Everything was taken away from us: our identity, our hair, our clothes, our shoes… For seven months, I worked like a dog, until I became a human skeleton. I only managed to stay alive because every morning I got up and said to myself: “I need to make it to the evening, because in the evening they give out food. No one is going to eat my portion. I’m going to eat it.” I had already resigned myself to the fact that I would probably die in Birkenau. I wasn’t afraid of death: I was surrounded by death all the time – and yet I was still determined to survive and return home.
In December 1944 I was sent to the hospital in Birkenau, where I met my sister Gisi. We were too sick to go on the death march with the camp inmates. Even when Auschwitz was liberated on January 27th, 1945, we still weren’t free. We were made to cook and do laundry for the Red Army. Only seven months later did we return to Italy, to Fiume.
I went to nursing school, and learned a profession. After completing my studies in 1949, I immigrated to the fledgling State of Israel. Together with my husband z’l, Yitzhak Weiss, we built our home in Nazareth Illit, and raised a family. We have three children, and so far seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
I, Chana Weiss, born in Italy, bear the tattooed number A5377 on my forearm. I got out of Auschwitz alive, and I feel as though I’ve won. I don’t feel like a victim. I wasn’t born in Auschwitz and I didn’t die there. I had a rich, beautiful life before Auschwitz, and I also have a life after Auschwitz. I enjoy the present as best I can. Every day that a person is alive is a holiday.
I am an Israeli Jew. Both my Jewish and my Israeli identities are important to me. We, the survivors, who rose from the ruins, became integrated into Israeli life. We gave all we could, while carrying the weight of memory on our shoulders.
I have been telling my story to school children, soldiers and adults for the past 40 years. For 15 years I ran the Holocaust museum in Nazareth-Illit as a volunteer, and I still volunteer there today.
I have been traveling to Poland as a witness for some 20 years now, taking dozens of groups of school children. We are the messengers, with a mission to preserve the memory of those who were murdered, and to pass on the legacy of the Shoah to the younger generations, and as long as we live, we shall carry out this mission. We have witnessed the worst that man is capable of, and it is therefore our moral duty to teach our children and grandchildren to safeguard human values and preserve human dignity; to educate them to appreciate life; to teach them to be cultured, patient and tolerant of all people, regardless of race, creed or color. For every person has the right to exist.