I was born in 1928 in Solotvina, Czechoslovakia, the oldest of six children. I remember at twelve, during my last day of public school, children who had been my friends turned on me, yelling and hitting me, and pointing to a sign that read Dogs or Jews may not enter here.
In 1941, my father and all able-bodied men were taken from their homes and transported to forced labor camps, never to be seen again. Shortly thereafter, all Jews of the town were forced to live together on my street. In this ghetto, we were starved and brutalized. Finally, we were marched to a high school where we were held for train transport. After standing tightly packed for three days in an overcrowded cattle car with no food, drink, sanitation or light, we found ourselves in Auschwitz. Upon arrival, my mother, four brothers and baby sister were selected for one line and I the other. I later learned all those in the other line went immediately to the gas chambers.
I survived by doing everything I was told despite the conditions of severe hunger, bitter cold and unimaginable atrocities, often stealing potato and beet peels from kitchen scraps for myself and others. I remember Mrs. Zeidenfeld whose hair had turned gray almost overnight at 26 years old. I saved some of my daily coffee ration to dye Mrs. Zeidenfeld's gray hair to keep her looking young and avoid being "selected." Mrs. Zeidenfeld was later caught stealing a potato and she was hanged for this offense.
Near the end of the war, I was among a group of women who marched to a train for transport to Bruntow Concentration Camp in Germany where we worked in a textile factory making gas masks. The Russians liberated Bruntow on May 5, 1945, my 17th birthday. When I returned to my town in Czechoslovakia hoping to find my father and relatives, I found no one had survived. Instead I met and later married my neighbor, Solomon Slomovic, who had escaped forced labor and later served in the Russian army. He too, had lost his family. Although the Russian Government returned his bakery to him, we still wanted to move from communist Russia. In the ruins of his family's home, we found a postcard with a return address of a stepbrother in New York.
Four years and two children later, we arrived in America. We were blessed with three more children and eventually owned and operated the Butterflake Pastry Shop in Ithaca, New York. When people ask me what I would like others to learn from my experiences, I say, "be proud of what you are. Never be ashamed. Be strong and love everybody, everybody, and if you are Jewish, remain true to your religion. Do not give Hitler triumph."
Biography from the
Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Project, Monroe Community College
Photograph by Louis Ouzer