Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Shari Weiss - April 17, 1985


She was your overseer?


She was a Jew?

Right. Uh-huh. So there was no room for us to stay. I mean there were a thousand women already in this place. And everywhere I looked I saw these people, they were staring out at me, these people that were with their heads shaved. And I said to my aunt, "they took us into an insane asylum. Look, look everybody's head is shaved," forgetting that my own was also shaved. So since we didn't have any place to sleep, we were just walking around during the night or even if they put us, they had these bunk beds. I don't know, did you see it in the movies or anyplace? That we were laying six like this and six like that. It was a square box like that actually and they were on top of each other.


Stacked. Uh-huh. Like bunk beds except they weren't as nice as bunk beds. There were no mattresses or anything. And that had a way of, I mean finally after a while we got assigned to a bunk bed that was our permanent sleeping place and the one consistency about the bunk beds were that they collapsed almost every night. I mean you could hear the women scream and yell at each other because the bunk beds collapsed and you fell on top of each other cause they were only boards that were put together you know in a box. Can I stop for another moment please?

[interruption in interview]

It was, I mean, men and women were our overseers there in Auschwitz and they came usually together accompanied by a dog and they counted us and if everything went well, you know, if the number of people that were supposed to be in camp were found, then we were dismissed after two or three hours. But if somebody fell asleep or somebody died in their sleep and they were not aware of it yet, there were times when we could stand in line for hours on end and even, I recall one incident when they couldn't find a person they went over and over and they counted us. Now this was in the afternoon Zählappell, because, this is what it was called "Zählappell" they counted us in the afternoon and they counted us over, and over, and over and this person, one person, could not be found. I mean it wasn't a name, it wasn't a human being that was missing, it was a number or an animal or whatever. We weren't human beings to them. So we were kneeling for about six or seven hours until they found this person in their bunk bed dead. So our routine mostly consisted of standing in line being counted or being on blocksbetter, which meant closed barracks, because the transports were coming and we were not allowed to see who was coming and who wasn't coming. That meant we couldn't go to the latrines and that meant that you have to make makeshift bathrooms for people to go and during, towards the end of our stay in Auschwitz, which was around August, September, October people already had dysentery, and if you couldn't go to the latrine, I mean what happened to you? I mean there was no control over that so it was, the conditions were absolutely, positively sub-human. The barracks that we stayed in, if it rained, it rained in just as well as out, I mean even worse because it came in in torrents. The roofs were leaking. People were sick and cold and tired. Either we were fainting outside from the heat of the sun by standing Zählappell or we were shivering and dying outside from the cold in the mornings. And then they used to take us for baths, for disinfectant baths which they usually did during the dawn hours. They took all the little rag that we were wearing and they put it in some kind of a disinfecting machine, so they said, and if you were lucky enough you got something back but many a times, something happened with the clothes. They got shredded or what and you ended up being naked. Not having any clothes whatsoever until the next disinfectant where you were lucky maybe to get a rag. For about two months the only clothing I had on myself was a pair of underpants, luckily it was one large ladies that reached from the thighs up to here, that's the only clothing I had and that's the only cover I had for a couple of months until the next disinfecting took place and then I got another rag. People uh, our routine, other than trying to get up in the middle of the night and go and try and wash ourselves or, I attempted once, I think I told you that in my tape, one night I got up and I went, they had like stalls with faucets on them you know that you could wash yourself so one night I attempted to get up because you know it was a little more relaxed at night I mean there were no guards, there were guards but I mean not right on top of you so in order to go to the latrines or to go in the washroom you could go if you needed to. So one night as I went to the washroom I stumbled on a dead person and I gave up cleanliness. I think that cured me. I didn't go anymore at night out by myself because that really shocked me. Many a times due to my age, even though I lied about it, but I looked like a little boy of ten without any hair, without any clothing, just that little pair of underpants, I was selected into the children's group which was Lager number eight, barrack number eight, and instinctively we knew that if you're too young you're not going to survive. So instinctively I escaped. I mean I always got out of that barrack because I knew that eventually what my fate will be because by then...

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn