Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Shari Weiss - April 17, 1985


You mention that you left the village when you were eight or nine. What were the circumstances surrounding that?

The circumstances were such that uh, I had an aunt and uncle, well actually it was my mother's brother who lived in Colagvar in Cluj at the time it was called because it was still Rumania, and they had an only son, uh, and my aunt who dearly loved her mother wanted the child that was named after her mother, when her mother passed away, to live with her and that was my younger sister but she didn't want to go anywhere. And I had somehow, I don't know even at that age I had a yearning to get out of that small village and I said to my Mom, "well why can't I take her place and go and live with my aunt," which I regretted many, many times through the course of my childhood not because I was ill treated or anything, it's just that I realize now how important it would have been to be with my family for those few years that we had left together. But as a young child, I mean the lure of a richer life, evidently, I mean a more affluent life because my mother described the way my aunt and uncle were living, and it was very tempting, of course, and very luring, and that's why I consented to go and live with my aunt and uncle. Of course, I mean there is no comparison in the lifestyles, of course, because my aunt and uncle were doing very nicely and they lived very graciously, and of course, I benefited through that with schooling and foreign languages and taking piano lessons and all that. It is just natural that I was very content with that situation even though many a nights I cried for my mother and dad.

Did they have any children your aunt and uncle?

Yes, they had one son. An only son who was eight years older than I. My cousin who lives in Germany now, but we don't have any contact at all.

Your aunt and uncle's names were what?

My uncle was Emmanual Soloman and my aunt's name was Bertha Soloman. And when I was in camp, and ordered, I mean when we found out in Auschwitz, I mean, we thought if we say we are mother and daughter that we are gonna be kept together, I mean, little did we know that that was the exact intent of the Nazis to separate families and to divide them rather then to keep them together. But by then, I mean I took the name of Shari Soloman just so that we should have the same name. And I did call her mother just so that we should be identified as mother and daughter.

You mention that they...that the little village that you were born in and grew up in until you were eight or nine was just that, a little village and Cluj I assume was a larger city.

Certainly it was. I mean in comparison with an American city it's a small town, of course, because the entire population, I think, consisted of 100,000 people and 20 percent of that was Jewish. The population was 20,000 Jews were in Cluj where it was quite a nice Jewish community, of course.

Could you describe the vibrancy of that community?

Well, it was divided also in different factions, there were the reformed Jews, of course, and there were the Orthodox and the, what are we now, ??? what kind of a shul are we, I forgot?


Conservatives. Right. And then we were the Conservatives which my aunt and uncle belonged to a Conservative Shul. But they were a lot more liberal with their religious beliefs and attendance of synagogue and what not than my own parents were, of course. I mean even the consumption of traif food was allowed outside the home, I mean, it wasn't brought in the home but it was consumed outside the home. I mean, our lifestyle was not centered around the religious rituals as they were at my own home.

Were you shomer shabbos in Cluj?

Um, I don't think so because my aunt and uncle had a store which they kept open on shabbos. My aunt used to go into the store and my uncle used to go to Shul. I remember that but as far as riding or not I don't know if he did or not because everybody walked, I mean, we didn't have the conveniences of the cars as we do today that we, even to the corner, we take our car and ride in. At the time we just walked wherever we went, shabbos or not.

Did you go to a public school or did you go to a Jewish school?

Well, uh, when the Hungarians came in, in 1940, the first act that they did in making us realize that we are not the same as any other people is that the schools became segregated. So um, that was 1940, I said right, in September of 1940 and I was to enter into my first year of gymnasium which is lycee or I don't know how you, high school and of course there was no school--until that point I was in public school. Yes. All of a sudden we found ourselves, all the Jewish kids, we didn't have a school to go to anymore. I mean, a decree came out that only 6 percent of the Jewish population could attend public schools and that left the rest of us who didn't have any influence with anyone to fend for ourselves as best as we could as far as schools are concerned. So the ingenuity of people, of course, cannot be cut down under any circumstances and right away they formed Jewish gymnasium which imported all Jewish teachers from different parts of the country who couldn't get jobs because of the same reason, not being able to have a job because of their background, because of being Jews. So we had a totally Jewish school which we were housed in three different buildings. It was a co-educational school but since we didn't have a building of our own and it was just uh, it was just impromptu almost, I mean, they had to make a school right away. What do you do with so many children that all of a sudden don't have anything to do? So they had three different buildings in three different parts of the city. It was the teachers that were going to the different schools to teach. I mean we were non-platoon, you call them, I mean, we were stationary, we stayed in our own rooms and the teachers used to come to us. That is here in the United States I think the children go to different rooms for their different subjects. Right?

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