Survivors' Stories

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
Elie Wiesel

Anneliese Nossbaum

  • From: Germany (Guben)
  • Liberated from: Austria (Mauthasen)
  • Deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau from: Czechoslovakia (Thereisenstadt)
  • Current Location: USA (Pennsylvania- in a suburb of Philadelphia)

Brief Bio

Anneliese Winterberg Nossbaum was born in Guben, Germany.  Her family moved to Bonn when she was 2 years old. By 1935, she became aware of her Jewishness when her family’s citizenship was revoked and she wasn’t allowed in the public swimming pool. She was also banned from attending public school.  On November 9th-10th, 1938, Kristallnacht, the Nazi’s burned her synagogue. As the daughter of the Cantor, that synagogue was her second home. In July 1941, when Anneliese was 12 years old, the Nazis ordered her family to move to a Cloister with a total of 474 people.  In July, 1942 they were deported to Terezin in Czechoslovakia. In October,1944 she was deported with her mother to Auschwitz, Poland. Upon arrival she was selected to work in the slave labor camp. All her hair was shaved and she was given insufficient food and water. Five days later, she and her mother were deported to an airplane factory in Freiberg, Germany where she was forced to make airplane parts.  Here she bartered a piece of bread for a soap dish and another piece of bread for a comb, both of which she still owns and shows to classes where she lectures. She celebrated her 16th birthday here. In April 1945, she and her mother were deported in open cattle cars to Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. The trip took two and a half weeks. On May 5th, the American army liberated them. Her mother, afflicted with tuberculosis since Auschwitz, died in a hospital in December of 1945.  In 1946, Anneliese moved to New York City as an orphan. Anneliese is on the road of perpetual remembrance. She is a lecturer and has brought her experiences to more than 10,000 school students as well as private organizations and governmental institutions. She is the proud mother of two children, Jeffrey (Jan) and Ivette (Netzer), and the beloved grandmother to four grandchildren.

What does Auschwitz mean to you? 

During pre-Auschwitz times we lived in constant fear regarding a “transport ticket” to be sent to another place – what would this mean in terms of treatment?   Entering Auschwitz/Birkenau left no doubt, we had arrived at a place where evil in its highest form was practiced as never before in history. Auschwitz was a quick “taker,” within days and hours it took:  my father, uncle, my aunt, my people, my clothing, my hair, my dignity, my religious beliefs, my childhood, and MUCH more. Compared to the whole earth, Auschwitz is just a tiny piece of land, used to kill 6,000 people a day by a civilized nation.  I will look at the ground without understanding, dry tears and feel sorrow until my dying day. However, I will walk out of Auschwitz with my family as a person who has witnessed a transformation from evil and horror to a place of remembrance and solemnity.

My message for future generations is…

To the students:  Speak up to the best of your ability when you see injustice being proposed or acted out.  Be knowledgeable of the Holocaust history to remind yourself and others how LOW a human being can sink, can be morally corrupted. ACT, DO NOT be silent.

To the world: Believe in positive capabilities of men, but be VERY aware of injustices and unfairness toward any person or group.  Take actions in words and deeds before the intimidation of evil has a chance to work on a large scale basis. ACT, DEMAND JUSTICE.

Who will be accompanying you on this journey? 

My son, Jeffrey, his wife Jan, and their two daughters Mayah and Hannah, as well as my grandson Edan.

My ABMF companion is Jan Nossbaum, my daughter in law.  She has been part of my family for 20 years and is mother to two of my four grandchildren, one of whom was born on November 10th, Kristellnacht.