October 30, 2020
This month we introduce the late Holocaust survivor Lotte Weiss. Lotte was born in 1923 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.
In March 1942, Lotte and her two sisters were deported from Bratislava to Auschwitz. She remembers the “strange and terrible smell” of the bodies burning in the crematorium. That was the moment that she lost her faith in God.
In June 1942, Lotte narrowly escaped death when, after being sentenced to a “punishment camp”, the transport to which she was allocated was already full. She was also lucky to survive a bout of meningitis. In August, she was transferred to Birkenau. A month later came the devastating discovery of uniforms bearing her sisters’ numbers at the clothing collection point for the gas chambers.
Feeling hopeless, Lotte was then transferred from road construction work to the ‘Kanada’ block, sorting the belongings confiscated from prisoners. She was selected for sterilization, but managed to escape. Despite almost being killed for lying about her secretarial skills, she was chosen to work in the office of a German mining company. Whilst conditions at the office were much better than in the rest of the camp, she still suffered frequently from boils and throat infections.
By January 1945, prisoners could hear the Russians advancing; Auschwitz was evacuated. Fortunately, Lotte remained under the custodianship of the mining company, moving from camp to camp. She arrived in Theresienstadt in April 1945, where, after a few days, she was liberated by Russian troops.
Lotte attributed her survival to a series of miracles. Her parents and five siblings all perished in Auschwitz.
Lotte was liberated from Theresienstadt in April 1945. She immigrated to New Zealand in 1949, and later moved to Sydney, Australia in 1986.
In this photograph, Lotte holds her concentration camp mugshot, taken in Auschwitz, 20 June 1942. Her prison number, 2065, is tattooed on her arm. She recalls trying to burn the numbers off by holding her skin against a hot pipe. However, when the skin healed the numbers were even darker than before.
To read more from our Survivor Portraits blog series, click here.
To explore the personal stories and anecdotes of Holocaust survivors, click here for our first online exhibition.
To read Lotte Weiss’ memoir, entitled My Two Lives, you can purchase a copy here.
Photograph by Katherine Griffiths.