The Children of the Holocaust


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The Children of the Holocaust

Elderly Holocaust survivors tell their stories of Nazi persecution in childhood and their dramatic escapes from occupied Europe, in animation and interviews.


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I was born in Zwickau, which is in Eastern Germany.

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There's quite a big mountain range

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which separates Germany from the Czech Republic,

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and these are called the Erzgebirge, the Copper Mountains.

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My father took us all over the mountains,

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leaving everything behind, and went to Prague.

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Hitler marched into Prague in March, 1939.

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My father realised he's on a wanted list,

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so he left my mother and went to Poland.

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It was extremely difficult for my mother

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to be left alone with two small children.

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Street by street, Jews were cleared,

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and any moment, it was probably our turn.

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My mother, she must have had a will of iron, and great courage.

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She went from one embassy to another, queued up all night.

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And, if she ever got to the desk,

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they said to her, "We will take you,

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"but we can't take your two children."

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My mother wouldn't separate us, so she hung on to us.

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The only thing she could think of

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was to hope somebody would take her and the children.

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She was rejected by everyone.

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But then, the miracle happened.

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A knock on the door meant death,

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because it meant deportation.

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But for us, a knock on the door was the beginning of a new life.

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We opened the door to a woman from the British Embassy,

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who had braved the curfew.

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She brought the entry visa to Britain,

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train tickets to get through Germany, through Holland,

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and a ferry to Ramsgate,

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but she did not have an exit visa.

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You were supposed to have an exit visa to cross borders.

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And she said, "You'll just have to say you're going to see family

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"in Holland, and take nothing with you that could possibly

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"show anyone that you're going for more than a day."

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We made it through Czechoslovakia without any problem,

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and we got on the train in Germany.

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Sat down, thinking, "Good, we've got a carriage to ourselves,"

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when an SS officer came and sat next to her.

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He was trying to chat her up.

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And he realised what was going on, and he couldn't help us.

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But the fact that he sat there, now that might have been her salvation.

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Off we went, to the Hook of Holland, and got on a ferry to Ramsgate.

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On the ferry, I kept saying, "When are we going to be in England?"

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My mother got really fed up of me,

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she said, "When it starts raining, you'll know you're in England."

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So, as I was on the train, it began raining,

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and I must have been the only person there who was just totally thrilled,

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because I knew I was in England.

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The next morning was Sunday, September 3rd, 1939.

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As we arrived into Liverpool Street Station,

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I put my foot on the platform,

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suddenly, everything went quiet and there was a huge announcement

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on the loudspeaker, and everybody stood perfectly still.

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The announcement was Chamberlain saying...

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"I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street.

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"This morning, the British Ambassador in Berlin

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"handed the German Government a final note,

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"stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock,

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"that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland,

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"a state of war would exist between us.

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"I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received,

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"and that consequently, this country is at war with Germany."

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That was 11 o'clock, 3rd September, 1939,

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as my foot hit the platform.

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And that was the beginning of the Second World War.

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I was 12 when the war finished.

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And, although I was only 12, I was very mature,

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very mature as a child.

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My parents didn't talk a lot about what was going on during the war,

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but I had, I knew...

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I'd known sufficiently that things were quite bad.

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At the end of the war, of course, they started searching...

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The search was out to see if any of our extended,

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our family and extended families, were still alive.

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My mother's family had been, possibly still were,

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as far as they were concerned,

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in Romania, the Bukovina, which is Northern Romania.

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And my father's family had been deported to Poland.

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So they're in different parts of Europe,

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and the search was to see if we could find anyone.

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The liberation of Belsen had been put on general release

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in every cinema and people were asked to go and see that.

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Of course, I went -

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there was no question of me being too young to see that sort of thing.

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I was totally and absolutely horrified,

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as everyone was, watching it.

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And I just felt terribly emotionally disturbed,

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and the feeling was overwhelming.

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I just couldn't believe that these sort of things had happened,

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and that my family had disappeared in that terrible way.

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I have never got over

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what I have learned about the Holocaust,

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and what I've read.

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I mean, if you look around this house,

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you'll see I've got a huge section in the next room

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of Holocaust literature, people who have written about the Holocaust.

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Every thing that I do, I believe has an element that relates to it.

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Not voluntarily, it's something I can't help myself.

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For example, if I'm peeling potatoes,

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as I throw the potato peel away,

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I think about the girls in Auschwitz who looked for a bit of potato peel

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because they were starving.

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Another thing that's been left with me,

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and my children and grandchildren always laugh about it,

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I'm terrified of being without food.

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In my car, I always have something to eat.

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Now, I don't eat a great deal myself,

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but feel I always have water and I always have something to eat.

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That is definitely a throwback to the fear of hunger.

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I think it's important to tell the story,

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but I think it's how you tell it that's very important.

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It's not a matter of giving kids a horror story,

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because they see enough horror -

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just switch the television on, or internet, or plays, I don't know -

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you go and see films that are really horrible.

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I don't think it's the horror,

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I think it's the fact that, to make them understand,

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that it wasn't someone from out of space that did this,

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that doesn't happen, actually the horror is that someone so normal

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and so ordinary can do it to someone who looks exactly like they do.

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I think that isn't emphasised enough

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when people tell the story of the Holocaust.

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That people... Their next-door neighbours did this,

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or encouraged it,

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or stood silently by whilst all this happened.

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It wasn't necessarily strangers,

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and people with big boots on that did it.

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It's the fact that ordinary people stood by and allowed it to happen.

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In 1938 when I was eight years old,

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there occurred what has become known as the Polenaktion.

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Early in the morning, we were all sleeping in our beds.

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The Nazis entered our flat.

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We were going to be taken away.

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We were put on board a train.

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We came to realise that we were all Polish Jews.

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We were luckier than some.

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We had been taken as an entire family.

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Some of the people had been separated, they didn't know

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whether they would ever see one another again.

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To make matters worse, there were people of all ages.

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Babies, there were very old people, people who were ill,

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some had been taken out of hospital beds.

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Travelled for the rest of the day and, after it got dark,

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the train stopped and we were told to get off.

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Outside the station, there were two rows of SS men.

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We were marched off.

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And the rumour went round that we were being taken to some

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remote place where we would all be shot.

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I did see people collapse through exhaustion,

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and I was left in no doubt about the brutality of these SS men.

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We marched for some hours.

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And then we were stopped at a railway line,

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and we were told that the SS men were not coming any further.

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It seems likely that this was, in fact, the Polish frontier.

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The SS men wouldn't want to cross that at this particular stage -

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that could provoke an international incident.

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We were told that we would have to go on marching between the rails,

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because on either side there were ditches, and anybody who fell

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risked injury not only from the fall, but also being trampled.

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Eventually, soldiers and police came and took us prisoner.

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What the Poles were trying to do was to force us back into Germany.

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The German authorities were ready for that

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and attempts to send us back failed.

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We managed to get to Krakow, where we had some relations,

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and we arrived on their doorstep.

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Round about the time that we went to Poland, Britain allowed children

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to be brought over, in what came to be known as the Kindertransport.

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I was very lucky to be one of the few to be rescued from Poland.

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I would have died with all the rest of my family if I hadn't been.

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I went to foster parents in Coventry.

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In the autumn of 1940, the so-called Blitz began.

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Coventry was one of the most severely bombed cities.

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We had 17 raids when a few bombs were dropped on the city.

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And then, one night, we had a very big raid.

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Now, Home Office advice was that if you hadn't got an air-raid shelter,

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the safest part of the house was under the stairs.

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Under our stairs, we had a small pantry.

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So we all crowded into that - foster parents,

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my sister and I, and the dog.

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He was very vicious, he bit quite a few people.

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We tried to keep our distance, but whenever a bomb came very near,

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the dog growled and we were really afraid, all of us.

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We heard a very loud hissing sound

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and it was obvious the bomb was coming near.

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It landed just a few doors down.

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The next morning, when we emerged, the house had lost its doors,

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and its windows, and part of the roof.

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It's amazing that there were many small air-raids,

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and, generally speaking, people took them in their stride.

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But during these big air-raids,

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I certainly felt very much afraid, and I don't think very many people

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if they are truthful could say otherwise.

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Germany was a very, very advanced country.

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It's produced some of the world's finest musicians,

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some of the world's finest writers.

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It had made advances in human civilisation in all its spheres

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and so it is utterly amazing that a country which was

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so advanced should suddenly descend to barbarities, which really...

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..bear comparison with what was happening in the Middle Ages.

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Though the barbarities of the Middle Ages were terrible,

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they weren't done on an industrial scale

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in the way in which the Nazis did them.

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Now, if you ask me why, the answer is, I think, that nobody knows.

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This is something that one would have thought was impossible.

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And, of course, it serves as a warning to us,

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that even a country that can achieve so much in the advancement

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of human civilisation can suddenly revert to barbarities that

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we shouldn't have thought possible.

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My feelings towards the Germans then

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were very different from my feelings towards the Germans now.

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People sometimes ask me, "Do you resent the Germans?"

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I say to them, if you go to Germany today,

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the vast majority of Germans whom you meet had not been born then.

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A few very old people had been born, but were children,

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and, as children, many of them

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will not have understood what was happening, and even those who did

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understand it wouldn't have been in a position to do anything about it.

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So I would consider it very wrong to be resentful to people like that.

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But that, of course, was not the case then. In those days,

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the majority of Germans had lived through those periods.

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There were some, of course, who were simply caught up in events,

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but I knew from my own experiences in Germany, that there were

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many who had enthusiastically followed the Nazi cause.

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And I must say that I was resentful to them,

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whilst realising that there were a small number

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who had at least mentally opposed,

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even if they couldn't do anything about it.

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There are some people who think, quite wrongly, that the study

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of history is a waste of time,

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that one should study things more to do with the present age

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rather than study a bygone age.

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I don't agree with that at all, because, first of all,

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the only way we can understand the present is by finding out

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how it came into being, as a result of the past.

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But at least as importantly, and perhaps even more so,

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is those who don't study history are destined to repeat it.

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And things which can happen once can happen a second time.

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One must study the conditions which led up to them,

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and try to avoid the...

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..the repetition of these dreadful things.

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Back in my school days, around 1938,

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I have a wonderful photograph, a class photograph, of all of us here.

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It's something which is a great pleasure to look at,

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but also extremely sad

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because, unfortunately, the Germans killed many, many children.

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One and a half million innocent children were killed

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during the Holocaust.

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Why should innocent people, just because they were Jewish,

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be killed for no reason at all?

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And I look at these faces, I don't know who survived and who didn't.

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I only know that I survived.

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We had this radio in our dining room,

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and Father was often listening,

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but when he had the news on, you could hear this shouting...

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HITLER MAKING SPEECH

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..and that, of course, was the typical Hitler speech-making.

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Everybody was aware of this knock at the door

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and it always came during the night, when they came to take

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away people, either to take them to prison or to beat them up,

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or whatever, and that fear was there all the time I was at home.

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You feel insecure, you don't feel at ease.

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You can't relax and you know that something is wrong.

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Germans didn't come into Czechoslovakia

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until 15th March, 1939.

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And I realised that my parents were wanting

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to get the children away to safety.

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And my turn came, I left home on 28th March, 1939.

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The only thing I really remember is getting into a taxi.

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I remember my mother and father and my brother standing near me.

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But I cannot remember saying goodbye to them,

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I can't remember whether I hugged them, kissed them, whether I cried.

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I have absolutely no recollection whatsoever.

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We were travelling by train, through to London.

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But I end up in Wallsend on Tyne,

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where a very kind family had offered to give me a home.

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I start getting homesick and I start feeling very, very poorly.

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Because, A, I was missing my parents,

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B, I didn't speak one word of English.

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The food was totally different.

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I'd never eaten toast, porridge, kippers, marmalade,

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all these normal English things.

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And I just basically cried for as long as I stayed with them.

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From the age of nine, in those four years, in those war years,

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I lived with so many different people.

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I mean, I would think I must have been at least

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through 15 to 20 different places.

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I never saw my parents after 28th March, 1939.

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Father, he was transported on 19th of April, 1942,

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and he was already dead by 8th May.

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My mother is a different story altogether.

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The last proper evidence I have that she was alive

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was when she was transported to a small concentration,

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transportation camp, near Bratislava, called Sered.

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And I've been working for years and years to try and trace her.

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And I am almost at the end of the trail.

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I received some evidence from a testimony

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given by somebody in 1962,

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who could have been on the same transport

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that my mother was taken on,

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and on a death march on which she would have been shot and killed.

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The impact on me is something which has never left me.

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Every single day, I rue the destruction of my family.

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To me, family is the most important building brick for human beings

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and that's why I find it so hard today.

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Well, after liberation, I still had two years of school

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and I was in Surrey,

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but, of course, at that stage I was trying to see

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if my parents were still alive.

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And at one part, very early on, we had a letter from a variety

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of friends who'd been in Czechoslovakia during the war,

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and they thought my father was still alive.

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Unfortunately, that turned out to be a false hope.

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Mother, we had no...anything on.

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Anyway, like with everything else, you get on with life,

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you keep on looking, but you get on with things.

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So, the first two years after the end of the war

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I was still at school and then by 1947

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I'd got a county major scholarship from Surrey and I came up

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to university here in Leeds and have been in Yorkshire ever since.

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I think the biggest impact on me is the fact that I've learned to

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stand on my own two feet and fight my own battles.

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I was brought up,

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even as a young child, in a household

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where education was prized, and...

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..all of us, I think, wanted to aspire to

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a good education and do things.

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I am actually the least qualified member of my siblings.

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Obviously, my first nine years at home must have had

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some effect on me, but the only ones that I can clearly remember

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are my four years with Kingsley School during the war,

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run by these four fantastic women.

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High morals, high standing,

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doing good for the sake of helping other people.

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This was ingrained into us

0:25:130:25:15

and I think this has been my driving situation and, in fact,

0:25:150:25:19

my kids always describe me as, "Mother, she has a mind

0:25:190:25:22

"like a drawing pin, she's always upright," and this and the other.

0:25:220:25:26

They always tease me.

0:25:260:25:28

I have not reached what I had set out to do,

0:25:290:25:33

but looking backwards now, it doesn't really make any odds.

0:25:330:25:37

I've been basically lucky.

0:25:370:25:39

I had a decent husband, I've got a family.

0:25:390:25:42

Although, there's nobody here.

0:25:420:25:44

And what can you expect?

0:25:440:25:47

I consider, although many human beings like to think

0:25:470:25:50

they're superior to animals, we are only an animal.

0:25:500:25:53

We are basically robots. We can't control anything.

0:25:530:25:57

We've just got to cope with what we've got.

0:25:570:25:59

Initially, if you'd asked me when I was starting out to study

0:26:010:26:06

I would have loved to have been in a sort of white ivory tower in

0:26:060:26:09

some fantastic research laboratory, I could see myself as that.

0:26:090:26:13

But that wasn't to be,

0:26:130:26:15

and now for the last 20 years since I've retired

0:26:150:26:18

and I've forgotten all my science and background,

0:26:180:26:22

I feel striving possibly

0:26:220:26:24

for the human condition is something which I have a large feeling for.

0:26:240:26:29

I'm sure it has quite a lot to do with my history

0:26:300:26:33

because I've no graves to go to, where are my parents,

0:26:330:26:36

one God knows where, one in the ashes up in Auschwitz.

0:26:360:26:40

Therefore I also don't have a religious belief.

0:26:400:26:43

I mean, one of the things which often comes into my mind,

0:26:430:26:46

you know, if we have a terrible accident,

0:26:460:26:48

everybody prays for these people.

0:26:480:26:50

How many millions and millions and millions of prayers have been

0:26:500:26:53

said since religion and superstition came in?

0:26:530:26:57

And we're no better.

0:26:570:26:59

I do remember the day the Nazis came to power.

0:27:110:27:14

I was almost 13, and I remember looking down from our window.

0:27:140:27:18

And Nazis always celebrated their successes by torchlight processions.

0:27:180:27:23

And the Nazis marched past and sang songs, bloodthirsty songs.

0:27:230:27:28

The Nuremberg Laws which came in, in the autumn of '35,

0:27:290:27:33

legalised anti-Jewish measures.

0:27:330:27:36

We were no longer allowed to go to cinemas and theatres

0:27:360:27:40

and be members of clubs.

0:27:400:27:42

As a child, of any age,

0:27:430:27:44

to be excluded from your peers is a blow. You feel inferior.

0:27:440:27:49

And you question your existence.

0:27:490:27:51

There were three Jewish boys, including me, left in the class.

0:27:530:27:57

The main Hitler Youth leader came and said,

0:27:570:28:00

"It's time you left the school, we don't want you here."

0:28:000:28:03

I left school at 16.

0:28:030:28:05

If it hadn't been for the Nazis, I probably would have gone

0:28:050:28:08

to university, but we could no longer do that,

0:28:080:28:10

because universities were no longer accepting Jews.

0:28:100:28:13

At the age of 18, I went to Hamburg, to college, to learn English.

0:28:130:28:19

In the evenings, we got together, and we heard the news,

0:28:190:28:23

and we knew something was going to happen.

0:28:230:28:25

In Nuremberg, my parents were arrested,

0:28:250:28:29

kept standing in the square in the centre of the town

0:28:290:28:32

for about two hours.

0:28:320:28:33

Were abused, spat upon. The synagogue was set on fire.

0:28:330:28:37

The women, the older people and the children were sent home.

0:28:370:28:41

When my mother got home, about four o'clock in the morning,

0:28:410:28:44

she rang where I was staying.

0:28:440:28:46

She said, "Father's gone away,"

0:28:460:28:49

which was code for, "He's been arrested.

0:28:490:28:52

"Get dressed. Go for a walk."

0:28:520:28:54

So that's what I did. I sat on park benches.

0:28:560:28:59

Then I went round the department stores.

0:28:590:29:02

I tried to make myself small, not to stand out.

0:29:020:29:06

I could see the smoke from the burning synagogues everywhere.

0:29:070:29:11

I could also see groups of Jewish people,

0:29:110:29:14

being frogmarched through the streets.

0:29:140:29:16

Windows were smashed.

0:29:180:29:19

The Germans invented the term Kristallnacht,

0:29:210:29:24

because of all the broken glass.

0:29:240:29:26

Eventually, I went home.

0:29:280:29:29

The landlady said, "The Gestapo's been for you."

0:29:290:29:33

There's a good job that I did leave the digs,

0:29:330:29:36

otherwise I would have been sent to a concentration camp.

0:29:360:29:38

Father was arrested and then sent

0:29:400:29:42

to Dachau concentration camp near Munich.

0:29:420:29:45

He was there for five or six weeks.

0:29:450:29:47

Most of the people were released just before Christmas '38.

0:29:470:29:51

And he came home and he was a completely changed man.

0:29:520:29:55

It was then quite obvious that there was no future for us in Germany.

0:29:570:30:02

There was nowhere to go.

0:30:030:30:05

No country wanted us.

0:30:050:30:06

Frank, my brother, was in Leeds. He tried very hard

0:30:060:30:10

to get me a trainee post and finally succeeded.

0:30:100:30:13

And I came to Leeds.

0:30:130:30:15

We managed to get visas for our parents and they came.

0:30:150:30:19

Thank God, because, four days later, war broke out.

0:30:190:30:22

Well, the day war broke out,

0:30:230:30:25

a policeman came asking us to come down

0:30:250:30:28

and report to police headquarters.

0:30:280:30:31

We were registered as enemy aliens.

0:30:310:30:33

Cameras and binoculars were impounded,

0:30:330:30:35

which were considered spying equipment.

0:30:350:30:38

Churchill was by then just become Prime Minister.

0:30:390:30:42

And his civil servants famously asked him,

0:30:420:30:45

"What shall we do with these enemy aliens?"

0:30:450:30:48

and Churchill's words were, "Collar the lot."

0:30:480:30:51

So we were interned, Father, brother and me.

0:30:510:30:54

Well, all of us felt a bit sore,

0:30:540:30:56

because we were more opposed to the Nazis than the British natives were.

0:30:560:31:01

We were kicked out there because we were Jewish.

0:31:010:31:04

And we were interned here because we were German.

0:31:040:31:06

We wanted to fight the Nazis

0:31:060:31:08

and, instead, we were kept behind barbed wire.

0:31:080:31:11

Survival is instinct, it's natural.

0:32:100:32:13

Everybody has that.

0:32:130:32:15

You try desperately to get out of Germany,

0:32:160:32:19

which we eventually succeeded in.

0:32:190:32:22

And, well, you know, you...

0:32:230:32:27

..you are a survivor because you're there.

0:32:280:32:31

Obviously, my contemporaries who committed these atrocities

0:32:320:32:38

are dreadful.

0:32:380:32:40

But I'm concerned that I sometimes think what I would have been

0:32:400:32:47

if I hadn't have been Jewish.

0:32:470:32:49

Would I have been a Nazi? And I probably would.

0:32:490:32:53

You know, it's very difficult for a 12, 13, 14-year-old to resist

0:32:540:32:59

the temptations the Nazis offered for kids of that age.

0:32:590:33:03

Uniforms, campfires, learning to shoot rifles,

0:33:030:33:07

things like that, as they did in the Hitler Youth.

0:33:070:33:11

And it's very, very difficult for a kid of that age to resist

0:33:110:33:16

that temptation, and not be part of the crowd.

0:33:160:33:19

Well, I felt gratitude obviously to this country for allowing us in

0:33:200:33:26

at a time when this country had economic problems before the war.

0:33:260:33:31

And relief of being saved the fate that fell upon all those people

0:33:330:33:40

who were left behind.

0:33:400:33:41

So that was really the overwhelming feeling.

0:33:410:33:45

We felt grateful, we applied for naturalisation,

0:33:450:33:50

British citizenship,

0:33:500:33:53

which had been suspended during the war, there were no naturalisations.

0:33:530:33:58

And, in 1947, we were actually granted British citizenship

0:33:590:34:05

and a passport.

0:34:050:34:07

I found what I was aiming for in my wife,

0:34:080:34:15

who also came from Germany - she was younger,

0:34:150:34:19

she came on the Kindertransport...

0:34:190:34:21

..she was a trainee nurse at the time and we fell in love,

0:34:220:34:27

and we eventually got married immediately after VE Day,

0:34:270:34:33

although it wasn't planned that way...

0:34:330:34:35

..and...

0:34:370:34:39

Well, that's how we started life together.

0:34:410:34:45

We had two sons who were both successful in their own ambitions.

0:34:450:34:50

And, career-wise, I managed to get a job eventually

0:34:500:34:57

which was very fulfilling.

0:34:570:35:00

And that was as Chief Executive of the Jewish Welfare Board

0:35:000:35:04

and the Jewish Housing Association,

0:35:040:35:07

the formation of which I was instrumental with...

0:35:070:35:10

..which is now very flourishing. I mean, they've 400 properties.

0:35:120:35:17

I think, on the whole, with a lot of effort,

0:35:180:35:22

we managed to make a success of things, I think.

0:35:220:35:27

I had a fairly good career and a good family life,

0:35:270:35:31

and that's satisfying.

0:35:310:35:33

I was 14. In the wagon was only a very small window.

0:35:470:35:51

It was hot.

0:35:510:35:53

We were so cramped, we couldn't even sit down.

0:35:530:35:56

Some people had some water and some people didn't.

0:35:560:35:59

After two days and one night,

0:36:000:36:02

through the wagon I could see SS men with dogs, barbed wire,

0:36:020:36:07

electric fences.

0:36:070:36:09

We'd arrived in Birkenau, Auschwitz.

0:36:090:36:13

And they said, "Men on one side.

0:36:150:36:17

"Women and children on the other side."

0:36:170:36:19

And we made two long queues.

0:36:190:36:22

Mengele happened to be on the selection platform.

0:36:230:36:27

He pointed the finger to the left or to the right.

0:36:270:36:30

I noticed a lot of people

0:36:300:36:32

who were chosen to go to the right were fitter men.

0:36:320:36:36

To the left, children went, mothers with children, elderly men.

0:36:360:36:41

And I knew that's not a good point.

0:36:410:36:45

You know, if they don't need you, they kill you and that's it.

0:36:450:36:48

Then, suddenly, they tried to take a child away from her mother,

0:36:480:36:53

and she started screaming, and the SS men run towards her.

0:36:530:36:57

As they run there, I decided to go over to the right.

0:36:570:37:01

I was very lucky.

0:37:010:37:03

All the people which went to the left-hand side

0:37:030:37:07

went to the gas chambers.

0:37:070:37:09

And they gassed them and then burned their bodies.

0:37:090:37:12

We walked into a place called the sauna, a brick-built building

0:37:130:37:17

in Birkenau,

0:37:170:37:19

and we were told to leave all our clothing on the floor.

0:37:190:37:24

I had six photographs of my family.

0:37:260:37:29

And that's the last time I had a photograph of my family.

0:37:290:37:32

I had my hair shaved off.

0:37:340:37:36

And from there, we went into the next room and we had our uniforms.

0:37:360:37:40

Striped suits.

0:37:400:37:42

It was big on me, so I put it up.

0:37:420:37:46

They didn't give us any bath or shower.

0:37:460:37:48

They soon started getting problems with lice.

0:37:490:37:53

Lice walked round all over us. Itchy, it was very itchy.

0:37:530:37:57

They live on your skin.

0:37:570:38:00

We were 1,000 men in a barrack.

0:38:000:38:02

Three bunks high, ten people on a bunk.

0:38:020:38:06

We slept on the boards.

0:38:060:38:09

There was no straw, there was no covers.

0:38:090:38:12

People snored, people moaned, people died next to you.

0:38:120:38:16

5:30 in the morning, they woke us up.

0:38:160:38:19

And they allowed us to go to the washroom.

0:38:190:38:22

In the washroom, there was about five buckets of water.

0:38:220:38:25

And you just dipped your hands, washed your eyes and that was it.

0:38:250:38:30

I was just skin and bones because they didn't feed us.

0:38:320:38:36

They gave us a small piece of bread in the morning,

0:38:360:38:39

with some black coffee made of burnt wheat.

0:38:390:38:42

And lunchtime we got some watery soup

0:38:420:38:45

with a few leaves swimming round, and that's it.

0:38:450:38:48

Live on that for months and years,

0:38:480:38:51

going on, you're just like a skeleton.

0:38:510:38:54

Your mind can't think properly, your body is weak,

0:38:540:38:59

and you're starving all the time.

0:38:590:39:01

You think about food all the time.

0:39:020:39:05

You can't help but think about it.

0:39:050:39:07

In Auschwitz, I've been tattooed. I've got a number B7608,

0:39:080:39:14

on my left hand.

0:39:140:39:17

It's still there now. And I just can't take it off.

0:39:170:39:19

I've lost 81 from my family.

0:39:210:39:24

I've only found my sister, two years after the war.

0:39:240:39:27

How could I say how it changed me?

0:39:280:39:30

I'll never forget what I went through.

0:39:300:39:35

I suffered so much.

0:39:360:39:38

It was the most horrific thing any human being should ever see.

0:39:380:39:44

The world should never see that again.

0:39:440:39:46

I've lost 81 from my family.

0:40:360:40:39

Everybody I had, I've lost.

0:40:390:40:42

Brothers, sisters, my parents,

0:40:420:40:45

and my cousins, my uncles, I've lost everybody.

0:40:450:40:49

I've just found my sister - she escaped across into Russia.

0:40:510:40:56

I found her two years after the war, through the Red Cross,

0:40:560:40:59

my elder sister.

0:40:590:41:01

I knew she'd got across into Russia,

0:41:010:41:03

but she was the only one who survived.

0:41:030:41:06

But she died about 20 years ago.

0:41:060:41:09

She went to America,

0:41:090:41:11

and she went over,

0:41:110:41:14

and I went to her funeral,

0:41:140:41:16

and that's it. That was it.

0:41:160:41:18

I came over to this country with 260 boys and 40 girls

0:41:200:41:27

to the Lake District in 1945.

0:41:270:41:30

And...

0:41:320:41:34

we were there for six months.

0:41:340:41:37

And then, after that, we went to different cities

0:41:370:41:41

and I went to Liverpool with 20 boys.

0:41:410:41:44

Manchester took 30,

0:41:440:41:47

London took about 120 and...

0:41:470:41:51

Glasgow, and so on.

0:41:510:41:53

And, erm, eventually we were distributed around the country.

0:41:530:41:58

I was young.

0:41:590:42:01

16, life is only just beginning, and so on.

0:42:020:42:07

I tried everything to do what I could.

0:42:080:42:12

I had difficulties going through the whole system

0:42:150:42:20

of getting on my feet, and so on.

0:42:200:42:24

It was very difficult without any parents,

0:42:240:42:26

and no schooling, and this was a very low point for me.

0:42:260:42:32

In 1995, I wrote my book, A Detail Of History,

0:42:340:42:39

and...

0:42:390:42:40

..then the two brothers from Beth Shalom,

0:42:420:42:45

from the Holocaust Museum, came to ask me

0:42:450:42:49

would I speak, would I go down and speak to children,

0:42:490:42:54

to schoolchildren, and, eventually, I agreed...

0:42:540:42:58

..and that's how I started talking about my life.

0:43:000:43:03

I came to this country with nothing, and I've got a nice home,

0:43:050:43:10

and I've done, basically, everything I wanted to do,

0:43:100:43:15

and...and life goes on.

0:43:150:43:18

I'm now 85 and I still look forward to my life,

0:43:180:43:23

to carry on regardless.

0:43:230:43:25

I'm going to Poland, on the Walk Of The Living.

0:43:250:43:29

I was there last year.

0:43:310:43:32

11,000 people were walking from Auschwitz 1 to Birkenau.

0:43:320:43:37

And I took a bus load of young people, about 18 years old...

0:43:390:43:46

..and I'm going to do the same this April.

0:43:470:43:51

I will never forgive the older generation of Germans, never.

0:43:530:43:57

I've nothing to those which were born after the war.

0:43:570:43:59

But I will never, never forgive the Germans what they did to me

0:43:590:44:04

and to other people. Never.

0:44:040:44:07

I'm a very strong minded person, in myself. And...

0:44:080:44:14

..if I want to do something, I usually do it.

0:44:170:44:20

And I try everything I can to achieve certain things.

0:44:200:44:26

Now I'm...

0:44:260:44:28

..I'm relaxed, I'm...

0:44:300:44:32

I'm actually retired.

0:44:330:44:35

But I still carry on teaching young people, which is very,

0:44:350:44:41

very important to me.

0:44:410:44:43

I'll do it till the day...

0:44:430:44:45

..somebody calls me to the other side.

0:44:470:44:49

Ooh, my Paris was gorgeous. I lived in the 20th arrondissement.

0:45:020:45:07

I loved Paris, being a little girl there was fun.

0:45:090:45:12

We used to walk along the Seine and over the bridges.

0:45:120:45:15

My mum used to buy me lovely ice cream.

0:45:150:45:19

And she used to put me on a carousel ride.

0:45:190:45:22

And the marionettes in the park!

0:45:220:45:25

There was music always playing.

0:45:250:45:27

And it was a lovely life. It was a cultured life.

0:45:270:45:31

I remember going to a pre-school. I loved going there.

0:45:320:45:36

But I didn't go there for very long.

0:45:360:45:38

Slowly, slowly, my life changed.

0:45:380:45:42

The first thing we couldn't do, we couldn't go out.

0:45:420:45:45

You started to hear noises that you hadn't heard before.

0:45:450:45:49

It was really scary sometimes.

0:45:490:45:52

As I understand it now, we were occupied.

0:45:520:45:55

And all the shouting

0:45:550:45:57

and the carrying on you could hear outside were soldiers.

0:45:570:46:00

The day it happened, it was August and it was hot.

0:46:030:46:06

And I was with my father at the window.

0:46:060:46:09

And suddenly he said, "They're here."

0:46:090:46:11

And we went into the bedroom and my mum pushed me under the bed.

0:46:130:46:18

You could hear all these boots on the stairs.

0:46:180:46:21

And they banged on the... Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang!

0:46:210:46:24

And we didn't answer the door. We stayed in the bedroom.

0:46:240:46:27

And then they took an axe, and they came in,

0:46:270:46:31

told us, "Raus!" Out!

0:46:310:46:33

And they told my parents, "Pack a bag!"

0:46:330:46:36

During all the commotion, Madame Collomb came in,

0:46:360:46:39

she was our next-door neighbour.

0:46:390:46:40

And she said, "What's my child doing in this apartment?"

0:46:400:46:44

She took me by the hand, took me away.

0:46:440:46:47

Had they realised what she was doing,

0:46:470:46:49

we'd have all been shot on the spot, and she got away with it.

0:46:490:46:52

She took me to her apartment and put me underneath her dining table,

0:46:520:46:57

with a big chenille tablecloth over it,

0:46:570:46:59

made me a little bed, and I lived there for two or three weeks.

0:46:590:47:02

And it was dark, and it was solitary, and it was lonely,

0:47:020:47:05

and I had nightmares there.

0:47:050:47:07

I never saw my parents again after that.

0:47:080:47:11

And I was a lost, totally lost child.

0:47:110:47:14

After that, Madame Collomb took me out at night.

0:47:160:47:19

And furtively, we had to go to catch a train.

0:47:190:47:22

The first hiding place she took me to was Mondoubleau,

0:47:230:47:26

which is south-west of Paris.

0:47:260:47:28

I couldn't go to school, I couldn't go out on the street

0:47:280:47:30

because there were German soldiers everywhere.

0:47:300:47:33

They hid me in sort of a strange outhouse.

0:47:330:47:37

Stayed there two years in hiding.

0:47:370:47:39

Then I was taken to the Auvergne, to a farm in the middle of nowhere.

0:47:400:47:44

There's no light, there's no water.

0:47:460:47:48

You have to be self-sufficient.

0:47:480:47:51

You grow up overnight.

0:47:510:47:52

I slept occasionally inside the house, but then other times

0:47:540:47:58

I went and slept with the goat, cos she'd had some kids.

0:47:580:48:02

They were warm and they were friendly

0:48:020:48:04

and snuffle against your cheek.

0:48:040:48:07

During the day, I had to go out and work like a man.

0:48:080:48:12

It's hard, in the winter, when it's frozen.

0:48:130:48:16

My hands were blue and they were cracked, and bleeding, and sore,

0:48:160:48:20

and my feet were in the same condition,

0:48:200:48:22

because I didn't have shoes.

0:48:220:48:24

I used to sit down and cry sometimes.

0:48:240:48:27

But it didn't do any good so I stopped that.

0:48:270:48:30

Nobody heard.

0:48:300:48:31

Nobody ever said, "Oh, I'll explain what happened to you.

0:48:320:48:36

"I will explain what war means.

0:48:360:48:38

"I will explain what happened to your parents,

0:48:380:48:40

"but you're never going to see them again.

0:48:400:48:43

"I will explain that you are never going back

0:48:430:48:45

"to your house in Paris, forget it, it's gone."

0:48:450:48:48

The war finished in '45 and I was still in the Auvergne for two years.

0:48:520:48:57

We didn't know, we hadn't been told.

0:48:570:48:59

I didn't know the war was over, cos we didn't have newspapers,

0:48:590:49:02

we didn't have a radio, we didn't have electricity.

0:49:020:49:05

Nobody knew.

0:49:050:49:06

My war really started when I came to Britain.

0:49:460:49:49

I couldn't speak the language.

0:49:490:49:51

I didn't know who I was. I was traumatised.

0:49:510:49:53

Couldn't talk. Didn't want to talk.

0:49:530:49:55

They thought I was dumb. I didn't speak.

0:49:550:49:57

I came into England with the Red Cross,

0:49:570:50:01

and put into a family in Newcastle.

0:50:010:50:04

And I couldn't speak the language,

0:50:060:50:09

and I couldn't communicate with anyone.

0:50:090:50:11

I remember just crying for three nights.

0:50:110:50:15

When I was growing up, I was about 17,

0:50:150:50:18

I was going to go and join the Army

0:50:180:50:20

and I was going to go over there and kill them all.

0:50:200:50:22

That was my anger.

0:50:230:50:25

I hated them.

0:50:250:50:26

I couldn't bear to hear the German accent.

0:50:260:50:28

And it made me very...

0:50:300:50:33

..cautious.

0:50:340:50:36

And never wanting to go anywhere near those countries or associate

0:50:360:50:41

with anything that had to do with Germany for a long time.

0:50:410:50:46

It was fear, anger...

0:50:460:50:49

I can't express that enough.

0:50:520:50:54

Fear, anger, um... Indignation.

0:50:540:50:58

How dare they do this to human beings? How dare they?

0:50:580:51:02

That's one of the biggest... You know, as I got older,

0:51:020:51:04

not as a small girl - I didn't know the word -

0:51:040:51:06

but as I got older, I felt such indignation.

0:51:060:51:10

I know that the younger generations can't help

0:51:100:51:13

what their grandfathers did,

0:51:130:51:15

but I still feel very angry.

0:51:150:51:17

It causes you to have post-traumatic stress, it does.

0:51:170:51:22

You're shocked, you're in shock,

0:51:220:51:24

and when you come to your new country, you're still in shock.

0:51:240:51:27

Nobody says, "How are you?" They didn't say it then.

0:51:270:51:31

"Do you feel... What do you feel? How are you feeling?

0:51:310:51:35

"Are you very unhappy? Do you want to talk about it?"

0:51:350:51:38

Instead of which they used to say to me, "Oh! Don't talk about it!

0:51:380:51:42

"Forget about it!" Wrong.

0:51:420:51:45

Talk about it. Bring it out in the open,

0:51:450:51:48

because that way, that's where the healing starts.

0:51:480:51:51

The healing begins when you talk about it,

0:51:510:51:53

so people saying, "Oh, suppress it,"

0:51:530:51:55

it makes you poorly, and then they say, "Oh, this child's always ill."

0:51:550:51:59

I'm very, very, VERY grateful to Great Britain for letting me

0:51:590:52:05

stay, for a start. I came with a visa, so I wasn't a citizen,

0:52:050:52:10

and then I got my...

0:52:100:52:11

Forgotten! Oh, British naturalisation, so this country,

0:52:140:52:17

I have to say a big thank you, because they've helped me a lot.

0:52:170:52:20

The country has helped me a lot.

0:52:200:52:22

And the way that I felt

0:52:220:52:26

when I first arrived in England wasn't that way

0:52:260:52:29

because I wasn't aware, I was too young.

0:52:290:52:31

I wasn't educated, I didn't go to school.

0:52:310:52:34

So...

0:52:340:52:36

it's been hard. You know...

0:52:360:52:39

I've educated myself by reading books -

0:52:390:52:41

that's where my knowledge came from -

0:52:410:52:44

I ate, literally ate, books,

0:52:440:52:46

and gained all the things that I knew,

0:52:460:52:49

and the wonderful things about life and in the world.

0:52:490:52:53

And then nature taught me a lot. It was nature first, books next.

0:52:530:53:00

I look at my sons, I look at my grandchildren,

0:53:000:53:03

I look at my great-grandson, and he's a fabulous little boy,

0:53:030:53:07

and I'm just very happy about what I have achieved.

0:53:070:53:10

And every day I say, "Thank you,"

0:53:100:53:12

about 10,000 times a day. Thank you!

0:53:120:53:15

I've read everything that I can lay my hands on,

0:53:230:53:25

from literature, to poetry, to art, to people's testimony, and so on,

0:53:250:53:31

and I can read them over and over again

0:53:310:53:34

and I feel I must, I feel it's my duty

0:53:340:53:38

to give them that because there's so many of them,

0:53:380:53:42

so many of the six million Jews who died

0:53:420:53:45

including 1.5 million children

0:53:450:53:48

have no-one to follow them, families were completely wiped out.

0:53:480:53:52

So the fact that I am here and my children

0:53:520:53:55

and grandchildren are here,

0:53:550:53:57

as survivors...

0:53:570:53:59

..it is our duty to remember them

0:54:000:54:04

so they should not go un...

0:54:040:54:06

They're not unknown, that they've got to be remembered

0:54:060:54:09

in some way or other, and it's our job to remember them

0:54:090:54:12

and what they went through.

0:54:120:54:14

Historically, if you talk about it to people,

0:54:140:54:18

to groups, and so on, people learn, and if anything like that

0:54:180:54:23

could come up again, they would stand up against it, and so on.

0:54:230:54:29

So that's why, basically, I talk about it all the time.

0:54:290:54:34

I know myself that I've done quite a bit, educated people,

0:54:340:54:39

and so on, and young people, I've educated them.

0:54:390:54:43

I told them the history, and so on, what I went through.

0:54:430:54:48

And the suffering I did go through.

0:54:480:54:50

And I never want to see that happen to them.

0:54:500:54:53

One should try to keep all this in people's memory,

0:54:550:55:01

not with a view to fermenting hatred or perpetuating hatred,

0:55:010:55:06

but with a view to reminding people that we humans are not quite as good

0:55:060:55:11

as we may think we are,

0:55:110:55:14

and we can descend into these horrors

0:55:140:55:17

if we don't take precautions.

0:55:170:55:20

However much you can learn about history,

0:55:220:55:24

and of course it is important to learn and to think you're not going

0:55:240:55:27

to make the same mistakes again, the fact is we do, as human beings,

0:55:270:55:32

as parents, we make mistakes that we promise ourselves we will never do.

0:55:320:55:37

I think human beings can't help it,

0:55:370:55:40

the frailty of the human being is such that we do repeat mistakes.

0:55:400:55:44

But I think, whatever people say about young people today,

0:55:440:55:50

I think they are more tolerant.

0:55:500:55:52

So maybe there is hope. I think humanity is getting better.

0:55:520:55:57

Hopefully, I'm right.

0:55:590:56:01

I think people are not aware of other people's experiences

0:56:050:56:09

and how it can be hurtful or how it can be good.

0:56:090:56:12

The other story which I could tell you is the kindness of strangers.

0:56:120:56:16

The number of people who have helped me

0:56:160:56:19

till I was able to stand on my own feet is amazing.

0:56:190:56:22

I believe that because they're going to keep

0:56:250:56:28

the Holocaust Memorial Day in perpetuity, I hope,

0:56:280:56:31

and that there are certain places like Yad Vashem

0:56:310:56:35

and Beth Shalom who have a memorial to the Shoa,

0:56:350:56:39

which is the Holocaust,

0:56:390:56:40

I do believe that it should be at least remembered.

0:56:400:56:45

Yes, I do. I do.

0:56:450:56:47

I think it should be taught, you know, in perpetuity

0:56:470:56:49

because even if it is not the Holocaust,

0:56:490:56:52

the other story - Rwanda, Syria,

0:56:520:56:57

Yugoslavia - should be told.

0:56:570:57:01

They should be kept alive in the memory of people.

0:57:010:57:06

They shouldn't be allowed to be forgotten,

0:57:060:57:08

because that way, things will...

0:57:080:57:11

Because we're human, we will forget.

0:57:120:57:15

It's a warning, I suppose, to people to be vigilant,

0:57:160:57:20

not to be bystanders, but to speak out

0:57:200:57:24

if they encounter bad things, or evil things.

0:57:240:57:29

This is exactly what happened.

0:57:310:57:33

The Germans stood by and did nothing

0:57:330:57:37

and at some times were enthusiastic supporters of Hitler.

0:57:370:57:42

So, that is the warning - constant vigilance.

0:57:440:57:49

Eyewitness accounts from history, brought to life in animation.

Elderly survivors recount their childhood experiences of Nazi atrocities, their escape from occupied mainland Europe to Britain, adapting to life in the UK and the impact on their lives subsequently.

Ruth is a five-year-old girl escaping from eastern Germany and from Nazi-occupied Prague. She arrives in England the moment war is declared.

Martin is an eight-year-old boy, expelled from Germany to Poland in the middle of the night by the Nazis, who escapes to England only to experience the worst of the Blitz in Coventry.

Trude is a frightened nine-year-old brought to England without her family on the Kindertransport, who struggles to adapt to life in Britain away from her parents.

Heinz is a 13-year-old boy who witnesses the effects of anti-Jewish laws, Nazi demonstrations and pogroms, and escapes persecution in Germany only to be arrested as an 'enemy alien' in Britain.

Resourceful 14-year-old Arek survives against all odds in appalling conditions in the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Suzanne, aged six, is violently separated from her parents in Nazi-occupied Paris. Deprived of her family, freedom and education, she is hidden in the countryside and forced to work on a farm.

We also get a chance to meet the real-life survivors today in short, on-camera interviews, which reflect on the effect these experiences have had on their adult lives. They discuss why it is important to keep the memory alive of those who were murdered by the Nazis, the importance of Holocaust education, and an appeal to humanity to keep vigilant so that such horrors could never happen again.