Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Shari Weiss - April 17, 1985


Approximately how many?

You know something, I might sound stupid and I keep repeating I really don't know. I don't know how many of us there were. Quite a few. I would say about 200--250 people approximately. I mean this is just a guess on my part. I was only concerned with my little group. This is how you were taught to think. You were only concerned with the five people, the four other people that you were in line with. I mean your world was very, very narrow. I mean it was made so for you, not only by lack of food, but I think by some of the medications that were given to us because all of us ladies were not having periods and that was due to the fact that we were given a bromide. I don't know if that in itself is a medication, or this is what, that's how we call it, bromide we were given so your mind wasn't as sharp and as clear I mean it's just instinct that kept you alive and it did keep you alive. You know, because you know the fear of dying was greater or the will to live was greater than anything else. That's what made us react to certain things the way we did react. But we were sort of uh, I mean like I don't remember anybody's name, I couldn't remember the name of my best friend, I mean I was trying in vain for months to remember my best friend in school and I couldn't. I mean definitely our minds were clouded so that's why I don't know numbers. Anyhow, we went into this barn and it was Friday night and it was April the 13th, I just had a fortieth anniversary last Saturday that I was liberated, and we heard this heavy tank type things going on in the street. I mean I didn't know what it was, but you heard that rumbling sound that was in itself very ominous and very frightening. But we didn't have anything to lose, of course, by then because later on we found out that if the Americans wouldn't have caught up with us, we were scheduled to be taken into a forest and just shot and left there. So when we peeked out you know, from the barn to see who was there, we saw this beautiful, beautiful young uniformed men in tanks and we felt, well, they might think we are the enemy so what did we do? We took out our white plates and with the white plates in the air as a sign of surrender we walked out of the barn as we needed that sign you know for them to know who we were because we were all emaciated looking and ragged and dirty and full of lice and tired and not human looking at all really. A bunch of zombies. The first man that stepped down from the tank was a Jewish boy and he talked to us in Jewish and we just stood there with our mouths open. Somebody from America knows how to speak Jewish? I mean is there such a thing you know. You know it was the most, it's a feeling that only a prisoner of war can relate to, somebody that was liberated from some of the countries that they thought they would be doomed to stay there or to die there. I mean that feeling of liberation was such that I don't think that you can compare the elation to anything else. Really and truly. I mean it's something so unbelievable I mean it's almost tangible. It's so believable you know that I'm free. Here is my liberator and the rest of the boys too were, I mean it didn't make any difference if they were Jewish or not. They treated us equally with care and tenderness and respect. They gave us food. They tried to find us shelter. But the Jewish boy wanted to know how many of us were married and among my five little, you know the little group of five, there was one married woman and he made sure that the women had candles to light shabbos candles that night. We were housed at the different German houses of the small village which I mean, can you imagine the Germans so immaculate and so orderly? I mean were invaded by this lousy bunch of Jews and lousy is the right word I'm using because we were full of lice you know, I mean it was--we were an awful sight. I mean we burned everything of course as soon as they gave us clean clothes and everything we burned everything and we became human beings. And the first sign of becoming a human being was when one of my friends that I stood in line with, she was there with two of her sisters and my aunt and I and she was a dressmaker and this is how she survived in camp. She was making dresses for the German außerdienst, you know the personnel. She was really an artist. She was a terrific dressmaker. She made the most beautiful things for them I mean and this is, she got a little piece of bread and an apple or something you know that she shared with her own sister. So as soon as we got liberated and this Jewish boy, this was this Jewish boy I don't remember his name. I wish I knew because so many times I would love to write to one of them, I don't care who it is or where it is but this one boy's name was Stanley. I don't know why I remembered his name. He opened up, he found a big warehouse of textiles and he opened it up and he gave us material to make dresses and my girlfriend proceeded to make us all a skirt and a blouse and I'll remember it till the day I die. She made us a gray little blouse with a navy blue skirt and her sister was my age. We were the same age and she made us the same dresses so we shouldn't have any jealousy I guess. And as a truck went by and our hair started to grow in already and I was all of sixteen, by that time cause I was liberated the 13th and the 28th of April I became sixteen years old. And the soldiers whistled after us and that's the day I became a human being and a female at that, because that was the first sign that anybody thought of us as females and human beings. Anyhow, we stayed here for a while because they were trying to arrange transports to take us home. But during all this time it was, we were housed by the Germans and they had to provide us with food. I mean the Americans saw to this. And they were doing it, grudgingly, but they were doing it. They had no alternative of course. And the Bürgermeister who just a couple hours earlier didn't want to let us eat, do you remember what we talked about, that Rappa and I told you, I still don't know how that vegetable is called that they feed the cows with. That's what we found in the barn. He didn't let us eat it, he didn't want us to eat it, but three hours later, two or three hours later we were sleeping in his bed. I mean and enjoying his hospitality thanks to our liberators, the American Army. At this time we were too stunned to know really the extent of killings that they did. We didn't even think about it. We were just so totally elated with the fact that we are alive and we thought that of course everything is going to go back the way it was. I mean you didn't even think that things could change. I mean we'll go home and we'll resume our lives. So there were different transports made. You know I mean by that time Red Cross came in and the Czechoslovakian people were transporting their people home and everybody was trying to make an effort, of course not the Hungarians. I came home with the Czechoslovakian transport because the three girls that I stood in line with, they were from Czechoslovakia so I resumed their nationality. You know you did everything to survive. Whatever was the order of the day, this is what you became. There was no reason to fight anything because if the Czechoslovaks were taking you home you became Czechoslovakian. The reason you don't know how to speak the language is because you were too young to remember it. You were displaced at an early age from the town of your birth. So these were...we found out later these were equally difficult times for us because we came home to nothing and no one. And we had the Russians to contend with who did not recognize the fact that we were prisoners of the Germans and not allies. For instance, my husband was picked up by them but the...saying that since you work for the Germans now you can work for us and he was taken into Leningrad and he was kept prisoner for six months there after the liberation. As far as I am concerned, I went home with my two friends, my aunt went her separate way for totally personal reasons, and I stayed with my married friend. I told you she had two sisters and I, we all went to her town where she was married in and she found her husband and I lived with her until I got married.

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