Gertrude Schlanger

Nashville, Tennessee

Born: 1925 Sobrance, Czechoslovakia (Now Slovakia)

Survivor: Auschwitz Concentration Camp

“Eat whatever they feed you… please… you need it so you will survive,” were the parting words of a father to his three daughters, spoken through a fence dividing parents from children. “It was at separation,” Gertrude Schlanger recalls. “You were moved into different lines but you just didn’t know that would be the last time you would see each other. You could have said goodbye; instead, you looked at each other…terrified…and then it was over.”

Gertrude and her sisters spent the winter of 1945 in Auschwitz hauling potatoes in the bitter cold. As rumors circulated about possible liberation by the Russian Army, Gertrude and twenty-two others decided to try to escape. On a forced march from a camp she can barely recall, she says, “We were put in haystacks to sleep. We hid beneath the hay and when the guard called on us to start walking, we stayed behind in the straw.” No one noticed as the women fled the next day. Gertrude and her sisters boarded a train. “We had heard the Russians had come in and I guess we thought we could safely ride a train. No money, no food, barely any clothes…I suppose we just didn’t care anymore.” No one asked them for train fare.

Because they were among the first Jews to return to Czechoslovakia, they were able to retrieve their home and its furnishings from their neighbors. Gertrude muses, “People have told me they think I just tell stories about what happened…they didn’t lose their whole family in a line…they have no idea what pain is.”