Our presentations reflect a wide variety of personal experiences of the Holocaust across nazi-occupied Europe and can be adapted to any audience. To see a summary click on one below or just scroll down to browse.
Yisrael Abslesz born 1930
Presented by Avital Menahem
Yisrael Abelesz was born in 1930 in Kapuvar, Hungary to an Orthodox, middle-class, and loving family. They lived a simple, yet comfortable life and he was one of six children, with four brothers and one sister.
Before the war, he took pride in being Jewish and Hungarian and saw the two parts of his identity as the most wonderful combination. Antisemitism was not a regular concern for him, and he walked around Kapuvar wearing his skullcap.
This changed when the Nazis occupied Hungary in March 1944. Overnight, restrictions curtailing Jewish freedoms were announced with the result being frequent harassment.
Soon after this, the Jews were confined to ‘Jewish houses’: Jewish-owned properties which the owner was forced to share with other families from surrounding towns and villages. The next stage was forcing the Jews into a make-shift ghetto, an outdoor brick factory, in the larger city of Sopron. Two weeks after this, they were deported to Auschwitz. This was in July 1944 when Yisrael was 14 years old.
From July 1944 until January 1945, Yisrael survived a few selections for the gas chambers, daily life in Birkenau and the infamous death march until he was liberated by the Russians. After the war, he was reunited with three of his brothers and his sister and they rebuilt their lives. His parents and younger brother were gassed on arrival at Auschwitz.
Since moving to the UK in 1949, Yisrael married Judit, also a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, and they had four children. He worked in property and remains an active member of the Jewish community in Golders Green. He is also involved in the restoration of neglected Jewish cemeteries in Hungary. Although his wife has since died, he is busy with family life.
His story is told by his granddaughter, Avital Menahem (nee Mendelsohn) using audio testimony of Yisrael and a selection of photos to preserve his legacy and to share the message that we must treat everyone, regardless of perceived differences, with dignity and respect, to create a positive society where every individual is valued and can contribute.
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Charlotte Amdurer, née Kohn 1921 –
Presented by Judith Hayman
My mother Charlotte Amdurer, née Kohn, was born in Berndorf, Austria, in 1921. The family were patriotic Austrians who could be traced in Austria back to 1650. My grandfather and his brothers all fought for Austria in WWI.
Anti-Jewish laws implemented by Hitler in Germany over five years were introduced in a few months in Austria after the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria). Imagine my family’s disbelief when the Ten Commandments were turned upside down and it became normal brutally to attack rather than to love your neighbour.
The story uses anecdotes from my mother and testimonies supplied by my Aunt Frieda to Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation and to the Leo Baeck Institute.
This is not the story of the death camps but of the role of the bystander who stood by and let evil things happen, paving the way for the Final Solution.
The miracle of Charlotte and Frieda’s escape is revealed but so too are the stories of those who were trapped in Austria and perished in the Łódź ghetto.
After the war Austria claimed to have been amongst Hitler’s victims. This presentation exposes this lie and warns people what can happen when you hate ‘the other’ so much you want them dead.
Judith Hayman is a retired English teacher and journalist. During the two years before COVID she has spoken to 25,000 students in schools in the NW on anti-Jewish and other forms of racism. She has written a teachers’ guide on anti-Jewish racism and other forms of racism for the Campaign against Antisemitism.
Austrian Holocaust survivor Pete Bank writes:
This presentation is very well done and very moving. Teaching experienced history is very vital. You have done a great job.
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Czerna Leja (Lola) Waksman 26.11.1918 to 03.04.1992
Jochene (Jan) Kurz-Bernstein 22.11.1909 to 30.12.1985
by Noreen Plen
This is the story of two Polish Jewish families, the Kurz and Waksman families, whose lives tragically changed when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939.
Jan Kurz-Bernstein was born in 1909 in a town called Mielec. When Poland was taken over by the Germans he escaped the Nazis by travelling East, but was arrested by the Russians. He barely survived the hard labour in Siberia but after recuperating he joined the Berling Army that helped to liberate Warsaw in 1945. His father Shaya Kurz was not so lucky. His mother, Estera Bernstein, died in 1925 and his father was murdered on March 9th, 1942 when all the Jews of Mielec were deported.
Lola Waksman was born in Lublin in 1918. The family moved to Warsaw for economic reasons but were then confined in the Warsaw Ghetto. With her sister, she made a daring escape from the Ghetto and they took on the persona of two Polish catholic girls to survive on the Aryan side. The fact that they spoke an unaccented Polish allowed them to do this successfully. Their parents Isaac and Nesha Waksman however, were murdered on November 3rd, 1943 after having been deported to the forced labour camp of Trawniki.
Jan and Lola met in Warsaw after the war and married in 1947. However, after realising they were being watched by Communist authorities, they managed to escape Russian-controlled Poland and arrived in England in 1949.
Through photos and voice recordings, their daughter, Noreen, tells their stories of courage and resilience; how they succeeded in building a happy life in England, but never forgot the loss of their dear parents, Noreen’s grandparents.
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Lela Black 1918-2008
Presented by Jacqueline Luck
Lela Black, nee Amiel, was born in 1918 in Salonica, the second largest city in Greece with a thriving Jewish population, where she lived happily alongside other Jews, Christians and Muslims. In 1940, she left Salonica with her husband Joseph and young daughter Marcelle to move to Athens, leaving the rest of her family behind.
When the Germans occupied Athens in 1943, Lela, Joseph and Marcelle went into hiding. A year later, after being denounced and incarcerated at the Haidari military camp, they were transported to Auschwitz in cattle trucks, with thousands of other Greek Jews.
On arrival at Auschwitz, a selection process separated Lela from her daughter and husband; this was the last time she saw them. Somehow, Lela survived Auschwitz, enduring freezing temperatures, disease and hunger. (128)
She was finally liberated by the Russians on May 5th., 1945 and returned to Greece, only to find that her entire family from Salonica had been deported in 1943 and murdered in Auschwitz.
Eventually, Lela came to London to stay with her only living relatives: an aunt, uncle and two cousins. She later remarried and had another daughter, naming her Marcelle after the child that she had lost. Sadly, her new husband died of cancer when Marcelle was only three years old.
Ultimately, Lela lived a happy and fulfilled life, doting on her daughter and two granddaughters. She died in August 2008, following a major stroke.
Lela’s story is told by her granddaughter, Jacqueline Luck, a secondary school Music teacher and an advocate of Holocaust education. She includes video footage of Lela’s testimonies, as well as a selection of treasured family photos. The presentation follows Lela through an extraordinary and heartbreaking journey, before eventually finding peace. It ends with a message urging people not to stand by and allow hatred and intolerance to prevail.
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Naomi Blake 1924-2018
Presented by Anita Peleg
Naomi Blake, née Zissi Dum, was born in 1924 in Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia to a large Jewish family within a thriving Jewish population. This all changed under the German-backed Hungarian regime and by 1944 the Jews had all fled or been deported.
In April 1944 Naomi and her family were transported in the notorious cattle trains to Auschwitz concentration camp where many of her family members were selected for the gas chambers. She and her sister were chosen to work and sent to Brahnau concentration camp. There while working in a munitions factory, they learned how to sabotage the bombs that they were tasked to build. In a bid to flee the Russian armies, their Nazi captors forced the prisoners to march but Naomi managed to escape and finally make the long journey home. She returned to Mukacevo in July 1945 to find that her home was in ruins and 17 family members, including 10 young nieces and nephews had been murdered.
Her journey then took her to Palestine where she rebuilt her life and then finally to London where after attending the Hornsey School of Art, her career as a sculptor flourished. Today, her work promotes understanding between faiths and stands in many places of worship and public spaces such as Norwich Cathedral, St James Church, Muswell Hill, All Saints Church, East Finchley, New North London Synagogue, Leeds Synagogue, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Fitzroy Square.
Her story is told by her daughter Anita Peleg using audio testimony of Naomi, historical photos and photos of Naomi’s sculpture that demonstrate the strength of the human spirit to survive against the odds and provide a positive legacy for the future.
A very remarkable and personal talk . Her mother’s experiences and personality came over so clearly. Opened up to larger issues and which are appropriate to today.
Thank you! Touched the human spirit.
Eva Cato 1926-2008
Presented by Vivienne Cato
Eva Cato née Rotenstein was born in Czechoslovakia 13 years before the outbreak of World War II. An only child growing up in a small town in Slovakia with her mother and grandparents, she witnessed the encroachment of anti-Semitic hostilities and regulations on the life of her small Jewish community.
Having discovered that her aunt had been transported to Auschwitz, she and her mother decided to escape and made their way illegally to Budapest in Hungary, where they were to remain until the end of the War. Living under false identities, they moved from place to place within Budapest as their situation became increasingly precarious. They survived the Siege of Budapest by sheltering in a basement for weeks with almost no food. By the time the Russians liberated the city in January 1945, they were two of only 15,000 Slovak Jews (out of a pre-War population of 90,000) who had survived the War.
Post-war she returned briefly to Slovakia to pursue medical studies but was forced to leave by the Communists who took over in 1948. She and her mother immigrated to Britain, where she married and had a child, but she was unable to resume her medical career and had to relinquish her dream of being a doctor. She died in 2008 at the age of 81.
The presentation by Eva’s daughter, Vivienne, takes us through the key points of this story, using footage of Eva recorded in 1992 by the British Library with Yale University as part of their Holocaust testimony project.
I feel as If I have learned a lot today. I am inspired by the sentiment of ‘stand together’ and I found your story very interesting. Thank you for sharing your story and I am thankful for this learning experience.
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Tony Chuwen 1924-2004
By Gloria Silver
The survival of Gloria Silver’s father, Tony Chuwen, is an epic story of bravery, resourcefulness and good luck. Living by his wits, Tony’s path to ultimate freedom was an extraordinary and high-risk journey. There are no spoilers given here, this incredible story simply has to be listened to. Prepare to be surprised.
Tony grew up in Galicia, Poland in a secular Jewish family. His father was an architect and Tony’s childhood years were spent in a small town in Poland’s Carpathian Mountains. There, his father was supervising the building of a Sanatorium for members of Lvov’s Jewish community who were recovering from tuberculosis. Childhood ended for Tony at age 14 with the outbreak of World War 2. The rest of his teenage years were spent in continual danger and on a personal quest simply to outlive Hitler.
His dramatic story is presented against the background of the Holocaust and World War 2 in central Europe. His experiences are illustrated with clear maps and simple background information to allow the audience to understand and follow both what happened to him and the underlying historic events. It includes personal audio testimony from Tony himself, who was interviewed by the London Holocaust Survivor’s Centre in 1993. The full recordings are held in the British Library.
Gloria herself is a retired Pharmacist and was a local Magistrate for many years. Despite the tragic subject matter, her presentation is given in a manner accessible to young people, without being too overwhelming or going into too much detail of some of the crueller aspects of this period of history. Despite everything, including the loss of almost Tony’s entire large family, ultimately it is a positive story of survival in almost impossible circumstances.
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Stella Curzon, Born 1928
By Jane Curzon
Stella Curzon was born in Vienna in 1928 and came to England as a refugee aged 10. She was the only daughter of Schulim and Mina Schatzberg. Growing up she thought all grown-ups ever talked about was politics as when she was four years old in 1933, Hitler became the chancellor of Germany. Stella’s family evenings were spent with family gathered around the radio listening to what was happening to the Jews in Germany.
Jews made up 10% of the Vienna’s population, and they were allowed to work in all fields, own businesses, go to the city schools, attend, and teach at the university. They could not believe that the people they lived harmoniously amongst would overnight become their oppressors. In March 1938, was the Anschluss, when Austria was willingly annexed to Germany, their freedom was taken away.
That day Stella had to leave her school. Her father, who was a dentist, was only allowed to have Jewish patients, they were forbidden to go in certain parks and they lived in terror. November 1938 saw Kristallnacht, when synagogues, Jewish shops and homes were smashed and burnt. After that Schulim, along with other Jewish men, was taken to a concentration camp in Dachau and Stella and her mother had their apartment taken by their neighbours.
Mina was a determined wife and masterminded Schulim’s release from Dachau. He then came to England and through a series of fortunate events, he found three women to offer Stella refuge and save her life and her belief in the kindness of people.
This presentation is delivered by Jane Curzon, Stella’s daughter. It includes family photos, copies of documents and video clips of Stella talking. Because there is an emphasis on a child’s experience of the devastating events this presentation is suitable for school years 6-8.
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Sam Gardener 1925 – 2013
Presented by Maralyn Turgel
Sam Gardner aka Shmuel Yankel Golberg was born in 1925. He came from Pietrokow, Poland, where he lived with his family in a 2-bedroom apartment. Following the German invasion of Poland, in 1939, horrific laws were enforced against the Jews, fellow Jews were often being rounded up and taken away and they were constantly in fear for their lives.
Sam and his father made a safe hiding place in his attic for his mother and siblings, while they sheltered in the glass factory where they worked. Sadly, they were discovered and his mother and siblings were taken to Treblinka to the gas chambers, his grandfather was shot on the doorstep and nine of his cousins were taken to the forest and murdered.
In 1942 Sam and his father were selected to work as slave labourers in an ammunitions factory. In 1943 they were moved to Buchenwald concentration camp where they lost their only possessions – their treasured photographs. In 1944 he was separated from him father, never to see him again. In April 1945 Sam was taken on a ‘death journey’ on cramped cattle trucks with no food, water or sanitation finally stopping at Matthausen Concentration Camp. Out of 2000 he was one of 42 that survived the journey and then miraculously survived attempts to send him to the gas chambers. The survivors of Matthausen were liberated by the Americans who Dad described as “Angels from Heaven.” When Britain agreed to take 1000 child refugees, Sam was one of them. He finally settled in Manchester and was always grateful to the British people for their kindness. He married Hannah in 1950. They had two daughters, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren. His story of survival is told by his daughter Maralyn.
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Emmy Golding 1914-2010
Presented by Helen Stone
Helen Stone’s mother, Emmy Golding, née Kaufmann, was born in a small village near Cologne in Germany just as World War I was beginning. The twelve Jewish families in her village, who had lived there for many generations, were well integrated and yet maintained their religious identity. The insidious rise of the Nazis from 1933 onwards forced Emmy, her parents and her sister to flee Germany in search of a safe haven.
Emmy has amazing recall and describes her experiences vividly and powerfully on a video recording made by the Spielberg Foundation in 1996. She talks about growing up, school and the local community as well as about her dangerous but successful attempt to smuggle money out of Germany and her confrontation with an SS official in a desperate bid to have her father released from Dachau Concentration Camp.
She escaped to Britain on a domestic service visa in May 1939 and succeeded in rescuing her parents, who arrived in London just three days before the start of war in September 1939. She married, had children and eventually made a fulfilling life for herself and her family in England.
Helen’s presentation intersperses Emmy’s own testimony with personal memories of her mother. The Spielberg video, family photos and artefacts are combined with brief footage of the rise of the Nazis, thus setting the story against its historical background.
Although this presentation deals with the Holocaust, it does not give details of concentration camp life and ultimately has a positive and uplifting message to convey. It is therefore considered suitable for young people of thirteen years and upwards.
This was a great experience. Your mother’s story really inspired me to always stand up for everything and be confident.
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“It will soon blow over”
Presented by Ernie Hunter
Ernie Hunter recounts the story of his mother, Fanny Höchstetter, and howlong-standing, friendly, Christian – Jewish relationships in the small market town of Laupheim, Germany were destroyed by the Nazis.
Laupheim was mainly Catholic, with a Jewish community. The Jews enjoyed a full religious and cultural life. Jewish shops closed over the High Holy Days. Catholic and Jewish children played together. Jews were leading members of the local social and cultural scene.
In March 1933 many Germans, including Jews, felt that surely the Nazis could not crush German democracy. They felt “It will soon blow over”. Fanny Höchstetter, was one of those and almost left it too late to flee Germany.
Within days of the Nazi Party taking control of the Reichstag, legislation forced the retirement of Jewish civil servants and political opponents of Hitler – and Fanny, Jewish and already at 30 a senior civil servant, did not want to retire! Despite being physically bullied she bravely stood her ground, including demanding that her retirement be documented, eventually – and unusually – receiving a certificate.
Fanny eventually realised that “It would NOT soon blow over”. Luckily her sister Bertl found her a job as a chambermaid in Wales – saving Fanny’s life. Fanny managed to flee in August 1939 – days before WW2 started.
The story also mentions the fate of some family members sent on the first transport from Baden Württemberg [December 1941] for “Resettlement East” to an unknown destination. They ended up in Riga, Latvia, where, on or soon after arrival, most were shot one on one. Within a year, Jewish culture, religion – and life – in Laupheim had been extinguished. Extinguished to this day.
The story is suitable for Year 9+ and adults.
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Anton Hundsdorfer 1902 – 1982
Sonja Hundsdorfer 1927 –
Presented by Ernie Hunter [born Hundsdorfer]
Ernie Hunter tells the story of his father, Anton Hundsdorfer, sister, Sonja, and his non-Jewish German family. They were victims of Nazi Persecution because they were communists and political opponents of Hitler. The story tells how Germans who opposed Hitler suffered terror, imprisonment, interrogation, torture, forced labour and murder.
Anton, born in Bavaria, Germany, in 1902, was brought up in his step-father’s home in Bohdasice in the German-speaking part of what became Czechoslovakia. Anton did not get on with his step-father and, in 1918, ran away.
Anton arrived in Munich after Germany lost World War 1 at the time when a short-lived Communist Bavarian Republic was being formed. The ideals of communism and democracy – where everybody had a voice and equal rights – made a lifelong impression on Anton. Anton felt the crushing of the Republic by right wing forces meant democracy was under threat. He became an active member of the KPD [Kommunistische Partei Deutschland].
Anton married Klara Holy, and they had a daughter, Sonja. Following Klara’s tragic death in 1928, Anton and Sonja lived with Klara’s parents. Anton delivered anti-Nazi leaflets throughout Bavaria putting him on a Nazi enemy list.
When Hitler took control of Germany in 1933, Anton, as a political opponent, had to flee for his life, leaving his daughter behind. He reached the UK as a refugee in 1939. Sonja was brought up, in Germany, as an orphan. Meanwhile her uncles were subject to imprisonment, torture and murder in Dachau concentration camp. Miraculously, within days of the end of World War 2 in Europe, Anton managed to make contact with his daughter.
A lesson for today drawn from the story is the importance of free speech and democracy in preventing persecutions/genocides.
The story is considered suitable for older teenagers [Year 10/11 upwards] and adults.
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Lushka Kelly (nee Klapholz) 1923- 2003
Presented by Seymour Kelly
Seymour Kelly’s mother, Lushka Kelly, nee Klapholz, was born in the small village of Raycza in southern Poland in 1923. She was the middle of five children and led an orthodox Jewish life, although her family was well integrated into Polish society.
Lushka recalls her experiences in a video interview made by the USC Shoah Foundation, established by Steven Spielberg in 1994. She recounts what happened to her before the war and describes the Nazi occupation of her village and the forced move to a ghetto in nearby Sucha. She then, movingly, describes the day that she and her sisters and brother were separated from her parents and youngest brother who were sent to extermination camps. The remainder of her wartime experiences were as a slave labourer, with her two sisters, in various spinning and munitions factories, until May 1945. After the war she and her sisters returned to Poland where she was reunited with her surviving brother. After the war she and her brother came to England with other orphaned children in a transport organised by Rabbi Schonfield and she made a life for herself in the UK.
Seymour’s presentation intersperses Lushka’s own testimony with personal memories of his mother. The video is combined with family photos and more general images of the Holocaust, thus setting the story against its historical background. Although Lushka’s story is traumatic and sad, it conveys a positive message of how the human spirit cannot be defeated and that there is hope even in the most difficult circumstances.
Seymour Kelly has had a varied career in teaching, the British Council, where he worked overseas in Africa, and in higher education in the field of alumni relations and fundraising. He is an active member of Kingston Liberal Synagogue and has been involved as a workshop leader and speaker in the Kingston Holocaust Memorial workshops for the past three years.
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Helga Lemer 1919 – 2021
Presented by By Lesley Urbach
Helga Lemer, née Kirsch was born in Berlin in November 1919. She was an only child of Felix and Gertrude Kirsch. Helga described her childhood as wonderful. She attended a non-Jewish school where she had non-Jewish as well as Jewish friends until Hitler came to power.
In 1934 Helga visited her father’s family in Schlochau where she heard Nazis marching and singing in the street a song with the words, ‘When Jewish blood splashes from knives.’ This was just the beginning.
After the Nuremberg Laws were introduced in mid-September 1935, Helga like other Jews were not allowed to take part in normal social activities. Discrimination against the Jews grew worse by the day until the terrible events of Kristallnacht in 1938 where Jewish property was ransacked and burned, and Jews were beaten on the streets.
In 1939 Helga’s mother encouraged her daughter to take a job as a domestic servant in England, promising to follow. However, their reunion never took place.
This presentation identifies how persecuted refugees both then and now are often forced to leave their homes and should be welcomed and supported. It is suitable for Year 6 and above.
Lesley’s Urbach tells this story on behalf of Helga’s family. Her presentation uses film testimony provided by Helga, family photos, historical photographs and brief excerpts from historical film.
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Sabina Miller 20/6/1922 – 18/3/2018
Presented by Sandra Miller
Sabina Miller nee Najfeld was born in Warsaw Poland in 1922. She was the third of four children and had a warm and happy childhood. The family were quite orthodox but integrated well into Polish life.
Sabina’s life was shattered after Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and the Warsaw ghetto became a reality at the end of 1940. Her parents died of typhus as a result of the subhuman living conditions.
She lived in the ghetto for 2 years then escaped illegally to an aunt in Sokolow – a town 80 kilometres from Warsaw. She worked on a farm with 29 other Jewish girls but ran away to the forest when she heard the Germans were coming for them. She then spent the winter of 1942 living in a trench -a hole in the ground, begging for food. She took on the identity of a Polish girl in order to be sent to Germany to do farm work as a Polish slave labourer (her only route to safety) but instead was captured, interviewed by the Gestapo 5 times in all and then sent to the Paviak prison in Warsaw.
Miraculously she was freed and then took on a second false identity and was eventually sent to Germany in 1943 where she worked on 3 farms and lived out the rest of the War as a Polish slave labourer. She married a Polish Jewish soldier in 1947 in Germany and came to Britain later that year.
This is a story of luck and kindness and the message is one of tolerance and acceptance. It is told by her daughter Sandra Miller using filmed testimony from Sabina, some photos and the identity papers she acquired. It is a moving account of courage, survival and above all luck and shines a light on the tenacity of the human spirit.
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George Morton (1918-1999) and Renée Morton (1919-2006)
Presented by Francis Morton
Letters of Love and Loss
Francis Morton’s father, George Morton (originally Jiri Morgenstern), was born in 1918 in Brno, a sizeable town in Czechoslovakia, while his mother, Renée (née Stransky) was born a year later in Plsen, also in Czechoslovakia, although she lived mostly in Prague before the war. They both came from fairly secular families, but maintained their Jewish identities.
Faced with the growing threat from across the border in Germany, Renée’s parents sent her to England on a domestic service visa at the age of 18 in September 1938 two weeks before the Munich Agreement handing over part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler was signed. They gave her strict instructions not to return until it was safe to do so. Renée kept over 500 letters from her family and friends between 1938 and 1945, from which Francis has been able to reconstruct the lives and fate of her family, most of whom were murdered in the Holocaust. These letters include some from her then boyfriend, George, from which details of his life story have been uncovered. Renée died in London in 2006.
George escaped from Czechoslovakia in 1940 via an extremely dangerous journey through Europe, an illegal crossing to Palestine and imprisonment by the British on Mauritius, before coming to England in 1942 to fight with the Allies. He and Renée were married in England in 1943 and he died in Switzerland in 1999.
The final part of the presentation covers what George and Renée found out after the war regarding the fate of their families and their possessions.
Extracts from the letter are read by actors and are accompanied by both personal and historical photographs. This presentation is considered suitable for young people of Year 10 and upwards.
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Mascha Nachmansson 1920 – 2012
Presented by Jeanette Marx
Mascha Nachmansson, née Stern, was born in Łódź in December 1920. She was number eight of 12 children born to Yenta and Yitzchak Stern. Her family were poor but her father was a highly respected orthodox Rabbi.
Mascha was very studious and won a scholarship to her senior school. Her hopes of a university education were dashed as a result of antisemitic laws restricting Jews from higher education and by the invasion of Nazi Germany into Poland in 1939.
Soon after the Nazi occupation, the family were forced into the Łódź ghetto. Cramped conditions, starvation and rampant disease caused the deaths of her parents, one brother and one sister with her husband. Another sister was murdered in the gas chambers at Chelmno concentration camp.
Mascha survived by working in the ghetto where deep friendships, together with luck, helped her to survive. In 1944, when the ghetto was liquidated, she was transported to Auschwitz, described by her as “Hell On Earth”. Fortunately, Mascha was “bought” by a Berlin ammunition factory as a slave labourer. Surviving air raids on the factory, she was transported to another concentration camp, Ravensbruck and was finally rescued by the Swedish Red Cross just before the end of the war.
She arrived in Malmo, Sweden, on 28 April 1945. She married Sigurd, a Swedish Jew and had two daughters. Her deeply moving story is told by her daughter Jeanette, using a range of family photos and recorded clips of Mascha’s retelling her story.
Mascha dedicated her life to educate the next generation emphasising what happens when hatred is unchallenged. Mascha never forgot her Jewish roots and her deep connection to her past.
She made sure that the people who perished would never be forgotten.
Mascha’s message is of Tolerance, Education and Love.
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Ruth Neumeyer (1923-2012), Raimund Neumeyer (1924-2011)
Ruth Neumeyer and her brother Raimund were born in the Bavarian town of Dachau to Hans and Vera Neumeyer. Hans was a blind music teacher and composer; their mother Vera taught eurythmics and languages.
The family did not follow the Jewish religion – Vera brought up the children as Protestants, but they were persecuted by the Nazis because of their Jewish ancestry.
By the time war broke out, the family had been split up: the children departed on a Kindertransport to England, the parents stranded in Munich, amid mounting uncertainty before their eventual deportations in 1942 to Nazi camps, where they perished.
Ruth often used to recall a terrible moment in 1937 when the children were about to perform a play in the Neumeyers’ house when SS officers entered, stopping the play from proceeding and taking everyone’s name. On the night before Kristallnacht, the Burgomaster of Dachau ordered Neumeyers out of their house. They were now homeless and had to shelter in friends’ attics and spare rooms in Munich over the coming months, and sought a way of escape from Germany.
They found sanctuary for the children in England through Beatrice Paish, a contact they had made 28 years previously: Ruth and Raimund travelled to England on a Kindertransport in May 1939. Hans and Vera had made arrangements to follow soon after, but they never came.
Their story is told by Ruth’s son, Tim Locke. It is a richly illustrated presentation and is suitable for children age eleven upwards. It mentions the concentration camps but without detailed descriptions of their horrors. There is an upbeat angle, with the children finding a new life with a loving English family, and it ends with a message from Hans of the importance ‘not to hate’. Audio extracts include Hans’s music, Ruth’s interview with the Imperial War Museum and a reading of a letter written by Vera while being deported to certain death in an unknown destination in Nazi-occupied Poland. The presentation can also be adapted for adult audiences.
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Marie Stein (11 April 1929 — 16 July 2016)
Presented by Gabriel Stein
My mother was born in Łódź in western Poland. Her father was an ear-nose-and-throat specialist, her mother came from a family of manufacturers. The family lived a typical middle-class life.
In 1939, when mother was ten years old, she lost her childhood forever. World War II broke out, with Germany invading Poland and defeating the country in less than a month. From then, until their liberation more than five years later, mother constantly lived with the risk of getting beaten up, killed or sent to a concentration camp. She remembers that every night she used to fear that she might have said something that could have endangered the family and cause them to be killed.
The family spent the war first (briefly) in Łódź, then (from December 1939 to June 1941) in Warsaw, eventually in the ghetto there, and then back in the Łódź (Litzmannstadt) Ghetto from June 1941 until liberation in January 1945.
How did they survive? They survived for three reasons. First, because grandfather was doctor. This made them return to Łódź when the ghetto there needed physicians. And when the ghetto was being liquidated and they were already at the station to board the train to Auschwitz, the Germans held them back because they wanted two doctors for the ‘cleaning-up crew’ — Jews who were to scour the now empty ghetto for anything the Germans might want. Second, because of grandmother’s indomitable will and determination that they would survive, which gave them hope that carried them through the war years. And third, and perhaps most importantly, because of luck. From time to time they were lucky, either in the help from others or simply because of circumstances.
After the war, they wanted to go to America, but the Americans claimed that the Polish quota was full. Instead, they got Paraguayan visas, which enabled them to go to Sweden, where, instead of going on to Paraguay, they eventually stayed. There mother died in 2016, survived by three children and three grandchildren.
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Alice Svarin 1921-2013
Presented by Vera Bernstein
Vera’s mother, Alice Svarin, was born in a market town in central Slovakia, under the Lower Tatras mountains. After a peaceful 18 years in a traditionally Jewish family she married a local admirer in the spring of 1941. The marriage unwittingly saved her from being deported to Auschwitz with the 1000 single women from Slovakia. Her father was deported and murdered at the beginning of the war, her sister managed to live under a false name until Autumn 1944 when she was also murdered in Auschwitz. Alice’s mother survived the war in Budapest under a false identity.
Having being spared the initial deportation Alice and her husband survived in their home under the Nuremberg Laws in the Nazi occupied fascist Slovak state until August 1944 – March 1945 when the German army entered Slovakia. The few remaining Jews went into hiding in the mountains. This period – August 1944 – March 1945 – forms the main part of Alice’s testimony that she recorded for Stephen Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.
After the war the family lived under Soviet style socialism. When the Russian army occupied Czechoslovakia in 1968 the parents encouraged their two daughters to leave for the West. Alice joined them in London in 1975 after the untimely death of her husband. She settled in London and learned a new language and a new way of life at the age of 54.
Vera’s presentation follows Alice’s testimony in describing the fate of some family members and how without the help of some of the local population risking their own lives none of them would have survived. Vera stresses the role of luck in trusting people who can be at times both perpetrators and rescuers. The presentation includes photographs, maps and video clips of Alice telling the stories joined by a narrative by Vera. Alice eventually settled in London and learned a new language and a new way of life at the age of 54.
This is ultimately an optimistic story of a courageous no nonsense woman who was able to adapt to changing circumstances. Although it deals with the lives of Jews under Nazi occupation it does not contain descriptions of the horrors of concentration camps. It is therefore suitable for delivery to young people of thirteen years and upwards.
We all agreed that Vera’s PowerPoint presentation was excellent, beautifully put together, with the photos, the sound recordings and the subtitles which all enhanced her talk. Vera delivered her talk very well. It was very well structured and followed through.
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Paulette Szklarz 1938 –
Presented by Debra Barnes
Paulette Szklarz and her twin sister Annette were born in Metz, France in 1938, the youngest of five. Their parents Traitel and Cecile were from Poland. When war broke out the family was relocated to a small village near Poitiers where they lived contently until the first deportations in July 1942. First Traitel was arrested. Soon after, Cecile was arrested along with the twins, aged four. The three sons – Jacques (17), Jean (13) and Nathan (10) were not arrested because of their French nationality. Jacques managed to secure the release of his young sisters the next day but their mother was not allowed to leave and was deported to Auschwitz.
The five siblings were left alone. They managed with the help of kind Catholic neighbours until June 1943 when Jean, Nathan, Paulette and Annette were ordered to report to a children’s home in Paris “where they would be safe.” Jean (14) was soon sent off to a trade school. The other three were sent to an orphanage outside Paris with an older girl, Denise, acting as monitor to the youngest children.
Just weeks before the liberation of Paris, all the Jewish children’s homes were raided and the children sent to Auschwitz and directly to the gas chambers. Nathan and Annette were among the children sent, as was Denise who was selected to work as she was older. Paulette, however, was in hospital with measles when the homes were raided and hidden in a convent for one year until her brothers Jacques and Jean located her. Jacques had been hiding on a farm and then joined the resistance. Jean had hidden in a Catholic boarding school. Traitel, Cecile, Nathan and Annette were all murdered at Auschwitz.
The story of the destruction of the Szklarz family is told by Paulette’s daughter, Debra Barnes.
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Eva Urbach 1922-2010
Ulli Adler 1925-2004
Presented by Lesley Urbach
Lesley Urbach’s maternal family came from a small town in North-East Germany which now belongs to Poland. Her mother, neé Eva Wohl, and three aunts escaped to Britain and Argentina in 1938 and 1939. Their parents were murdered at Auschwitz on 19 February 1943.
Lesley’s presentation uses film and radio testimony provided by her mother and youngest aunt, neé Ursula Wohl (known as Ulli), family photos and brief excerpts from historical films. These are interspersed with Lesley talking about the family’s life before and after the Nazis came to power in early 1933; explaining why and how her 16-year-old mother and 13-year-old aunt Ulli came to Britain on the Kindertransport in December 1938; and focusing on what happened to their parents left behind in Germany using letters and poems sent by her grandparents to England and Argentina before and during the World War II.
Lesley refers to the other groups of people murdered during the Holocaust and a link is made to the ongoing persecution of people because of, for example, their ethnicity, religion, colour, gender, sexuality or disability and the audience is encouraged to do something when they see injustice. Lesley amends the focus of the talk depending on the age of the audience and the requirements of the booking organisation so it is suitable for older primary and secondary schools.
Thank you so much for stepping in at the last minute and delivering a top quality talk. The PowerPoint was the best I have ever seen, using historical photographs interspersed with personal testimony and highlighting how the Nazi regime impacted on normal families. It is an approach that fits well with the pedagogy I have developed for our Holocaust programmes, looking at how Nazi policies affected individuals and families and widening it out to local, national and international for context.
You interacted so well with the children, acknowledging their answers, and praising their efforts. You created a safe learning space and every child felt secure to participate and offer their thoughts and answers. This is quite a skill.
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Eva Wirth (1923 – 1997) and Istvan Wirth (1916 – 1982)
Presented by David Wirth
Eva Wirth, née Szepesi, was born in 1923 in Miskolc, Hungary, a town with a significant Jewish population. As an only child, she had a happy childhood. This changed in 1938 with the introduction of restrictive laws against the Jews under the German-backed Hungarian regime.
Following the German invasion of 1944, Eva and her parents were deported to Auschwitz, where her parents were murdered. She was then transported to Germany and forced to work for seven months in a weapons factory. As the Russian army approached, she was sent on a death march. After liberation, and several months of wandering through Europe, she arrived back in her hometown to find hardly anyone alive that she knew still.
Istvan Wirth was born in 1916 in Budapest, Hungary, a city with a very large Jewish population. Following the German invasion of 1944, he was sent to the Budapest Ghetto together with his parents and two brothers. He was then marched to Flossenbürg camp in Germany to work there, mining the ground. After a further spell in the nearby Hersbruck sub-camp, he was sent on a death march south to Dachau. Following liberation, he spent over a year recovering in a military hospital before returning to Budapest, to find only his mother alive.
Eva and Istvan first met in Budapest and married in 1952. But the antisemitism openly expressed by some of the revolutionaries in 1956 led Istvan to flee Hungary, followed later by Eva. They were accepted as refugees in the UK. Their stories are told by their son David Wirth using family photos, maps, and video testimony of Eva. The complete presentation lasts around 45 minutes. A shorter version, relating only Eva’s story, lasts around 30 minutes.