Select Page

Eva Schapiro

Nationality: Czech
Location: Auschwitz Concentration Camp • Austria • Bucharest • Budapest • Cremona Displaced Persons Camp • Czechoslovakia • Germany • Hungary • Italy • Lenzing Concentration Camp • Missouri • Munkács Ghetto • New York • Padua • Pennsylvania • Philadelphia • Poland • Prague • Romania • St. Louis • United States of America
Experience During Holocaust: Family Died During the Holocaust • Family Died in Concentration Camp • Family Died in Gas Chambers • Family Survived • Had Contact with Dr. Josef Mengele • Liberated • Lived in a Displaced Persons camp • Lived in Multiple Concentration Camps • Lived in Munkács Ghetto • Sent to Concentration Camp • Sent to Ghetto • Was a Forced Laborer

Mapping Eva's Life

Click on the location markers to learn more about Eva. Use the timeline below the map or the left and right keys on your keyboard to explore chronologically. In some cases the dates below were estimated based on the oral histories.

“I never talked to my daughter about the Holocaust [while she was growing up]. The children of survivors, they have a very, very hard time. They have a lot of guilt. I didn't want that for Debbie.” - Eva Schapiro

Read Eva's Oral History Transcripts

Read the transcripts by clicking the red plus signs below.

Tape 1 - Side 1

Prince: This has to start winding. What is today, the 10th? My name is “Sister” Prince and this is September 10, 1986. I’m interviewing Eva Schapiro for the Oral History Project of the St. Louis Center for Holocaust Studies. Eva, where were you born and what was the date?
Schapiro: I was born in Munkacs and I was born on February 15, 1928.
Prince: 1928.
Schapiro: And I lived there till the day that I went first to the ghetto and from the ghetto they took us to Auschwitz. Of course, I didn’t know it was Auschwitz. Now, do you want to go back, as far as what Munkacs was about?
Price: Yes, exactly. We’re going to test the tape and see. Yes, tell me.
Schapiro: I think I remember only certain things about it, that it was a Jewish community. There were quite a few Jewish people there, from what I remember. I remember having a tutor and I, of course, went to the Hebrew school and that’s why I have never learned Czechoslovakian. I don’t know why, but they just sent me to the Hebrew school.
Prince: Well, what was the background of your parents?
Schapiro: Well, my grandfather from my mother’s side was religious. My grandparents and my father was not so religious, and religion was really not a terrible problem because at that time everybody ate kosher ate the chicken and whatever. And so I remember that.
Price: Everybody kept kosher?
Schapiro: Kosher, most everybody kept kosher, yes. And they went on, I went to school and on Saturday nights you went to walk on the streets on the ___________ what they used to call and you met everyone. And it was a life with no, nothing, no significance, besides the Rabbi. He was Rabbi Schapiro, I don’t know if you ever heard of him, but he was a very, very prominent rabbi in the community. And not just the Jewish people would talk to him but even the peasants looked up to him. So that was something. There was a theater. I remember a theater and schools.
Prince: Did you have any association with the non-Jews, the peasants?
Schapiro: Little, little. Not so much with the peasants, but my father, so happens that my father’s very good friends were non-Jewish people. So we used to have, I used to, in fact, they were the ones when we went to concentration camp they wanted to hide us.
Prince: Who is they?
Schapiro: The two friends of my fathers, and they were non-Jews. But my father didn’t want to, so they took, they _________ all clothing. And when I came back I went back to Munkacs and they did give everything back.
Prince: It sounds as though you have three kinds of people that lived in Munkacs. You had non-Jews, you had Jews, you had peasants.
Schapiro: No, the peasants were surrounding area, you know in the surrounding area that they came in. Know, they came in, you know, they came in every – ah, let’s see. I remember now, it was Thursdays and Fridays that the peasants used to come in for the market, you see. It was when you went out and you bought your chickens alive and you took them to the shochet, you know that. I mean.
Prince: Explain what the Shochet is.
Schapiro: A Shochet is a man that is, if you take your chicken, if you’re gonna cook the chicken Friday, you take the chicken Thursday or Thursday morning and he slit the throat of the chicken and he looked that the chicken was kosher and then you went home and you cooked the chicken the next day. It was very interesting that when you took the chicken home, it was amazing what the people were. They were, most of the people were hungry because most of the people were poor. And you only had chicken on Friday night, you know, and for Saturday. And during the week you had lots of soups and noodles. It really was a very healthy diet now that you look back at it.
Prince: Yeah.
Schapiro: So you didn’t even eat that much meat and I remember as a child, I used to shake and I used to take the chicken and before Passover to take the goose and the chicken so the goose is going to be kosher, because if you brought home the chicken and you opened it and there was something that was not exactly, that was either blue or green, you had to take it back to the Shochet, I really don’t know what you call him in English, and he, is he was in a good mood, he said “kosher.” If he was not in such a good mood, he used to…
Prince: Oh…
Schapiro: It’s the truth. I, as a child, I remember resenting it and growing up with a tremendous amount of resentment, I guess, against being kosher. And, I…
Prince: Because he had the choice?
Schapiro: Well, no, not because he had the choice, but because I felt, as old as I was at the time –
Prince: And how old were you?
Schapiro: Now let’s see. That was in 19—, I remember going to the Shochet at a very early age, but somehow everybody was afraid of hunger at the time. I remember, as a child, having a great fear of being hungry. So I remember it. And I resented the fact that he knew what meant the situation to understand what it was. He had the nerve sometime to say that that was not kosher.
Prince: And then it would either cost more to get another goose?
Schapiro: No, it wouldn’t cost to get another goose. You couldn’t get it because it was Friday or whatever. But you didn’t have the money for it. It was simple.
Prince: That’s what I’m saying. You didn’t have, you would not have dinner then, is that correct?
Schapiro: Right, we would not have any dinner then. And that really was a tremendous fear. When I look back at it today…
Prince: Uh-huh.
Schapiro: I think to myself, but you know something, even today, after so many years, when I want something on hunger, I get very ill because the whole scene of the hunger comes back. Do you understand?
Prince: Sure, sure.
Schapiro: So…so I remember that.
Prince: You get physically ill?
Schapiro: Almost like physically ill, but it’s mostly mental,
Prince: Mental.
Schapiro: Mental.
Prince: What happens to you?
Schapiro: I just get…I can’t tell you. I just get very, very upset, you know.
Prince: Do you cry?
Schapiro: I cry. But crying is to me, it’s a release, you know, like somebody things that crying for me is really…
Prince: Sure, sure.
Schapiro: It’s just something that I remember. I just remember of those days, you know.
Prince: Eva, when I see pictures sometimes of Czechoslovakia, Poland, like this book that what’s his name, the photographer…
Schapiro: Yeah, I know who you mean.
Prince: Oh, why can’t I think of his name?
Schapiro: I can’t think…
Prince: Did, right before the war, everyone looks so poor, and he chose those particular people, but I would imagine most, a lot of Jewish, European Jews at that time were. There was a depression. If you know the book I’m talking about…
Schapiro: Yes, I do because I have it.
Prince: Is it similar to what you, you know, a lot of those pictures were of Munkacs.
Schapiro: No, I don’t know how many, no….I see them here but a lot of them were of Warsaw.
Prince: But they were of Munkacs, too.
Schapiro: Munkacs, too? I didn’t see them. But anyway, I did not see the Mun…and I have the book and I’ll look through it but anyway, it’s very interesting to see.
Prince: Is that what it looked like?
Schapiro: Yes, but Munkacs was a little bit more modern. This was more like a Shtetl over there, okay ____________. Munkacs was not to much a Shtetl. Munkacs was in between. It was not a big city and it was not a Shtetl and it was not a village. It was a Shtot. You know, what they used to call a city. In Jewish they call it a Shtot, not a Shtetl.
Prince: I don’t know the words.
Schapiro: Well, anyway. Whatever.
Prince: You’re teaching me all these things.
Schapiro: But it is very interesting, but I have never been able to figure out. When the people came out from concentration camps and they came here and then I went here to this meeting. It was very interesting for me to see. I came to see when they had the exhibit. And they showed…
Prince: We’ve just come to realize that we’re talking about Roman Vishniac and his book.
Schapiro: And it was very interesting that people were sitting here and no one would admit it that yes they were this poor and they were hungry. And it was funny to me. Because when I first came here to the United States and I came to St. Louis and I met some of the refugees and they were all wealthy. They all had a lot of money and I looked at them. I thought to myself, “Where was I? I’m the only poor one.”
Vida: The only one.
Schapiro: You know. After years and years of going through this and watching them here when they said, “Oh, that was not my city. That was not Warsaw.” Yes it was! Yes, the people were poor! Besides being poor, most of them only knew the Jewish. They were not learned, not educated as much as they are here. If they were, that was mostly in the Jewish law and Jewishness. So they were not worldly and they were not….but they would never admit it. I have always admitted it. So I finally realized “What is this?” I mean, I couldn’t have been _________. I was very young. But I was very aware and I knew what was going on. And the reason I was, because my father’s family was really very, a very educated family. You know, not so much in Jewishness, but also they were….
Prince: More enlightened.
Schapiro: More enlightened. That’s what I’m looking for, yes, more enlightened. They have traveled. One of them has a doctor in dentistry. He was there. I was a favorite grandchild, so they exposed me to different things and things like that.
Prince: More exposure…So you knew the difference.
Schapiro: So I knew the difference and the difference was very painful. I had a very hard time adjusting. Until today I am, I’m having a very difficult time with…
Prince: Adjusting. Well, I would imagine it would be difficult to adjust.
Schapiro: Right, right, it was difficult to adjust, and you see that it is true. A lot of people have very nice apartments in that framework of what they have lived over there. It was really very nice. Some of them made a very nice living. I’m not saying they didn’t. But it was a different life. It was not the life what it is here. They didn’t know a better one.
Prince: What did your father do?
Schapiro: My father used to deal in lumber, you know. He used to cut the lumber some place and he used to go and pick it up. He just made a living, nothing spectacular. I remember many a days that there wasn’t any money, you know, and you had to – I didn’t have a lot of things and I didn’t – you know, it was a regular European family, nothing, you know. Across the street from me lived a very, very wealthy man. It’s like every place else.
Prince: Let me ask you because we’re talking about another time. What were the things, I mean, if we’re talking about now, what were the things children don’t have and would list certain things, but in those days…
Schapiro: I cannot…in those days.. in my? Food.
Prince: Food.
Schapiro: The fear of food was very important. I remember my mother put me in this private school and sometimes it was difficult to pay the tuition because it was a tuition. It was a private school. I remember that. Clothing was a tremendous amount, a big problem, just what here would be considered necessities…
Prince: Where did you fit in your family as far as age?
Schapiro: I had a sister who was four and a half years younger than me. She died in Auschwitz. They killed her in Auschwitz.
Prince: They think?
Schapiro: I know that. They killed her.
Prince: Oh, I’m sorry. Oh, they killed her. I’m sorry.
Schapiro: They killed her in Auschwitz.
Prince: And you were the oldest and that was it.
Schapiro: I was the oldest and that was that.
Prince: So you would get the clothes. You had no one to get hand-me-downs from as ________ you were the one?
Schapiro: No. You know that I had sparingly the clothes, but you know, those were, when I look back, it was never like a lot of people say, like here a carefree life, or a nice childhood. Far from it. I mean, you know, when I look back at it, at that time, I really didn’t understand it. But, you know, you could feel that there was a lot of things missing. And now when I look back, and I put it aside, yes, you know. It really was not a childhood like a child has here a childhood. It was very, very different.
Prince: Mm, hmm. Did your father wear – when you say he was in the lumber building, business. Was it a, did he have the kind of job where he wore a, any type of suit, or was it more like labor?
Schapiro: Not labor, but, you know, it was very cold and they wore the boots, you know, with their slacks and something. But no, it was not labor, but it was not an office job, no.
Prince: It was not an office job. And did he work for somebody or did he –
Schapiro: No, he worked for himself but it really was not an office job.
Prince: Alright. So he cut the trees or…
Schapiro: No, they had someone cut the trees for him. But he delivered it and he sawed it.
Prince: Within that area?
Schapiro: Within that area.
Prince: How did he deliver it?
Schapiro: With horses and buggies.
Prince: Did you ever go with him?
Schapiro: Very seldom because it was very, very difficult and the horses died, you know. It was sad, it really was sad. And I really, so I really didn’t, you know. You were always afraid that you’re gonna get hurt. But my father was a remarkable man, he really was, you know.
Prince: Tell me about him. What was his name?
Schapiro: My father’s name was Abraham and he was very handsome. He was really one of the handsomest men you’d ever want to see.
Prince: What did he look like?
Schapiro: He had black curly hair with a black moustache. He was tall. I don’t know why I’ve never gotten tall from him. He was built very nicely. He was a big build.
Prince: The way you did that with your body, you mean he carried himself well?
Schapiro: Yes, beautifully. And he loved boots and he used to shine those boots so you could see yourself in them. And really he was, he has done some very nice things.
Prince: What did he do?
Schapiro: When the Germans came in in 1939, I think, if I’m not mistaken.
Prince: What month?
Schapiro: In May. I am, they thought, dates I cannot…and the first thing I thought…
Prince: In May. Their first thing was to…
Schapiro: The first thing, the Hungarians came in. First the Hungarians came to Czechoslovakia. Then they let, then Horthy let them go through to Poland. He promised them…I don’t remember exactly how it was. I just remember one morning getting up and all the Hungarians came in. The Hungarian soldiers came in because up till that time, Masary was the president of Czechoslovakia. And we really lived a fairly, you know, it wasn’t a lot of anti-Semitism. You knew that you were Jewish but you went into the stores and bought and you said, “Good Morning,” and “Good Evening,” you know. And we lived in a neighborhood where there were Jews and some non Jews. Not peasants, necessarily, but you know, everyday ordinary people. And children played with one another. You know I remember going and stealing what you call fruit from the trees, you know. But it was just things like that, and going, picking berries with the non Jewish people. That was okay. As soon as the Hungarians came in, I remember going to the store. You know, in Europe it was very different. You did not go to the grocery store at one time and bought a shopping basket full of food. You ate according to how much money you had that day. And if you had so much money, then you went and you bought that. So you went to go and you bought a small piece of butter and you bought one or two rolls. So I remember going to the store and I will never forget, the store I used to go to, and the lady and the man who run the store were always so very, very nice. And all of a sudden, they weren’t. And they said, “Zid, Zid, Zid.” Not speaking Czechoslovakian, I really didn’t know Czech, I really didn’t know what they were saying. I just knew that it was something. And then I came home and I told…
Prince: You could tell by the tone of their voice?
Schapiro: By the one of their voice and little by little I heard them talk and I heard, you know, they found out. In Europe everything was a secret. You never told anything to your children. Of course it’s true. I was young. I think I must have been around 14, if I’m not mistaken. Thirteen or going on fourteen, I really don’t exactly, I never figured that out.
Prince: You were born in 1928.
Schapiro: That was…
Prince: That would be 1942 and you were 14.
Schapiro: 1942. Maybe it was in 1942. I know I went to the concentration camp in 1942.
Prince: Okay.
Schapiro: But I stayed in ’43, but I was in a ghetto for a long time.
Prince: Uh-huh.
Schapiro: You see, that’s one thing I have really no memory of, of dates.
Prince: Yeah, but we won’t worry about it.
Schapiro: No, no, but I was going to say…
Prince: It’s not important.
Schapiro: I have always, I could never forget it. I don’t know why.
Prince: It’s not important. The only reason I’m asking how old you were because some of the thoughts and feelings are important at, at what age they’re coming from.
Schapiro: Right. But, you know, I was very, very young, and I remember being, I remember that I started to menstruate already so I have to be around 13 or 14. I remember that, and ‘cause I remember an episode when I didn’t know what it was and I thought I had the curse, you know how it is.
Prince: Yeah, but this was before you went to the camp.
Schapiro: This was before I went to the camp. So I…that was the first thing…that the Hungarians came in. And then the Hungarians came in and they were there then for about two or three weeks. Things were very, very difficult. They started to recognize that you know, that they were Jewish and they don’t let you into the stores and they did a lot of mischievous things. But you went along with it and everyone tried to live as peacefully as they can.
Prince: Were there overt acts of…of…
Schapiro: Not yet. I remember, I really don’t remember exactly how it was, to be completely honest with you. But I remember that first the Hungarians came in and they were there for a while, and everybody else said, “Wait, wait, it’s gonna get worse yet.” You know how it was. So the Hung- they were there. After a while, I don’t remember when, the Germans came in. And when the Germans came in, that was really very bad. Within one week they have taken away all the radios. You could not listen to the radio.
Prince: They came to your house and did that…or….
Schapiro: They put out an…uh…
Prince: An ordinance?
Schapiro: An ordinance.
Prince: Like on the wall, or did they tell you with their loudspeakers?
Schapiro: With loudspeakers. They went through with the loud speakers and they said that you could not listen to the radios. “Anyone is gonna listen to the radios gonna be shot.”
Prince: Excuse me for interrupting. You spoke Yiddish?
Schapiro: No, I didn’t.
Prince: You spoke…
Schapiro: I spoke Hungarian and Hebrew.
Prince: Hungarian and Hebrew. Okay.
Schapiro: That’s all I spoke.
Prince: And so when the Germans came in, wait, some people there must have spoken Yiddish?
Schapiro: Oh yes.
Prince: Everybody spoke something different.
Schapiro: Everybody – Most everybody spoke Yiddish.
Prince: Okay.
Schapiro: I didn’t because I only spoke Hungarian, and I went to Hebrew school, so I only learned Hebrew.
Prince: My point is that when the Germans came in, they spoke in German.
Schapiro: They spoke in German.
Prince: So how did everyone…?
Schapiro: They had an interpreter.
Prince: Okay.
Schapiro: That they were hollering at times, and they interpreted in Yiddish and they interpreted in Czech and they interpreted it in Hungarian.
Prince: Right on as they rolled the truck through the street?
Schapiro: As they rode, so everybody should know about it. And they did. And people who did listen to the radio were shot. Pretty soon they have taken all the people that they thought they had the prominent Jews, that they had money, and they arrested them, just like you see all over, like what they had done in Poland. It was the same ’66. Then the next thing was that you had to put a yellow star on whatever you wore on your clothing, to recognize that you were Jewish.
Prince: Did they give you the material?
Schapiro: No, they did not. I don’t remember that. All I know is that you had to have a Jewish star.
Prince: Eva, if you wore it on, let’s say you had a dress, did you have to put it on the dress and on the sweater?
Schapiro: On everything. No, as long as outside there was a Jewish star, that they knew that you were Jewish. And you have to wear that. And when you went into the store and they seen a Jewish star, they did not want to sell you anything, or anything.
Prince: How did you feel about that?
Schapiro: By that time, when I think back, I really didn’t feel anything. I think I was so taken over by fear or numbness, so I really can’t tell you what it was. But when I think back of my feelings, I think there was really nothing but fear, you know. But that’s about all.
Prince: Were you afraid to get very far away from your parents?
Schapiro: We couldn’t. What happened was that after a while, they took you into a ghetto. They put you in it. You know, I don’t know how families lived in one house. They took you out from your house where you lived, and they took two or three streets. They divided the ghettos in two places. From one section, the people went to the ghetto, what was called the “Yiddishegasse,” before the war, or before that happened. It was the Jewish section not too far from the river, from the Latovitsa that used to be called. And they made that into a ghetto. And people who had friends in that area, or whatever, whoever had taken them in, they were all running to this area, to be in the ghetto. We were on the other side of the ghetto. There were like two sides of the ghetto. And the reason we were in the other side because my father was asked to stay out from the ghetto. He came home every night to us, but he worked for the Germans. Not so much for the Germans. They asked a non-Jewish person in the city who was a fair man in the city, and they that said that my father was, which he was. So they asked him, would he come and work for them. And I’ll never forget the fear that we would never see him because he had to work for the Gestapo. And what he had to do is a lot of the Jewish people ran away and they hid, so he had to go and pick them up. He really risked his life but he was really wonderful. I tell you, he really was. And I want you to know that the Germans told him, I remember him talking one night to somebody and I just overheard it, and he said to somebody that the Germans told him, if all the Jews would be like he, Hitler would not have to do that. And they also asked him if he wanted to go away and take his children and his wife, that he could. And my father said, “No, that he will go when the time comes, that he will go with the rest of them, whatever it is.”
Prince: Oh my heavens. Eva, let me go back and ask you. He was….His job was to go and….
Schapiro: His job was to go to try and find the Jews that hid, and he did find them, but he did not turn them over to the Germans. What he did, you see, was he told them at night to go in the ghetto so they wouldn’t be found because a lot of them were hiding by the river and a lot of them, they did some stupid things. They were hiding. They were scared. A lot of them dug ditches and they put the money in there so they find it when they come back. There is more money in, over there than you can…
Prince: And jewels, too, I’ll bet. And silver.
Schapiro: Yes.
Prince: I’m surprised that he could have gotten away with…uh…
Schapiro: Well he didn’t bother with the jewels and the silver. He just tried to find the people.
Prince: No, I know, but I’m surprised that after he didn’t come back with them for a while that they wouldn’t catch on to what he was doing.
Schapiro: Well, they did catch on. But they really, they knew that it doesn’t make any difference. What’s the difference because they’re gonna take them. He knew that they were going in the ghetto and that’s the only place that they could go. And from the ghetto there was only one place to go and they were gonna take us. So they didn’t really care.
Prince: But you didn’t know that yet, did you?
Schapiro: No, nobody knew that. But we knew that eventually we will go to some place. I mean, that was just impossible to live the way we were living there. So that we knew that we will go to some place. So they really didn’t care. Do you know what I’m saying?
Prince: Yes.
Schapiro: What they cared about that these people should not, they didn’t even want them to die…as simple as that, you know. If they found them, they shot them, you know. I mean, sometimes they went out on their own and they shot them.
Prince: Um….What am I missing right now? Let’s see. Um. I’m thinking. Alright. What was your mother’s name?
Schapiro: Raisi.
Prince: Raisi?
Schapiro: She’s still alive.
Prince: Your mother is still alive?
Schapiro: Yes, she lives in Philadelphia.
Prince: And your sister’s name?
Schapiro: Aggi, but she died. She died. She was amazing. When we went to Auschwitz, it was really very, very interesting. They took us out one morning. They didn’t give any advance notice, whatever it is. But one morning they came, but everybody was packed to a certain extent because everybody knew. My father knew especially, that we are gonna, we are gonna leave. And I remember, and the reason I knew that we are gonna leave because we didn’t eat any traife, any non-kosher stuff, you know, in our house they kept kosher. But I remember my father bringing home a whole slab of bacon. Now you see there the bacon was not here like sliced bacon that you buy and you went in and you bought the slab of bacon. And he brought home some black bread and it was very exciting but we couldn’t eat it. We were not allowed to eat it. And it was very surprising because my father really was not religious but he didn’t let us eat it, and I remember that I just couldn’t understand that. And I remember that they took away a lot of our nicer clothes. I got a new coat and new shoes but they put it in a box and they took that away. So everybody – and one gave us to the other. You see, it wasn’t like we kept everything a secret, but little by little, you let everybody know. You know, put your stuff together. And it look about a month. And I think everybody just kind of packed up and one morning they just came, and they said, “Out, out, out,” from all the houses. And I remember we were all in the road just going, and we went to the…where they used to make bricks, to the brick factory because that’s from where the trains went.
Prince: Were they rough with you? Were they?
Schapiro: No. You know, it’s amazing. If you listened and you didn’t give them any you know, backtalk, whatever, they didn’t. If you were a smart alec, they did.
Prince: What did they do if you were a smart alec?
Schapiro: They hit you or they shot you. You know, people they used to put the radios. When they told them that they shouldn’t use radios, so they took the radios and they put them in the ground. And when you put the radio in the ground, they left them on. And I don’t know why, but batteries are under the ground, what they did with it. But they all wanted to listen to Roosevelt because Roosevelt made great promises. They didn’t know that he was an anti-Semitic hypocrite. So they used to lay down on the floor to listen to the radio. And Germans used to watch out for that or somebody, you know, reported them and the neighbor what was anti-Semitic, he just said, “I don’t really know what those Jews are doing laying on the floor.” And really that’s all they really looked for was to listen to Roosevelt and it was really very sad. And they just came and they shot them in front of everybody, to teach them a lesson for the next ones to see. So I remember going to the factory, the brick factory and from there they put us on cattle cars.

Tape 1 - Side 2

Prince: I know I’m asking a lot of you, but….
Schapiro: I wish you would because, you know, I have to, I don’t.
Prince: But, uh.
Schapiro: You said there were so many, too many people.
Prince: Yes, there were so many people and you were young. But did they move quietly? Were they crying?
Schapiro: Yes, yes, they were crying. I can see the line in front of my eyes. I was in the back of my, in the back of the line because the Germans kept on. And when they see my father, they asked him at the last minute, “Are you sure you wanna ago?” And he said, “Yes.” And his two friends came up, you know, the ones I told you they were not Jewish and we used to go there for Christmastime. I remember them crying. My father was a very proud man and I remember that he just went and he just waved at them, you know, like to say. And I remember one of them, one of the non Jewish friends, they lifted my father and I was saying, “Are you sure, are you sure? Get out of the line.” And the Germans came to him and grabbed him away. And we just went. You know, I really don’t think, when I look back, we were so stupid (laughing). I really mean it, I tell you. To go without a fight, like cattle, literally like cattle, just going – and not saying anything, not to even fight back. Still we just went with tears on our eyes, with our things, and we went.
Prince: Were you holding anyone’s hand?
Schapiro: No, we didn’t hold anyone’s hand. I remember being in the back of the line, just looking around and being dazed.
Prince: You were right next to your mother and father and sister?
Schapiro: Right.
Prince: Did you have grandparents and family there that might have been around you? We didn’t get into that.
Schapiro: No, they were on the other side of the ghetto, you see. So I really did not see them at all. But my grandfather and grandmother luckily died, both sets of grandparents died.
Prince: Was that in the ghetto?
Schapiro: No, before the ghetto. Just before the war. My grandfather died while the Hungarians were in already. But, you know, they still let them bury him or something. He died, he died of cancer. The other set of family, my aunts and cousins were on the other side of the ghetto in the Yiddishegasse, you know, over there. And we really didn’t even see them. We didn’t even see them in the brick factory. They arranged it so that you were really…they just put you in. When you get there you didn’t see anyone. As soon as you came on the line, they just kept…so many got in this cattle car, so many got in this cattle car and so many got in this cattle car. And I remember they gave you cards which it said on it that “I am in Switzerland,” you know?
Prince: Postcards?
Schapiro: Postcards, they were postcards, you know. Not with any pictures on it, plain yellow postcards. And I was so excited. I was gonna go to Switzerland!
Prince: God in heaven.
Schapiro: So we all went in. I don’t remember how many days it took to get to Auschwitz, but I remember coming to Auschwitz. I didn’t know where I was. I just remember coming some place. And I remember it was night. Excuse me, you wanted to ask something…
Prince: No, I’m not going to stop you. I’ll ask it later.
Schapiro: I remember it was night, but I remember it was light and I just could see smoke and light and the skies were bright. And I thought, “Oh, it was a fairy tale” for about two seconds. We got off the cattle car. We were in line. I don’t know how to explain that. We all came down, my father, my mother and my sister, and we all came down together. Within one second there was a German and showed my father to go here and with that, a Polish gentleman that was working helping out, by that time, the Polish people were there for a long time and they were working with the Germans. Some of them were working with the Germans and were friendly with them. And some of them were working and, you know, they were still Jews, ______________. They had not forgotten. And he said to my mother, “If they ask you how old your daughter is, tell them the big one is 16, the small one is 15, and you are 40.” Now I really don’t remember how old my mother was at the time, to be completely honest with you. It has to be that she was 43 or 45. And the Germans came up and asked her how old am I and I heard her say that I was 16, and I heard her say that I was 16, and I heard her say that my sister was 15, and he looked at my sister, but he took my sister away. But my sister came back. She went around and she looked for us and she came back. And she was with us for a while. My sister’s story is really the true story because she has the, no one thought like this little girl thought to stay alive. And they got her the last day. She was hiding and they were shooting after her. And she ran all over. Sometimes we didn’t see her for two or three days while we were in Auschwitz and all of a sudden she showed up again. And unfortunately, there were Polish women that they were….
Prince: Kapos?
Schapiro: Yes, they were their helpers. That they help the Germans. And they were very ugly, and they reported these children and they reported, and they really were a very ugly breed.
Prince: Well, the Kapos, if I’m not mistaken, got, would get their jobs with special privileges, and this is the way they proved that they were worthy of this terrible job was by being…
Schapiro: Right. I remember coming into Auschwitz. I have to track back.
Prince: That’s okay.
Schapiro: I just have to tell you that because I don’t want to forget about my sister. And I really did not appreciate what she has done until not too long ago. I really don’t think I would ever have had the nerve to do what she has done.
Prince: Eva, is it possible that, it’s not that you didn’t appreciate it, but you just didn’t allow yourself to think about it?
Schapiro: Could be. You know, it could be. But I remember coming into Auschwitz and it was right on the bottom of the crematorium, you know where they had. They had four crematoriums, four places for burning and from all sides. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Auschwitz.
Prince: No, I have not.
Schapiro: You have never seen the pictures?
Prince: I’ve seen pictures.
Schapiro: Of Eva goes to, or Cathy goes to…
Prince: You mean, “Kitty”?
Schapiro: Kitty…
Prince: Yes, I’ve seen that.
Schapiro: Well, she is exactly, she told you exactly the way everything was.
Prince: This is the film on television called, “Kitty Returns to Auschwitz.”
Schapiro: That’s her son, the doctor.
Prince: Her son.
Schapiro: She was originally from England. I think now she lives in United States, if I’m not mistaken. But anyway, so we came down there and the first thing they did is they take away all your clothing and they undressed you and they shaved your hair.
Prince: Stop. Don’t go so fast.
Schapiro: Okay.
Prince: Back up.
Schapiro: Back up.
Prince: They took you. They undressed you.
Schapiro: We had to undress.
Prince: What were, What were people doing?
Schapiro: They got undressed!
Prince: I know, but were they quiet? I mean, weren’t you…?
Schapiro: Well I tell you. Everybody did something else. I remember when they shaved my hair and they gave me a dress that was falling apart and one of my breasts was hanging out. I never forget, was from a little thing like this was a mirror, a little bit of mirror.
Prince: On a piece of wood, you’re pointing to.
Schapiro: On a piece of wood, yes. And I looked at myself.
Prince: You looked at yourself.
Schapiro: And I started to laugh so loud that someone came up to me and put their hands over here because they thought, “They’ll think you are crazy and they’ll take you away.” So I stopped laughing.
Prince: To the crematorium is what she meant?
Schapiro: Right. Next morning I remember getting up. They hollered, “Tzayl Appel.”
Prince: Tzayl Appel – oh, for roll call.
Schapiro: For roll call. All of a sudden, I found myself on a piece of thing that was made out of a square piece of wood, on top one of the other and people looking up like monkeys with their heads shaven. I asked, “Where are we?” And somebody said, “Switzerland.” No one knew anything.
Prince: Oh….
Schapiro: And I’m just standing there, hungry, raining. Auschwitz was….
Prince: Switzerland? You just blew my mind!
Schapiro: Yes. I mean, how did we know? How did these people know? They gave them a card that they are in Switzerland. But that was the next morning and that was Auschwitz.
Prince: Alright. So you got your dress and you got your….
Schapiro: A haircut and we are now in Auschwitz.
Prince: Did they have like a what you think…don’t misunderstand the word, “beauty parlor.” Don’t misunderstand that. No wait, no wait. What I’m saying, you know how there are seats in a beauty parlor?
Schapiro: No!
Prince: Did they stand you?
Schapiro: You stood up…
Prince: Was it inside?
Schapiro: It was like in a big hall. I can’t, you know, the back…
Prince: Like if it was a basketball thing.
Schapiro: Not that big. It was a room. It was the same room where they have taken everybody there before they took them to the crematorium. It had the, you know, the basins and stuff. And you just stood in the middle. It was like a big washroom.
Prince: Okay. You had left your suitcase when you came in.
Schapiro: The suitcases were all on the train, left on the train. We could not take nothing out, no. So we were in Auschwitz.
Prince: You could ask no questions? Who were you going to ask questions?
Schapiro: There was no one to ask questions. The German came in. It was Mengele or someone but he spoke with a big thing and he said we are now in Germany. We didn’t know where. From later on, we heard from the people that they were now live there for a long time, that this was Auschwitz.
Prince: Then that’s Poland.
Schapiro: That was Poland. That was Poland.
Prince: But when he said “Germany,” he meant on German…
Schapiro: Soil.
Prince: Territory.
Schapiro: German territory. It was already German territory. And it was always miserable there because it is on the bottom. You know, it’s between – it’s…’s in a valley. And when it rained there and it used to get cold, it used to freeze us as it was coming down and you had no clothes on, and it just used to be, you know, like needles were on your body.
Prince: Like sleet.
Schapiro: Right. And next morning, it was around morning – it wasn’t morning yet. It must have been around three or four o’clock in the morning. He used to love to have Tzayl Appel at three or four o’clock in the morning. And you all stayed out sometimes for hours and hours and they counted you. They counted you in the morning and they counted you at night. And that was that. And then every day, or every other day, whenever they felt like it, they gave you something to eat.
Prince: There was no routine to that?
Schapiro: No, you had to go and pick it up. There was no routine. One time they gave you, it was like farina and they gave to 12 or 24 people who were sitting in that one – I don’t know how you call that.
Prince: Farina is like a cereal.
Schapiro: Right. They gave you one pot and the pot went around to everybody to give a sip, a little bit. Everybody watched you, how to get a big sip or a little sip.
Prince: Oh my God.
Schapiro: And then sometimes the food was so bad that it was like it was out of rotten beets. As hungry as you were, you didn’t even want that. So that was Auschwitz.
Prince: Were you tattooed?
Schapiro: I ran away from tattooing. I have, I ran away. Every time they wanted to tattoo, I always ran away and I was never tattooed.
Prince: How could you run away?
Schapiro: Very easily. Mengele was also sitting over there where they gave the tattoo, there where you went in, I just ran around and I ran out.
Prince: Didn’t anybody every notice that you didn’t have one?
Schapiro: No. A lot of people were….
Prince: And in roll call, how did they…did you have a number?
Schapiro: No. In roll call, no, in roll call what they did, that you stayed five people in a row from your lager. I was in the same lager – Anna. It has bothered me for years. What was the name of the woman who was in charge of my lager?
Prince: A lager is the barracks.
Schapiro: It’s a barracks. It was lager – I don’t know if it was 6 or 22. I didn’t remember. I don’t know if you know Ibi Katz. You remember Ibi Katz from Tel Aviv Delicatessen.
Prince: Yes, Regina. Regina.
Schapiro: Regina. One day I ran into Regina. You know, I used to live on Chalet Court before I lived in Meadowbrook. And I was talking to Regina and we were talking and I said, “Regina, were you ever in Auschwitz?” And she said, “Sure.” I says, “Regina, it’s bothering me. I’m having a very hard time remembering who was in charge of the lager.” So she says to me, “Which lager were you in?” I says, “Regina, I don’t remember, but I just will tell you where it was. It was right next to the water, you know, where you went in to wash once whenever they let you out by the water.” And she says, “What else do you remember?” I says, “Well I remember that there was a baby born in that thing and I remember that we were all quiet and I remember that the woman who was the Polish woman fixed it all up and came with her German boyfriend and they played house and then they killed the baby.” She says, “The woman’s name was Anna. The Polish woman’s name was Anna.” I says, “How do you know?” She says, “It was my best girlfriend who had the baby, and her name was…”
Prince: Oh my God.
Schapiro: I says, “Yes, Regina, her name was Anna. She’s always in front of my eyes.” So that’s what I know about Auschwitz, I mean about the lager. And I was there.
Prince: Were you allowed to be with your mother? I mean…
Schapiro: I was with my mother, yes, but my sister they took away.
Prince: At what point? How long could she keep this hiding up?
Schapiro: She kept the hiding when the Ger, when the Russians start to go and started invading certain places in Europe. I don’t know where the Russians were because we were not informed about that, but one, but they started to clean up all the camps. First they killed all the gypsies, you know. And I remember that when they killed the gypsies. I will never forget when they killed the gypsies.”
Prince: Tell me about it.
Schapiro: When they killed the gypsies – what they used to do when they used to take you to the crematorium, and we always knew who was going to go to the crematorium. Mengele used to come, or another German used to come and they used to take out all the people. And then he used to have to decide who he is going to take.
Prince: How did you know who he was going to take?
Schapiro: Like, well, he used to say, today he was looking for nice feet, and the people with the nice feet are going to get something very special.
Prince: Oh.
Schapiro: So when he was going with the nice feet, so everybody would put something on, whatever you could, and some people really didn’t do anything.
Prince: To cover up?
Schapiro: To cover up your feet. One day I forgot he came, and he said that he wanted eyes. And I remember that everybody as a child used to tell me that I had very pretty eyes. So when I heard eyes, I got very scared. So when Mengele came through, I made all kind of grimaces that when he went by, he just went like this – and you know, and so that was one thing. So that’s the way he talked. And sometimes he just decided to take a whole lager. And when he did that, they came and they gave you a piece of bread and a piece of salami and a piece of margarine. It was standard. And they told you not to touch it, that you are gonna go on a long trip. And then they took you around and they put you on the cattle car. The cattle car went around and it depends which crematorium they wanted to put you. If you were lucky, they took you into the crematorium and they turned on the faucets that had gas in it, so at least you died. If they were killing a lot of people that day, and if they had a lot of people to burn, some of them went in alive. They didn’t even kill them. And it’s very difficult for people to face that, but it is really the truth. But that’s what they did and a lot of people, and we all knew it. There has never at Auschwitz a time when there was not such a tremendous smell that you could die from it. I think that’s what saved you. And also what they did is they gave you brom in the food that you really couldn’t think. I don’t know if you have ever, familiar with what brom is.
Prince: Brom?
Schapiro: Yes, bromide it’s called here.
Prince: Oh, bromide, okay.
Schapiro: And what they used to do, when they did that, they gave that to you because it stopped women from menstruating, but also while it stopped them from menstruating, it ruined their bodies, it also didn’t, they couldn’t, you couldn’t think. I remember I was just going around with my thing hanging out, you know, like I would be in a daze, like I would be in a resort or someplace. I remember being very hungry. I remember my eyes going like this.
Prince: You said the smell saved you and I…
Schapiro: The smell was so bad that you couldn’t even eat, you couldn’t even think because they were burning these people, you know, I say it saved me, you know.
Prince: Well, no, I just wanted to find out what that meant.
Schapiro: And people took their lives, you know, Auschwitz was surrounded by the wire and people just went by the wire if they had enough and they just touched the wire and they died. They just let them stay there, and if you seen a dress on them or if you seen a piece of bread in their hands, you went and you took it out because people, it’s amazing what people can become. It’s very sad to think.
Prince: Eva, “putting them in alive.” You’re talking about the crematorium. You’re talking about burning them alive.
Schapiro: Yes, burning them alive.
Prince: That must have been….
Schapiro: It was terrible. That’s where they took the gypsies. The gypsies I will never forget. I always loved gypsies. I lived in Munkacs and my grandparents lived by, you know, in that section what was called “The Jewish section, the Yiddishegasse.”
Prince: Do you know – I would appreciate it if you could talk about the gypsies
Schapiro: I love gypsies.
Prince: …Because we hear gypsies and they were killed first but nobody hardly ever talks about them and what they were really like. We tried to find someone but…
Schapiro: Well I will tell you about gypsies. I will tell you from my early background.
Prince: Yes.
Schapiro: So when my grandparents lived there, I always used to go visit them there. And I always used to, I never liked to go swimming in the water, but I always used to love going walking on the water, by the water.
Prince: I was going to say, “on the water”?
Schapiro: (laughing) Well, you could walk on the water because it was so shallow, you could see the fish, it was a little bit of, you know. So I used to walk around. They used to say, “Don’t go there, the gypsies are there, the gypsies will take you, don’t go there, the gypsies will take you.”
Prince: Oh, right.
Schapiro: And every time I met a gypsy, they were always very nice to me. So I really couldn’t understand that. So one day, I was really beaten good by my mother. I’ll never forget that. I had the beating of a lifetime. (laughing) I don’t remember why, but I got it. And I picked myself up. I took everything and I took two pieces of bread and an apple and I ran away. And I went to the gypsies, and I went to the gypsies and I remember that they used to catch fish and out of the fish, you know, here they call it “bouillabaisse”?
Prince: Uh-huh.
Schapiro: They made the best fish soup you have ever eaten on an open fire, on rocks, and the put in these hot different peppers. And, you know, I’m sure that they were stealing sometimes, so what? But they were very kind. So that old gypsy came and he asked me, I said that I run away, and he said, “You did?’ Then he says to me, “Are you hungry?” And of course I was always hungry, and I said, “yes.” And he gave me this terrific fish soup that I ask him “Was it kosher?” and he said, “Yes.”
Prince: (laughing) What a nice gypsy.
Schapiro: But I remember…
Prince: It couldn’t have been kosher. He just told you that.
Schapiro: And I ate it, and it was very, very good. And then the gypsy took me by my hand and brought me home. And of course, my mother right away they were gonna have him arrested and all that. And he was nothing but kind. He didn’t do anything really. So I always had a very warm relationship to the gypsies and, of course, everybody’s always laughing at me, but that’s the truth. I have always liked gypsies.
Prince: It’s nothing to laugh at. That was wonderful. What kind of…how did they live? I mean…
Schapiro: They really lived, they lived very primitively. They used to live always, they had the covered wagons like you see what they are, and they used to read your palms and they had…
Prince: I’ve heard they were beautiful and…
Schapiro: Oh they were. Oh, they were so beautiful. They had such magnificent hair, you know…
Prince: Their eyes.
Schapiro: Their eyes. They were really beautiful. So I have always loved gypsies and besides that, Gypsy music is the most beautiful in the world. And you know, in Hungary, they, you know, always sang Gypsy music. So then when I came to concentration camp at Auschwitz I heard that in the next lager where we couldn’t go, were a lot of gypsies and that there was word that the gypsies are going to be killed tonight, or that particular night. And Anna, this, you know, we used to call her the “aufseering.”
Prince: Which meant? Overseer?
Schapiro: The overseer. And she came and I heard her talk. And she said with great conviction – she was such an ugly person. She was heavy and dumpy and you know, she took all the clothes what people brought in. You know what they did with all the clothes that came in with all these transports – they put them another room and all these people that worked for the Germans, you know, that they were together, like, Anna and all the rest of them, they took the clothes out that fitted them and she wore such magnificent clothes. I’m sure she never had any clothes like that in __________. But anyway, she was really a very hateful person and she made it with a great satisfaction that they were gonna get rid of the gypsies. And they made a deal with them. And the deal was that they said they are not going to eat the bread and they don’t want anything, and they are going to walk straight in the crematorium if they will give them their violins and they can sing, “The Old Gypsy.” I don’t know if you ever heard, but the song, “The Old Gypsy” is that hymn like, you know, like the American. And the Germans agreed to that. And I will never forget, as long as I live, you could see from our lager, from our camp, to the next lager where all the gypsies stayed in a circle, all of them. And he had made an announcement, you know, they always had a king and a queen – they believe in royalty and the oldest one was always the king and, you know, and the queen. And they said that they are gonna sing that song and as they were, they sang the song, and as the song was ended, the put down their violins and they marched into the crematorium. And I have, I must tell you sometimes when I think about myself and I think about myself in Auschwitz, somehow I never think of me. I always think of these gypsies. I just can never get it out of my mind.
Prince: I, I, I find it so difficult to understand how…when we see pictures of the crematorium, we see those two open holes, side by side.
Schapiro: But they are in a room.
Prince: Right, and I don’t know how. How did they put somebody in there alive? I mean I understand, I see…
Schapiro: You know, first of all, they were much bigger than you think. If you would see the crematoriums, how big they are, you would realize.
Prince: I’m not talking about the room itself, I’m talking about…
Schapiro: No, no, no, no, no, the opening.
Prince: The opening.
Schapiro: The opening is tremendous. They used to shovel in hundreds of people at one time.
Prince: You’re teaching me. For some reason…You’re really teaching me now. For some reason, I, when you see pictures, they don’t look….
Schapiro: Let me tell you about, some people, when they went to the thing and they knew that they gonna go to the crematorium, they hoped that at least they would give them the gas. I mean really simple.
Prince: It gets down to, first they think, in the very beginning that “this too will pass” and they’re going to stay in their towns and they’ll wear their stars. And then they get in the ghetto and they think “this is enough.” And now all they want to do is be gassed before…
Schapiro: Absolutely true.
Prince: ….being burned alive…
Schapiro: Look, I’m sure that you know that they have also put people alive in the ground in Poland. You know, the ground was…
Prince: Yes, yes.
Schapiro: But a lot of the people that they were working there, unless they are lying. I really don’t know, but we even heard it in Auschwitz that that’s, you know, that they did that.
Prince: I’m glad for my naïve questions because they’re eliciting information that will make it clear for other people and it’s better for me to go ahead and ask this and have a clear picture.
Schapiro: Especially toward the end, when the Russians were already, you know, coming from all sides and they were trying to take everybody out of Auschwitz, you know…
Prince: Uh huh.
Schapiro: So.
Prince: Okay. So you knew that your sister had been killed?
Schapiro: What happened was that the last day, when they took us and we were, we didn’t know where we were going, but they said you’re gonna leave Auschwitz and certainly didn’t have to pack. We didn’t have anything. So they gave us a piece of bread again and with the margarine and there was no longer salami left. And we really didn’t know whether we were gonna go to Auschwitz or whether we gonna go to the crematorium or whether we gonna go to some place else. No one knew where we were going. But they did tell us that we gonna go to a work camp some place, they gonna send us to…

Tape 2 - Side 1

Prince: But I love the dignity of it because you’re still concerned about how you sound. It’s wonderful. Um, you were saying that Sweden, that they told you that you were going to Sweden.
Schapiro: Switzerland.
Prince: Switzerland or Sweden?
Schapiro: Switzerland. Always Switzerland. And so we went there. They took us in line. My sister finally had to come out from hiding. You know, I told you that she was running around and hiding. My mother wanted my sister very much to stay with her, so she thought that if she’s going to tell my sister to go in this line to stay with someone else’s mother, and I will stay with her, they will not take my sister. She didn’t realize, nor did I, that they had been watching the child, that somebody had been watching, and that lousy Anna, that’s why I was so anxious to find out what her name was, I remember she came through the line and she pointed at her. And it was really very unfortunate because I was together with my girlfriend. She was with us in the same lager, and what happened was that my girlfriend went to stay with me and with my mother, and Aggi, my sister went to stay with my girlfriend’s mother. And when they pointed at Aggi, she pointed at Aggi, Anna, they stopped the line right there and they took my sister and my girl friend’s mother and they took them one place and I remember my sister looking back and crying and hollering and they took us away and they put us on a cattle car again. And then we went to Germany, Linz. And we went to Linz, 60 miles from Lina….
Prince: Was that Austria?
Schapiro: Austria. There was a, it was called the outskirts of Linz. There was a factory that they made celluloids for the war. And they ran out of cotton. So instead of using cotton, they made that phony stuff. It was like celluloid, and they…
Prince: Celluloid?
Schapiro: Celluloid. You know, it was just packed, and that’s where we were working. And not too far from there, there were two political camps. One was Czechoslovakian prisoner of wars, political prisoners, and the other one was French. They also worked there. And once in a while they took us in to work there to help them out. The other times, they took us in to work there to help them out. The other times, they took us up on top of the mountain and we dug a grave – you know, a regular grave, and that’s what we did all day. It was cold and it was in the wintertime, and that’s what we did. I don’t know how long we were in Linz. We came in the dead of the wintertime, and we were liberated in May, I remember. May the 8th. We found out later that to carry those rocks that we dug, we were building our own grave. The Germans thought that when the Russians are gonna come close, we gonna jump in the grave and we gonna stone each other. Do you understand what I mean?
Prince: You mean throw stones at each other?
Schapiro: Right.
Prince: They’re gonna make you do that?
Schapiro: Oh they did a lot of things to make. But we were very lucky. While we were in that camp, there were only about five or six hundred people in that camp. And I don’t know if it was Lenzing, but I know it was 60 miles from Linz, I know that, not far from Linz, where we were. I think it was Lenzing, if I’m not mistaken. And there was an old man that was in charge of us, that we built for him this big – it was like a grave in the top of the mountain. It was cold. We had a, the Austrians were watching us. There were two men soldiers and there was about three women. In our group, in this 500, I don’t know where they came from, or 600, I really don’t know where they came from, if they were from Auschwitz or they were before that, but there were three Russian women, from Russia. And…
Prince: Jews or non-Jews?
Schapiro: I don’t know. And there were also some German non-Jews, political prisoners, but we didn’t know that at the time. All we knew one day, that we heard, it was bad. May 7, we were there and spring was coming and I remember things were budding.
Prince: It’s amazing you could still notice those things, but I guess you welcomed the warm weather.
Schapiro: Right. And we were very hungry. I remember being very hungry. Food didn’t come in. But I also remember that two or three people died and they never took the dead away. They left them. They put them in caskets and the caskets stayed in the corner outside. I can remember that.
Prince: They did put them in caskets?
Schapiro: Well, in boxes. That they did.
Prince: That was unusual in camps.
Schapiro: Well they lived there with us, you see, the three or four Germans. And one of them was the head German woman that was in charge of us. You have never seen such a face in your life and you have never seen so much meanness. She had the most beautiful face that you have ever seen. You couldn’t have painted it if you wanted to. She was a little dumpy, heavyset thing, but a face like a doll, blue eyes, blonde hair. But we all we hoped that we were gonna do, if we ever come out of this, just take off her blonde hair, because for entertainment, when she had nothing to do, as soon as our hair grew out a little bit, she used to come with the thing, you know, like they use for a man. How do you call those things?
Prince: Shears?
Schapiro: Shears?
Prince: Oh, shaving…
Schapiro: And she just used to go and zig-zag it.
Prince: An electric razor?
Schapiro: No, something to zig-zag it. She didn’t let our hair grow. So we used to do that. We used to walk every morning, early in the morning, to go to walk to that factory when there was work. There wasn’t work all the time. And the reason I remember that it was winter, I’m going from one place to another as it comes back.
Prince: That’s alright. Just…
Schapiro: I remember, the reason I remember it was winter was because I remember being very hungry. So as I used to go, I always wanted to be on the end of the line, you know, on the end. And the reason for this was when I used to see that something green, a leaf or something that came out from the snow, I used to pick it and eat it.
Prince: I was going to ask you about that. If you, when you saw the buds and the flowers, what did you do then?
Schapiro: But they didn’t let you do that, you see. But they see you. You had to do it so they wouldn’t see you. But we did that. It was around May and you could see that something was going on. We really didn’t know what, but something was going on. All of a sudden we had heard, must have been around May 4th or 5th , that the German guard, one of the German guards fell in love with one of the Russian women. At that time, what else is new? Who the hell cared (laughing). But because he did that, and he knew that not just the Germans wanted to kill these Russian women, but the Russians weren’t so terribly delighted with them either. So he decided to take his motorcycle and a white flag, and he went to that little city, not too far from Linz, and he got the French prisoners of war, the political prisoners, and brought them with him, and they liberated us. And that was the 6th of May of 1945.
Prince: He organized his own little liberation.
Schapiro: He organized his own little liberation. He brought them. He brought these political prisoners. We really didn’t know what the hell was going on, to tell you the truth. All they came, they came and they told that aufseeren, that little beautiful blonde one that she should move aside and they are taking over. No food, no nothing.
Prince: Did they have a gun?
Schapiro: They have guns and they told her to stay still, they’re not gonna do anything to her and we are waiting for the Americans. The Americans are in Linz and they’ll be here in a day or two. I wished they would not come, to tell you the truth. And she said, “okay.” And she behaved herself very well. And we went over to these French people and we told them, “Do us a favor. We want the blonde one. We are not gonna kill her. We are not gonna beat her. We want to cut her hair.” So he said, “We have to let you do that. Wait until the American come. There is an American Major who is Jewish, and he will help you.” I wish I know his name; I’d have him killed. Anyway, the Americans came in. This Jewish major, in front of our eyes, gave a look at that face of the German tank, and we were finished. It’s not a pretty story, but that’s the truth. And she came and she looked at that Americans with the white gloves. They came with white gloves and they were dressed like in boxes. We never seen an American.
Prince: Oh, dressed like a band box, you mean.
Schapiro: Different, different. And she looks at I’ll them and she says, “Heil Hitler,” and this American Major says “Heil Hitler.” I won’t ever forget that, so see I don’t want to say it, but I’ll never forget it. And of course, we have never seen the German woman anymore because he went away with her. That’s how we were liberated. The first thing they did, they took away the three caskets, the three dead people. We told them that they were there for a long time and we were afraid of an epidemic. We told them that we didn’t have any food for days, so they said that they didn’t have any food yet, that it’s going to come, that we should go and get some food from the villages and we went out, and all we could get was potatoes. But what they had, they gave us. And that’s the way we were liberated. We stayed in that camp for about a week or so. Then they took us to Unterestreich, not too far by the Attersee, you know, where the lakes are which are really beautiful there, and they took us there to an army barrack. And they put us up there, and they gave us good food, and we stayed there for a while, but we never seen the German woman again, which no matter what they could have done for us, it really didn’t make any difference because when he took her away, that was the end.
Prince: Was there anybody, you know, you’re right, this is not a pretty story, but was there anyone who spoke to you?
Schapiro: Yes, the German woman spoke to us. I forgot to say that after she said, “Heil Hitler” (laughing), and they said she said we were very lucky, that she heard very things about the American, you know, the American soldiers, WR-9, the hands of Americans, which we are very lucky, and that’s that, you know. We wouldn’t need it.
Prince: Did anybody from the American’s army?
Schapiro: The American Army I really don’t think was ever prepared for that and knew what to do, you know. They really, they seen a bunch of monkeys. I mean, we looked like monkeys, you know.
Prince: Okay.
Schapiro: I mean, you know, anyway.
Prince: No, I don’t know.
Schapiro: You don’t know. I mean, it was sad. Look. The only thing that was sad about it, the only thing I had against them really, that they didn’t let me cut the hair.
Prince: Was there any other liaisons that…?
Schapiro: Not that I remember. But later on, when they took us over to that place what I told you, by the lakes where there was an army barracks, then there were doctors. They came and they examined. Some other people did.
Prince: Were you more or less left on your own?
Schapiro: Yes, for the first…there was a lot of confusion.
Prince: You could have walked out and gone down the road, and it wouldn’t have mattered?
Schapiro: It wouldn’t have mattered. That was at the beginning. It was still till they took us to that place that was organized.
Prince: You know, we have a discrepancy here because in the first part of the tape I think we were talking about going to Sweden, Sweden, Sweden, and then when you were leaving Auschwitz, you mentioned Switzerland, and I’m….
Schapiro: Well, that’s what the Germans kept on telling us.
Prince: You never went either place?
Schapiro: Never went, never went. No, those were just promises.
Prince: No, no, I don’t mean that. What I mean, was it either Switzerland and/or….
Schapiro: No, it’s always Switzerland.
Prince: Switzerland. So in the beginning…
Schapiro: Did I say Sweden?
Prince: I believe so.
Schapiro: I thought, oh, I’m sorry. I meant, Switzerland.
Prince: Maybe I’m wrong.
Schapiro: No, I think I said Switzerland, maybe Sweden, I don’t know. But it was Switzerland.
Prince: Okay, because it was neutral.
Schapiro: No, Switzerland. Right, it was Switzerland.
Prince: Alright. I have a lot of questions,
Schapiro: Go ahead.
Prince: But if we want to keep going…
Schapiro: Yeah, but I want to tell you, so at the river at that time, and we stayed in what used to be the army barracks, and they were very good to us. The Americans gave us food and they asked us where we wanted to go, and they asked us where we were and they took all the different things. And the doctors came in and they were very nice. They brought in American soldiers. The Russian soldiers started to come in, which was not so nice, because, you know, they were really, they were animals. And what was very sad, then they decided to send back all the people, back to their places where they came from. I, naturally, went back to Czechoslovakia. Meseryk was dead. Danusz was the prime minister, and he sent trucks to pick us up. The Russians also sent trucks for their people, you know, that were there. And the same people that they liberated us, watched these Russian people, jumped off the trucks and kill themselves just not to go back to Russia. And after seeing all that, I don’t know if anyone ever told you that. That was on my first tape, too, and I don’t know if you ever listened to that because when I came to this country, I got very involved with the League of Women Voters, and I have always been very interested in politics, not so much anymore, but with foreign policy, not so much anymore. And it has always been, I could never understand that all those soldiers see, and not just soldiers but the big echelon. The Majors and the Admirals and everybody, whoever was there, seen how people did not want to go back to Russia, and yet they have never done anything about it. And they all signed those treaties and I just can’t….till today it is bugging me.
Prince: Uh-huh, because we’re afraid of them.
Schapiro: Well, I don’t know why. You did not, at that time, you had nothing to be afraid of them.
Prince: Well, I think, listen they allowed them to go into Berlin and we held back.
Schapiro: I’m just saying that, you know, it was just something.
Prince: They were appeasing them.
Schapiro: You know, it is very difficult. There are so many things that happen in between, you know, _________ intertwined. So if you would ask me some other questions, it would be better that way.
Prince: Okay, I’d like to start back. I’ve been making some notes and I’d like to start back when you were in the cattle car going to Auschwitz. You didn’t know how long it took, but could you give some…I know you all thought you were going to Switzerland, but the discomfort…
Schapiro: The discomfort was terrible. There were no bathroom facilities. Once in a while, I think, very little food. I remember that at the time – it was really funny – that’s when everybody took out – I thought that we were the only ones that had the black bread and the bacon. In Hungary they called it “Szunka.” You know what I’m saying in Hungarian. What it was was a small bacon and the reason they took it and everyone had it because it was fat and it kept you it kept you warm and that was their philosophy. And I remember going there, everybody took a little piece of bread and it was such a big ceremony to take out the little piece of bread that you had to eat, and, oh you were so hungry and you had nothing to drink. And everybody was saving it. When we get to Switzerland, we don’t know what we gonna do that we have at least something to eat. And then I remember, we were all watching. It was such a misery to go there. No one ate. Everyone was so hungry, tried to sleep but it was dark, no air. And once in a while, the train stopped and they let you go out to the bushes, whatever. And it had to be at least three or four days. And I remember as a child, thinking back, “My God, I was so hungry. Couldn’t they give me a little bit of a bigger piece of bread?” So it was really torture.
Prince: Did you cry to your mother, your mother and father?
Schapiro: You know, it’s an amazing thing. Nobody cried. That was another thing. It was something, you know, everyone was in the same boat, and what are you gonna do? You know, I really don’t remember. I remember, in fact, I don’t even remember crying when I was in Auschwitz. I remember once or twice when I went by the dead people and it was just something. And I really cried from hunger more than anything else, but really not out of tremendous feelings or whatever. I really can’t say that I did. I really think that we were – the only word I can say is like animals. You know, it was just an amazing thing what people can become. It was just, it’s very difficult to explain, you know.
Prince: I would imagine. Could you try though? I visualize what you’re saying but could you…
Schapiro: Well it was like something you really didn’t think of anything else. You only, you thought of yourself. You only thought of your hunger. It was just something, and sometimes you had completely no feelings. Everything was just, “so what?”, you know. And I remembered this morning. I was driving in the car. I had to go someplace, and I went to the store, and as I was driving I was thinking that I had to come here, and I had seen a dog lying dead and no one moved, and I just thought to myself, “Look how pity and why doesn’t somebody stop and pick up the dog or something?” And then I was thinking, coming down here, “Look at all the feelings you had about the dog. You never had those feelings you were seeing all those people lying there.”
Prince: Well I can only think that when people don’t even have any…when they’re starving, there’s a lethargy that takes over that you cannot have the strength.
Schapiro: When I first came here and I don’t care if it is on. No, no. I remember a lot of the people asked me about Auschwitz and what happened, a lot of people. And I never wanted to talk about it. And the reason I never wanted to talk about it because I was always afraid that if I’m gonna tell stories that happened in Auschwitz and what happened to me and what I have seen, they would say I have a wonderful imagination and I was a liar. And I never wanted to be known as a liar because I remember as a child, they used to tell you that liars stole, and I always, you know, had the two of them together. “If you were lying, you were stealing.”
Prince: Yeah, I’ve heard that before.
Schapiro: So you couldn’t, and I just later on in years. And I agree with you. You were reduced…death is really as I’ve gotten older, as terrible as it was, and I have, of course, for my sister and my father especially, and all the other relatives and people that you lose. But I really think that what I always hated most about it is the way you lost your complete dignity. That you were no longer even a human being, that you were reduced to an animal almost like. And when I had my little dog, I gave him more consideration as something than I think back. And it happens even today and you are reminded of it almost every day, you know, the different things. And that was what was so pitiful about it. And another thing was very sad about it, that a lot of people came out very ugly, very mean and very bitter, and it left its scars.
Prince: How could they help but be that way in the beginning?
Schapiro: Well, I’m saying. Right, I agree. You know, I was talking to a friend this morning, and we were talking and I was telling her that I – I didn’t tell her where I was going, but I was saying that I was a little bit concerned about David. He got up. I had company last night. A cousin came in from Philadelphia and I fixed something I haven’t done for a long time, and David didn’t feel good. And I thought maybe it was the food. Then I realized that David had a lot of things on his mind, and he was upset. So she was questioning me, “Why are you and David nervous?” And I gave it a, and I finally said to her, I says, “I can’t tell you how many years was taken away from our lives. I mean, it leaves its toll. I don’t care how you slice it.” It’s true that today I am very grateful. I have a lot to be thankful for. My daughter is educated and she’s self-sufficient and very nice. David, thank God, has done very well. I live in a nice house. You know, the feelings and the hurts and the scars don’t go away. You know, I dress up and cover it up and going here, it doesn’t. And I’m not saying that as a complaint.
Prince: You’re not.
Schapiro: No, I’m not, because I am, really, and have always been grateful.
Prince: You don’t hear it as a complaint.
Schapiro: No. But it’s very, sometimes it is very difficult to live. You know, sometimes you are just existing. I still get nightmares, you know, when you wake up during the night, whatever. And I have been better than most, I must tell you.
Prince: Eva, when you talk about dignity and animals, you lost your dignity. Maybe this is presumptuous because I’m so far removed, but I don’t hear what you’re saying. You were there, but what I don’t hear is a loss of dignity.
Schapiro: Well, I want to tell you, when you don’t go like, when you go without asking questions. I mean I was very young, and sometimes I really think I couldn’t, but then I look at those people, now look, I must say, I would say they were, maybe dignity is not the word for it. But, to a certain extent it is because they have done a lot of things at Auschwitz, the Jewish people which I really would not want to say.
Prince: That’s still not a loss of dignity.
Schapiro: Yes it is.
Prince: You’re on another planet, you’re not in this world as it is, as you were taught to live. And you have to…
Schapiro: Maybe I picked the wrong word. It is self-respect. Maybe I’m using the wrong word.
Prince: Why are we Jews so hard on ourselves?
Schapiro: Well I never really think that I am. I really feel…and that’s one of the reasons when I first came and they started with all this and they always talked about Auschwitz and they educated the children about Auschwitz. I feel Judaism really has a lot of other things besides the Holocaust in common. I think that Jewish people are absolutely wonderful in very many ways. I think Jewish people have each other. I have Jewish people go out of their way to help other people, which I feel a lot of them don’t, but a lot of them do, too. I think our laws are very good. I think we give people breathing space, that they can live and feel and do. We don’t force them to believe in a certain kind of religions. I don’t think most of them do anyway. So I really think that Jewish people have a lot to offer besides the Holocaust. I really think that for a while there, that’s all we had to live for. It was for the Holocaust. And I really don’t feel that it is right. Now, I don’t think that we should ever forget it. If I would feel that way, I certainly wouldn’t be here because it is not just for us, but for everyone. It can happen to everybody.
Prince: That’s right. That’s one reason why we do do this. We do take these testimonies and we take interviews on the phone, the testimonies of non Jewish people.
Schapiro: Right.
Prince: But, for instance, you explained in the beginning that if people did something, they shot them if they did any resistance. Other people saw that, so if somebody did that, then maybe they would shoot their family. So there was a dignity in trying to save your family.
Schapiro: I don’t mean at that time. I think that by the time they took us and while we were there and we were in someone else’s homes, you know. Like they took us to the ghetto and we were not in our home. We went to someone else’s house. They put families together. But I think that by the time they took us to Auschwitz, and I think by the time they took us to the streets, like parading us through, we could have done something. Of course, I am talking. I couldn’t. I went myself, but I will tell you that never again would that happen to me.
Prince: Let me ask you, well, who could believe? It’s very easy for people to look now and say, but who could even dream that that was going to happen? Who could dream it would end like that, that people were going to be there? You couldn’t dream that up if you tried. Decent people, decent Jews, how could they bring that up? I think that – maybe I’m being defensive – but I think that we must not forget that persecution of the Jews has been going on for so long and everybody kept thinking, “Well, this will pass and so this is bad, and we’ll get through this, or this is worse what’s happening, but we’ll get through this.”
Schapiro: That was part of it.
Prince: Until it was the end and by that time, it was too late.
Schapiro: That’s right. It was.
Prince: Alright. When were you in the barracks?

Tape 2 - Side 2

Prince: Okay, go ahead.
Schapiro: Three o’clock or four o’clock in the morning, whenever they decided, they called us tzayl appel.
Prince: You’re describing a day in Auschwitz.
Schapiro: A day in Auschwitz or tzayl appel.
Prince: Tzayl, what does, “tzayl” mean?
Schapiro: Tzayl, tzayl, tzayl appel. I don’t know what it is. You just called it that, you know.
Prince: Appel is roll call. I just didn’t get the first word.
Schapiro: Right.
Prince: Is that c-e-l-l?
Schapiro: I don’t know if it…you know, the stalag like “Stalag 17.”
Prince: Oh, stalags.
Schapiro: Yes, like, you know, he said that. But anyway that was the first thing. You could stay there sometimes from 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock, 5 o’clock in the morning, till 10 or 11. Whenever he decided what he have to do that day. That was one thing. After that, if he let you go through, you had to run to the bathroom and it took at least a line or two in the line for an hour or two. There were only in each of these places, each of the camps, lagers. They called it the lager, like lager C. I was in lager C. In lager C, there were so many barracks, and in those barracks there were so many – let’s see, I don’t remember exactly how many. I wish they would show that movie again.
Prince: Well, they had open, like, concrete holes.
Schapiro: Yes, there were concrete holes and then –
Prince: All in a row.
Schapiro: All in a row. And in the same time, they also had only a row that was like, you know, like the cattle drink water from.
Prince: Troughs.
Schapiro: They had troughs. I don’t know what they called them. Yes. Everybody was sitting next to you, washing your hands or washing up a little naked and that’s all. So you did that. Now that took almost, I don’t know how long because you had to stay in line and it wasn’t just that you went in because it depends on how many people that were there. Then, in the morning, sometimes it was early in the morning, around 10 o’clock, sometimes it was noon and sometimes it was 4 o’clock that they gave you something to eat. What happened was that each lager, or each barrack went at certain times to pick up the food and till they gave it up, it was never on the same time. So you waited for the food, because if you left, you know.
Prince: You missed it.
Schapiro: And the rest of the time, if it was day, you walked around. You walked around like an idiot. You walked around like looking at the dead people, who were not the dead ones. Sometimes I remember, one day I had just, I was so bored with myself that really, I just couldn’t think. I went pounding and I always lost pounds and I just went around in a circle. And that was that. And you tried to get yourself so tired because all you slept on was the wood, you know. How you call those things? It was a square, you know, like a square.
Prince: Square?
Schapiro: Right here.
Prince: Wooden.
Schapiro: Wooden thing like…
Prince: Wooden, uh…
Schapiro: Wooden thing and there was nothing on it. There was no straw or nothing on it. So you really had nothing to sleep on and you were cold. The people went together close to warm each other. There were hardly any blankets and it used to get very cold in Auschwitz, like I say. And that was the day.
Prince: Did some people in Auschwitz work?
Schapiro: Very few, not from there. There were some people but not so much from my lager, not from there, because these were the late comers. You see, the people that worked were the Polish people that they came originally….
Prince: The Polish Jews.
Schapiro: The Polish Jews. Now, the friend that I have in Florida. She is in Florida but she is from the same home town. She worked. She was in a completely different place. I never seen her there. I just met her in Florida. And she was in a complete different place. She worked someplace but she knew somebody that worked and they gave her some food. They worked in hospitals or they cleaned or something, and things like that. I never worked. I only worked when I…
Prince: I suppose. But the men probably might have.
Schapiro: Well, the camp that I was in was no men, so I couldn’t tell you. But the other men, they, you know, they did work. They took them out to do hard labor and all that.
Prince: What did people talk about at the lager, in the barracks…I realize you were in a daze but I mean, did you know where you were when you woke up in the morning? Did you ever dream that you were home? Did you talk about home?
Schapiro: People talked about the holidays, you know, that they start all this time of the holidays and they used to talk what they used to eat and what they used to do. I remember that at one time, I really just got to the point where I felt very bad for myself and for the people, and I didn’t even know what day it was, to be completely honest with you. I never did. And I really didn’t know when the holidays were coming, but what I heard people say. And there were some people that they were really just very down, so I used to say that I just heard, I didn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t hear a thing, that “The war is gonna be over.” And they said, “How do you know that?” And I says, “I just heard.” “Where did you heard that?” “I heard it there.”
Prince: So you helped.
Schapiro: I didn’t. You know, I lied (laughing).
Prince: That’s dignity. That’s doing your part. That’s being responsible. That’s putting yourself out.
Schapiro: But that’s all it was. But most of them really didn’t say anything. Most of them didn’t have enough strength to say anything. You know, you were hungry. So once in a while, you talked about home and once in a while what it was.
Prince: Did people get along?
Schapiro: No. How can you, you know? You know, if you were watching, you come from, like I was, you know, I really can’t remember who were the other 12 people. I know that there were 12 or 14 people in the square cubicle. Have you ever seen the way Auschwitz was set up?
Prince: Uh-huh.
Schapiro: Oh, then you know.
Prince: Yes, I’ve seen pictures.
Schapiro: Oh, pictures.
Prince: More like diagrams, that kind of thing.
Schapiro: Right. You know, when Federation went to Auschwitz, I wanted to go with them and David didn’t let me, and I…
Prince: Is David a survivor?
Schapiro: David survived in Russia, you know…And David didn’t let me which I’m really very upset about even till today. You know, he never even let me collect from Germany money. I am the only one that doesn’t own a pension or doesn’t get any money because he didn’t want me to go and say – you know, because I used to have such nightmares. So, which it bothers me today, but I am the only one. I mean I am the only one from the people I know.
Prince: Yes.
Schapiro: Even in Florida, they are getting pensions and….
Prince: Why did he feel that way?
Schapiro: David was, David was an unusual man. David was hiding in Russia. He was in Russia. He was working. And he, when he sees something about Auschwitz, he’s having a harder time dealing with it than I am.
Prince: He wouldn’t – he wouldn’t want to do this.
Schapiro: Oh, maybe he’ll talk to you about Russia, I don’t know, but he will not…
Prince: Where was he born?
Schapiro: He was born in Rovno, in Poland. Russia. And he just couldn’t see to go through for that, you know, to go through this.
Prince: What did you have to go through to get reparations?
Schapiro: Well you have to fill out papers. I would have to tell them that and where I was born and all that. And, you know, he doesn’t want me to do that. And today….
Prince: Because he thought it would upset you?
Schapiro: Right, it would upset me. And today he pushes me. He wants me, in fact, he has never forgiven me now because I never discussed it. I never told Debbie about it.
Prince: Oh, so he wants you to.
Schapiro: He wants me to. But Debbie went by herself. I didn’t have to tell Debbie. Debbie went to Cornell and there was that professor that his son died in Entebbe. Eliyahu. The father, he was…
Prince: Oh, the father. How do you pronounce his name?
Schapiro: Eliyahu, E-L-I-Y-A-H-U, Eliyahu.
Prince: No, it starts with an “N.”
Schapiro: Netanyahu.
Prince: An the son, the other son is….
Schapiro: No, he didn’t have another son. He only had one son. He has a brother who is now the ambassador.
Prince: Oh, you’re talking about…I thought you meant Jonathon.
Schapiro: Jonathon’s father.
Prince: There were three boys.
Schapiro: There were three boys?
Prince: Yes.
Schapiro: Jonathon’s father was a professor at Cornell.
Prince: There were three sons.
Schapiro: Right. Jonathon’s father was a professor at Cornell.
Prince: Okay. And Benjamin is the ambassador.
Schapiro: Right.
Prince: And he’s in this country now.
Schapiro: Right.
Prince: One is…Jonathon was killed, and I don’t know about the others.
Schapiro: So Debbie took a course from him and she found out all about it.
Prince: Okay. I’d like to, well, we sort of covered it, but my question originally was your mood swings in Auschwitz, but you really….
Schapiro: Who had moods?
Prince: Well, you did, you did tell me.
Schapiro: We went from day to day.
Prince: But you did tell me that at one point you could lie to the other people because, to tell them, to help them. So that was…
Schapiro: I really don’t think that you realize an I really don’t think anyone can. And I’m not saying you got an…
Prince: No, I don’t. I don’t pretend to.
Schapiro: No, no, no, I don’t think anyone can. I really don’t think that anyone can realize a feeling or can ever explain. You know, I really, what it was like to be there. Do you know what I’m saying?
Prince: Yes.
Schapiro: It was even different that being a prisoner of war in any other camp, and I’m sure they have gone through a lot and people say whatever. But I really can’t explain. I really don’t think, especially, you know, for a reason but just from the idea of being Jewish. You see, that’s what made it so terrible. You see, if you are in a war and you are-
Prince: Fighting for a cause.
Schapiro: Fighting for a cause – but this was so, I can’t tell you how terrible that was. I can’t tell you. I can’t explain the feeling. I can’t tell you what it is when you have to get up morning after morning to nothing and to hunger and top pity, an to see people laying dead.
Prince: Why didn’t you put yourself on the wire?
Schapiro: You know, it’s a funny thing. So many times I had been close to that wire and I remember walking, and I can still feel myself going walking and trying to touch it. And then I always used to think to myself, “No, I’m not gonna give them the satisfaction.” You know, it was really just simple. And afterward, you know, you just go around and just one thing after the other and said, “Hell, who cares?” or “Who will care?” or “Who gives a damn?”
Prince: But you still never did it.
Schapiro: Never did it, never did it. Just like I could never go into the Yad Vashem till not long ago when I went to Federation last time. I could never bring myself to see Yad Vashem.
Prince: Did you have hope, or did you think that….
Schapiro: Yes, I think we did have hope. I really think that the only way it was to survive that eventually – at the beginning you didn’t, but eventually you got to the point that you thought, “Well it cannot be that way. Maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow.”
Prince: When you were stronger, you didn’t have as much hope as when you were really weaker.
Schapiro: Right. When you were weaker, you said you know, “Who cares?” so you know.
Prince: Yes, yes.
Schapiro: But you did have hope. Otherwise you could have never survived.
Prince: Hope and dignity, dignity and hope.
Schapiro: Maybe. But you see, otherwise you can really never make it. You really can’t ever make it.
Prince: One area, your mother, you and your mother. You were young when you went into Auschwitz, so your mother was, of course, your mother and had taken care of you.
Schapiro: No, she didn’t.
Prince: No, I mean before. Before you went in.
Schapiro: Right.
Prince: You were younger and she had taken care of you. Then you went to Auschwitz, and right away, even before I finished you said, “No, she didn’t.”
Schapiro: No, you couldn’t. I mean there was, you know, you were even afraid to admit that you were a mother or something, you see, and as much as you didn’t want to, I did. I mean I really didn’t make any bones about it. But she was always afraid and whatever, and we were always afraid to talk. And I think what made such a strain on it, that she was so worried about my sister. And I was too. And I don’t want you to – and when I think of her, you know, and I really think that she is really – if her story could ever be told, her feelings, which I can’t, she really was fighter and a survivor. I really have to respect her. See I didn’t do anything out in the streets there something with a – but she fought. You see, she ran and she made them look for her and they were shooting after her and they couldn’t shoot her. Life is so unfair. That’s really what’s so sad about the whole thing. For days she used to hide without food and without nothing. And somehow she always surfaced and then they recognized her again. It was such a tragedy, really, death is….
Prince: Do you remember what she was…you said when they took her away, she was crying out. Do you remember what she was saying?
Schapiro: For my mother. I never forget, you know, really.
Prince: Did your mother change after that?
Schapiro: Yes, she changed a lot. She became very mean. She really did, not that I blame her for it.
Prince: No, we’re not even talking like that. You don’t have to…
Schapiro: Right. But you know. But, look, I have a child. I can never understand that you have a child on your own, what it is to see, to take away a child.
Prince: Did you and your mother, was there a change….
Schapiro: Yes.
Prince: In responsibilities…
Schapiro: No, not change in responsibilities. My mother has always been a very strong, domineering person. And there was never any change in responsibilities. I am not, I don’t have to duel the world. You know what I’m saying?
Prince: Uh-huh.
Schapiro: I like to—
Prince: Keep peace.
Schapiro: Keep peace and let live, you know.
Prince: Yes.
Schapiro: I do not—
Prince: Impose your will.
Schapiro: No. Sometimes it’s not good. I even went to a course but it didn’t help me much.
Prince: Assertive training? (laughing)
Schapiro: (laughing)
Prince: It’s hard to strike the happy medium.
Schapiro: But it does, and that’s why I say this is what I mean, that what it has done to people. And I’m not saying – to I me, too! Listen, I’ll be very honest with you. I would be lying to you if I would say that did not hurt me.
Prince: I’m struck by sitting here looking at you, and you are an attractive woman. I know the area in which you live, and it’s a lovely area. And you’re articulate and I keep thinking, you know what I see when I look at you? I see the little girl who was eating with the gypsies and who the gypsy man…
Schapiro: I love gypsies….
Prince: And I wonder if you could reflect for a minute on, if this had not happened, maybe where you would be living, and what kind of life…
Schapiro: You know something, I have often thought of that myself. I could have never lived the kind of life that they live in Europe, so I really don’t know what would have happened. Not because of money, don’t misunderstand, it has not to do with that. But, maybe turn it off because in case I wouldn’t want to get….It was really funny. It was of habits. It was, you know, it was of attitudes. Okay. I have even as very young, because I was exposed to different things on my father’s side of the family. I really had a hard time living up to all the things my mother’s side of the family wanted me to do. Like they did not want me to go to Hebrew school because at that time it was Zionism and they did not believe in Zionism. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a very religious man. You know, they said they were religious. And I really, and I was torn, to be completely honest. I mean, my father was from a certain kind of a religious home, and my mother was from a certain type, and I really – to tell you the truth, I didn’t want to listen to either one of them. (Laughing).
Prince: You had a mind of your own.
Schapiro: So that was that. So, what I want to get back to is they never explained anything and it always bothered me that they never explained. So when I had trouble with the – what I didn’t know what that blood was about and what menstruating was and as I was walking and took my specimen into the doctor to check it, and I looked at the pictures on the wall, and they were all wonderful pictures of babies and turning. And he came in and he had a very bald head, and he always used to keep his hands in the back, and he says, “Ah, you are fascinated.” And I said, “Yes I am.”
Prince: Pictures of babies being born?
Schapiro: Born. And I said, “What happened?” I kept asking him questions. And he says, “You mean you don’t know?” An I said no. I said, “You know, doctor, when I see a pregnant lady, I am so smart, I go across the street.” So he says, “You mean you don’t know where babies come from?” And I says, “You know, what else?” And I keep on telling him that here I am, I’m very sick and I’m going to die. And he was very kind.
Prince: So your original reason for going there was to take your father’s specimen because he was sick…
Schapiro: Right, right, right.
Prince: But you started to talking to him because of the picture of babies.
Schapiro: Right. So then I was talking to him and he gave me – he explained to me everything. And he gave me some books to read. I took the books home and I was hiding the books because I knew that my mother would find the books. And if he gave it to me, I mean, sure enough, she found the books, and she was hollering and she went to him. “What is he telling me?” and all that. And you know, that’s why I really would have had, and you know, you would think that she’s a backward woman. She isn’t. No. She is today, she was, when she came back, she was very exposed. She loved beautiful clothes. But European people have different values.
Prince: Do you think that you might have gone elsewhere to live, that you would have gone maybe away to school, hopefully.
Schapiro: Absolutely, sure. What happened was, I had two uncles in the United States, and two aunts from my father’s side, that I am sure that eventually I would have somehow wound up here.
Prince: Here anyway. Well, that’s interesting. I’m glad I asked you. Your father – you never saw him again after you got off the train?
Schapiro: What happened we don’t know. He got off the train, when we got off the train, my father was taken away. We never heard about my father or anything. One time we went in, after we came to Linz, or Lenzing, where I was working, and I don’t know how or when, but they brought in a transport at one time, that the people came from Auschwitz. And they were working there, too, and they started to talk to us. And I always asked did they see a man by the name of Leibowitz, and his name was Bumi in Hungarian and Abraham was his given name. And you know, everybody said, “Yes, we did, and yes, we did.” You really couldn’t believe because everybody wanted to tell you all the good things. But it was funny, that man told me, “I worked with him on the job and he died.”
Prince: Oh, and that was the first person who had said that.
Schapiro: And I just really couldn’t believe that he really died. So I thought, you know, they always tell you and you think, “How does he know?” And I was telling him he was a handsome man, and then I looked back and, “was he a handsome man?” You know, the people there were like, you know, musselmans, who was handsome anymore? They looked at me and they just smiles, “Yes, yes, he was.” And that was that. Then Danusz sent trucks for pick up all the people. So he sent…
Prince: All the Czechoslovakians after the war.
Schapiro: All the Czechoslovakian people after the war. I insisted to go back to Czechoslovakia. My mother really didn’t want to go, but I said I wanted to go, that I wanted to go find my father. So they took us back to Prague and in Prague they let you off in front of – I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Prague.
Prince: No.
Schapiro: In Prague there is a, Prague is a beautiful, old city and when we came back to Prague, they took us to the bus station which is not too far from the train station which is not too far from that magnificent big church. And they let you off there and you were on your own. So then you had to find a way to go back to Munkacs. And I insisted to go back to Munkacs. So, as a refugee, coming out from the camps, they let you go free on the trains. So you went to the train station and you told them, and there were a lot of people. And they let you in to go to the cattle cars – again cattle cars.
Prince: Hm.
Schapiro: And you went into the cattle cars, and…
Prince: Wasn’t that an uncomfortable thing for you?
Schapiro: Wait, “uncomfortable” is not the word for it. Besides that, there was set up a place like a YMCA or something like that where they gave you some food to take with you, very little. And that’s what we did. And we went in there. It took us I don’t know how many days to get home because the Russian soldiers, when they decided that they wanted the cattle car for them and their girlfriends, they came, and whether it was night or day, they were always drunk, and they decided to throw you out, and sometimes you were staying in the fields until another cattle car came two or three days later. By the time we came home to Munkacs, which was quite a few weeks later, we got off the train. The Russians were there. Who the hell knew the Russians were such animals? I mean, really, they were just unbelievable people!
Prince: Animals.
Schapiro: Their behavior, really, they just didn’t care. They didn’t. That was horrible!
Prince: What did they do?
Schapiro: Well, they had raped a lot of people. Luckily I have always run away from them. But they, young and all the like. They have taken away everything you had. If you had a dress on, as little as you had, they took it away from you.
Prince: How would you describe them at that time differently than the Germans?
Schapiro: You know something, I know this is gonna be very difficult for you to take, but I have never seen the Germans behave as bad as the Russians. I have never seen as many Germans rape as many people as the Russians did.
Prince: Oh my God.
Schapiro: And I told that to David. I have never seen, as bad as the Germans were. Now the Germans were very bad in Auschwitz.
Prince: They were systematically….
Schapiro: Right. They did it in groups and whatever they did what they did, and they did it in the name of…but this was after the war. They were supposed to be our liberators.
Prince: Yeah. Yeah. Were their officers the same?
Schapiro: All of them, all the same. I can’t even stand the Russians Jews for that reason. I have no use for them. And David, on the other hand, he was there in Russia, he sees a complete different side of them.
Prince: Oh, oh, sure.
Schapiro: But they are not…I’m sorry.
Prince: No, you can only call it as you see it, that’s all. I had that as a question and you have answered it because you had mentioned it before, and I was going to ask you that.
Schapiro: Anyway, so when we came back, they all took us into a thing and it was very difficult to get out. We had to run away from there.
Prince: So did they finally….
Schapiro: Well, I will have to tell you how I ran away from Russia, but that is really. You know, I’m afraid it is too much.
Prince: Okay, so you went back to look for your father.
Schapiro: I went back for my father and when I came off the train, the Russians were there, and instead of letting us go wherever we have to go to work, there was no place to go.
Prince: Oh, that was it.
Schapiro: That was it.
Prince: So you were under Russian rule then.
Schapiro: Russian rule. Then we came back. We went back to the people, to the friends of my father’s, and we went back to our house. We didn’t find anything. They took away all the furniture. It was empty. We couldn’t stay there. It was all broken up.
Prince: That must have been so…like the end of a bad dream.
Schapiro: It was. But then we went back to the people that my father – you know, his friends and, believe it or not, they gave us back everything. They had it all packed up and they gave it back to us.
Prince: They had been saving your things for you. That’s why they weren’t in the house.
Schapiro: Uh-huh.
Prince: Did you stay with them for a while?
Schapiro: No, we did not stay with them. We got the, a place. We knew someone, and we got a little apartment, my mother and I. And we fixed it up and we were ready to move in, which was about a couple of weeks later. All that time, while I was in Munkacs back, and the first thing I found out is my father did die, by the way, yes.
Prince: You found that out from someone else?
Schapiro: By someone else. And they told the same story, so I knew it wasn’t luck, as much as I could know. It had to be the truth, I don’t know. And we fixed up all the time I was in Munkacs, I always had to hide because the Russians were always after you, Russian men, Russian soldiers. One night I spent in a feather comfort, between the feathers. They were always drunk. They were always knocking on – they followed you. Wherever you went, they followed you. You remember the coat I mentioned, that beautiful coat I got? So these people kept it for me and the first thing I did is I got out that coat and I got out a pair of beautiful shoes. I will never forget that. I was supposed to go to school in that and you see, I never went to school. And I never wore it. And they were so tight (laughing), but I wore them anyway. I was walking on the street and all of a sudden I hear that tap, and that’s a Russian bavisna. You know what a Russian bavisna is? A Russian soldier, a Russian woman soldier, and she showed me, I should take off the coat. And I’m standing there. I was there with somebody and they say, oh my aunt. And she says, “Just take your coat off. She wants your coat.” I had to take the coat off and I have to give it to her and she took it away.
Prince: You went through all that, you had your coat back and she took it away.
Schapiro: Right. She took it away.

Tape 3 - Side 1

Prince: Okay.
Schapiro: I have really suffered a lot after the war, as much if not more I have suffered all during the war because it was just so difficult to come out after all that and be confronted. So we fixed up a nice, little apartment. My mother, all her life, she was always, one thing was very important to her.
Prince: What was it?
Schapiro: Everything, the nice dishes. Like, for instance…
Prince: What was the word you used?
Schapiro: Materialistic (laughing). It used to be we had beautiful dishes, but there were time there was nothing to put on the plate. But the dishes were magnificent. And just, they were…and so we really fixed up a lovely little apartment. It really was nice with the curtains and a window open. It was just wonderful to have after so much ___work?____, you know, and that. And we had it all fixed up. I never forget it. On a Friday night when we were supposed to move in, an we didn’t realize that this Russian guy, major or whatever, was following us. And when it was all fixed up, he came over and he said that he is going to move in with us. Now that scared us very much. Well we told him that would be wonderful if he would come and move in with us, but we have to pick up something that he would absolutely be crazy about. And without anything again, we ran away. We went to the train station, an we went to Bucharest.
Prince: Oh my Lord.
Schapiro: And we stayed there for a while. So when I tell you that I had much – you know, resentment toward the Russians than I have toward the Germans, you know. I…
Prince: You talked about fixing your place up and those are the outside things. How did you go back, fixing up the inside things? What I mean is – and I’m not asking you generally. I’m asking you specifically.
Schapiro: What inside things?
Prince: I’m talking about you were reduced to…well, I’ll begin again. You were a normal human being living a normal life. You were put in a situation that reduced you to what you call…
Schapiro: Abnormal.
Prince: Abnormal. Would you say it was easier to go from normal to abnormal than from abnormal back to being normal?
Schapiro: From abnormal to go back to normal. That’s what I tried to tell you before. Never – there are certain scars, certain things that they will never be the same. There’s a part of your life, especially such a young life that I had, that will never come back. I never knew what youth was. My whole, most of my youth was spent in misery. I mean, how do you correct that? Do you know what…and I’m not the only one. Isn’t that what you are talking about?
Prince: Yes, um, an example though is a man that I interviewed who…we were talking about normal life and he learned to steal and he said that after the war – he, soon after the war, he had to restrain his hand from taking things. That is was…he found it more difficult to…
Schapiro: Be honest?
Prince: He’d come back…
Schapiro: True.
Prince: Because he had had to do that.
Schapiro: Well, that’s what I told you before. A lot of people came out with not very, a lot of, you know, a lot of very terrible things happening to them, and I really was very lucky because after what I seen, I think I have come out with more bitterness from after the war than I came from. I don’t know, because I understood less or we were all there and I felt that it was done by people that was – because it was a war. But this was after the war. I have seen a friend of mine when I was in, when I was running from the Russians. So we run from them to different places. It was very difficult. It was my mother and I. So at one time, I went, you know I had an uncle that went to Israel and he was in Rome in a little town, Soriano, not too far from castle. And there was a mother and a daughter and they told their story that those…the Russians were going to rape the daughters, so the mother said, “Take me instead.” So they took both of them. The mother – the daughter died after the war. After the war.
Prince: Yeah, after the war.
Schapiro: After the war the daughter died and the mother had to live with that. And I remember the story, you know, and whatever it is. And there were a lot of stories like that. You see, what happened to the Germans which a lot of people – I am sure that they have with me and a lot of – it was very ugly. And I don’t want you to misunderstand.
Prince: I’m not misunderstanding, Eva. They were both terrible in different ways.
Schapiro: They were both terrible—
Prince: In different ways.
Schapiro: In different wars. But this was from a maniac that he was doing that.
Prince: You’ve already stated that the war was over. There was supposed to be a….
Schapiro: The war was over! The war was over! Absolutely, the war was over, and these were supposed to be our liberators.
Prince: Did they also do this to non-Jewish people or was it just Jews?
Schapiro: All around. They didn’t care, they don’t know. You know I’ll tell you something that was amazing what they have done. So amazing that the United States never caught on on it. I told you that we had to get out from the cattle cars, you know, or wherever we were traveling. Like, for instance, wherever you went, if you showed them some kind of a ticket…
Prince: (mumbled)
Schapiro: Yes, or something like that, that they let you go on. So we traveled from place to place because you see, there was really no place to stay. Then it became very terrible because they didn’t let you go out anymore. They wanted you to stay in Russia. So then you had to run after the train. First they let you go wherever you wanted to go,
Prince: They?
Schapiro: The Russians.
Prince: The Russians.
Schapiro: Right. So then we were – we went to Bucharest and we stayed in Bucharest for a while.
Prince: If you hadn’t left, you’d be behind the iron curtain.
Schapiro: No, if I hadn’t left, that’s right. I would have been behind the iron curtain.
Prince: (mumbled)
Schapiro: But this was in Munkacs and they are there. And you know, we just left by accident or I would have been there. You know, my uncle was a major in the American army and when he heard what was going on, and he heard about the survivors, he met…he was some place in Italy, and he met two Israeli boys, that they were partisans, and he told them….
Prince: Palestinians at that time.
Schapiro: Right. And he told them…
Prince: Not Palestinians as we know them now.
Schapiro: No.
Prince: Those are Arabs now.
Schapiro: Right.
Prince: It was before Israel was a State.
Schapiro: So he told them, “You know I will give you so much money if you will go to Munkacs and you will find my family and gather them and bring them where we can send them ticket, you know, passports to come to the United States.” Then we came back from Bucharest, looking around, and had no place to be.
Prince: You mean you were in Bucharest.
Schapiro: But we came back from Bucharest, back to Munkacs.
Prince: Oh, you went back. Okay.
Schapiro: Sure, I had no place. There was nothing in Bucharest, walking down the streets, too. I mean, wherever you went, you walk the streets and nothing to eat. You know. You have to beg . It wasn’t easy. You had to go to these places, you know, where they set up these soup kitchens or whatever it was. It wasn’t a pleasant way to live and to grow up. So we came back. We decided. I didn’t decide. My mother decided there’s nothing to do, so we go back to Bucharest, maybe to Munkacs. Maybe he moved out from the place. We are not there anymore. Maybe he is not there. Well, he was still there, so we found another little place. It was a little raunchy, but we had to stay there. So we stayed there and one day someone said – there was some other people that came back also looking for some of their relatives. So they said, “You know, there is an Israeli man, a soldier, but he looks like an English man. He doesn’t look like the Russians…” You heard a soldier, you know, you run. Looking for you. My aunt was there at the time. Sure enough, the aunt who was looking for us and she said that there was here a Israeli soldier and my uncle hired him or told him, and he came to look for us, and that whatever we can do to get out some place we go to, preferably, to Italy where he can send us a visa so we can come to the United States.
Prince: My heavens, was it like, “Can I live?”
Schapiro: Nah. With our luck, we go to the train station within two days, and you cannot get on the train. The Russians would not let you out. By that time, everybody was going and they were getting smart. Well, you should have seen…I was running after the train on one side. My mother was running after the train on the other side and luckily there was a man that was standing there and picked us up and pulled us on the train.
Prince: Oh my God – and that was it. And you got out.
Schapiro: Wait, I’m not out yet. We are finally (laughing) on the train and who should be on the train but the Major, that Russian Major. That man was very smart, and he was an elderly man, and he told them that I was his wife. (pause) And he said, “That was okay,” that he didn’t care, or whatever. I was running from one thing to another after them. I finally lost them in Budapest.
Prince: Who was this elderly man?
Schapiro: A ___________…
Prince: Was he…
Schapiro: He was very nice.
Prince: What nationality was he?
Schapiro: I don’t know.
Prince: Was he Russian or Czech?
Schapiro: No, he was not Russian, no.
Prince: Czech?
Schapiro: No. It must have been Czech or whatever. And that’s how I got out. So then I got to Budapest.
Prince: You and your mother are still together.
Schapiro: Right. In Budapest we finally lost them. You know, Budapest was a big city. From Budapest we went (sighing) some place and we got, we went to Germany. In Germany we got a hold of the Israeli underground, and the Israeli underground took us at night through the mountains into Italy, to Padua, Italy.
Prince: Yes, I’ve heard. That was like the Jewish Brigade.
Schapiro: Right.
Prince: Do you remember what they called it? Was it the Haganah or the Jewish Defense Brigade?
Schapiro: No, it was not the Haganah. It was just the kibbutzim at that time. At that time it was just partisans. It was the Jewish from Israeli partisans. The Haganah came later into being. But that’s how I got to Italy at night.
Prince: Alright, this is “Sister” Prince, and I’m conducting a second interview with Eva Schapiro. Today is September 17, 1986. And we’ll continue where we were. Go ahead Eva, because you were…
Schapiro: Okay. So then we came to Padua. We stayed in Padua for about two or three days and again it was the Israeli partisans or they were people that they were sent from Israel. I really at that time, I really don’t know who they were. But I know that one of them worked for my hometown, a young man whose name was Schoenfeld from the Schoenfeld family. And he said that we gonna to ________, that we gonna go to now to Cremona and that’s just what we did. They came for us. They sent – I don’t remember if it was automobiles. I really don’t remember exactly if it was trucks or we went on the train. But we went to Cremona.
Prince: Was that the place like where many Jews were gathering?
Schapiro: Yes. Cremona was very, very interesting. Cremona was a displaced persons’ camp and there were a lot of people, a lot of Jewish people there that had come from all over and they were all waiting to go to Israel or to go to the United States. And everybody went wherever they wanted to go from there. They had schools and it was supported by the UNWRA and the Joint Distribution Committee. You know, that –
Prince: Joint Distribution.
Schapiro: The Italian people were absolutely marvelous. They have milk so Jewish people can have it and the old people could have it. And what it was, it was an army barracks before. At the time that’s where they put the Jewish people. And they stayed there. Some of them were there three, four years, waiting to go to different places.
Prince: You were 17 years old then.
Schapiro: I was about 17 years old then, yes I was. And I was teaching children Hebrew. I spoke Hebrew and I was teaching in Hebrew, and it was an absolute amazement to me. I’m just telling you a story that has nothing to do with that time.
Prince: Yes there is.
Schapiro: Some of these children, they grew up in – they didn’t grow up that their families and their parents were hidden in caves like under the ground in Poland in all that time. And these kids were born there. Some of them were born there. And they literally looked like little monkeys. They have hair on their faces and everything. I will never forget that.
Prince: How did they act?
Schapiro: First they acted pretty scared, you know. I mean, you really are scared. It was a very difficult time. It was very difficult to understand for people who did not go through this period. And sometimes everybody remembers different things because all of us remember different things that made an impression or scared us or so, I guess…So a lot of people, I would say, when I first came here, I never wanted to talk about it because I was always afraid they were gonna say that I was lying and what a good imagination I had.
Prince: Uh-huh.
Schapiro: Because it was really very difficult to imagine that this can happen to human beings. I must tell you that, really.
Prince: Eva, what was, what were people like. I mean, just describe anything that comes to your mind.
Schapiro: Okay. In my estimation, from what I, I came from a family or my parents’ house, sometimes manners were much more important than a lot of other things. You know, they would put great emphasis on it. And I remember looking at these people an their manners an they’re absolutely terrible. Like if I used to watch how they were eating, I couldn’t imagine. How can they eat like that?
Prince: With their hands –
Schapiro: With their hands and pushing in something. It took me a long time to realize that these people had really no raising. Just like I haven’t. I mean, I left…
Prince: They had no what?
Schapiro: No raising.
Prince: No raising.
Schapiro: You know, because some of them grow up on their own—
Prince: Right.
Schapiro: You know, whatever it was. But little by little, it was amazing. They have opened the schools in the camps and they started to cook meals for themselves, and it was a complete new rehabilitation, a new education.
Prince: You had so many different kinds of people there. You had people that were older, who had lived a life where they did the regular things, and then you had people that were hidden and raised – but we were talking about that before, the difficulty of coming back.
Schapiro: Right. And it was really very, very difficult. But little by little, they came.
Prince: Were people sad? Were they…?
Schapiro: A lot of them were sad. A lot of them were sad. A lot of them were mean. A lot of selfishness.
Prince: You’ve brought that up a few times. Would you care to enlarge on it?
Schapiro: Well you know it was really very difficult. I have, I guess, I don’t know because I was so young and foolish, I would say. I really expected people that they went through and so much, to be nice. But these people really weren’t nice. Not because – but then I realized it was not that they were not nice, it was – they were afraid. They were so afraid to trust, you know. It took a long time. I remember when I first got liberated and I was then out for a walk in Padua. I don’t know if you’ve ever been Padua, but Padua is absolutely a magnificent city. And I came there, and they were selling chestnuts on the streets and we had very little money, but on both sides on the highway, on the streets they had these bushes. And they called them, and they had beautiful white flowers. And they were – I found out later that they were bay leaves, that that’s the way the bay leaves grow. So you can imagine the smell of that, how wonderful it was. And I used to love to walk because when I was walking I always turned my head in the back. For a long time, it took me three years not to turn my head. I was always looking back if a German or a Russian wasn’t following me. So we all had all these, a lot of insecurities and a lot of miseries. So after a while, it takes you a long time, I must say. Now, when I look back, if I would have spoken to you then, I would have been full of complains and hate and resentments. Today when I look back, I can see what has happened. I know what happened to me.
Prince: Well I think some hate and bitterness and resentment was due you.
Schapiro: Well, yes, but not toward one another. You see, we all went through the same thing.
Prince: Except that, you know, it’s like in a family. Sometimes you take it out on people that are the closest to you because you can’t take it out on anyone else.
Schapiro: Exactly. So that’s what happened.
Prince: Did you have any help, Eva, in those displaced persons’ camps? What kind of treatment did you get ? Did you have….
Schapiro: Not really. What happened….
Prince: Did you have counsel of your own, like…
Schapiro: No, no, nothing like that. What is very unfortunate, what has happens, what happens with everything, what happens even today with organizations, everybody starts out with all good intentions, but then grief takes over, and it was very disturbing to see because they did send from the United States. Boats used to come in with coffee and a lot of things and with food, but it never got to us because the people sold it before the boat docked, and you see, that’s what happened. When I was teaching, David learned very quickly Italian, and David was the Italian interpreter for the camp. David and I got married in Cremona, in Italy.
Prince: Where did you meet David? In Cremona?
Schapiro: In Cremona, yes.
Prince: How long did you know him before you married him?
Schapiro: A very short time. I think the most I knew him was about three months. And he was there with a father and two brothers that they went to Israel. And when we got married, he decided to go with me to the United States. And David was interpreter. He spoke a very good Italian, so he was the interpreter for the camp. So he used to go to interpret for whatever they needed, a wedding or they had to go to the officer, so whatever it was. But the truth is that we had very little help. They did bring in – there was a committee or whatever, but I really don’t remember that, to tell you the truth, because I remember always we are doing everything for ourselves.
Prince: Mm-hm.
Schapiro: And especially David. David was always very resourceful and he did everything. So I really don’t remember ever going to a – Who was there was a Rabbi an he kind of tried to be sure that everybody was Jewish and remained Jewish and whatever. But that’s about the only thing I remember.
Prince: Okay. So you had food for your physical needs. You had no real help for your emotional things. How about medical needs, because you had to be – your teeth – not you particularly, but peoples’ teeth, the illness, the food affecting them…
Schapiro: Unfortunately, yes. You see, it happened with the teeth that most people had – the teeth were very bad for a lot of the people. It was, you know, had a very hard time to worry about it. And then, the only help we had which was very foolish is the people that came from Poland. They started to have some little practices in the camp, and you went to them. Whichever, people that were – you know.
Prince: You mean doctors?
Schapiro: Doctors. They said that they were doctors at home.
Prince: But there was no medical facility set up for you all.
Schapiro: There was no medical facility set up right there. If you wanted to go to a doctor, if you wanted someone good, you better on the outside. Otherwise they were all like – I really never met a doctor, but I know that I went to a dentist and I wish I would have never did. He ruined all my – you know, he really ruined me for life, but that’s beside the point because I didn’t go outside of the camp. I remained in the camp for that. Now a lot of women had abortions. I know they went outside the camp. They all went to private doctors, whoever did them. And that’s all I really can remember. I remember – that’s all I can remember about it.
Prince: Who ran this camp? You said the Joint and the HIAS?
Schapiro: The Joint and the HIAS, but I really, there was somebody there. I think he was – I don’t know if he was an Italian. I think it was an Italian man that was in charge of it. There was really no big running because everybody kind of did their own thing.
Prince: Was it enclosed by anything?
Schapiro: It was enclosed, yes, it was enclosed, but you were free to go wherever you wanted to go anytime.
Prince: How was it enclosed? Was it by barbed wire?
Schapiro: No, no, it was just like a regular camp. You know, in Europe, most of the big places have like a fence. And this was a fence.
Prince: Did that fence bother you?
Schapiro: No, not really. It’s amazing, Cremona was such a wonderful place that really, nothing really bothered me. First of all, we were very happy to be free. I must tell you that the most important thing in my life was at that time that there was meat to eat.
Prince: Meat.
Schapiro: All I wanted, you know. It was just something. We all, everyone of us had something else. I was young, so I wanted meat, okay, whatever. People, other people, you know, they were anxious to be able to go to the synagogue. A lot of the people were involved in the black market and they made a lot of money. And a lot of them, they were arresting, and they were – everybody had something else. It was just, you know, it was just like everyday life.
Prince: Was it hard to – I mean like you said, you kept turning your head to see if somebody was behind you. What was it like to be free?
Schapiro: Well after a while it was just – I can never explain the feeling of this. It was just like you finally realize there is no one following you. When I first, you know, the reason I mention it, whenever I moved I had porches. You know, enclosed porches. And the reason I wanted it, when it rains outside I love to be in an enclosed place till today –
Prince: Like today. It’s raining outside.
Schapiro: Like today. I am inside and I’m looking out and I beat the system. Do you know what I’m saying?
Prince: Sure. You’re not out there cold and wet.
Schapiro: I’m not out there cold and wet. It is just – I can’t tell you what it is. It is the greatest feeling in the world and that is really – and it is just one – I can’t – never explain what it was for the first time to realize, “Hey, you don’t have to get up to be counted.” It’s just really wonderful, it really is.
Prince: Do you feel like, since you went through something like that, the camp Auschwitz, deprivation, persecution? And, as you say, you beat the system. Do you feel like you can – there’s nothing you can’t do?
Schapiro: No, I don’t, I really don’t. I have – it left me and I’m sure a lot of other people with a lot of insecurities, lots of fears, lot of emotions that sometimes you don’t even know what they are but they are there. It’s very difficult. I been trying – you know, is this on?
Prince: It’s on.
Schapiro: I asked, at the beginning, I thought, you know, I should get help, and I did because the nightmares were miserable, really. But you just can’t – it’s there.
Prince: It’s there and nothing can erase it.
Schapiro: Nothing does erase fear, no.
Prince: When you read, like yesterday or the bombing of the synagogue in Istanbul last week….
Schapiro: It bothers me a lot. I, you know, it does. Every time you read of something like that, you are very affected and you become, you know, that you want to fight and “Never again and never” of course, every little thing. When it comes to something like this, it becomes very emotional.
Prince: I guess the difference in ages was – must have affected everybody, what was important to you…
Schapiro: Are you cold?
Prince: No, I’m fine, thank you. Are you too cold?
Schapiro: No, no, I’m fine.
Prince: Your mother, for instance, being older – you lost your father, she lost a husband. Your life was ahead of you. Hers was sort of somewhere in the middle. I guess – how did you see older people reacting?
Schapiro: In the beginning I remember I was very aware of older people and I always wanted to feel that you always did the right thing because there were not that many older people coming out. You know, there were a lot of older people and they died; there were a lot of old people that they killed.
Prince: So they were – the older people were a rarity?
Schapiro: So older people were a rarity and you really wanted to protect them and you wanted to do everything for them.
Prince: And did you feel like you sort of needed them because you didn’t have…
Schapiro: Yes. We sort of always felt like we really had no one to learn from.

Tape 3 - Side 2

Schapiro: They came, they came out sick, they came out bitter, they came out resentful, so they really were not too much help, you know, at the very beginning. And even I remember they came, you know, in Cremona they were there. You really kind of wanted to stay away from them because basically they really were not very nice. They demanded a lot of you and besides, it’s something that you don’t understand. European life and European people react differently to generations, or at that time it was. I mean, then you seen an older person, you stayed like, you know, “hupteit.” I mean, it was, you know, very, very –
Prince: What’s that word?
Schapiro: “Hup” – very, very….
Prince: Uptight?
Schapiro: Hupteight, you know, like
Prince: Is that a German word?
Schapiro: German word, like you stay “in attention.”
Prince: In attention.
Schapiro: So you know it was not that easy, you know, talking with an older person. Like here today, if I see somebody with gray hair, I cannot call them by their first name. I have to call them “Mr.” and “Mrs,” you know, whatever. It took me very, very long time, like they would have some – you know the Suffian family and Mr. Suffian is an elderly gentleman. And David calls him by his name, “Fred” and when I see him and his wife, I always call them “Mr. and Mrs. Suffian.” And they think that I am snobbish to do that. I’m not gonna go in and out, explain to them when I am having a hard time.
Prince: It’s so…it’s understandable.
Schapiro: Yes. Debbie, I have always told her, all my friends’ children call me “Eva.” Debbie could never call my friends like “Harriet” or “Rosalie” or whatever it was. Always “Aunt Harriet” or “Aunt Marsha” or something because that’s the way I grew up. You know, till today she does that because she’ll tell me, she’ll say, “Oh, you wouldn’t allow me to call…” Debbie is 30 years old. She says, “You wouldn’t.” I says, “That’s right.” You know, I just cannot get away from it. I’m not saying I’m right. That’s the way it is.
Prince: So you met David.
Schapiro: So I stayed in Cremona and I met David and I decided to get married. Everybody told me, “It’s not going to last.” Everybody said I made a mistake and everybody told him he made a mistake, but I guess we just didn’t listen. And 40 years later, here we are (laughing).
Prince: (Laughing) Well, as I…you have a very beautiful home. I have to tell you, so I hope your life is as beautiful as your home.
Schapiro: It has its ups and downs.
Prince: Doesn’t everybody’s? What was your wedding like?
Schapiro: My wedding was very nice, it was. In fact, someplace I have the wedding picture. I should have taken it out. David’s father was a very, very good cook and it was an old-fashioned Jewish wedding. We went around. My mother was not very happy about it, so she did very little, to be completely honest with you. She came as a guest, but she was there. And David’s father did everything. He cooked the fish, I remember. And it was a regular wedding with sitting down dinner. I think…I went to the dress, and I had a white dress with a veil, and it was a wedding, you know, with seven of our – was not Meadowbrook or Westwood (laughing).
Prince: It was…how many…what year were you married?
Schapiro: I was married in 1946, February 10.
Prince: My, that was one year after. Not even one year.
Schapiro: Uh-huh.
Prince: I’m thinking. I’m sorry but I was thinking of all the changes and…
Schapiro: Ten days before I was 18.
Prince: It was like living a lifetime in a few years.
Schapiro: Right.
Prince: Wow, I have to hand it to you more and more. So next –
Schapiro: Next David and I got married and I had papers to come to the United States. I told you that I had an uncle here that sent papers. And most of the families –
Prince: Okay, so your uncle had been here for many, many years.
Schapiro: Many years, yes. In fact, it was two uncles
Prince: Uh-huh
Schapiro: And they were getting up in years. In fact, the uncle that was a major in the American army, that sent the Israeli boy, got married in the United States the same day that I got married in Italy. He was much older. He was about 40.
Prince: He really…he saved your life.
Schapiro: Right. Yes, absolutely, and both of the uncles did ‘cause both – they were brothers – and one of them was in the United States working and the other one was, you know, was in the army but they have both decided that they want to bring out the family.
Prince: This was on your mother’s side?
Schapiro: Mother’s side.
Prince: Were these her brothers?
Schapiro: Two brothers, yes.
Prince: Okay.
Schapiro: So anyway, they sent papers for everybody, for the whole family to come to the United States.
Prince: That would be your mother and David and you?
Schapiro: No, not David. It was my mother, my mother’s sister and her husband and her child, her unborn child – no, her – at the time it was unborn. And then that was just in Cremona, but besides that, there were three other people in other places. There was one in England, a cousin in England and then there was another cousin someplace else. I don’t remember where he was, but they sent papers for everyone. When David and I got married, I had papers. I was Czechoslovakian, so I was on the Czechoslovakian quota. David was born in Russia. Although my uncle sent him papers, but he had to wait because the Russian quota was not open at the time as quickly as the Czechoslovakian quota. So it was a problem. I had my Visa, you know, passport before, as much as I could. I had my visa already but could only get an extension for three months. Well, when I used all the extensions, I had to come myself. So I came here by myself. I came here January the 20th, 1948 on the Siberski. It was a boat.
Prince: On the what?
Schapiro: On the Siberski, the boat. And, uh, it was a Polish boat. And that’s when I came. I came here by myself –
Prince: By yourself.
Schapiro: Yes. And David remained in Italy.
Prince: And your mother stayed?
Schapiro: No, my mother was here already. They all came. I was the only one left. I was the last one to leave.
Prince: How did you come?
Schapiro: On a boat, the Siberski.
Prince: But then, how did you – did the boat come in to New York?
Schapiro: The boat came in to New York and I had an aunt in New York. My father’s sister lived in New York and they picked me up. And the first thing they did, they took me to the automat, you know, to eat in New York. And I stayed in New York for about two or three days and then I went to Philadelphia.
Prince: Okay. Stop, go back. What were you thinking about on the trip over?
Schapiro: To be honest with you, I was very sick. I couldn’t make to get up. In fact, the boat went from Genoa to Napoli. In Napoli I was so sick from Genoa to Napoli, I had such seasickness that I went downstairs. I packed everything up and I was ready to get off the boat in Napoli. But they didn’t want to let me off, so…
Prince: That must have been awful.
Schapiro: It was because it was in January and it was, the weather was very bad besides that…
Prince: Were you sick the whole way?
Schapiro: The whole way, the whole way.
Prince: You must have had a divine figure by the time you got to New York (laughing).
Schapiro: I looked perfect.
Prince: (laughing). Alright, so you saw the Statue of Liberty?
Schapiro: I saw the Statue of Liberty.
Prince: Were people – were there other people like you?
Schapiro: Yes, there were quite a few of them, but you know I really didn’t talk to them. I look back now and I was so sorry, there were so many people. And I only spoke with an Italian gentleman that was going over, that he never knew he was Jewish. All during the war, he didn’t know he was Jewish. And then he found out after the war that he was Jewish, and he just came to the United States for a visit. And I was – I spoke Italian at that time. I really was good at Italian, and he didn’t speak any other language, so I kind of spoke – I spoke to the Italians who came came over instead of speaking to the refugees or whatever. So I really didn’t have much contact with them.
Prince: Do you think you really just didn’t want to?
Schapiro: I think it was a little bit of both. I really, for a long time when I first came, I really think I really wanted to stay away from them. I really didn’t like a lot of things about it, so I really did.
Prince: Well, maybe – could you have been denying what happened and all by staying away from them.
Schapiro: I really never felt that I have to deny it.
Prince: No, just because it was so terrible, I mean, unconsciously because it was awful.
Schapiro: I really don’t know what it was. I know there was a long time I didn’t want to think about it and I really didn’t want to talk about it.
Prince: When you saw them, then it reminded you.
Schapiro: That’s right, that could be. You know, it’s amazing, I’ve never been the one till lately, to think a lot, you know what I’m saying? There are so many people like David always analyzes things, whatever. I really never did that and I think that’s why I really survived kind of better than a lot of other people. I just have faith in the things that I knew. Look, that’s what it is. I wish I could be today this way. But today I can’t. I guess I have gotten much older but in my younger days, when I look back, I really felt that – there’s trees, you know, when you get up in the morning and it was absolutely beautiful, and I really didn’t want to think about it.
Prince: I understand. That was the way you were surviving. Did people get excited about seeing the Statue of Liberty?
Schapiro: I remember that David knew quite from books and whatever about the United States. To be completely honest with you, I knew very, very little. But I think he made me aware and I remember just to going by and looking at it. It was very, very emotional, you know, it’s something to be done. And of course I really had a hard time. I came by myself. I didn’t know what I’m gonna find and I didn’t know, you know. I really don’t think, you were kinda – nothing excited you. You were kinda dead. You know I don’t know how to explain it.
Prince: No, you were scared.
Schapiro: Yes. You just did whatever. You were always worried that you were not gonna do the right thing because you were just worried that you should do the right thing and never be hungry again. It’s a terrible thing, but I always used to think, “I just don’t want to be hungry again.”
Prince: Were you afraid that if you did the wrong thing again –
Schapiro: I’d be hungry, right.
Prince: You’d be hungry. That something bad would happen to you? So you met, and David came when?
Schapiro: David came – I was already in St. Louis. David came three months later. David came in May. I came in January and David came in May.
Prince: I probably stopped a good story back there about the automat.
Schapiro: No (laughing).
Prince: Were you amazed that food came out of a little –
Schapiro: Well, I was very excited. You know, the Czechoslovakian national food used to be, we used to call it Wurstlaky. That is a hot dog, a long hot dog with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. Now, nowhere in Italy would you find – And when I seen that in the automat for a nickel, a nickel!
Prince: A nickel.
Schapiro: Oh my God, it was heaven (laughter).
Prince: Okay.
Schapiro: It was just exciting.
Prince: Where would you like to go from here on this story?
Schapiro: Dear God, I think that’s about it.
Prince: Well, David came.
Schapiro: David came and we came to Cremona – we came to St. Louis. We lived with my aunt. We had a room there. And he started to look for a job which was very, very difficult. I was working for the Jewish Board of Education, teaching children Hebrew till I got into a good fight with the Rabbi and after that I didn’t have a job at the Jewish Board of Education, and I went to work for Northwest Bakery. And I was working for Northwest Bakery for – I don’t exactly remember what. You know, time, it’s very difficult for me – time, to remember time and _________ I really don’t know why. Sometimes I feel stupid but it’s really difficult for me to remember, you know. And then I worked for Famous and Barr. I was selling for Famous and Barr. And I was happier there than I was in the bakery or whatever. I would have really liked to stay with the children but it was impossible. And David came, and David was looking for a job. When David came, the Jewish Family Service offered him an apartment and offered him money and he said, “No, thank you,” and that he wanted a job. And he found a job and we were both working. I was working for Famous and Barr and David worked for American Fixture. He was really an electrician.
Prince: Okay.
Schapiro: So then American Fixture didn’t have any work and they laid him off, and he had nothing to do (sighing). So he started to fix up things for my aunt and this one and that one. He was always very handy. And before you know it, he started to work in the plumbing business, you know, in plumbing. And they offered him a job. He was in a business to sell plumbing on the street on Burd Avenue.
Prince: What Avenue?
Schapiro: Burd Avenue.
Prince: Bird, B-I-R-D?
Schapiro: B-U-R-D. B-I- or B-U, I don’t remember. Whatever. And he worked there, and then he went in business for himself and here we are.
Prince: In the plumbing business.
Schapiro: Uh-huh.
Prince: And here we are. He must have worked very hard.
Schapiro: He did. David was very smart, he is. Never liked the plumbing business. He could not come, you know, so he retired 8 years ago.
Prince: He never liked it?
Schapiro: No.
Prince: He just got started in it.
Schapiro: He started in it because it was a living, and, you know, and one thing, you know.
Prince: So he’s retired.
Schapiro: David is retired.
Prince: And you worked at Famous.
Schapiro: And then I quit Famous and I worked for organizations.
Prince: And had children.
Schapiro: One child, Debbie. And here we are.
Prince: What?
Schapiro: It was not easy.
Prince: We’ve just passed by 30 years.
Schapiro: Thirty years, exactly.
Prince: Well, what was the hardest?
Schapiro: For me really nothing, to be completely honest with you. I have adjusted to the United States one, two, three.
Prince: One, two three.
Schapiro: Right from the minute I came here. I came on my birthday to St. Louis. I will never forget. I came to New York the 20th of January and then I came a month later to St. Louis, and it was on my birthday. And my cousin made a steak and peas. I’ll never forget it because it was my birthday, and I thought that there was just nothing in this world that could be that great that you walk on the street by yourself and all that. To me it was – I can’t tell you, really. David was different. David was 7 and a half years older than I am, and he was more worldly. He knew more than I did and for him it was much more difficult, much more. But for me, I must say that there were difficult years. I’m not saying that, but as far as getting adjusted to the country or whatever, I didn’t have any.
Prince: What did you tell Debbie?
Schapiro: Nothing. That’s something I have never told Debbie anything about Auschwitz or whatever.
Prince: So she knows nothing about all you’ve talked about on this tape?
Schapiro: Yes, she does know, because Debbie made it her business when she was in Cornell, I told you.
Prince: That’s right.
Schapiro: And she took a course from Netanyahu, from him you know what –
Prince: Right.
Schapiro: And she does know –
Prince: But not from you?
Schapiro: Not from me.
Prince: Did she ask you?
Schapiro: No she didn’t ask. And one time we talked about it and she said it was always very difficult for her to talk to me about it because she knew it would hurt, and she didn’t want to hurt me. And I didn’t want to hurt her, and ___________. I think that there was a lot of injustice done as much as you have to remember something. But the children of the refugee people, of the survivors, I should say “refugees.” I really shouldn’t. I wish I could take that back. But the survivors they had a very, very hard time. They had a lot of guilt because of what their parents went through. And I never wanted that to be for Debbie. I wanted her to grow up not like I grew up with the Jewish guilt that you have to go this or you have to eat chicken or you have to come Friday night for dinner, and you have to do that. I wanted her to have a different life. And she does.
Prince: And you think not talking about it –
Schapiro: Well today we talk about it and we talk about it differently. But at that time, if I would have talked about it, it would have been a lot of tears and a lot of emotions. I couldn’t. Its just only in the last two or three years I can even talk to you about it without tears.
Prince: But, but, could you talk to Debbie now is what I want to know….
Schapiro: Yes, today Debbie and I could probably talk about it.
Prince: You haven’t, but you could probably.
Schapiro: We probably could. Eventually we probably will because Debbie loves to write or whatever, and she mentioned at one time, she says, “You know, I should really take it down.” I says, “Well, whenever you’re ready.”
Prince: You probably, as you say, both don’t want to hurt each other.
Schapiro: Right. Debbie is, you know, she’s – of course, she’s mine, so she’s very special.
Prince: (laughing)
Schapiro: But you know we both are. Sometimes it’s not the best thing to have such, you know, to be – but there is time. She knows, she needed – I really think that I was really very proud of her, I must say. I never told her that she should go and find out when she took that course.
Prince: Uh-huh.
Schapiro: To, you know, to find out all about it.
Prince: Okay, I – unless you have something you want to add at the moment, I’d like to ask you to go back –
Schapiro: To what?
Prince: To Munkacs and the ghetto. I expressly would like to know what it was like and I realize I am pitching you from one area of your life to another, but –
Schapiro: No, no, no. The ghetto is really, a lot I really don’t that it is intentionally or I really was not that aware of so many things, but a lot of things at that point, at that time of my life, I am – it’s kind of blank. You know, I really don’t know if I want it to be blank or it is really blank. I have really never found it out. I met a friend in Florida and we come from the same town. She remembers so many things. We talk about it. And she keeps on telling me, “You don’t remember? You don’t remember?” And I say to her, “I don’t remember.” Now I want you to know I have a very good memory. I really – you know, everybody is teasing me that I never forget a thing. But for that part of my life, I’m really, really blank. I remember that I was very miserable. I remember I was very unhappy. It was a miserable childhood. There is really nothing to remember.
Prince: A day to day existence. Alright. I have one more question, two more questions.
Schapiro: Go ahead.
Prince: You told me that when you got on the train from Munkacs and they gave you the postcards to Switzerland, and then you got there and the next morning…
Schapiro: I woke up, I can see that.
Prince: And they said, somebody said, “Where are we?” And you’d already had your head shaved and you’d slept in those barracks and—
Schapiro: Started to laugh—
Prince: At each other.
Schapiro: No, just myself.
Prince: Because people looked like monkeys. “Where are we?” And someone answered “We’re in Switzerland.” Now, I think at the time I said, “You just blew my mind.” And I haven’t been able to shake that, quite honestly. But when did you find out, at what point did you find out –
Schapiro: Next morning. Where I was?
Prince: Where you were and what it meant.
Schapiro: Next morning when you woke. Next morning. I said that. It was still dark outside. Now that feeling has never left me. That is the most miserable feeling that I have, that I wake up sometimes, if I have a dream, when I wake up from it, that it is the first thing that comes on my mind. I will never forget that. Came in. I don’t remember going to sleep on that piece of wood or whatever it is. All I remember is waking up to somebody hollering, “Tzayl Appel! Tzayl Appel!” raining like this outside, hardly had a dress. The dress was stolen that they gave me, like falling apart. It was some kind of pattern I don’t even remember. Blue, I remember, And all of a sudden I thought to myself, touching my hair, no hair. And I thought to myself, “What happened?” And no food and I remember sitting there and looking out like a monkey at one another. I kept on looking, “Who are these monkeys?”
Prince: Well, when did you know they were killing the people?
Schapiro: Oh, not till about – that day, because right away when we came off the train, off the cattle car, I remember that there was that fire on four sides and it was light. We came in late at night but the whole camp was lit and it was a tremendous horrible smell.
Prince: Lit with fire, or –
Schapiro: With fire!
Prince: Or with floodlights, or –
Schapiro: No, with the crematorium, burning from four sides, and I remember when we went into our barracks the next day, which was the following day, and Anna, dear Anna (sighing) was there and she made a speech. I will never forget her speech. I’d forgotten her speech. And she informed us, “You are now in Auschwitz.” And, of course, who had ever heard of Auschwitz? And that’s when we looked around what was Auschwitz and we knew it was no longer, it wasn’t Switzerland. That was Auschwitz.
Prince: But did she explain where Auschwitz was?
Schapiro: She just explained that Auschwitz was a camp and we gonna live here and she was gonna take care of us, and –
Prince: But the actual fact that they put people to death,
Schapiro: No.
Prince: When did you know that?
Schapiro: Well, while we were there you heard rumors. You seen all of a sudden all these people disappear, so then we became aware of the fact that they gave you a piece of bread and some margarine and sometimes a piece of salami, and the train, instead of going up, it just made the rounds and then into the crematorium. Somehow, that’s how we got aware of that.
Prince: Well, how did it sink into your head?
Schapiro: It didn’t. You see, at something – you know, you are like – how do I explain? The only thing good is the Germans, they, like I told you, they gave you brom. Otherwise we would have killed each other because the nerves were. And this was kinda quiet you down, kept you from menstruating and kept you whatever. That’s why so many people that came out couldn’t have any children. And you were like a blank. I mean, you were so miserable. I mean you were in such misery. I don’t know how to explain. It’s not like being in a daze, but it’s like being nothing, you know.
Prince: Now, this is my last question. When you – am I at the end of the tape? Another swing back. When you got out and you were 17, you were thin, you were undernourished and ten as you began to be healthier and had food, and your body began to change and hair began to grow and you were becoming a woman. I can imagine you started menstruating again?
Schapiro: Uh-huh.
Prince: And you – when did you begin to be able to get your pride back, in yourself?
Schapiro: A long time. I was here in this country already, a long time. A long time. You feel so useless. You feel so ashamed. And I really don’t know why because basically we really didn’t do anything. A lot of the stories go around and what everything else that happened to people. But to me, it really didn’t. I have to tell you I have – the only thing was my hair was shaved back and my whole uprooting, but to have to raised to things like that happened to a lot of people, which it did, did not happened to me. In that respect I was really very, very lucky.
Prince: Uh-huh.
Schapiro: But seeing it happening and knowing it happened to other people –
Prince: But that it could happen to you tomorrow?
Schapiro: That’s exactly it. So it was very –

Tape 4 - Side 1

Prince: Okay.
Schapiro: To be ashamed was really not the right word for it. To be hurt why it happened to you. “What did you do?” I remember I used to “Just for being Jewish to do all that.” And that was such a terrible, terrible feeling to go around with. And it took a long time. I remember being in this country and working for The League of Women Voters and doing all the right things, and I had a nice house on Chalet Court, but still and all it’s always there. You know, it’s amazing that you just can never, you know.
Prince: How do you never get over it?
Schapiro: You don’t, you really don’t. You just learn to live with it.
Prince: How do you really think people perceive you as a survivor?
Schapiro: I really don’t know. A lot of people – people perceive me in a lot of different ways. I, sometimes people think that I’m very snobbish, which I know I am not. But I am just not one of those that runs after everyone for something. And I really don’t know. To be completely honest with you, I really – the few people that I know that are my friends and they know me, they accept me for what I am, and the rest of it I really cannot care about.
Prince: Let me put it in a different context. How do you think people view survivors?
Schapiro: Depends who the survivors are. I really don’t think they should view all of them the same. Just like anybody else, the same way, there are some of them that are very nice and some of them aren’t. You know, not everybody is nice. Just like the Russian Jews, do you like all of them?
Prince: Good. Good point. Do you have anything you want to ask me?
Schapiro: No (laughing), I just hope that this will help you in some way. I just feel very bad that my voice is so bad, I don’t know why.
Prince: Your voice isn’t bad, and what you’ve said is has been extremely touching, and I appreciate your time and I appreciate your being so honest, and I appreciate your doing this for me.
Schapiro: Well, I’m glad I did it, too. Because it always bothered me, the thought of the tape. I really didn’t know how it came out but she bothered me a lot. I really did not feel good about it. I felt I was cheated, not with money or anything like that. She was just, you know. She took advantage. I, I really was not as much up to it at the time, and I was not this aware – my, my –
Prince: Not as willing? Aware?
Schapiro: Aware. You know what I’m saying. This time I really look back.
Prince: Because you can be a little Bit more objective.
Schapiro: Right. I really looked back. I had a hard time with it the first time. I really did, and when you first called, I really thought to myself, “Why I am doing this?” Because it took a long time for me to get over. And I am really glad I did because I look back and I just coped with it better, I think.
Prince: You know, I feel better too because I was concerned, having asked you to do it again, so –
Schapiro: That’s one thing. I really, if I would have felt that it would have been in any way, I am liable to have never done it.
Prince: Thank you (both laughing).

Listen to Eva's Story