Survivor donates prized prayer book to Yad Vashem

Irene Haya Weiss of Toronto wrote siddur by hand from memory in 1945 while in Auschwitz.

January 2, 2012 21:30
1 minute read.
IRENE HAYA WEISS wrote this prayer book in camp

Auschwitz prayer book 311. (photo credit: Yad Vashem)


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When Holocaust survivor Irene Haya Weiss of Toronto heard her daughter was going to Yad Vashem to take part in an education seminar, she gave her a little blue prayer book to donate to the Holocaust museum.

The siddur, which she had written by hand from memory in 1945 while in a German forced labor camp, had been in her possession for 66 years.

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It helped her live through the worst time of her life. But now, at age 91, Weiss felt it was time to donate it to the museum in Jerusalem.

“She said she would like to share it with other people in a museum so that all may see,” her daughter Tova Dror said on Monday. “At home it will just sit on a shelf.”

Originally from a village outside Satmar (nowadays Satu Mare, Romania) she and her family were deported to Auschwitz in 1944. Upon arrival at the death camp she was separated from them by Josef Mengele.

“She was sent one way and her parents and brother went the other,” Dror said.

After several months, Weiss was transferred to a munitions factory where conditions were somewhat better.

There, she found a booklet and wrote the transliterated Hebrew prayers onto its empty pages using Hungarian script. She dedicated the makeshift prayer book to her parents and brother, hoping they would be reunited after the war. They were among the six millions Jews murdered by the Nazis.

After the war Weiss made aliya and raised a family. After her husband died she moved to Toronto to be with her daughter and her family.

Yad Vashem will add Weiss’s little blue siddur to its growing collection of Holocaust-related artifacts so that future generations may learn about the genocide during World War II.

The museum calls on all those interested in donating items relating to the Holocaust to call 1 800-25- 77-77 or e-mail to

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