Holocaust Survivor Irene Zisblatt speaks for Cornell Hillel.

Katie Sims / Sun Staff Photographer

Holocaust Survivor Irene Zisblatt speaks for Cornell Hillel.

May 4, 2017

Holocaust Survivor Irene Zisblatt Shares Experience at Concentration Camp

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Irene Zisblatt, a survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and other atrocities during the Holocaust, shared her story on Wednesday.

The event, hosted by Cornell Hillel, invites a Holocaust survivor every year, “so people truly understand what happened during the Holocaust and get an account from someone who [was] there,” according to Jeremy Marchuck ’19, chair of cultural programming.

“We are the last generation who are able to do this so we want to ensure that as many people hear these stories as possible,” Marchuck said.

During the presentation, Zisblatt described how her youth and her family were destroyed by Nazi hatred.

“At the age of nine, I was thrown out of the one thing that I loved most, my school, because I was a Jew. And from that day, my world changed, and so did the world,” she said.

She then shared her experiences in a ghetto after being forced there with fellow Hungarian Jews.

“I didn’t even know what a ghetto was, but they made me feel that I had to be punished for something and leave my home,” she said. “The ghetto was a brickyard, but there were no bricks being manufactured. There were just people everywhere suffering.”

Zisblatt also discussed her experiences in Auschwitz, in a labor camp and on a death march.

“I was reduced to a number that represented a nothing. I was stripped of my identity and my dignity,” she said. “That was their first process of dehumanizing us.”

Zisblatt said she lost her family at Auschwitz.

“My mother gave me her diamonds, and that is the only valuable connection to her that I have,” she said, explaining how her mother had given her the gems to buy bread if she was hungry and as a symbol of pride. She still keeps the diamonds today and has written an autobiography titled The Fifth Diamond.

After recalling her escape and her return to Auschwitz for the March of the Living, Zisblatt emphasized to the audience the importance of keeping the memories of survivors and victims alive.

“I came forth to share my degrading experience in hopes that my personal story will influence you and generations to come to work for tolerance and understanding,” she said. “I don’t want the world to forget what happened to us, because I don’t want it to happen again.”

  • Pingback: Irene Irene Zizblatt is still telling her Holocaust survivor story to students | Scrapbookpages Blog()

  • Sam

    Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Anon


  • A less-sensationalized story might invite a quibble, or dismissal as mere whining.

    But THIS story is SO grotesque, one is simply at a loss for words.

    The tactic inspires further speaking engagements and activity much desired by a certain kind of person. Those who believe her are her fair game.

  • John Smith

    While Irene Zisblatt is a true Auschwitz survivor, her story, as published and told, unfortunately contains many inaccuracies and exaggerations.

    The whole “swallowing and retrieving diamonds” scenario is entirely implausible considering the sanitary conditions in the camp.

    Moreover, Irene was a so-called transit Jews in Auschwitz and thus was never assigned a number there (neither would she have had a tattoo).

    Dr. Joachim Neander, a Holocaust scholar who published in Yad Vashem Studies, published an article about Zisblatt, showing her exaggerations, but also writing her true story based on documents, thus setting the record straight (and debunking deniers who claim she was never at Auschwitz).

    Google for “Irene Zisblatt, the “Diamond Girl” – Fact or Fiction?”