Dora Eiger Zaidenweber was born in Poland in January of 1924. Dora and her father, mother, and brother lived a middle class life in the city of Radom in central Poland. The Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 took her community by surprise, and disrupted her young life. Immediately, life changed, and Dora and her peers could not attend school. Dora and her family, along with other Jews, were given Jewish identification badges and lived under rationing and curfew, with men working in local factories. In 1941, Dora and her family were deported to the Radom ghetto, where they struggled without reliable resources, surrounded by poverty and sickness.
In April 1942, the Gestapo took Dora’s father in the night. Over the next few months, rumors of concentration camps spread. In the middle of the night in August 1942, Dora’s extended family was taken to Treblinka, none of whom survived. Dora, her mother, brother, and one uncle remained in the ghetto, now a forced labor camp, through the fall of 1943.
In summer of ’44, Dora and the remaining women from the forced labor camp were marched for days and subsequently loaded into the boxcars that took them to Auschwitz. Dora realized that this large concentration camp was different than the others: seeing the five chimneys and the smelling burning flesh were immediate sensations. She remained in Auschwitz for six months, working with her mother towards the end in a sewing factory.
On approximately the 18th of January, 1944, Dora and her mother – being separated from the men, she did not know about her father, brother, or uncle – were lined up in formation to march in terrible winter conditions. She was eventually brought to Buchenwald and ultimately Bergen-Belsen. She and her immediate family were reunited by the fall of 1945: Dora, her brother, father, mother, and uncle.
Her family chose to be settled in the United States rather than to return to Radom. They were placed in Minnesota through Jewish Family and Children’s Services, where they made their home, welcomed by the community.
Dora has been dedicated to speaking about the Holocaust. Holocaust history, commemoration, and education are important for her to share as a remembrance and a warning. Her own story, she says, is secondary to the whole history of the Holocaust, and as a survivor she strives to speak for those who were lost and cannot share their own stories.
Beginning in February 2013, Felix de la Concha, a prominent Spanish artist, collaborated with CHGS to include Twin Cities Holocaust survivors in his latest portrait series, Portraying Memories: Portraits and Conversations with Survivors of the Shoah.
De la Concha painted survivors of the Shoah (Holocaust) from all over the world. While posing, his subjects talked about their lives and shared their testimonies of survival. These sessions were recorded and depict the portraits transformation from a blank canvas to the finished piece; providing the viewer with a powerful and emotionally charged, multidimensional representation of the encounter with his sitters.
Nine local survivors participated in the project; their portraits and testimony appear on the CHGS YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/CHGSumn along with the 31 other survivors who sat with De la Concha between 2007 and 2015.