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December 11, 2014 4:20 pm

Woman Who Survived Auschwitz Concentration Camp Because Nazis Ran Out of Gas Turns 101


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Entrance at Auschwitz. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A Jewish woman who escaped the gas chambers of the Auschwitz concentration camp because Nazis ran out of gas is preparing to celebrate her 101st birthday on New Year’s Eve, UK’s Daily Mail reported.

Klara Markus, from Sighetu Marmaţiei in northern Romania, survived three Holocaust concentration camps before the Second World War ended. The mother-of-two was a prisoner in Dachau and Ravensbruck before being sent to the notorious Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Shortly before the evacuation and liberation of the Auschwitz camp in January 1945, Markus was sent to the gas chambers. She was 30 years old at the time and weighed around 70 lbs, Daily Mail reported. She recounted the tale of how she survived that day.

“I was chosen towards the end of the day with a large group of other women and we were made ready for the gas chamber,” she said. “But when they put us inside and went to turn the gas on, they found they had run out. One of the guards joked that it was our lucky day because they had already killed so many they didn’t have any gas left for us.”

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“God was watching over me that day,” she added.

Markus said her survival made her realize that she had nothing to lose. She escaped Auschwitz and returned to Romania only to find that her entire family died during the war, according to Daily Mail. As she began to rebuild her life she met her husband, Dr. Andrei Markus.

Mrs. Markus was born Klara Schongut on New Years Eve 1913 in Carei, Satu Mare County. In August 1942 she was deported to a Jewish ghetto in Budapest, Hungary, where she worked in an umbrella factory.

“My mother and older sisters were taken directly to Auschwitz. I never saw them again,” she told a Romanian newspaper in 2010. “When I asked about them, SS members replied shortly: ‘Maybe, you should search for them in the smoke or ashes!’ and they laughed.”

Mrs. Markus stayed in Budapest’s Jewish ghetto for another two years before Nazis ordered the city’s remaining Jews to march toward the concentration camps. After a month-long trek by foot she arrived at Dachau on Oct. 20, 1944. One week later she was sent to the notorious women’s’ camp in Ravensbruck before being transported to Auschwitz.

“I passed through all the camps on the German territory. The conditions were the same all over the places,” she said. “I was falling asleep with tears in my eyes, missing my mother, my sisters. I got accustomed with the hunger, but not with the pain in my soul.”

“Everyday we were humiliated, tortured, I was surrounded by death and lot of dirt, especially the one from our perpetrators’ souls,” she added.

Government representative Anton Rohian visited Mrs. Markus at her home in celebration of the Holocaust survivor’s upcoming birthday. He told her, “I brought you a bunch of flowers, a bottle of champagne and an excellency diploma to thank you because you’ve returned to Maramures after all you’ve been through.”

It’s important not to forget what happened in the past,” he also said.

Kissing the flag of Romania, Mrs. Markus told him, “I’ve had terrible experiences in my life, but this is a wonderful moment.”

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