Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Michael Weiss - August 9, 1995

Reflections on Religion

Uh, Mr. Weiss, this is a photograph of your Yeshiva class with you in the top row...


In 1939.


Obviously a very orthodox school.


You have payes, sidelocks, black hat.


And the next picture, this picture coming up is um, your Rabbi.

[softer] Right, yes.

Also very orthodox.

Very orthodox, yes, yes.

Very orthodox Rabbi. So you were raised in an orthodox tradition?

Yes, yes.

Okay. Let me ask you a question about uh...about all of this. The last thing you said um, was about your father trying to um, comfort you and tell you that God had helped before and God will help again.


Do you think that happened?

Well, that's a good question and I would like to say right now, today, I believe there is a God. With this Rabbi, what happened, this was yet in the ghetto, this was yet in the ghetto and he had a watch what was on the table open, because the Germans said that money, valuables should be thrown in. They had a bucket there and everybody throwed in their monies, their valuables. But they did ask the Germans, "can the Rabbi keep this watch because he needs them to know the time when Shabbos comes and for religious purposes only and the watch is a very cheap watch." They said okay. Another German came in and he said again to put all the valuables in that bucket and he seen this watch on the Rabbi's table. Now everybody tried to explain to this German that he asked permission and they said yes. They took him outside and in the front of everybody, this German had a big whip in his hand. Now me, my belief was so strong, that I was sure that this German, when he picks his hand up, he won't be able to hit that Rabbi. That God will not allow to hit a holy man like that. A man who gave his life day and night for the Torah, for the teaching others and what happened? He got beaten up so badly and something shook my belief, that it didn't happen, what I thought it will happen. In my mind, it should have happened. [pause]

You mean you lost faith?

No, I couldn't say that. I, I, I, believe, but I do have questions. I do have questions, I understand, it says if we sin, God punish you. But it says again, tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, and a soul for a soul. But we Jews didn't kill never nobody. The punishment, if we had sins and everybody has sins, in my mind, that holy man, that Rabbi there, did not have any sin. But in my mind, everybody, but we didn't deserve the punishment. We do have questions, yes, and I say that we are the children of God and we have the right as a child ask dem Taten, the father, "Father, why?", yes we do have the right. And we do, we do ask. If in silent, saying it out loud. I've done it all these years very few times, when I say it out. But yes, we do have questions, we do have questions.

And when your father told you this in Buchenwald...

I, I believed it. At that time there yet, at that time there yet. Yes, God helped the Jewish people in Egypt. God helped the Jewish people when Haman came and God helped through the ages, the Jewish people. And I, and I did believe that, that yes, somehow we will get out of this in peace. We will go on home to our home. After the liberation in Buchenwald there was... children transport could come to America because we were liberated by the American Army and I said, "no, I want to go home. I want to see my mother. I want to see my father. I want to go home." And I went home to my hometown finding out many, many details. A friend of mine told me, "for your mother, don't wait. I seen her going into the [quietly] gas chamber." [pause] And right then and there I was alone again. The gentiles, I had a hard time to get a piece of bread from them. They didn't welcome us. They didn't, so I went to Budapest. And there the Joint...what we really want to thank them, I think it is the UJA today. They did kept up the displaced person camp, the DP camps. That was after the war and they fed us and they deserve the support of the Jewish community.

Did you really believe that your parents were going to be home?

At that time, yes. At that time, yes.

Even after what David Klein told you...

After, yes, yes, yes. My belief was my parents will be home.

Alright, let me take you back to Buchenwald just for a moment.


Were you beaten there? Were you ever beaten?

My, oh, I was beaten everyday. I was beaten everyday. And really what, it, stands up in my mind, one evening we were walking home and I, me and my father were standing beside... one beside the other and we were talking. And German soldier came there and he said to my father, "Give him a uh, slap in the face." My father didn't do it. Then he took me out of the line, he gave me slap in the face. I seen stars. And he send me back in the line and then he took my father out of the line and he came back bleeding from the nose, from the mouth. And from that time on, he wasn't the same man, he wasn't the same man after that beating. Ah, ah, a whole night, he was bleeding and ah, he almost like he gave up. And a couple of weeks later they took out the sick people and they said they are going to take them to Buchenwald, to the hospital.

Where did this happen?

This happened in Zeitz.

In Zeitz?

This happened in Zeitz. And ah, as a matter of fact, I myself wanted to go to Buchenwald to a hospital. They didn't took me, they took me later. And they took him to Buchenwald and that was the last time I seen him. [pause]

And you don't know what happened?

Well, well, when I got to Buchenwald, I got there in March and this happened in January, when they took my father.

What did he say to you before he left? Did he say anything?

Well, he didn't said much. He didn't said much. We couldn't talk at that time, we couldn't talk, we didn't know what is happening. And what that beating done to him and me seeing him and probably me looking at him, ah, that done to both of us very much damage to our health, to our ah, well being, to our existence. [long pause]

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