A Family Story of a Baby Born in the Holocaust

Jan 30, 05:34 PM

Eva Clarke tells her family story, and explains if her family had not been ‘torn from home’ she would not exist! Telling one family’s story matters, because the only way people live on is through our remembering them. For all those who have perished in wars and genocides, they may never have had one single person to remember them, and so if we tell one family story it allows us to learn lessons and to understand that it must be ‘never again’. Through education and retelling these stories of past prejudice, we can have the key to combatting hatred and intolerance and prejudice today, to try to counteract racism and prejudice and prevent such genocides from happening again.

EVA CLARKE: The theme for this year’s HMD is ‘Torn from Home’. Well, if my parents had not been ‘torn from home, I wouldn’t exist because they would never have met! I’m here this afternoon because I’m a survivor of the Holocaust, but only just, as I was born in the Mauthausen Concentration Camp near Linz in Austria on 29th April 1945. My father, Bernd Nathan, was German but Jewish & fled Berlin in 1933 when Hitler came to power. He escaped to Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia, thinking that was far enough to be safe. It wasn’t, but had he not done so, he wouldn’t have met my mother, Anka, & I wouldn’t be standing in front of you this evening. He had been an architect/interior designer & my mother had been a law student at the Charles University until the Germans closed the universities. They married on 15th May 1940, already under Nazi occupation. In December 1941, my parents were amongst the first transports to be sent to the Terezin/ Theresienstadt Ghetto/Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia. Being well able to work, they remained there for 3 years, an unusually long time; my mother always said luck had a lot to do with it. But, at the end of Sept. 1944, my parents’ luck ran out when my father was sent to Auschwitz & incredibly, my mother volunteered to follow him the very next day. Being the eternal optimist & as they had survived 3 years, she thought nothing could get any worse. But she never, ever saw my father again & after the war discovered he had been shot dead on a death march near Auschwitz on 18th January 1945 & as you know, it was liberated by the Russian Army on 27th January 1945. Prior to deportation from Terezin to Auschwitz, when the Nazis discovered Anka was pregnant, they made my parents sign a document saying when the baby was born he/she would have to be handed over to be killed. In the event, my brother, Jiri/George, was born 10th February 1944, wasn’t taken away but died of pneumonia 2 months later. And his death meant my life. Because, had my mother arrived in Auschwitz holding my brother in her arms, she would have been sent straight to the gas chamber. Thankfully, Mengele didn’t realise she was pregnant when asking her ‘Bist du schwange, fesche frau?’ Are you pregnant, pretty woman & she denied it. Anka survived Auschwitz & was sent to a slave labour camp, an armaments factory, in Freiberg, near Dresden in Germany where she spent 6 months, becoming progressively more & more starved & more & more pregnant, which was very dangerous for her. But fortunately, the Germans only realised she was pregnant after Auschwitz had been liberated, so they couldn’t send her back to face the vengeance of Dr. Mengele. At the end of March/beginning of April 1945, when the Germans were evacuating the camps & after a horrendous train journey of 17 days in open coal wagons with no food & hardly any water, the train arrived at Mauthausen. Recognising the notorious name, Anka’s labour began & I was born on a cart between the station & the camp. There are 3 reasons why my mother & I survived & the first is a chilling one: on 28th April, the Nazis had run out of gas for the gas chamber, my birthday is 29th., So, presumably, if the train had arrived on 26th or 27th, again I wouldn’t be here today. The 2nd indirect reason is that Hitler committed su...