Humanity has not learned its lesson from the Holocaust, say 7 survivors as they visit Auschwitz death camp

Humanity has not learned its lesson from the Holocaust, say 7 survivors as they visit Auschwitz death camp

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STANDING in front of the gates of hell at the entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp, seven Holocaust survivors are among the last to bear witness to the inhuman brutality of the Nazis.

It may be eight decades since they rebuilt their lives in Britain, but their legacy is to re-tell the nightmares that haunt them as anti-Semitism once again rises across Europe.

Louis Wood

These seven Holocaust survivors are among the last to bear witness to the inhuman brutality of the Nazi[/caption]

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Jacques Weisser, now 82, was a baby when his mother was deported to Auschwitz where she was murdered and he ended up in an orphanage[/caption]

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Martin Stern MBE, now 85, was arrested aged five and he and his year-old sister Erica were sent to a children’s camp at Auschwitz[/caption]

Now in their 80s and 90s, they are acutely aware this may be their last trip to commemorate the 1.1million who were gassed, worked or starved to death at the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Yet they fight emotional and physical frailty to share their stories in the hope that such suffering will never happen again.

In the three months after the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7 last year, British Jews faced 2,699 incidents of anti-Semitism.

That compares with 392 incidents over the same period in 2022.

Jacques Weisser, 82, was seven months old when his mother Martha was murdered at Auschwitz in 1942.

He said: “We shouldn’t be afraid, because we live in a democratic society, but I fear something like the Holocaust could happen again.

“We have not learnt our lesson.”

Jacques, who lives near Watford, added: “Hate helps no one.

“We need to try to understand each other and love each other.

“The human race has a lot going for it, but somehow there’s always a doubt we haven’t yet seen the light.”


Martin Stern MBE recalls the terror of spending a year in a concentration camp after his family were arrested by the Gestapo when he was five.

His architect father Rudolph survived Auschwitz but died at Buchenwald concentration camp in March 1945.

Martin, 85, from North London, described the recent increase in anti-Semitism as “terrifying” as protesters march the streets with incendiary placards and swastikas in support of the Palestinian people.

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He said: “We have people in Britain who think they’re supporting the poor people of Palestine.

“I’m not in favour of Gazans being harmed but you need to consider both sides.

“People with a false sense of justice are ignoring the outrageous horror committed by people with a plan to exterminate the Jews of Israel and think they are doing good.”

Under the infamous sign above the entrance to Auschwitz — Arbeit Macht Frei, or “Work sets you free” — the survivors shared their horrific experiences before joining thousands of people on the annual commemorative March of the Living.

Yesterday’s event on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day saw 6,000 people walk just over a mile from Auschwitz to its sister camp Birkenau.

This year marked the 80th anniversary of the Hungarian Holocaust.

More than 400,000 Jews were sent to their deaths at Auschwitz from Hungary, where many had fled to escape persecution.

Barbara Frankiss, now 85, hid from the Gestapo with a sympathetic family while the Nazis shot her mother
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Alfred Garwood, now 81, was put on a trains headed for the gas chamber eight days before the liberation of the Terezin prison camp by the British Army[/caption]

Yesterday’s walkers were led by 55 Holocaust survivors from around the world, including the seven Britons.

Among the marchers was Thomas Hand, whose nine-year-old Irish-Israeli daughter Emily was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists during a sleepover at her friend’s home in the Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7.

Pictures of her moving reunion with Thomas 50 days later were sent around the world, and Thomas, 63, who lives in Israel, said: “Emily is thriving.

“She has given me strength and I have given her strength.

“I had to come to the march because it’s more important than ever, not only to remember the six million killed in the Holocaust but to remember the second attempted genocide on October 7.”

Among the seven British Holocaust survivors taking part in the walk was Barbara Frankiss, 85, who now lives in North London.

During the war, she spent months hiding behind a wardrobe in the day and sleeping on a straw mattress at night after her mother paid a Polish family to take her in when they fled the Warsaw ghetto in 1942.

Ordered not to move for fear she would be discovered, five-year-old Barbara spent her days licking her finger to draw pictures with saliva on the back of the wardrobe.

The Gestapo later raided the apartment block where she was hiding and her mother was among a group of Jews who were marched out of the basement.

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Barbara recalled: “There was such a commotion when the Gestapo arrived.

“They were checking every house so I had to pretend I belonged to the family who were hiding me.

“I went outside and heard screaming and then shots.

Being at Auschwitz has left me humbled and deeply moved. We must never forget


Alfred Garwood

“Later I found out my mother was among those from the basement lined up and shot.”

Former GP Alfred Garwood, 81, from East London, was one of the few Jews whose immediate family survived the Bergen-Belsen camp where more than 70,000 died.

His father, Solle Garfinkle, was a camp barber who spoke seven languages and used his linguistic skills to appease the infamous Nazi guard Irma Grese, who had also served at Ravensbruck and Auschwitz, which helped to keep his family alive.

Solle bought costume jewellery from French women which he turned into new pieces for the petrifying Grese — known as the Hyena of Auschwitz, who kept her dogs hungry so they would rip prisoners apart.

Alfred dedicated his life to helping childhood Holocaust survivors and has also worked with torture victims.

He said: “Being at Auschwitz has left me humbled and deeply moved.

“We must never forget.”

Retired scientist Peter Lantos, 84, of North West London, was deported from Hungary aged four and sent to a ghetto before being sent to Bergen-Belsen in December 1944.

He became prisoner number 8431 and recalled: “I remember being hungry, the bitter cold and the boredom of being a then five-year-old in a concentration camp.

“My father died of starvation at Belsen and as a family we lost 21 — as many as 16 at Auschwitz — including a cousin the same age as me.”

Mala Tribich lived in a ghetto, became a slave labourer, hid from the Nazis with a Christian family and was imprisoned in Ravensbruck then Bergen-Belsen in February 1945.

Now living in North London, she said: “When we arrived at Bergen the first thing that hit me was the smell, the awful stench, the smoke and fog.

“Through it you could see people who looked like skeletons, shuffling about and there were bodies everywhere, hundreds of them.

“There were naked, decaying corpses everywhere.”

Eve Kugler, 93, and her family fled Germany after Kristallnacht — the Night of Broken Glass — in November 1938 when the Nazis plundered and ransacked 7,500 Jewish homes and businesses across the country.

She and her sister Ruth were sent to a home for displaced Jewish children in France before they were given a rare visa to New York in 1941.

Eve, who moved to London in 1991, said: “I never thought I’d see my parents again.

Mala Tribich MBE, was sent by the Nazis to work at a ply-wood factor and later ended up at Bergen-Belsen
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“They sent us letters in the beginning but then they stopped.

“I thought they were dead, but then out of the blue in 1946 we got a postcard from my mother saying they were alive.

“They had survived three French concentration camps and narrowly escaped deportation to Auschwitz.”

The seven British survivors started their Polish journey with the March of the Living charity in Warsaw.

They paid homage to those who starved in the city’s ghetto and the resistance who tried in vain to fight back during an uprising in 1943.

The trip to Auschwitz took in Belzec extermination camp, where Jacques Weisser wiped away tears as he recited a Hebrew mourning prayer for the 500,000 killed there in just nine months in 1942.

The camp’s Nazi killing machine was so efficient that the life expectancy on arrival was just 90 minutes.

The seven Brits then visited the Children’s Forest at Zbylitowska Gora in south Poland — scene of one of the Holocaust’s most sadistic killings. On June 11, 1942, 800 Jewish children were marched six miles from an orphanage in the city of Tarnow to the nearby Buczyna forest, where they were thrown, prodded and bayoneted into a pit.

Grenades were thrown in after them to save on bullets, while those children who survived had their heads smashed against trees to finish them off.

In the dappled sunlight of the forest, the survivors shed tears for the children, whose bodies still lie undisturbed beneath the forest floor.

  •  For more information about the annual event, see marchofthe- living.org.uk.
Eve Kugler BEM, now 93, fled Germany in 1938 with her family and was one of several hundred Jewish children issued a US visa
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Peter Lantos BEM, now 84, was among more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews transported to Auschwitz, where his father starved to death[/caption]

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