Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Michael Weiss - August 9, 1995


Anything else stand out about Buchenwald to you before you went to Zeitz?

Well, no nothing in Buchenwald really. In Zeitz there was there really what as I said, we made, we were suppose to make out of coal...gasoline. We were very dirty. We, we worked with coal and we were thirsty, we never to eat, drink, what to drink, what to eat. And it was a long day and if we just stood a minute, so much beating ah... And then after the bombardment, the American bombed, when they thought they all ready to make that gasoline, they never made any gasoline. And then I remember Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur. We were working down, it was a deep uh, place where you are suppose to bring up the coal from there, the Germans, they didn't came down there. We were praying and some of us were saying, were thinking, were talking, why we deserve this. We believed in God. And we were looking for the help. And we were asking. And ah... [pause] at that point, nothing came. Nobody came, nobody came to our help. And we were looking, we were asking. And people died from left to right. It didn't, not once, happened to me. We were sleeping three in a row and by the morning, one was dead. It's, it's...and that's how, that's how really, the six million did die. [quietly] That's how.

So do you think God answered your prayers? Their prayers?

For me it's very hard to say... to answer this question. It's very hard to say and I am saying today that I believe. I was brought up like that. And somehow I hope someday somebody will explain it, why, why all those things happened to us.

You said that there were German guards. Were they Wehrmacht guards?

They were ah, Wehrmacht and SS.

And SS?

They were, they were all kinds. And, and really at that time, I didn't know the difference between Wehrmacht and SS. I know the uniform and, and I didn't look. And ah, to me they were all the same. I never seen one who would have a little feeling towards a human being. He never see me, he never seen my father, he never knew what we are up to. He never knew what the Jewish people are up to. He knew one thing, they are Jewish, and that's it, that's all what they knew. [pause]

And how long were you in Zeitz?

In Zeitz, I was ah, ah, ah, from May 'til February. Ah, March, March, March, the end of March, I went back to Buchenwald.

By train again?

By train again. Everything went by train, yes, yes.

When they gathered you to go back to Buchenwald, how did that happen did they...

Well, they just ah, again we stood in line and they just picked up. Pick up from the line. That's what their tactic was all during, from Auschwitz on. They looked at you they know, they knew what it is, and that's all.

So they didn't evacuate the whole camp? They just...

No, no, no, no, no.

Were you sick?

They just picked out a thousand ah, sick ones...

You were sick at the time?

and they brought a thousand healthier ones who was in other concentration camps where probably, life wasn't that hard, what was in Zeitz.

And how sick were you at this point?

Well, well, ah, ah, how sick I was. Ah, ah, I don't want to jump too much but when I got to Buchenwald, why I didn't went to the concentration camp, I mean to the gas chamber, because whoever went back from Zeitz to Buchenwald, they were sent to the gas chambers right there. But, it was in there, as a matter of fact ah, we down in two weeks ago, this was already in Buchenwald, we heard that the Americans are here and ah, we will be liberated and we looked out and in the guard towers, there was no guards. We started to sing and to dance, we are liberated. It then took a couple hours and the Germans came back and they really beat us up. And that means it wasn't yet the end of it. It looks like that the Germans were able to come back to the camp. So what they did, they started to evacuate Buchenwald. And the way they did it again, because in Buchenwald there were many nationalities. There were Russians, there were Poles, there were even some Germans. But they started out with the Jews, to take them again, the Jews first directly. So, they took, they said, "Alle Juden austreten." All the Jewish to go out from the block and stand in the line. So they counted down a thousand people and I went back, all of us went back to their barracks. And I go back there and I see an old Jewish man there and I told him, didn't you hear when the German said that "Allesamt Juden austreten," that all the Jewish should go up because I know what they told me, I done it. He said look here, I cannot walk to the gate. So what's the difference if they shoot me here or if they shoot me on their way. When he told me that, I think he was an angel because if he wouldn't have told me that, next day, when they told me to go out, I go out, I mean. And when he told that, I figured that okay, I can walk to the gate. But I cannot walk much farther. And I stayed in next day and next day. And then they came and they started to beat people to go out to the, to be counted. And I did went, they did beat me up. And they would whip me with the gun, I went to be counted and they did counted me but, it was late already to take us on the street, because they evacuated it. We did got liberated by the Americans in Buchenwald.

How much longer was that?

Ah, ah, how much longer?

How long after this one experience did you... when you went to the Appell? This experience within a week. Within a week, was liberated already by the Americans. And again, the liberation. I seen an American ah, ah, soldier who liberated Buchenwald. I had to ask him, "How did it look when you came in?" I was so sick I really don't remember when already the, the, the, liberation was. First of all, many of us, it happened so many times, that false alarm. But really what I did, I was, I don't remember the day, that day, again blank for me, what I did the day of liberation.

When you lost your father, you were still in Zeitz? Well, when I...

You stayed in Zeitz and he went to Buchenwald...

I was in Zeitz, they took him to Buchenwald.

And you were there for another three months.


Did you, did you form any bonds, any friendships with other prisoners at that point?

Oh well, they were all my friends. I mean many from my hometown. And we were all, I mean, we didn't know what a friendship but, names of from where you come from or something. The only people whom I knew. But it didn't meant somehow names or something, at that time, we never dreamt that we will be liberated. At that time already, we never dreamt already, that we will be ever out of there. I seen so many people, so many friends of mine...died. I know a, a, a friend of mine whom I went to school with, he is in Israel, I told him exactly when his father died. I know a, a, a lady who lived here in Detroit, she moved away, when her father and brother died and a...but in the last weeks already, I never thought I was, I didn't knew much about myself and I never thought, at that time already, I never thought I would be liberated or I will be alive.

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