Weber, Zita (Markovitz, Zdenka)
Svalava (Czechoslovakia), Mukacevo Ghetto, Auschwitz
Mrs. Zita Weber was born in Svalava, Czechoslovakia in 1929. Her birth name was Zdenka Markovitz and at home she was called Zisl. Her parents Aaron and Ida raised five children: Ariah, born in 1921, Leah, 1925, Max and Zita (twins), 1929 and the baby Henry, 1939.
Her parents were observant orthodox Jews and her father attended synagogue twice daily. The children made their own toys and also went biking and sledding. They were a happy family with loving parents and lived in a lovely community. Mrs. Weber’s father was a store owner and also a consultant to the Bata shoe stores.
Mrs. Weber’s grandparents lived in Seredne where they visited during the summer months. Her grandfather loved to speak about his experiences of his trips to America.
The children attended public school in the morning and the brothers also attended Cheder in the afternoon. The daughters helped in the kitchen, shopped and prepared for the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. They helped make the gefilte fish, chicken noodle soup and always invited a poor guest from the synagogue to share their meals. After services on Saturday, they ate cholent, a mixture of beans, meat, barley and potatoes; as well as kishka, kugel and compote. Sabbath was meaningful, they sang Siddur songs at the table.
In 1944, when the Hungarian Army came into power, the trouble began. Everyone had to learn their language and their currency. The Hungarian’s uniforms were frightening to Mrs. Weber, who was then fourteen years old. They immediately took over the ownership of her parents store. The Jewish men who had beards and wore yarmulkas felt tension on the part of the Hungarians. In schools, the Gentiles stopped playing with the Jews. Her family became apprehensive when they were told to turn in their family trees to the new government. They wondered why this was necessary but obeyed the orders.
This was followed by the Ukrainian occupation. The Ukranians gave them curfews and rules, such as covering their windows. If a Jew was on the street, their beards were cut and they were often beaten. There was no explanation but moods became somber and the Jews became insecure.
Later in 1944, the mood became much worse when the Germans arrived. Her family and friends heard about the problems in Poland. When a train would go through their station, the Jews from Mrs. Weber’s hometown would go to the station and offer food to the Poles who were traveling. They brought them milk, soup and bread through the train windows which they considered a mitzvah.
When the Germans told said “get out,” they did, taking very little with them. They thought they’d be returning. They were frightened and bewildered, but obeyed. The Jews were rounded up and packed into the two large city synagogues and the prayer books and torahs were thrown out. This was like jail, according to Mrs. Weber. Their lives were miserable and they were given yellow armbands to wear.
Eventually the family was sent to the Mukacevo Ghetto, which was 20 kilometers from Svalava. There was a shortage of food, water and sanitary provisions. There was no school and there were guards all the time. They were there for a few weeks.
When the cattlecars arrived, they were pushed and packed into them “like merchandise.” The journey was long and bad, stopping occasionally, but there was little food. Everyone was in shock, frightened, screaming and crying. This lasted for about three days and nights.
Late in the summer of 1944, they arrived in Auschwitz at night, which was well lit and looked attractive, except for the guards and the guard towers. The selection began immediately. Mrs. Weber’s mother would not give up her five year old son. Mrs. Weber and Leah were together, separated from their family the first night. Her twin Max and her father were together, in the working line. Her mother and baby Henry were sent to the gas chambers. The girls were put to work, but first their hair was shaven, they were disinfected and given blue and white striped dresses. They were assigned to bunks. Then they began to sort items that were left in the crematoriums, mostly gold and money. Their barracks were close to the crematoriums and they had to live with the smoke and horrid stench.
Mrs. Weber said that she knew that the Germans were putting “brom” in their food to stop the girls and women from menstruating and also deaden feelings. The food consisted of black coffee, watery soup and bread.
They were tattooed (Mrs. Weber was A5709) and some girls were used as experiments by the German doctors, but they were relieved because they were still alive. When the Jews stopped arriving, the Germans began emptying the lagers and people were loaded and taken to the crematoriums. They were trying to empty Auschwitz.
Mrs. Weber and Leah wondered what could be next. There was no way to escape because of the guards and barbed wires. They spent a great deal of time crying and couldn’t sleep at night.
In late 1944, Jews began arriving from other countries. They were taken to other camps by trucks. Mrs. Weber and Leah were taken first to the Leipzig munitions factory and then from camp to camp, staying a few days in each. They were guarded with dogs and the women slapped them. They were being treated like animals. They were lucky to have each other continuously.
On the death march, many collapsed and died. Leah, who was four years older than Mrs. Weber, kept refusing to walk any further, so Mrs. Weber dragged her shoulders, walking through the woods. But, she said, God must have been watching them.
They were liberated by the Russian Army and taken to a big hall, given food, clothes, shoes and helped them to get where they wanted to go. Mrs. Weber and Leah wanted to return to Czechoslovakia. They looked for their family in Prague and were told that they missed Area and Max, their brothers. They hoped to find their father. Max told them that he gave his father food from his camp kitchen because he was starving. He eventually died of starvation in Mauthausen.
All the homes in their town were occupied by Gentiles. They then left Svalava for Sudeten which belonged to the Russians. Max and Mrs. Weber found a Jewish committee that sponsored orphans under 18 years of age and they registered to leave for England. Their older sister, Leah and brother, Ariah found out about leaving for Israel.
Max and Mrs. Weber left for England in March of 1946 where Max took up electronics and they were taught English. The Jewish community gave them lessons, food, shelter and it was a new beginning. Everyone was assigned jobs, such as working in the dining room. There was a theatre and beautiful bathrooms and Mrs. Weber remembers this as “fun.” Mrs. Weber learned how to work a switchboard and took up photography. She met a new friend, Stephanie, whose aunt in New York, told them to take up millinery, so Mrs. Weber designed hats and decorated store windows. Mrs. Weber saved her money and in 1948 she visited Leah and Ariah in Sudeten before they left for Israel.
Mrs. Weber found American relatives, an aunt and Uncle Sam, who brought her and Max to the United States on February 13, 1951. Sam was then ailing so they traveled to Pittsburgh to see him. He cried happy tears. They stayed for a month until Sam died of Cancer.
Her uncle said to go to Detroit. She came on February 13th and met Leo Weber at The Jewish Community Center and they married that year, September 22, 1951. Mrs. Weber found a job in ten days, as a milliner at Brennans in downtown Detroit. Their first son, Norman was born on in 1953 and second son David followed on in 1955. Norman has two daughers, Rachel and Elizabeth. David has two children, Ruben and Malka.
Sister Leah has passed away. Brother, Max lives in Detroit and has three children. Brother, Ariah lives in Israel.
- Grandparents Sarah and Avram (father’s parents)
- Passport picture of her mother Ida, before the war
- Her brother Ariah and Zita in Israel, 1981
- Her late sister Leah and Zita in 1981
- Leah, Max and Zita in Israel, 1981
- Her family: Zita, Leo, Norman and David, Malka, Ruben, Rachel and Elizabeth
- Zita and Leo at a Masons banquet, 1990
Mr. Leo Weber passed away in 2011.
Date: October 24, 1995
Interviewer: Fran Victor