Oral History Interview with Elsa Turteltaub

Elsa Turteltaub, nee Waldner, was born October 24, 1916 in Teschen (Cieszyn), Poland. She and her brother and sister attended private Catholic schools, although her parents kept a kosher home and attended a conservative synagogue on holidays. Elsa completed a commercial high school course and was active in Hanoar Hatzioni. After the German invasion in September 1939, her parents lost their restaurant and Elsa and her sister were forced to clean German army barracks. In December 1939, she escaped to Slovakia, where she joined a hakhshara in Zilina. She was sent to Auschwitz in March, 1942 in one of the first Slovakian transports and was forced into hard labor in the sand pits, despite being ill with typhus. When transferred to the registry office, she issued death certificates requested by relatives of Auschwitz inmates, both Jewish and Gentile. By 1943, only Gentiles’ requests were answered as Jews were no longer registered. The causes of death given were fiction, created by the office staff. If ashes of the deceased were requested, staff filled sacks with any ashes found in the crematorium. Living conditions for those girls, living in a building with SS women, were much better than elsewhere.

In January, 1942, Elsa was evacuated to Ravensbrück, then to Malchow, and finally to Trewitz in East Germany. She was liberated by Russians on May 3, 1945, was married in 1946, and gave birth to a son in 1948 in Katowitz, Poland. She and her family lived in Israel from 1950 to 1955 and emigrated to the United States in 1955. Her story is included in Secretaries of Death, ed. and translated by Lore Shelley, New York: Shengold Publishers, Inc., 1986.

Date: 07/14/1987
Interviewer: Edith Millman
Interviewee: Elsa Turteltaub
Language: English
Subject: Forced labor.
Holocaust survivors.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Poland--Personal narratives.
Jewish women in the Holocaust.
Jews--Poland--Cieszyn (Województwo Slaskie)
Typhus fever.
World War, 1939-1945--Conscript labor.
World War, 1939-1945--Deportations from Slovakia.
Women--Personal narratives.
Location: Cieszyn, Poland
Žilina, Slovakia
Auschwitz concentration camp
Ravensbrück concentration camp
Malchow concentration camp
Krewitz, Germany
Permalink: https://hoha.digitalcollections.gratzcollege.edu/item/oral-history-interview-with-elsa-turteltaub/
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