Andra Bucci, Holocaust Survivor, Visits Middle Schoolers
On Jan. 27. 1945, Andra Bucci watched the Red Army liberate the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Now, 75 years to the day, Andra recounted that moment and other harrowing personal stories of surviving the Holocaust with her sister during a two-hour talk with our middle school students on Jan. 27. Valentina Imbeni, head of school, and Lorenzo Ortona, Italian Consul General, served as translators.
“She remembers the Russian soldiers liberated the camp and she remembers a soldier cutting salami on a piece of wood and sharing with her,” said Andra, with Mr. Ortona translating. “That was the first real food she had since coming to Auschwitz.”
Andra, 80, and her sister, Tatiana, are among the youngest child survivors of Auschwitz who have memories of their experience. Just four and six years old when the Nazis arrested them and their mother, aunt, grandmother, and cousin and forced them from their home in Fiume/Rijeka (in northern Italy back then, Croatia today), the girls were dressed in matching gray coats and passed as twins on the Auschwitz Judenrampe, the “Jewish platform,” on April 4, 1944.
Andra’s first memory of Auschwitz was the long jump down from the cattle car and the train platform where guards sent herself, sister, cousin, and mother right while her grandmother and aunt went left.
“The left lane was the gas lane where people were murdered right away because they couldn’t work,” Mr. Ortona translated. “[Andra] was saved with her sister because the Nazis thought there were twins because her mother dressed them the same.”
She endured a long walk in the dark and received her tattoo identification number. The Nazis try stripping away people’s humanity by not allowing anyone to use their real name. Andra was #76483.
“She remembered every stone from that walk in the dark night. … She remembers her mother rushed ahead of the girls to show the tattoo wasn’t painful,” Mr. Ortona shared. “Her mother, before she was transferred to another camp, told Andra and her sister to call each other by name every night before bed. She didn’t want them to forget who they were. … [Now, Andra] wears the [tattoo] number with pride and it’s part of her as a symbol of having survived. It’s the [Nazis] who should be ashamed, not her.”
That “mistake” on the train platform saved Andra’s life at that moment. But she was quickly plunged into much greater danger as she learned why the Nazis would spare twins from immediate death.
“[Andra] was kept in the ‘kinder block’ where the Germans did experiments on the kids and criminals were assigned to care for the kids. [The Nazis] wanted to do experiments, horrible and unthinkable things, to children and twins to see how it affected them.”
Years later, a journalist discovered documents with Andra’s name and medical record at Auschwitz that stated “[Andra] had cleared blood tests and she was ready for experiments” but the camp was liberated before that happened, Mr. Ortona translated.
This was one of several “close calls” in which Andra’s life was spared. It was nearly two years after being freed, after spending a year in an orphanage in Prague and one in a welcoming facility for orphaned Holocaust survivors in Lingfield, UK, that Andra and her sister were reunited with their parents. Her mother also survived after working for years in an ammunition camp in Hamburg and her father was a prisoner of war in North Africa.
Only in recent decades have Andra and her sister began telling their story. In 1995, the sisters returned to Auschwitz for the first time. Since then, they have returned more than 25 times leading student groups and ensuring that rising generations understand the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust.
“You are the last generation that will likely have the chance to meet a Holocaust survivor and so I ask you to please learn about the people and what happened so that this kind of evil never comes back.”
Learn More About Andra & Tatiana Bucci: https://candlesHolocaustmuseum.org/file_download/inline/d5861739-98fa-488b-98d2-87bcf4e60a65