Zanne Farbstein was born in 1926 in Bardejov, Slovakia. Her first memory of the war was the sudden entry of German soldiers into her family's home on Shabbat eve, after which there remained a solid German presence in the town. Her father's business was confiscated, and her two older brothers were sent to a military labor camp.
In March 1942, all females under 25 were ordered to gather in a school. Farbstein and her two sisters, Edith and Sarah, were escorted by their father, who tearfully gave each of them a corona coin as a good-luck amulet.
They joined a thousand other girls on the first transport to Auschwitz, where they were ordered to leave their possessions on the train, including the treasured coins.
After a few months, they were sent to the newly built Birkenau camp, where they endured hard labor, acute hunger and disease. Farbstein survived the selektions because of her Aryan looks, and managed to obtain the "desirable" jobs of sorting confiscated clothes and other personal possessions. One day, she found her father's prayer shawl, and understood that he had been murdered.
The three sisters stayed together, looking after one other and sharing their food. One day, Edith, sick and exhausted, suggested exchanging her good shoes for Farbstein's threadbare ones. The meaning was clear: Farbstein and Sarah never saw Edith again.
On January 18, 1945, the women were sent on a death march to Germany. Through the snow and rain, Farbstein had to support her ailing sister. After the German guards abandoned the prisoners in a small town, the sisters continued on to the American Zone, where they met soldiers from the Jewish Brigade. They then travelled to Prague and Bratislava, where they learned that two of their brothers had survived. They returned to their birthplace, where the four were reunited. The fates of Farbstein's grandfather, grandmother and younger brother remain unknown.
In 1949, the extended family immigrated to Israel with the help of the Joint Distribution Committee. Zanne Farbstein and her husband, Moshe, have two children and five grandchildren.