In all these 50 years we have been told that we didn't fight back. Against the most insane odds, perhaps, in the entire history of man, my two sisters and I escaped from the "death march," and though Hitler slaughtered most of our family, in some tragic, yet glorious way we won. Hitler perished and we lived, and today six beautiful human beings call us "mother." By only brother, who after surviving six concentration camps was shot in the leg in his attempt to escape is the father of two.
Our resistance, of course, was entirely spiritual. Made up perhaps only of love for each other. The mystery of it all still defies me.
What also defies me is the fact that it took six years for the world's mightiest forces to defeat the beast. I was unarmed, untrained in the business of killing, didn't even have a shoelace for a weapon, weighed about 40 pounds. Yet? I have always been told "didn't fight back." That accusation, too, falls within the insanity of Hitler's design to annihilate the Jews. Nonetheless, it hurts. It always did.
On VE Day, May 8th, 1945, the very day the war ended, the merchant marine ship, the SS Brand Whitlock, after nearly five weeks at sea, sailed into the sunlit harbor of Newport News, VA. Two days later, in Baltimore, MD, the ship discharged its never before seen cargo: The first survivors of Auschwitz. My two sisters and myself. In our battered being we carried the innocent, charred souls of millions of children, women and men. And we thank this best of all countries, America, for putting its healing arms around our weeping hearts.
Isabella Leitner - Born Kisvarda, Hungary.
A survivor of Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi death camp, where her mother and youngest sister were murdered immediately on their arrival; May 31,1944.
Transported six months later to Birnbaumel, another concentration camp, where she was compelled to dig anti-tank traps against the advancing Russian army.
Escaped in a blizzard with two sisters during a forced death march to Bergen-Belsen, where a third sister perished.
Liberated by the Russians on January 25, 1945. Arrived in USA on May 8, 1945 (VE Day), the very day the war in Europe ended, making her and her two sisters the first survivors of Auschwitz to set foot on American soil.
Married American-born Irving A. Leitner, a combat veteran of World War II, on August 18, 1956. Two sons, Peter (graduate of Princeton University) and Richard (graduate of Bennington College.) Considers them "her greatest victory over Hitler".