Michael Marton was born in Visk, a small town in (Munkacs) Czechoslovakia whose population numbered 10,000 inhabitants including 104 Jewish families. He was the oldest child of Avraham Marton and Ella Steinberger Marton. His siblings included 4 brothers and 2 sisters. The family was successful in farming and business and lived a comfortable life.
Before WWI the area in which the Martons lived was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the war the area was renamed Czechoslovakia.
The Nazis and the Hungarians entered his home town as early as March of 1938. Michael was 15 years old at the time.
At Pesach time in 1944 Nazi officers and Hungarian zsandermen rounded up 10 Jewish men and declared them to be leaders of a committee held responsible if any Jews were missing. Michael’s father was one of these ten men. A few days later everyone was ordered to bring only what they could carry and gather at the shul. From there they were loaded on wagons and transported to the ghetto in Tetch.
A few days before the ghetto’s liquidation, a request came in from a nearby military compound for strong young men to be used for slave labor. Michael was among the group selected for this work.
Commandant Stenzel was in charge of this group. Prior to the war Stenzel had connections with the Jews of Klausenberg and he cared about the men and acted as their protector. Their mission was to work on the local railroads and maintain them for troop movements. As the Russians were coming closer Stenzel had orders to bring his slave laborers back closer to German territory. The Commandant devised ruses to take more circuitous routes to avoid following orders. As a more Nazi oriented government leader assumed power, Stenzel was ordered to come close to the Austrian border and had to obey. As the prisoner’s food rations were reduced Commandant Stenzel tried to increase the allowance given to his men by taking the soup ladle and personally serving them their meal. In January of 1945 he had no choice but to give his men up to the Germans. They crossed the Austrian border and Nazi forces assumed control of the unit.
The Jewish slave laborers were put on a Death March. They had to go through the Tyrol Mountains in Austria till they reached Gratz. After a few weeks the 10,000 Jews arrived in Mauthausen.
As the tide of the war turned against the Nazis, Michael was part of another Death March out of Mauthausen.
Finally they arrived in Gunskirchen,
There had been rumors that Americans were coming. They had not arrived a few days ago and the prisoners were not sure that it was happening. It was Friday night and a “minyan” of men had formed for Kabbalat Shabbat. Those who were not strong enough to walk to it crawled to join the group. In solidarity with the others, Martin prayed for the Americans to come to Gunskirchen.