Suzanne Sigmund sits by a path holding a bouquet of flowers.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 44504
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Czechoslovakia -- Family/Friends/Portraits
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Suzanne Weil
Suzanne Sigmund sits by a path holding a bouquet of flowers.
- Suzanne Weil (born Suzanne Sigmund, later Mayer) is the daughter of Desider Sigmund (b. 1894 in Dolny Kubin, Austro-Hungary) and Frida nee Dushnitz (b. 1898 in Slanica Austro-Hungarian Monarchy). She was born on January 18, 1923 in Budapest, Hungary where her father worked in the financial world. Her brother Bandi (Jaakob) was born the following year. After Desider lost a considerable amount of money in the stock market, Frida's siblings found work for him as a bank teller in Zilina, Czechoslovakia. Suzanne was then three years old. Frida worked as a seamstress but eventually both were hired by the Vacuum Oil Company. Suzanne's family did not keep a kosher home; they attended the Neolog synagogue on holidays. Suzanne attended a Jewish elementary school in Zilina and then the Real Reform Gymnasia. She also belonged to Makkabi Hatzair and participated in gymnastics camps and competitions. On October 10, 1938 Germany annexed the Sudetenland. Soon afterwards, Suzanne arrived at school and found a sign outside saying that the Jews were not allowed to enter. Suzanne did not return. Instead, she took sewing lessons from a German woman who was married to a Jew by the name of Langfelder. In 1940, her brother Bandi immigrated to Palestine.
In February 1942 a list of Jewish youth between the ages of 16-20 was posted for deportation to Poland. Suzanne's father forbade her to report and instead arranged for a friend to accompany her to the home of her aunt in Ruzhomberok. Her aunt then placed her in the local hospital to prevent her from going on a transport. Suzanne also received a paper from Budapest saying she was born a Christian. She returned to Zilina a few weeks later, but at the end of April her family was rounded up for deportation and taken to a holding station. Suzanne showed her false papers and was released. Since her parents worked for the Vacuum Oil Company which was considered essential for the war effort, one of the workers was able to release them as well. In September 1942 the last transport left from Zilina. Her parents lost their jobs and were sent to the Novaky labor camp. Suzanne stayed in their apartment and earned money sewing clothes. She was able to send some food parcels to her parents and occasionally removed her Jewish star and visited her parents in the camp which was two hours away. Her father had been wounded in WWI and had a steel plate in his head. His doctor in Bratislava requested that he be given six months medical leave. After leaving Novaky on furlough in November 1943, her parents decided they would not return. In January 1944 her father was smuggled into Hungary, then still unoccupied. Suzanne and her mother joined him the following month, but in March the Germans entered Hungary.
Suzanne lived with an uncle and obtained false papers using the name Biro Ibolya Erzsebet. She placed a newspaper ad to find work as a seamstress who could work in people's homes. She found a room to rent in a small house without a concierge and spent her days sewing and only returned very late at night to sleep. By this time Suzanne knew what was happening. She had read the Vrba Auschwitz report. In March 1944 she told her uncles to obtain false papers and to go into hiding. They refused to listen and were sent to Auschwitz. One uncle was sent to forced labor and survived. Her parents lived outside of Budapest and decided to hide in the Jewish hospital. Unfortunately her father was picked up in a round-up and deported, though her mother remained safely in an operating room. In Auschwitz, Desider Sigmund met the son of a worker in the oil company, Ludwig Katz, who had been sent to Auschwitz in 1942 and became a Kapo. He protected him until the camp's liquidation. However, Desider died while on the ensuing death march.
In the meantime Suzanne met some friends who were with her in Makkabi, including Milan Mayer and Joel Stein. He was working in the operating room of the Jewish hospital. They met once a week often in coffee houses. Uri and Joel told her about the Kasztner transport and they went to the Jewish community to register for three places. Telling the family with whom she had lived that she had to leave to care for her sick mother, she went to the train station and entered cattle cars at the end of June, arriving in Bergen Belsen at the beginning of July. She remained in Bergen Belsen until the end of December. Conditions for this group were considerably better than the rest of the inmates. They did not have to wear concentration camp uniforms and did not work; although their nourishment was the same as others. In December 1944 they were sent to Switzerland to Caux sur Montreux. At the end of the war Suzanne found out that her mother was alive, and her friend's parents also survived. They left the Kasztner group and returned to Czechoslovakia after taking a first aid course in Zurich, given by the Czech government. They also collected medicines and bandages to take back with them to help other survivors. She also met her brother who had gone to Palestine in 1940 and had joined the Jewish Brigade. They met on opposite sides of the Swiss-Italian border. Suzanne married her friend Milan (Uri) Mayer in 1945, who had been with her on the Kasztner transport. They were married in Liptovsky Mikulas. In 1945 they moved to Prague where Milan enrolled in medical school, and Suzanne worked as a seamstress. They remained there for ten years and had 2 children. In 1954 while on a summer hike in Krkonoshe, Milan fell and broke his spine, dying on the spot. After his death, her brother visited her from Israel and persuaded her to request an exit permit to leave Czechoslovakia. In September 1956 Suzanne immigrated to Israel with her children and mother. She married her school mate Jan Weil in 1958. In Israel she first worked as a seamstress at the Maskit Company and later as a librarian at the Soreq Nuclear Research Center.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Suzanne Weil
Record last modified: 2008-12-12 00:00:00
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