Rubin (Katz), Agatha
Mukacheve (Ukraine), Auschwitz
Agatha was born in Mukacheve, Ukraine. The town was sixty per cent Jewish. She went to Hebrew school led by Rabbi Shapiro.
Her family consisted of a brother who was nine years younger, many uncles and grandparents. On Friday night, her father was the “king of the Sabbath.” On Saturday morning, her father and brother went to the synagogue. They lived a carefree life and there was no anti-Semitism that she remembered.
In 1938, the school closed. In 1939 the Hungarians collaborated with the Germans, who totally occupied the city in 1944.
In 1942, Agatha’s father was sent to a labor camp where he dug trenches for the army. Men were taken away in 1942 and ’43. She and her family were “special Jews” who were taken into a factory with no roof. They could take a few of their possessions.
When they were put in a cattle car to Auschwitz, people became hysterical. Agatha was hungry and thirsty, but felt safe because she was with her mother.
Agatha saw the prisoners in their striped uniforms and thought they were mental patients. Dr. Mengele put her in one line and her mother in another. (She never mentioned her mother again). She was taken to a “holding” cabin. She found her friend, Narie, but they didn’t recognize each other as they were both shaven.
Agatha was tattooed (#A6043). She walked around in a daze. They slept on cots with no mattresses. She was in the “white kerchief” group, which walked back and forth to the crematorium, not having any idea what was happening. They watched groups walk in, but no one ever came out.
Agatha’s job was to sort clothing, jewelry and shoes to be sent to Germany. The Dutch and Hungarian Jews arrived, causing the crematoriums to go all day and night. Agatha remembers that one woman was saved but not her child. She screamed for days and nights. Agatha denied what was happening, even though she saw the flames and smelled the odors.
While sorting clothes, Agatha found her cousin’s picture and put it in her shoe. She found one of her own jackets and cut it up as a form of sabotage.
Agatha was in Auschwitz from April, 1944 through January of 1945. She was then put on the death march. While they walked, they sang a great deal, tried to laugh and thought about their homes. She called this “Hangman’s Humor.”
The German Army needed blood and she was selected to give blood for the blood bank. She was given one slice of bread and became delirious, thinking that the Germans were her father. Someone gave her a piece of candy that revived her. On the road, they took turns sleeping. The roads were covered with dead bodies. She asked herself “Are we humans or animals?” *They ate the snow to quench their thirst.
They were wearing their striped uniforms, but Agatha had a sweater underneath hers, although she had neither socks nor a head covering.
The prisoners loved the air raids which meant they could rest or even sleep. Their heads were covered with lice and she had a frozen toe.
At this point, the Germans covered their uniforms with civilian clothes.
She called her “family mother” “Lady” and didn’t want to leave her, but she died along the way.
When they reached the POW offices, the Americans and English looked at them and cried. They were oblivious to the way they looked. They were all taken to the hospital.
After ten days, she boarded a train to Budapest, where she began searching for her family. She found one cousin who was leaving for Prague.
Her father, who survived, rented a large house for them and others looking for their families. She didn’t get home until August because she was ill with the beginning stages of Tuberculosis.
She came to the United States in 1948, settling in Detroit in 1951. She married Zoli, a Czech survivor and they have three children.
Agatha has gone in and out of deep depressions and when people ask about her numbers, she says it’s her phone number.
Length 1 hour, 52 minutes
Interviewer: Sidney Bolkosky
Format: Video Recording