Survivors' Stories

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

Claire Heymann

  • From: Germany (Grosheubach)
  • Liberated from: Poland (Death March from Auschwitz)
  • Deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau from: Germany (Berlin-Slave Labor Camp-Siemens Company)
  • Current Location: USA (New York - Queens)

Brief Bio

I grew up in an observant Jewish family in Grosheubach, a small town in the Unterfranken region of Germany. As their were not many Jewish families in our area, we often travelled to Frankfurt to observe Shabbat and holidays.  I was one of 5 children and only two of us survived. We attended a school taught by Catholic nuns until we were expelled for being Jewish. During Kristallnacht, our home was ransacked and much of our possessions destroyed. Thanks to the Mayor of our town, we were sent to a nearby town to spend the night in the local jail for shelter. Our neighbors helped us fix up our home so we could move back. My grandfather was a well-known cattle dealer and played cards with the  monks from a local monastery. Since we couldn’t attend school, our parents sent me and one of my sisters to be nannies for Jewish families in Frankfurt until the Gestapo arrested us and sent us to Berlin as slave laborers from 1941-1943. We never experienced overt anti-Semitism until the Nazis took over. I was in Birkenau/Auschwitz from 1943 until 1945. In spite of beatings and inhumane conditions, my survival largely was due to my ability to speak and understand German, and being able to work and get jobs that had some access to additional food and information.

What does Auschwitz mean to you?

The darkest of times

My message for future generations is…

” We do not want our past to be our children’s and grandchildren’s future.”

Who will be accompanying you on this journey?

My eldest daughter, her husband and one of their daughters and my youngest daughter and her husband.

My eldest daughter, Helen Siegel, is my companion. She is a retired educator who served the NYC public schools for 14 years and in a Community Jewish Day School for 27 years. She currently teaches about the Holocaust for the JCRC in Minneapolis, MN.