'It was as if fate was directing me from above'
Apr. 5, 2007
The 15-year-old girl saw the German doctor with the rubber
gloves injecting something into the veins of the women at the
The teen was at the bedside of her 19-year-old sister, who had
been stricken with typhoid in the last days of the Holocaust.
She soon understood that the shots contained poison as each of
the women died within minutes.
It was January 19, 1945 and the Red Army was fast closing in on
the Nazi camp in Poland.
Zsuzsana Braun was determined not to let her sister Agnes, her
last remaining relative, out of her sight.
Their parents, Arthur and Elisabeth Weisz, had already been
The two sisters, who grew up in Kosice, Czechoslovakia, were
saved from being gassed months earlier by a malfunction in one
of Auschwitz's gas chambers.
"I did not have anyone except my sister, and I was determined to
be with her until the last minute," Braun recalls.
Days earlier, a member of the underground had made his way to
the camp to tell the inmates that liberation was almost at hand.
The German physician continued across the room, injecting woman
after woman with poison.
Years later, Braun would learn that it was poison against mice
that the doctor was using on the Jewish women.
After killing most of the women in the camp, the doctor, eager
to flee the approaching Russian army, handed the job over to an
assistant, a young German man whom, Braun said, clearly lacked
any medical experience, including knowing how to give an
The emaciated 15-year-old, who had had many doctors in her
family, quickly turned over the hands of her sister, two other
inmates, and her own so that the shot would not enter a main
The assistant injected the poison, but due to the location of
the shot, it was slow to act.
Braun felt the right side of her body freeze and knew she had to
Using her hands and a straw, she managed to remove most of the
toxin from her body, and did the same for her sister and the two
Even today, seven decades later, Braun does not know how she did
"I do not know how - it was not me - it was as if fate was
directing me from above," she says.
Racing outside in the 40-below-zero cold, with her ill sister on
her back, Braun hiked for two days until she arrived at a Polish
home, where she and her sister hid under straw in the barn until
the Russian soldiers arrived. She fed her sister with milk she
found in the barn.
The Russians ordered the Polish family to take the girls into
their house, but the sisters were thrown out as soon as the
soldiers left, Braun recounts.
She then walked 10 days - this time pulling her sister in a cart
the family had given her - until she reached a Red Army
hospital, where a physician amputated Agnes's legs, using
neither anesthesia nor sound surgical procedures.
Zsuzsana continued to nurse Agnes, and both settled in Israel in
1949, where they subsequently married.
Zsuzsana Braun, 78, now a grandmother, continued to help her
sister for years, and the two live on the same block in Tel
Years later, Agnes Kreisler - who received prosthetic legs -
would herself volunteer in Israeli hospitals, helping patients
cope with disabilities.
Six decades later, the tops of their hands are still scarred
where the poison was injected.
The sisters' story will be portrayed as part of an exhibition
opening Friday at Yad Vashem about women in the Holocaust.
"Hitler brought us to Israel in order to get back our human
freedom," Braun says.