Survivor story: Alice Salamon

'I never once thought about if I was going to survive'

January 27, 2011
Remembering: Alice Salamon

Remembering: Alice Salamon

At the age of 15, Hungarian-born Alice Salamon was in a ghetto in Košice, Czechoslovakia, separated from her family. She was sent on a cattle truck to Auschwitz, then Markkleeberg and Theresienstadt, surviving a 24-hour death march.

Fourteen days before the war ended, she met a family friend who told her that her father was still alive. But it was a false hope. "I was alone. There was nobody."

Now 85, she recalls happy times pre-war. "My mother and my father were such good people, we were a very close family - they were always helping everyone. But when I had to support myself, I could not bear it."

Her year being shuttled between concentration camps has left deep scars and she cannot bring herself to discuss in detail what went on. She does say that "some Jewish women did terrible things. But it was a terrible situation. While I was in the camps I never once thought about myself, or if I was going to survive, or about the future.

"My family was religious, my father had a beard, my mother wore a sheitel. But I am not religious any more. After the concentration camp, I cannot do it. They put us all in the camps together, frum or not frum."

Returning to Czechoslovakia, she sold cigarettes on the black market. "Then I got married, to a gentleman 30 years older than me. I started studying chemistry and worked in Czechoslovakia as a biochemist in the health service for 28 years and in the UK for 26 years." Their son Thomas is minister of Westminster Synagogue.

Reflecting on her experience, Mrs Salamon said: "The worst effect from the camps has been on my health. I have had 14 operations. Five years after my last operation, I had a stroke. I have had a very sad and difficult life. I made my husband happy and my son happy. No one made me happy. And I have had enough now. I am not angry. There's nothing I can change."

Last updated: 11:12am, January 27 2011