Research

Weiss (Rosenfeld), Shari

Survivor/Camps
Harina (Romania), Cluj, Kalosca, Auschwitz, Altenburg

Shari Weiss was born in 1929 in Harina, Romania, which became Hungary in 1940.  There were eighty thousand residents, one quarter were Jews.

She lived with her father David, a wheat merchant, her mother Sorah, three sisters and three brothers.  The family was religious, her mother wore a wig and her father had peyos, side-locks. 

Shari’s aunt and uncle, Emanuel and Bertha Solomon, wanted her to live with them.  They were more affluent and, at the age of nine, her life with the Solomon’s became alluring, learning to play the piano and also learning to speak many languages.  They lived in a town of 100,000 called Kalocsa. They were more Conservative, less religious than her parents; her aunt worked in their store on Shabbos.  Their lifestyle was not religious.

The Hungarians segregated the schools and only six per cent of Jews attended Gymnasium (High School).  The atmosphere in school was easier as they had the same enemy.  English was banned and her German teacher (her cousin) also spoke Hebrew.  He was taken away to Germany and then to Siberia by the Russians.

The Germans came in March of 1944: businesses were closed, schools shut, yellow star armbands and curfews were enforced.  Eventually they were taken by trucks to the central part of the city which became a ghetto.  It was formerly a brick factory.  The families used sheets and blankets to separate areas into private spaces.  The floors were made of dirt.  They were there for three weeks.

They were told to pack their bags (Shari was in the 3rd transport) and march to the train station.  People in the surrounding villages threw stones at them and called them dirty Jews.  They were herded onto cattle cars.  Everyone was scared.  Shari was then fifteen years old.  It was hot and everyone was searching for air . . . but she found a crack and a bit of air.  There was no bathroom, so they made a small corner to allow some privacy.  They traveled four days and nights, the train lurching and waste rolling all over.  Every morning they would stop and the doors were opened to see how many were dead.

They were told to label their packages with their names and addresses, but this, like everything else, was a futile exercise.  They arrived on June 1st and saw flames shooting out of “towers.”  They were in Auschwitz!

When hey got off the train, the men and women were divided.  Shari had taken her aunt’s name in order to stay with her.  They were herded into a large room and told to disrobe.  She wanted to leave or to hide.  If the guards liked their shoes, they would take them.  They were shaven and taken to the showers, given one dress, no shoes and no underwear.  They were then lined up outside in groups of five and ordered to march around the camp.  She became disoriented and reduced from a human being to a nothing.

Daylight came and they had neither slept nor eaten.  They were assigned barracks, she was in #17.  An overseer came.  There were one thousand women there.  She thought she was in an asylum.  To sleep, there were bunk beds with no mattresses and the women were stacked on top of each other.  During the night, the bunk beds often collapsed.

They fell into a routine: they were lined up to be counted, trying to huddle to keep warm as it was freezing outside.  The overseers were men, women and dogs.  If the count was correct, they were dismissed in about three hours.  If one person could not be found or was dead, they would stand for as much as six hours. In the fall, people had dysentery, the roof leaked and conditions were sub human.

They were taken for disinfectant baths.  If their clothes were shredded, they were given no clothes until the next disinfecting bath.  At night, Shari stumbled over dead bodies.  Because she looked like a little boy, she was sent to Barrack #8, which saved her life.

In October of 1944, Dr. Mengele made the big selection.  He was there for a few weeks, making women disrobe for him and saving the big women and putting the small women to death.  Mengele was tall and good looking.  Because he looked like an angel, he was called the Angel of Death.  One mother in the camp had a small darling daughter.  She kissed Mengele’s boots, begging him to keep her child with her.  He kicked her away and sent the small child to her death.  At night, Shari heard the screams and killings.

She could no longer eat.  She had not had hot food in months, but only one slice of bread per day.  One overseer, called “Graza” was inhuman but beautiful, looking like Grace Kelly because she wore gloves.

One day, she and her aunt saw her uncle at the back of the barracks.  He was working, sorting clothes and looking for gold.  When her aunt became ill, they would go to the fence to try to see her.  One day he came and threw a piece of bread over the barbed wire.  It stuck on the fence and a guard, with a little bit of kindness (a rare act) loosened it and threw it to her.

When the bombing began, they were jubilant!  It was a sign that someone was fighting for them.

In October, factory workers were needed.  A man came and made the selection.  They smelled flesh burning and the air was putrid.  They were both selected for work.  On October 12th, they were taken for the transport, the circumstances were dire.  People were sitting on the floor and praying.  They were sitting shiva for themselves. Bodies, some alive, were taken away.  They traveled to their destination, Altenburg, which was paradise.  They received water and rations and she worked on a stamping machine for a twelve hour shift, sometimes 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and other times 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.  They were sent to bunkers when the bombing occurred.

The Russian workers had their own rooms and the Polish political prisoners and Gypsies cursed the Jewish prisoners.

Shari’s aunt became ill and she would give her what little soup she had.  In April, when the liberation began, the SS deserted the camp wearing civilian clothes.

They had brought in sickly men to their barracks. They were walking skeletons, ravages of inhumanity.  They marched with their empty white plates.  The Americans were bombing and shooting machine guns.  They walked for forty eight hours, only eating grass along the way.

When they arrived at a small town, the remaining SS told them to go on and then they disappeared.  There were only two hundred prisoners remaining.  They were given medication, but their minds were practically gone.  On April 13, 1945, they saw a barn . . . they entered it and heard huge tanks.  They saw beautiful young men in uniforms, so they left the barn, with their white plates held high (as a sign of surrender).  They looked like a bunch of zombies.  One soldier spoke to them in Yiddish.  Liberation was unbelievable.  They were given food and shelter and candles to light.

Shari’s first sign of humanity was when a soldier found a warehouse filled with fabric and a fellow prisoner made her a grey blouse and a navy skirt. She had just turned sixteen on April 28th.

Shari did not know about any killing and thought she would go home to resume her life.  She came home to nothing and no one.  During that time she lived with a friend in Hungary.

Shari lost her parents, two sisters, one brother and her beloved aunt and uncle.

Interview information:
Interviewer: Robert Roth
Date: 4/17/1985
Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Format: Video recroding