How Lotte ended years of silence about Auschwitz

Caryn Yap

Between March and October 1945, tens of thousands of Slovakian Jews were taken to various concentration camps. Only 236 survived.

After the war, Lotte Weiss made her way back to Bratislava - where even her aunt and uncle did not recognise her.

'When I told them my family had perished in the gas chambers, they were shocked and they looked at me as if I wasn't normal ... it hurt me deeply.

'Having not experienced it, they couldn't believe it. So from that moment, I never spoke about my time at Auschwitz. I felt punished for being alive. All the people I loved had died.'

Lotte married another Holocaust survivor in 1947. Ali Weiss had been married to her aunt's sister but she had died shortly after the war.

Lotte was eager to fill the void left by the loss of her family, but it wasn't until four years later that their first son, Jonny, was born in 1951 - after they had emigrated to New Zealand.

'When my first son was born, I returned to the God I had lost faith in when I saw humans being burnt to death.'

A second son, Gary, was born in 1953.

Lotte remained silent about the horrors of Auschwitz until the late 1970s when she was interviewed by New Zealand National Radio. She talked for six hours straight.

After Ali's death in 1982, Lotte's sons moved to Australia and she joined them in 1986. Encouraged by the response after the interviews she had given, she became a volunteer guide at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

En route to Hong Kong, Lotte again visited Israel's Yad Vashem - the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, established in 1953 to document the history of the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

To her surprise, she saw at Yad Vashem photographs of herself which were taken before she was due to have been gassed.

'I told the guide the photo was of me and she didn't believe me. When I showed her the number on my arm, she was shocked and immediately removed her microphone and passed it to me, asking me to talk to the audience instead.'

Despite all she has been through, Lotte says: 'I don't carry hatred in my heart because it destroys you ... I hope and pray for the day when there will be peace among all people.'