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Martin Weiss
Born: January 28, 1929, Polana, Czechoslovakia

Martin (Marty) Weiss was born on January 28, 1929 in Veľká Poľana, Czechoslovakia to Jacob and Golda Weiss. Jacob was a subsistence farmer and a meat distributor, and Golda managed their orthodox Jewish household and raised their nine children. Czechoslovakia had become an independent democracy after World War I, and the Weiss family were proud citizens of the newly-formed nation.

In September 1938, Nazi Germany annexed parts of Czechoslovakia and took over the rest in March 1939. Hungary took control over the area in the southern region where Marty and his family lived. The Hungarians implemented many antisemitic laws similar to those that the Nazis had put in place in areas occupied by Germany. Jews lost their equal rights as Czech citizens, and Jewish children were no longer allowed to attend public schools or universities. After 1941, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, thousands of Jewish men, including Marty’s two brothers, were conscripted into forced labor battalions and sent to the Russian front. Although most Jewish businesses were confiscated, Jacob Weiss managed to retain his business license and continued to earn money by illegally butchering animals at night and selling the meat on the black market.

In April 1944, Germans and their Hungarian collaborators forced hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews into ghettos. The Weisses were arrested and deported to the Munkács ghetto. In the ghetto, the Weisses labored in a brick factory moving bricks by hand from one side of the factory to the other. Over a two-month period beginning in May 1944, nearly 440,000 Jews were deported from Hungary to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and killing center, including Marty and his family. Marty, his brother Moshe, his sister Cilia, their father Jacob, and two uncles were selected for forced labor. The Nazi-SS murdered the rest of their family in gas chambers. 

Marty and his father, Jacob, were then transported to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where they were forced to work in the stone quarries, and then to Melk, a subcamp of Mauthausen. In Melk, the Germans forced prisoners to carve tunnels into the sides of mountains. Marty’s father died from exhaustion and starvation. As the Allies advanced into Germany in the spring of 1945, the Nazi-SS forced Marty and other inmates to march to Gunskirchen, another Mauthausen subcamp, where they were liberated by the United States Army on May 5th,1945.

After liberation, Marty returned to Czechoslovakia. There he reunited with his older sister, Cilia, who was liberated by the British at Bergen-Belsen in April 1945 and his oldest brother, Mendl, who had survived the war in a Hungarian labor battalion. After their liberation, Cilia and her husband, Fred located their sister Ellen who had immigrated to the United States in 1939. Ellen arranged United States immigration visas for Marty, Cilia, Mendl, and Fred, and they arrived in New York in July 1946. Marty served in the United States Army during the Korean War before entering the grocery business in 1955. In 1957 he married Joan Merlis. They have two children. Marty and Joan moved to Bethesda, MD in 1995, and Marty has been volunteering at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum since 1998.