Elly and her mother supported themselves by sewing and selling geese. They, with the other Jewish people of Simleu Silvaniei, were forced to move into a brick factory. Later, they were driven onto cattle cars to be taken to Auschwitz. Elly managed to conceal a small two-inch pocketknife in her hand and so was able to make a small hole in the cattle car for air. They arrived in Auschwitz on June 2, 1944. Her mother and younger brother were killed immediately. Every day, prisoners at Auschwitz had to stand for hours for roll call. Elly passed out on the second day. The woman in charge of the barracks saved Elly’s life by giving her a job inside the barracks so she didn’t have to go to all of the roll calls and selections. Later she had to work with chemicals that made her ill in a Volkswagen factory. Elly was liberated by the American army.