Clerical error saved Holocaust survivor from Auschwitz gas chambers

Dagmar Lieblova
Dagmar Lieblova, of Prague, says she escaped certain death at the Auschwitz concentration camp because of a clerical error. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

A bureaucratic mix-up saved a Czech Jewish woman from certain death during the Holocaust.

Dagmar Lieblova of Prague was 14 when she and her family were sent to die at Auschwitz.

Many of her family members were killed in the concentration camp’s gas chambers. But she was allowed to leave a few months after arriving because of a clerical error regarding her birthday, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The Nazis compiled a list of prisoners, ages 16 to 40, to do work for the Third Reich in Germany. On the paperwork, someone wrote down that she was born in 1925 instead of 1929, her actual birth year, allowing her to be included on that list.

“Because (of) this mistake — that someone wrote a five instead of a nine — saved my life,” she told the broadcaster. “There was a train standing. And when we stepped in the train and then the train moved… We couldn’t believe it that we are really leaving Auschwitz.” She was sent off to do hard labor in various parts of the country.

Lieblova, now 85, has three children and six grandchildren. She feels victorious, she said, knowing that she will live on through her offspring after surviving the horrors of Auschwitz.

“Now when I see my children and grandchildren I always have the feeling of victory because I was not supposed to be here,” she told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Lieblova returned to the camp 20 years ago but says she will not go back again.

“It’s too hard,” she said.

More than 1.1 million people were killed at Auschwitz in the 1940s, mostly Jews, but also Gypsies, Poles and Soviet prisoners.

Seventy years ago, on Jan. 27, 1945, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz, which became a symbol of the suffering and viciousness of the Nazi regime.

Michael Abramowitz, director of the Levine Institute for Holocaust Education at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, said the 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation is momentous and should remind us to listen to the stories of survivors carefully so they are not lost to history.

“One of the sad realities of working in this field is that our greatest teachers — the eyewitnesses to this horrendous, really unique event in human history — are passing from the scene,” Abramowitz said in an interview with Yahoo News. “It’s a moment to pause and reflect on the significance of these lives and remember these stories.”

The Holocaust shows what can happen if state-sponsored anti-Semitism goes unchecked, he said.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama released a statement paying tribute to the 6 million Jews and millions of others who were murdered in the Holocaust.

“We also honor those who survived the Shoah, while recognizing the scars and burdens that many have carried ever since,” it reads.

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Obama said, are a painful reminder that we must continue to fight anti-Semitism in all of its forms.