All Of Us Are Already Gone

ALL OF US ARE ALREADY GONE is the title of a photographic series,
published monthly during the past year (2013) on the international online
magazine Les Chroniques Purple. The series was initiated by editor Elein
Fleiss and realised by photographer Amit Berlowitz and myself. It unfolds
twelve contemporary individual stories of women who lived through the
Holocaust. The title is taken from the interview with Orna Birnbach (Blauner),
first portrait of the series.

PORTRAIT OF RITA WEISS (GOLDSTEIN)
Les Chroniques Purple, 06 May 2013
Rita Weiss Goldstein
I fell on the electric fence at the Stutthof labor camp. I remember hearing the
sound of my own screams and a voice in German calling to shut off the electricity.
I lay unconscious with burns on my legs, hands and mouth, and saw myself
hovering in the sky and lying there in the snow. I tried to stand up and, trembling,
crawled forward in the snow. I don’t know what happened to me afterwards. If
they found you in the barracks you would be sent to the crematorium. The Weiss
sisters watched over me. After the war I married their brother. There was no
medical care then. Over time my health deteriorated and for many years I have
been suffering from inflammation of the joints. I am an 86 year old mother of
two daughters. 86 years is a long time, you go through a lot.
On May 1945 I was liberated and wandered through Europe moving from country
to country. We were among 40 million refugees. Jews who had returned to
Poland and Hungary were murdered by the locals. In Budapest, the Zionist
movement organized a big funeral, and demanded the shops be shut and the
tramway stopped. The communists arrived and shut everything down. We were
approximately 10,000 Jews living in a refugee camp near Munich, formerly used
by the Germans. All of us just skin and bones. We didn’t cook, the Americans gave
us food. Quaker cereal in the morning followed by canned army food. When we
got a little stronger we went looking for other survivors. I found none of my
relatives.
I was a Romanian citizen until 1940, when I was thirteen, and Transylvania was
annexed to Hungary. Although we grew up under Romanian rule we absolutely
worshiped Hungary. We spoke Hungarian and loved the songs. My father had a
Hungarian flag hidden behind a painting. When the Germans entered Hungary in
1944, the Jewish men were sent to labor camps, never to return. My brother, a
father of 3, was murdered there. For many years we didn’t know if he was alive or
dead, only after the war we were told by people who were with him that he was
shot.

On March 1944, I, together with my sister and her three children were sent to
Auschwitz. At five in the morning eleven people entered our apartment. We were
in our pajamas and were not allowed to get dressed. By law the family was to
leave the house in whatever they were wearing at the time of evacuation. I was
scared and cried. They said we could take sufficient food for three days. By this
time the war had been going on for six years, and we had no food in the house.
My sister packed whatever we had. Our German neighbor asked if she could help
us, and my sister asked for a warm blanket. The neighbor threw one over to us as
we were standing in the yard. Only a few hours earlier we had been fast asleep in
our warm beds. Suddenly we found ourselves out in the cold street with the
children, holding our clothes in our hands. There were masses of Jews in the
streets, and all the while the Hungarians stood staring out from their windows,
applauding. My children asked me why I didn’t run away. It didn’t even cross my
mind. I would never have dreamt of leaving my sister. It was said we were being
sent to work in agriculture. At Auschwitz I lost my sister’s four and a half year old
son. I held his hand and it slipped away. People passed by me and I heard him
screaming, looking for his mother. To this very day I am haunted by his voice and
by the thought of him walking alone and dying alone in a gas chamber.
I’ve been a widow for thirteen years now. My husband died during the Gulf War.
We were not allowed to keep him in hospital since they needed the beds in case
there were many civilian casualties. He was very sick at home and that pains me.
We used to have a small chemical factory. We earned well and were able to travel
, enjoy and help our children. We met our friends from Hungary who were with us
in the labor camps. We laughed together, listened to music and danced. There are
good memories to go with the bad ones.
— Photo by Amit Berlowitz / Interview by Hadas Yossifon
[The title of this chronicle is taken from the interview with Orna Birnbach (Blauner),
first portrait of this series. For the following portraits, click on February, March or April]
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About hadasyossifon

I am a contemporary art curator and researcher based in Tel Aviv. I collaborate with artists of interdisciplinary media to develop artistic projects and exhibitions within the scope of politics and the world of art.

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