Q&A with Holocaust survivor, Paula Lebovics

Throughout the virtual experience we received a lot of questions for featured Holocaust survivor Paula Lebovics and the USC Shoah Foundation. Below, find answers to some of the frequently asked questions.

Questions for Holocaust Survivor Paula Lebovics

What was the worse part at Auschwitz?
Every second in Auschwitz was the worst part. It felt like an eternity.
When were you liberated?
I was liberated on Jan 27, 1945 at 11 yrs old.
Did any of your family members survive?
My mother and three brothers survived. But my father and sisters were killed.
What do you hope students learn from your story?
Silence is not an option. I want students to learn tolerance, to learn not to bully and not to hate.
How hard is it for Holocaust survivors to share their story?
It took years and years and years for me talk about it. I didn't start talking about my experience in the Holocaust until the movie Schindler's List came out. Now I speak all the time.
How did it feel to return to Poland and Auschwitz 70 years later?
I have returned to Auschwitz 8 times with March of the Living and for the 60th commemoration, and this time for the 70th. I recently returned to Auschwitz with March of the Living and it was the first time my children went, which was very emotional. Every time I return to Auschwitz it is different because of the students I interact with and the questions they ask.
How were you able to stay positive during your experience?
I didn't want to give up. I wanted to see my mother again. I wanted a piece of bread and I couldn’t give up.
Were there any bystanders of this hatred and violence that were able to make a difference in your life during this time?
My brother Herschel really saved our lives. He was my upstander.
What is the most important thing students today can learn from the Holocaust?
To not be a bystander. Stand up so we can eradicate hate from the world.
How long were you in the camp?
I was in Auschwitz for six months but it felt like six eternties.
What did you eat?
There was barely any food. Soup that was mostly water and coffee that tasted like mud.
How did you survive?
My ability to sing helped me since a guard would have me sing to her and she would give me extra crumbs and I would them bring back to my mother.
What motivated you to survive the horrible conditions of the concentration camp?
I would try to remove myself and act like I was observing this horrible place rather than experiencing it.
Was it hard to adapt to normal life again after liberation?
After the war was the hardest times because my family split up and I had to take care of my mom.
What was daily life like in Auschwitz?
It was horrible.
How do you honor the victims of Auschwitz?
By listening and learning from the stories. As Roman Kent states, "Never be a bystander."
Can you describe arrival to Auschwitz?
I arrived at Auschwitz on Aug 1st and it was horrific experience.
What things did you miss the most during the war?
I missed my family. My two sisters were deported to Treblinka.
Did you make any friends?
Yes, I did and I am still friends with Miriam & Ruth who are both in the picture of us taken the day we were liberated by the Soviets.
What was one of your favorite things to do as a child before the war?
I had a lovely life till the war began. My favorite childhood memory, playing with my cousins and having a regular childhood until I was almost six and then life changed.

Questions for USC Shoah Foundation Answers

How many people survived Auschwitz? Were there other prisoners besides Jewsish people?
Other prisoners include Poles, Sinti Roma, Soviet POWs, and other nationalities. Nearly 1.1 million people were killed.
Can any of the survivors or family of victims visit our class/school?
Your class can engage with Holocaust and genocide survivors in IWitness.
What was the relationship between Birkenau and Auschwitz?
You can learn more about the Auschwitz Camp Complex in this IWitness activity - http://ow.ly/N9Kbm.
Why did the Jews go so quietly to the ghettos and concentration camps?
Why did they not try to escape since they outnumbered the guards at the camps?
There was resistance during the Holocaust. Learn about the resistance efforts in the Auschwitz - http://ow.ly/N9Kt3.
My students would like to know if there is any type of genocide occurring today?
There have been other genocides since the Holocaust. In IWitness you can learn about the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
What kind of labor were the Jews forced to do?
You can learn about forced labor in various concentration camps in IWitness - http://ow.ly/N9WOq.
What can we do to include Holocaust studies in our schools' curricula?"
Complete an IWitness activity with your students and encourage other classes too. Help us change the world through testimony - http://ow.ly/N9NkN.
What were the living conditions like in the camp?
In Growing up 'Behind the Barbed Wire' child survivors including Paula describe life in Auschwitz - http://ow.ly/N9NXl.