The Baby Born in a Concentration Camp


The Baby Born in a Concentration Camp

The story of Anka Bergman, who gave birth to her baby daughter Eva in a Nazi concentration camp, and endured six months of forced labour during her pregnancy.


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Transcript


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This programme contains scenes which some viewers may find upsetting

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Eva Clarke was born into a world that did not want her to exist.

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Under the Third Reich, all Jewish babies were to be killed.

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We had to sign a paper that the babies will be taken away -

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that's first time I heard the word "euthanasia".

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By the time of Eva's birth, her mother Anka weighed just five stone

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and was on the brink of starvation.

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I was getting thinner and thinner

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but my stomach was getting bigger and bigger.

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Eva was born at Mauthausen, a Nazi death camp, where hundreds of thousands lost their lives.

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But remarkably both Eva and Anka survived.

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Now for the first time on television they tell their full story.

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Anka Bergman was born 94 years ago in Czechoslovakia.

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Her birthday, the 20th of April - the same as Hitler's.

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In 1936, she was a carefree 18 year old, studying law at the Prague Charles University.

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I found out that you don't have to go to the lectures if you do law, that you can do it at home.

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So that suited me to the ground.

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I wanted company and boyfriends and to enjoy myself, which I did.

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I didn't know that Hitler was coming but somehow I filled it

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with only cinema and theatres and concerts and parties.

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My father was German, German but Jewish.

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When Hitler came to power he came to Prague in 1933.

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He thought that was far enough to be safe. It wasn't,

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but if he hadn't, he wouldn't have met my mother.

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She met him in a night club where she was with a group of friends.

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I was in the company of, well, let's say, ten mixed girls and boys and he joined us.

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That was it, you know.

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I think it was love at first sight.

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When I saw him I thought, "I don't see right",

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because he was the best-looking man I have ever seen in my life

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and until today I haven't changed my mind, I must say.

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I've heard it from people other than my mother that my father really was something of a stunner

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and people would literally walk down the road and turn around, you know.

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But I think they both look equally good.

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We started dating but it was all very, very hectic and we got married

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and everything looked sort of as well as it could,

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because we still didn't realise what the Germans were doing.

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Anka and Bernd were to enjoy a just a few months of happiness

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before their blissful days of freedom would come to an end.

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EXPLOSION

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In 1939, the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia.

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On March 15th, the tanks rolled into Prague.

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It was snowing and it was like the height of winter.

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It was a catastrophe to see.

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COMMENTATOR SPEAKS GERMAN

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They marching through the main square, Wenceslas Square, in Prague

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and we were all deadly desperate because we knew, well, this is it, what's going to happen?

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COMMENTATOR SPEAKS GERMAN

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The Nazis began to impose new rules and regulations on all Jews,

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removing freedoms previously taken for granted.

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The rules against the Jews started slowly, gradually.

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You weren't allowed to go to the theatres and cinemas

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and there was a curfew after eight.

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You had to do it, but it was bearable.

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She would also test these restrictions, or people did

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and she did certainly,

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and she did go to the cinema once when it was forbidden.

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And I thought, "Blow it all, I must see this film", and I went to the cinema.

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And she was sitting in the cinema watching the film when the Gestapo came in

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and they started to go through the audience row by row,

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looking at their ID papers and my mother was terrified

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because she had no idea how they would react when they got to her

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and when they saw the large "J" for Jew on her papers.

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I was in the middle of the cinema in the middle row.

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If I had stood up it would have been worse than waiting there, what's going to happen?

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And they go through every row

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and they stop the row in front of me.

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I don't know why.

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And they went.

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And I sat there till the end because I didn't want to draw attention to me.

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Then I came home and told my husband where I had been.

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I thought he would kill me because he didn't know.

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I didn't... They could have shot me, they could...

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I don't know.

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At this time most people had no idea about the lengths that Hitler and the Nazis would go to.

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HE SPEAKS GERMAN

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Faced with increasing discrimination, some Jews did choose

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to leave Czechoslovakia, but the majority stayed.

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We knew they were going to do something but...

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as long as you don't experience it, you just think everybody is panicking.

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I don't know. I really can't explain it to you.

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But most of the Jews...

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didn't leave.

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In 1941, the Nazis implemented the next stage in Hitler's plan

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and started transporting all Jewish people out of Prague.

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In the November, Anka's husband received a card

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instructing him to report to a warehouse near the railway station.

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And a fortnight after him, I got a sort of postcard that I should come,

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on that day, with 50 kilos of luggage.

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And when she left, not only was she carrying her handbag

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and her suitcase, she was also carrying a large box, a very large box.

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I said to her, "What did you have in the box, didn't you have enough to worry about?"

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I had a box with 50 doughnuts,

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ordinary, plain doughnuts with jam in the middle.

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I said, "Why doughnuts?" She said, "Because your father liked doughnuts."

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My husband was very keen on them and I thought I would bring it for them, bring it to him.

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There was one young German soldier, he could see that she was having difficulty carrying all her luggage,

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well, mainly carrying the doughnuts,

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and he said to her, "Es ist scheissegal, ob die Schachtel mitkommt",

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which means, "I couldn't give a shit if that box goes with you or not."

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He said it terribly, really.

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He would have been no older than 20 years, but anyway.

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But I managed to get it on the train.

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I brought it to Terezin and my husband enjoyed them.

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Anka had arrived at Terezin concentration camp.

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The rest of Anka's family were also sent to Terezin,

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as were thousands of Jews from all over Europe.

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Anka and her husband Bernd had remained together,

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but they were about to experience first-hand the brutality of the Nazi regime.

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The primary function of Terezin was

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as a transit camp for the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp,

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a grim truth successfully disguised in a Nazi propaganda film.

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The reality of the camp was far more severe than the pictures suggest.

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Food was scarce and living conditions tough

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and those who were weak and not able to work were quickly transported on to Auschwitz.

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Because my parents were young, strong and well capable of work,

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so they remained in Terezin for three years.

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And at the beginning we all thought it isn't too bad, we can take it,

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and the Germans thought, we will show you how you can take it

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and suddenly they took about 15 young men and hanged them

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because they tried to smuggle a letter to their parents

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and they caught one of them and 15 were hanged.

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Sleeping arrangements at Terezin were strictly controlled.

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Men and women were forced to live in separate barracks

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but Anka found a way to meet regularly with her husband.

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I managed to get pregnant. That was the biggest sin

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we could have committed because there were segregation of sexes.

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And I mean, one finds, one finds ways and means how one does the various things.

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My mother stayed in the same barracks as I did.

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She look at me, how and where?! ANKA LAUGHS

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She laughed actually because in all that misery there,

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she had a sense of humour.

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And when I was a young teenager about, I don't know, 12, 13,

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no doubt when it would have been at its most embarrassing,

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I asked her how, how come she got pregnant?

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She replied in a very clever way.

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She said, "Under such circumstances you find comfort where you can

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"and to hell with the consequences", end of story.

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But to be Jewish and become pregnant under the Nazi regime

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was a serious crime and there was a devastating consequence.

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There were five couples in the same position as we, that they found out that we were pregnant

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and we had to sign a paper that the babies, when they are born, will be

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taken away and that's the first time I heard the word "euthanasia".

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But we did sign it that the children will be taken away.

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The children were born...

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..but nothing happened and nobody knows why we had to sign it

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and nobody knows why nothing happened.

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My little boy was born in February 1944

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and he died of a natural death two months later of pneumonia.

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But he wasn't killed, but on the other hand,

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his death saved my life and Eva, of course, because I wouldn't be here to tell you the story.

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Anka and Bernd's time at Terezin was running out.

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At the end of September 1944, Anka discovered she was pregnant

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for a second time but before she was able to tell her husband about the pregnancy, he was taken away.

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Bernd was being sent to Auschwitz.

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The next day, Anka volunteered to follow him.

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They told us if you want to see your husbands so you can come of your own free will

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and you will see them in a different ghetto.

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I was one of the first ones to go voluntarily.

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But I never saw him again.

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She heard from an eyewitness, quite soon after the end of the war

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that my father had actually been shot dead in Auschwitz on the 18th January 1945.

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-He never knew about you?

-No, he never knew that she was pregnant.

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Although Anka had endured five years of Nazi brutality,

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she was completely unaware of what was taking place behind the electric fences of Auschwitz.

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I knew you were sent east, Auschwitz probably but I didn't, I didn't know any more. It didn't mean anything.

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It meant it's in Poland and it can't be all that marvellous as Terezin was but we didn't know...

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Nothing.

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And so we arrived on the famous ramp,

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we saw the chimneys spouting the smoke

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and fire and the smell and it looked like hell.

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We didn't know what was happening there.

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Just the picture of those chimneys and those fire, I can't describe it.

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It is unbelievable and indescribable and we all got frightened

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and didn't know what of.

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Our heads were shaved and they took all our clothes and we were naked there.

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We slowly were sent into a barrack where they were showers

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but we didn't know anything about any other showers,

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so it didn't worry us and they were real showers

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and we washed in the cold water and no towel and nothing

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and we ran around there like naked and the men looking at us.

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No, it was awful, that beginning.

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We were frightened but we still didn't know of what.

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And then we were sent to some other barracks where there were already other people,

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it was cold and windy and horrible

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and a friend of mine who was standing next to me

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asked one of the girls who were there, "When will I see my parents?"

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And they all started laughing like mad.

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"You stupid cow", or who knows what not, "they are in the chimney by now",

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and in that moment you knew what was happening there,

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not how and what, but you knew they were burning the people in the chimneys.

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My mother was in Auschwitz for ten days which was, you know,

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although a short space of time, she said it really was hell on earth.

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She said it was like Dante's Inferno.

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People there, everybody...

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stopped looking human somehow.

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Anka's parents, her sisters, her brother-in-law and her nephew

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had all been sent to Auschwitz

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a long time before Anka and her husband.

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And when they arrived there they were able to keep their luggage, they kept their clothes,

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they weren't shaved, they weren't tattooed and they were sent to what was called a familienlage.

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One or two of the wooden huts in Auschwitz-Birkenau

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had families together and there was just one very cynical reason why.

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And that was so that they could be forced to write postcards home.

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And my aunt, my mother's oldest sister Denna,

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she wrote a postcard to her cousin who still happened to be in Prague.

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Shall I translate?

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"My dear ones, I am here with my husband and sister and her son

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"and we are all fine.

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"I hope that you are all well and happy. Best wishes to...

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"Yours, Denna" and so on.

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The postcards had to be written in German so the Germans could censor them.

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And my aunt was desperate to get a message out in code.

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And the code word is in the address, in the first line of the address

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where the lady to whom it was sent, her first name was Olga.

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Well, the word "Olga" doesn't feature in the postcard

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and where the word "Olga" should be is the word "Lechem".

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The word "Lechem" is not German, it's Hebrew and it means "bread"

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and my aunt was telling her cousin that they were starving.

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Olga did receive the postcard, understood the message and sent a parcel.

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But by the time the card had been posted, Anka's parents, sisters,

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brother-in-law and nephew had all been killed.

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Anka had arrived at Auschwitz pregnant with Eva and her life was in grave danger.

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The Nazis assessed all inmates and decided who would live and who would die.

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We went through these so-called selections where they picked people

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who were most capable of eventually doing some war work.

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Pregnant women were routinely sent straight to the gas chambers.

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But, for now, Anka's pregnancy would go undetected.

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She was selected to live.

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We were given some food and some better clothes

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and we were put on a train and sent away from Auschwitz.

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And that was just marvellous.

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The feeling that we were leaving Auschwitz alive, you just can't imagine.

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It was heaven.

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In October 1944, Anka was just three months into her pregnancy.

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If discovered, she would be sent straight back to Auschwitz to a certain death.

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But for now, the greatest threat to Anka and her unborn child was the lack of food and warmth.

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We were like sardines again in that train and there was only one bucket

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and it all started overflowing pretty quickly and no food and no water.

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Anka was on her way to an armaments factory.

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We went up a hill to a huge factory

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and it opened the door and it was warm there.

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And we saw and smelt the bed bugs.

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I don't know if you have ever seen one, but they are little beetles

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which wouldn't matter so much but they have that certain smell,

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sort of sweet. Never mind!

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I never saw it since and I hope, I hope not to smell it again,

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but there were thousands of them and that meant warmth.

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Anka was to spend the next six months riveting the tail fin

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of the V1, the unmanned flying bomb, the notorious doodlebug.

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Compared to Auschwitz the factory was a haven,

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but Anka's life was still at risk.

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I was getting thinner and thinner

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but my stomach was getting bigger and bigger.

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Discovery of her condition would have meant her immediate return to the gas chambers.

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I perhaps am the only person, idiotic as I am,

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who thought that I would get through it and I will come home,

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never doubted it.

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And seeing all these people going in the gas every day and every day and so on and so on

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and being pregnant and the baby, I knew I was coming home

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which is totally stupid.

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But I lived with this idea.

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By the February of 1945, Anka was seven months' pregnant

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and was now in great danger of being discovered by the Nazis.

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Miraculously, she would be spared the fate of the gas chambers.

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At the end of the January, Auschwitz had been liberated by the Russians.

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But there was now a new threat to Anka's life.

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The Nazis had started to evacuate the camps and factories

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to annihilate all living witnesses to the holocaust.

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Anka was put on yet another torturous train journey,

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heading south away from the advancing allies.

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There was no food and no water and no nothing and we were in open coal wagons.

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The train journey lasted three weeks and during this time many people lost their lives to hunger.

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Anka was on the brink of starvation

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and by now was nine months' pregnant.

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Finally the train arrived at its destination...

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..Mauthausen Death Camp.

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At this very moment, Anka went into labour.

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When my mother saw the name "Mauthausen" at the station

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she was very shocked because as opposed to when she'd arrived in Auschwitz

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not knowing what that was, this time she knew

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because she had heard about this appalling place from very early on in the war.

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And she says the shock was so great that she thinks it provoked the onset of her labour

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and she started to give birth to me on that coal truck.

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We went up the hill and I was sort of starting to give birth to the child

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and there I stopped just before the opening of the main doors of Mauthausen

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and then I had to climb down from that wagon and nobody helped me.

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There was this Russian doctor who was with us and who you knew slightly, the prisoner.

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And she was just passing.

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I begged her to help me and she turned round and went.

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I mean, a doctor.

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The baby came out and we were still going for ten minutes, I think,

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and then they called a doctor from the camp, the prisoner,

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and he was a gynaecologist by pure fluke and he cut the baby off

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and smacked its bottom and it was a healthy baby and I was in heaven.

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Her arms were like my little finger.

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I mean, she was tiny.

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You didn't dare to touch her.

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They think I weighed about three pounds.

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I was wrapped in paper.

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My mother just held me all the time.

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Despite all odds Anka's baby had made it into the world

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but at the worst possible moment.

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The Nazis were desperately getting rid of all witnesses to their crimes.

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In the dying days of the war, thousands were shot, gassed and starved to death.

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Anka and her new-born baby were on their way to the gas chambers of Mauthausen.

0:25:220:25:28

But then, another miracle.

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The Germans disappeared.

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Nobody threw them out, no-one, suddenly they were gone.

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There are two reasons why we survived and the first

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is that on the 28th April, 1945,

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the Nazis had dismantled the gas chamber in Mauthausen.

0:25:530:25:58

Well, my birthday is the 29th.

0:25:580:26:00

So presumably had my mother arrived on the 26th or 27th,

0:26:000:26:04

again, I wouldn't be sitting here today.

0:26:040:26:06

The second reason we survived was because a few days after my birth

0:26:060:26:10

the American Army liberated the camp.

0:26:100:26:12

My mother reckons she wouldn't have lasted much longer.

0:26:140:26:17

Anka's four years of Nazi imprisonment were finally over.

0:26:190:26:23

When she was strong enough she and baby Eva returned home to Prague.

0:26:250:26:30

Anka was free at last, but she and Eva were now alone in the world.

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CELEBRATORY MUSIC PLAYS

0:26:370:26:40

That was the worst moment of the whole war for me, to arrive in Prague

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which I wished all through the time, "When will I be home?"

0:26:520:26:56

and there was no home.

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I come from a big family and there was nobody, nothing.

0:27:000:27:05

I didn't know where my next meal will come from because

0:27:050:27:09

I had no money, no clothes and a little baby.

0:27:090:27:14

But nevertheless she still had a vestige of optimism in the back of her mind and she asked somebody

0:27:140:27:21

to give her some money to go on the tram.

0:27:210:27:23

She thought that if anybody had survived, there was a chance it would be her cousin.

0:27:230:27:28

I ring the bell and the door opens and the whole family waits for me there

0:27:300:27:36

and say, "Where have you been? We heard you are coming to us."

0:27:360:27:41

And they were just marvellous.

0:27:410:27:45

Now I'm going to start to cry.

0:27:450:27:47

I can't...

0:27:550:27:57

Well, I asked them if I could stay a few days and they said, "Of course."

0:28:110:28:16

And a few days ran to three-and-a-half years

0:28:160:28:20

and it was just, I found a new family.

0:28:200:28:24

Other survivors returned home to discover they had lost everything and everyone.

0:28:270:28:33

Many committed suicide.

0:28:330:28:36

All my other friends, whom I met in the road, sort of street,

0:28:370:28:41

they walked about like flotsam because there was nobody nowhere for many of them.

0:28:410:28:48

And I had this fantastic, growing thing.

0:28:480:28:52

It's unbelievable how much it gives you and how much you can take

0:28:540:28:59

for somebody else.

0:28:590:29:02

She was the greatest help of all, without knowing it.

0:29:020:29:08

A mother's love and all that.

0:29:080:29:10

It's the most potent thing in life, I find.

0:29:100:29:17

You get over everything.

0:29:190:29:21

In 1948, Anka remarried and the family moved to Britain.

0:29:260:29:32

Today the woman who gave birth in a concentration camp

0:29:320:29:36

has two grandsons...

0:29:360:29:38

That is lovely.

0:29:390:29:41

..and three great-grandchildren.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:30:030:30:06

Anka Bergman gave birth to her baby daughter Eva in a Nazi concentration camp.

During her pregnancy, Anka witnessed the horrors of Auschwitz and endured six months of forced labour. If the Nazis found a woman was pregnant, she could be sent straight to the gas chambers. Amazingly, Anka's pregnancy went unnoticed for months.

Anka eventually gave birth - on the day she arrived at an extermination camp. Anka weighed just five stone and was on the brink of starvation; baby Eva weighed just three pounds.

Remarkably, both mother and daughter survived, and are living in Cambridge. Now they tell their story.


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