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Oral history interview with Irene Hizme

Oral History | Accession Number: 1995.A.1226 | RG Number: RG-50.549.01.0004

Irene Hizme (née Renate Guttman), born in 1937 in Teplice-Sanov, Czechoslovakia (present day Teplice, Czech Republic), discusses her earliest memories of childhood; her father’s arrest; going with her mother and twin brother, Rene, to the Theresienstadt ghetto; memories of hearing music and presentations in Theresienstadt and being photographed for propaganda materials; being deported to Auschwitz in December 1943; being separated from her mother in 1944 and later from her twin brother; her experiences as a small child in Auschwitz, including hiding among dead bodies, standing for hours during roll call, and getting lost one night; suffering a medical experimentation carried out by Dr. Mengele; being taken in by a Polish woman following liberation but finding it an unloving home; being forced by the Polish woman to go back to Auschwitz to sift through the ashes for gold; attending school and Catholic church in Poland, which she enjoyed; going to several Jewish orphanages in France; being taken to the United States to raise money for orphans of the war; being adopted by an American family; continuing school in the United States and encountering major differences between European and American education; feeling a need to excel in school and other activities to show that she was worthy; experiencing anxiety about trains, showers, electricity, doctors, and police because of her experiences in Auschwitz; feeling that she could not tell anyone about her experiences; reuniting with Rene in 1950; going to college, studying chemistry, physics, and math; wanting to be a doctor but being discouraged by her orthodox adopted parents; becoming a biochemist for Cornell Medical College; feeling that her Holocaust experience was belittled even by other survivors because of her young age at the time; attending a 1985 gathering of twins who had been subjects of medical experimentation; meeting her aunt and cousin in Dresden and seeing pictures of her family; researching what happened to her and her family and learning about the experiments to which she was subject; finding her transport records, a record of her mother’s death, and a photo of her father in Auschwitz; talking to her children about her experience and speaking at schools and synagogues; and meeting with a therapist and writing poetry to work through her memories.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Irene Hizme
Regine Beyer
interview:  1995 November 22
3 sound cassettes (60 min.).
Record last modified: 2021-02-16 15:52:49
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