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.
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.
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.
Schapiro: Right here.
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?
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.
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.”
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?
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.
Prince: And he’s in this country now.
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?
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.
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….
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?
Schapiro: I like to—
Prince: Keep peace.
Schapiro: Keep peace and let live, you know.
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)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.