Four survivors share rare moments of kindness in keeping with the message of this year’s HMD: ‘Don’t stand by’
MY MOTHER said she would never forget the look on the farmer’s face as he saw her, a scarcely-living pregnant skeleton weighing about 65 pounds. She said the colour drained from his face as he seemed unable to believe his eyes. An armed SS commander was standing nearby and glared at the farmer until he ran away in shock.
However, he returned around five minutes later with a glass of milk, bravely walking past the commander to hand it to my mother. My mother hated milk. She never drank it before or after – but she gratefully took it from him.
As she drank, the SS man raised his whip, ready to beat her. And yet for some reason, he lowered it and allowed her to drink. She believed that glass of milk saved her life and, in turn, saved mine.
IN OCTOBER 1943, my name came up for deportation to the east. The train was packed and I found myself squeezed up against a middle-aged Frenchman called Robert. I did my best to take care of him and keep him warm and we became good friends.
The train arrived at Auschwitz and I was selected for work. I realised I had to fight to live and try and adjust myself to the situation.
One day, on a visit to the camp hospital, I saw Robert. He had been put in charge of it and said as I cared for him in the train, he would help me with extra food whenever possible.
I went to the hospital every evening when I returned from work. Because of him, I am alive.
I WAS working in Kommando Kanada, sorting through the belongings of those who had arrived in Auschwitz. We tried to bring shoes and underwear to help our friends who were working in terrible conditions in the trenches. It was of course strictly forbidden and one day we were stopped and three of our girls were told to undress and the extra clothing they were smuggling in was found.
As punishment, we all had to witness their execution by hanging. We were taken off Kommando Kanada and made to work in a punishment Kommando in terrible conditions.
There was no food and many died of starvation and maltreatment. One day, three Hungarian sisters who had recently arrived saw our plight and offered me a slice of their bread to share with my friend Janine.
It was such a miracle and they did that for a whole week. I was so grateful for this morsel of food. I never forgot their kindness and their humanity.
I WAS born in Vienna in 1925. After the Anschluss of 1938, my sister and I came to Britain on the Kindertransport. We never saw our parents again. In 1951, I returned to my home town, accompanied by my wife Muriel and visited what was my uncle’s shop.
It had been taken over and run by the Nazis before Kristallnacht and recovered by my cousin after the war. I went to see my cousin and one of the shop assistants recognised me as the boy she used to accompany to school. She told me that as my mother was taken away she gave her some things to look after.
The woman asked me to return next day, and I found boxes filled with family possessions, from underwear to jewellery. The amazing thing is the woman didn’t know whether I was alive or where I was living. She didn’t know if I would ever come to Vienna or visit my uncle’s old shop. She kept all these belongings just in case.