Weiss (Friedman), Violet
Valea Lui Hihai (Romania), Budapest, Auschwitz, Salzwedel
Violet Weiss was born in Valea Lui Hihai, Romania in 1922. She was the oldest in her family and had five younger brothers. Her father, a painter/refinisher was Joseph Friedman, her mother, Julia Schwartz Friedman and brothers: Tibor, Leslie, Erno, Zoltan and Pisth. Her grandmother, Talee Schwartz, lived with them. Violet was the only survivor.
Violet went to a Romanian school where Jews were allowed to study. Her town had about twenty thousand people, but only eighteen Hundred were Jewish. There were two synagogues. Violet began dancing lessons at the age of three. Everyone spoke both Hungarian and Romanian. On the High Holy Days, the family went to Temple and lit the candles.
Violet’s grandfather owned a movie theatre where she saw all the American movies. Her aunt, Rosie Schwartz, invited her to come visit her home in Budapest and she was there when the Germans entered her hometown in 1941. Although her family knew the Germans were coming, they refused to leave.
On May 7, 1944, Violet was taken by train to Auschwitz. There were about seventy people to each car. They traveled for three days and nights with no food nor water. Violet watched the world go by out a small window in the car. No one spoke a word and children didn’t even cry.
When they arrived in Auschwitz they were told to “leave your bundles.” Dr. Mengele was there to greet them. No one said a word. She remembers thinking that the women she saw were mental patients because of their shaved heads. Violet never saw her family again. She was in a group with her aunt. They were told to undress, sent to the showers where there was no soap, and was given a “rag” to wear. Next she was sent to barrack #18. She said she was kept alive because she dreamt of eating good food, such as soup and stuffed cabbage. Violet kept her spoon which says “Lodz” on the back.
She was in Auschwitz for three months, standing in line from early until noon and then again from two until six. She was taken by train to a munitions factory where she was fed soup at 5:00 p.m. and brown liquid in the morning. She said the faux coffee was laced with drugs. She was treated well. The company made a profit, but didn’t pay the workers. She was there (in Salzwedel) for eight months until her liberation by the Americans in April of 1945.
When the Americans arrived, they went to the kitchen and cooked rice with milk for the prisoners. She saw an American soldier shoot a German trying to escape.
The soldiers also gave them champagne.
One of her non-Jewish friends at home rescued a picture of her which was thrown out. After the liberation, travel was impossible. She went to Prague where she was given money and used it to buy a lipstick. She got home on October 12th.
Violet’s first husband was Michael Rubenstein whom she married in June of 1946. Their son, Joseph, was born in 1947. They came to Detroit in 1952 and brought their son. Her husband passed away and she remarried Herman Weiss in New York; Mr. Weiss died in 1978.
Interviewer: Donna R. Sklar
Length: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Format: Video recording