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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 Solny

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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.”

“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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  • Cindy Rubin

    Perhaps, if the Polish community did what the Danish did…we would not be arguing the details of whether it was/is the Germans and Polish..and choices of individual and group actions, , make the difference … don’t you think? We are talking about how each human chose to act. (What ever family of ours stayed in Poland all perished…did their friends help them? No! Of our family members who were in France, they were hidden by their friends and survived….of course, France is another discussion.) 101…wow!

  • Jack Nelson

    Does it matter what the Nazi organization was? Does it matter in what country the Auschwitz Concentration/Extermination camp was located? Does it matter who were the most ethnic or religious groups “… who were killed (murdered), forced into slave labor, tortured, taken away from their families, maimed, terrorized, burned, bludgeoned, turned into soap, starved, …” etc., and whose skin was made into lamp shades? (All of them were human beings) Does it matter from which countries the most citizens who were exterminated came from? Do any of these issues mean anything? The only reality that matters is: who gave the order to build Auschwitz (and the other camps such as Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Majdanek. Auschwitz and Majdanek were both concentration and extermination camps) for the purpose it was intended; who authorized the extermination of as many of these people who did not fit the German requirements for their “Master Race” (the Aryan Race) as they could possibly encompass; who turned the valve to release the gas; who forced the “inferior people” to dig their own graves and shot each — one at a time — as they stood in the pit they dug (after forcing them to remove all of their clothing); who guarded the camps; who drove the trains; who forced these people from their peaceful homes to be gathered for the train ride to their death; and those who in any other way contributed to the demise and disfigurement of the estimated ELEVEN MILLION human beings who died during what is known as the “Holocaust.” It is estimated that 1.1 MILLION of these human beings were children. Someone should write a book — not a book of words but a book of ELEVEN MILLION small, black human figures to show the world what 11 million looks like. I am confident no matter what the height and width these figures would be, the tome would be thick.

    • abbu

      11 milioane? nu e putin cam exagerat ? insusi evreii declara 6 milioane

  • jason

    Should have been Louis Farrakahn in those camps – not her.

  • Istvan

    Poland was occupied by another state – Germany! Poland was not occupied by Nazis.

  • Istvan

    There were no Nazi concentration camps in “Poland”. There were Nazi camps in “German occupied Poland”.
    The terms “Poland”, “Germany” and German occupied Poland are not interchangeable. They are significantly different geo-political entities. Please change the text accordingly!
    As the son of a member of the Polish underground whose unit “Zoska” was acknowledged by Yad Vashem for saving 350 Jews during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising I would like to point out that referring to a German concentration camp in occupied Poland the way you did is insensitive to the families of the millions of ethnic Poles who were killed, forced into slave labor, tortured, taken away from their families, maimed, terrorized, burned, bludgeoned, turned into soap, starved, etc. during the brutal and inhuman occupation of Poland by Germany. You should also know that the Germans, besides killing Polish children outright, forcefully removed over 200,000 blue eyed, blonde Polish children from their parents to be placed with German families. Most were never found or returned.
    The camps were in German occupied Poland and were created by German Nazis in the name of “Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles” and “Lebensraum” for Germans!
    If you MUST refer to Poland, Poles or Polish in association with these horrific places
    in which Poles also suffered purely because of their ethnic background then you must clearly identify the victimization of the Poles, which, of course, you did not.
    Considering that 3 million Polish Slavs were killed in addition to 3 million Polish Jews and 3 million other European Jews, I think that Polish Slavs should be included in your list of groups targeted by the German Nazis for annihilation. Hitler did tell his commanders to “Kill without pity or mercy, ALL men, women, and children of POLISH descent or language. Only in this way can we obtain the living space [lebensraum] we need”. Heinrich Himmler stated “All POLES will disappear from the world. It is essential that the great German people should consider it as its major task to destroy all Poles.”
    Proper references to the German Nazi camps in occupied Poland would be:
    – Museum/Memorial of the former GERMAN camp in PRESENT DAY Poland
    – Museum/Memorial of the former GERMAN NAZI camp in PRESENT DAY Poland
    – GERMAN camp in occupied Poland
    – GERMAN Nazi camp in occupied Poland
    – GERMAN camp in Nazi occupied Poland
    – Nazi camp in GERMAN occupied Poland
    – GERMAN Nazi camp in German occupied Poland
    – GERMANY’S Nazi camp in occupied Poland

  • Joan

    I am so amazed that people who have survived so much deprivation, torture, and physical and psychological pain are able to live to an old age. Likewise, I am saddened that many unpunished Nazis are able to do the same. I agree that this story would make an amazing movie.

  • Malgorzata Laniecka

    This is really interesting. Thank you for making me aware about using word Polish to describe Auschwitz. This is really interesting why only Auschwitz this adjective with nationality and other places dont have. And that story about Polish death camps is long gone. Apparently not

  • To the Poles who rightly commented on the error in the article — you are correct of course, but you also should be understanding of the fact that this was an innocent error which is frequently made in the English language. And you can see, the newspaper has already corrected it. When gently corrected, most people who make the error will become sensitive to the issue. Threatening to take those who made such an error to court will not promote goodwill between peoples. As a Polish gentile friend once told me, the Poles[not all of course] may have done some terrible things during the war [as of course did many other nationalities…] but one thing they did not do was build and operate the death camps. The story itself is interesting — and I believe the lesson to refrain from using the phrase ‘Polish death camps’ is now made loud and clear by those who commented. Let us all get along in goodwill.

    • Susan Sheffer

      Thank you, I love your reply!

    • Joy Zamoyski Koch

      Another typo: the list of “Tags” on the page shows “Auschwitz Poland”. The village in Poland is called Oswiecim, the Germans named their death and extermination camp “Auschwitz” and it needs to be stated as such.

      This “tag” is also inaccurate on account of the formal decision made by The World Heritage Committee of Unesco of June 27, 2007, which changed the name of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp heritage site to “the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi German concentration and extermination camp 1940-1945″.

  • Julianna Rolecka

    Wow, so Auschwitz is “Poland’s” yet the ghetto in Budapest is not “Hungarian,” but Jewish. Ravensbruck, located in Germany, is not “German,” but a “women’s camp.” Your editorial standards bend history beyond recognition.

    • John Hansen

      Auschwitz was a concentration camp and death camp. Budapest was a ghetto. The editor was historically accurate to identify these places in this way.

      • Julianna Rolecka

        The point is not whether it was a ghetto or camp. Neither Auschwitz nor any other camp was “Poland’s.” There is obviously a double standard in the way these places are identified.

    • These are good points you make Ms.Rolecka! I commend your effort to insist on accuracy in Journalism.

  • Yvonne Kowalczewski

    “Poland’s notorious Auschwitz death camp”? The victims were “Poland’s,” but not the camp. Polish Christians were the first prisoners of this heinous monument to inhumanity. Until March 1942 they were the largest group of victims. By war’s end, their number was exceeded only by Jewish victims. Polish Christians were more numerous at Auschwitz than all the “other” groups — e.g. Gypsies, homosexuals — combined. And why are you apparently reticent about naming those who masterminded and carried out the Holocaust? “Nazi” was neither a country nor a nationality; it is a word which disguises the identity of the perpetrators: Germans.

    • To Yvonne Kowalczewski, Thank you so much for your clarification in your reply. It was very informative to the flippant reply of Julianna Rolecka. God bless you.

      • Yvonne Kowalczewski

        I don’t think there was anything flippant about Julianna’s post. Her point is valid. I have never seen Japanese POW camps referred to as “Thai” or “Philippino,” or Guantanamo called “Cuban.” Thank you for the blessings, though.

  • Joy Zamoyski Koch

    “The mother-of-two was a prisoner in Dachau and Ravensbruck before being sent to Germany’s notorious Auschwitz death camp.”

    • Joy Zamoyski Koch

      Who were the “Nazis”?

      Your article avoids the use of the word ‘German’ despite the irrefutable fact that the Nazis were German; ‘Nazi’ apparently now being the politically correct term for the heinous regime and genocidal activities.
      The important distinction is that ‘Nazi’ was a party and ideology but it was Germany, as a state, that invaded, brutalised and committed massive atrocities, including mass murders, in many other territories. Poland was not occupied by Nazis; it was occupied by Germany.
      Occupation was an act of the state, not the Nazi party. Why are these errors made and the second biggest category of Holocaust victims in German Nazi camps always forgotten?

  • Jim Przedzienkowski

    The term ‘Poland’s notorious Auschwitz death camp.’ is offensive and incorrect. You do know that the Nazi Germans established the ‘death camps’ on occupied Polish soil. The camps were not Polish as you stated not even implied. Please correct this error. You do know better.


    This is SOME story. I think it should be adapted for the Big Screen. Or even the Small Screen. This woman’s courage & strength should be celebrated! God Bless her!!

  • Can you be disclosed to court because you suggest “is Poland’s notorious Auschwitz death camp”. It is a lie, should be properly German Nazi concentration camp in occupied Poland.

  • Can you be disclosed to court because we use okraslenia “is Poland’s notorious Auschwitz death camp”. It is a lie, should be properly German Nazi concentration camp in occupied Poland.

  • E Pluribus Wombat

    Romania was awful to its Jews before the Holocaust. They never actually emancipated them and even the Russia Czar did that. Romania had Nuremberg-type race laws before the Nazis.