Lotte Weiss

The two lives of Prisoner 2065 – the courageous survivor who told her story of hope and strength to the world


Lotte Weis

At the age of 18 Lotte Weiss was forcibly transported by cattle wagon to Auschwitz in March 1942, along with her two older sisters. Her number 2065 —indelibly embedded on her left arm by the tattooist of Auschwitz, Lale Sokolov — bore a lasting testament to her early internment at Auschwitz.

The teenager was one of the first Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz. Miraculously, through a mix of luck and sheer determination to survive, she emerged from the death camp to find herself all alone in the world — a close and happy family life destroyed — her hopes and dreams shattered.

It is an amazing feature of her character that Lotte Weiss, who has died in Sidney, Australia, aged 97, was able to discuss a subject as painful as the Holocaust and her personal tragedy and leave everyone feeling full of hope, purpose and believing in the goodness of life and people.

From actress Nicole Kidman to former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir John Key, literally thousands of people — many of them schoolchildren — listened to her, learned from her experiences and were inspired by her words. Reuven Rivlin, the President of the State of Israel, acknowledged her passing by praising her dedication to Holocaust remembrance and education as “a shining example to us all”. She documented her story in her memoir My Two Lives published in 2003.

Lotte (Charlotte Frankl) was born in Bratislava (then part of Czechoslovakia), the third daughter born to Bertha and Ignatz. Lilly and Erika were four and two years older. A sister, Renee, and brothers Karl and Morris followed.

This loving family were the first of Lotte’s two lives. Her father was an accountant with a fantastic memory for figures and dates: a gift Lotte was blessed with which enabled her to retell her Holocaust story with great detail, in time and place, facts and figures.

At 11.30pm, Sunday March 22 1942, Lotte’s life changed forever. She and her sisters were ordered by the Hlinka Guards — members of Slovakia’s state police, active Nazi collaborators — to leave their home, torn away from their parents in a terrifying night of fear and hopelessness. This heartbreaking scene remained in Lotte’s memory forever, the pain indescribable. Three sisters were deported and would never see their parents and younger siblings again.

On March 27, 1942 the sisters arrived in Auschwitz concentration camp. Stripped, shaven, dressed in filthy Russian uniforms, Lilly, Erika and Lotte became prisoners 2063, 2064 and 2065.

Transferred to Birkenau in August, 1942, Lilly and Erika were both stricken with typhus and tragically died the following month. Unknown to Lotte the remainder of her family had been brought to Auschwitz in June, 1942 and murdered there shortly after arrival.

Lotte survived Auschwitz-Birkenau through what she described as a series of miracles and luck. She was evacuated on January 18 1945 and following transport to a series of camps, was liberated from Terezin (Theresienstadt) by the Red Army on May 9 1945.

That day her second life began.

Returning to Bratislava, Lotte connected with an uncle and aunt who had evaded deportation by living off forged papers. Two brothers, Leo and Alfred (Ali) Weiss came into her life — both survivors of concentration camps. Lotte fell in love with, and married, Ali. Enduring a series of mishaps, stolen passports and outrageous bribes paid, they were able to make their way to Australia and then New Zealand.

They became, she felt, the happiest couple in the world, on August 25 1951 when their son Johnny was born. As Lotte looked at her newborn, the face of her brother Karl appeared. On May 25, 1953, Lotte and Ali welcomed a brother for Johnny, Gary, feeling the same intense, happiness, joy and gratitude to God for the beautiful gift of life.

In February, 1979 Lotte was approached by the New Zealand National Radio to tell her story. This was the first time she spoke publicly about surviving the Holocaust. It would not be the last. Television, radio, print media in New Zealand and elsewhere sought her out. The more she spoke, the more people wanted to hear.

Sadly, on June 27, 1982 after many years of ill health, her beloved Ali died. He had been the love of her life, the father of her two sons, the husband she stood beside. In March, 1986 Lotte followed Johnny and Gary to Sydney and became involved as a guide with the Sydney Jewish Museum — a role she maintained for 25 years — talking for those so cruelly silenced who could not speak for themselves.

The Australian media soon discovered Lotte Weiss could hypnotise and educate an audience about the Holocaust. Her energy and vibrancy radiated a love of life and gratitude for everything and everyone she met.

Lotte’s prisoner photos, taken at Auschwitz, are on permanent display at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. She was determined to ensure her story would be documented so that future generations would be aware of the lessons of the Holocaust.

Having written My Two Lives at the age of 80, while her memory was still strong, she was delighted when her grandson Benjy had the book translated into German and supported by the President of Austria. Her daughter-in-law Thea, inspired by her book, paid tribute to Lotte through a series of art exhibitions where Lotte joined her in telling the story to hundreds of visitors.

A film on both Thea and Lotte, entitled Creative Responses to the Holocaust, has been screened at film festivals around the world.

Despite all her suffering and loss, Lotte Weiss remained filled with hope and belief in the goodness and decency of most people. She will be remembered with gratitude for keeping the stories of the Holocaust alive. Lotte died peacefully, surrounded by her family, in Sydney. She is survived by Johnny and Gary, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.


Lottie Weiss: born November 28, 1923. Died February 12, 2021

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