Tuesday 27 January is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. Six survivors, some of whom will be returning to the site for the last time, tell Kate Connolly their stories
Irene Fogel Weiss, born in 1930 in Bótrágy, Czechoslovakia, now Batrad, Ukraine. She lives in Virginia, US. She will be returning to Auschwitz for the third time, as part of the US presidential delegation, along with her daughter, Lesley WeissWe lived in Bótrágy, a very small, mostly poor town in Czechoslovakia with a population of approximately 1,000 mainly farming families, including about 10 Jewish families. The town was a typical low-income community with a tailor, a shoemaker, a grocery store, where people struggled to get by, but where everyone knew each other and there was easy communication between the neighbours, though that didn’t mean we were equal.
When I was eight years old Czechoslovakia broke apart and we became part of Hungary. That was when our problems started, because the Hungarians were allied with the Nazis. It was a difficult time for Jewish families, as suddenly the law no longer protected us and overnight we lost our civil rights. My father’s lumber business was confiscated and given to a non-Jew, and we received no compensation. Jewish children were thrown out of Hungarian schools, so right away we had no choice but to concentrate on hunkering down and trying not to bring attention to ourselves. We couldn’t ride the trains and we had to wear the yellow star. It was a free for all. With no law to protect us, it was common for Jews to get beaten up or thrown off the train...Continue reading...