‘Need time to resurrect a man’: how to survive and live the last witnesses of the Holocaust

Edition BBC tells the incredible story of life and survival of one of the last witnesses of the Holocaust. These women, then little girls, survived by a miracle. But their struggle is not over. Each of them found their difficult way to adjust to civilian life and become its part. And to find the strength to tell your story. Although, even after 75 years, it is still hard to say.

'Нужно время, чтобы воскресить в себе человека': как выжили и живут последние свидетели Холокоста

Photo: Depositphotos

“Worse than Auschwitz there can be only one — to forget that he was,” says Eva Sepesi.

She was 12 when she was in Auschwitz concentration camp. The child eve was over and now she is trying to catch up.

Before the interview she pulls out the perfume sprinkled on the wrist and says: “you Know, my mom was a great perfume in a beautiful bottle. A child I once got a bottle from the Cabinet, because I wanted to smell as good as mom. And suddenly smashed it. The whole house was filled with the smell of spirits.”

“For some reason, this scent haunted me all the way until we were driven to Auschwitz. In fact, in our car there was a terrible stench. To defecate after all, was not released. Someone was throwing up. But I felt nothing. Instead of the terrible smell I was feeling the aroma of mom’s perfume,” adds Eva.

By gas chambers

Eve pearl bead and a bright blue sweater, with excitement she almost pulls at the sleeve. Under this sleeve on the back side of hands tattoo “26877”. This room she had tattooed on the morning after arrival to Auschwitz.

“After the war I often powder the tattoo or cover it with a sleeve blouse. But I never wanted to take this room. It belongs to me. Many prisoners stuffed large numbers on the outside of the arm, and I have a little. I was lucky,” says Eva.

70% percent of the people brought to Auschwitz were killed within the first day. Rails went straight to the gas chambers. People were unloaded from the wagons, someone took to work, and the rest were immediately killed.

The car, which drove Eva, was sent to the barracks, and the selection was scheduled for the next morning. Before dawn the girl suddenly approached a Slovakian woman who worked in Auschwitz overseer.

“How old are you? 12? You’re 16, and don’t even try to pretend to be younger!”, — she said sternly.

Eva was scared and confused, but when the General building asked her age, she blurted out in response: “Sixteen.” It saved her life.

All who were younger, were sent to the gas chambers, but Eva was determined to work in the quarry.

Star for life

“By January 1945, I was already very, very sick and I have absolutely no strength left. All around lay dead or barely alive people. The red Army was already near. The Nazis retreated and took with them everyone who could still stand on his feet. They had orders to shoot those who remained in Auschwitz, there was no one to tell me what they were doing there,” recalls Sepesi.

Eva then lost consciousness and was on the verge of death. She decided not to waste bullets.

“At some point I woke up and realized that lying on a mountain of corpses. I have absolutely no strength, but I didn’t want to give up. I mumbled something to me a man came up and gave me snow. So I helped this snow! When I again opened my eyes, I saw a Russian soldier in such a beautiful fur hat. She was wearing a red star. He smiled at me… And I was so happy that the human heat that radiated his face. It brought me back to life. I will always remember him,” adds Eva, smiling.

Crushing all

“I was able to live on after the war, because all in itself suppressed. I tried not to think what happened to me in the past, to build a new life. And I’ve suppressed, stuffed deep inside. But it is impossible to hide forever,” sighs eve.

She tells how after the camp, learned to walk again, how hard it was to sit at a school Desk, and as she sought and found the strength to move on.

“Many of those who surrendered, while in Auschwitz, survived. When you give up and say that more can’t come to the end. Need to speak, that you will overcome everything. And it helps,” says Eva.

In 1951 she met her future husband. Eva admits that was in a hurry to start a family: “More than anything, I wanted to have a baby. Because I lost my parents, and wanted so much to have someone close. So there was my first daughter Judith”.

But how to raise a small child, eve, separated from his parents at the age of ten, did not know: “Mom disappeared from my life too soon. I missed her love, her example before my eyes, so when I became a mother, it was tough. Sometimes I just don’t know how to behave”.

In 1956, eve saw the Soviet soldiers. But this time experienced from this meeting a completely different emotion. In late October 1956, the USSR sent troops in her hometown of Budapest to quell the Hungarian uprising.

“On the one hand, the Soviet soldiers saved the lives of me and thousands of other prisoners of Nazi concentration camps. On the other, I saw with my own eyes how Soviet soldiers drowned in the blood of the Hungarian uprising. And it’s hard to accept and reconcile in my head. But such is the life different. But I still belong to the Russian well,” she adds.

After crushing the rebellion eve’s family was forced to flee from Hungary. They settled in Germany, where Eva’s husband was offered a job.

50 years after the war, Eva was silent about his experiences in Auschwitz: her family knew about it as a quick fact from her biography — she never told them about his experiences. But in 1995, Director Steven Spielberg asked Eva to arrive at the site of the former concentration camp.

Then she first told her story to the families. Today eve much speaks to students. He says in the beginning of the conversation, many are skeptical, but by the middle of the conversation usually remains indifferent.

“When I hear that Auschwitz is fiction, I think it is so important to all survivors, and especially me, to convey to the next generations how it really is. That will never happen again. My brother, my mother — they can’t speak. All of whom were killed by the Nazis, deprived of a voice, made mute. So, to tell them should we.”

“It takes time to resurrect a human”

“It took me a long time to learn is just to look people in the eyes after the war,” Tamar Dreyfus.

Lucky dress and booth dog

“Jewish ghettos in Vilna established in 1941. I was a little more than three, but I clearly remember many things, especially the day I last saw my father, Tamar begins. That was in 1943. In the ghetto, the Germans came, he ordered everyone out. We hid, but outside he heard the order that all men must go or else we will blow up”.

Tamar’s father along with other men were taken for forced labor. Later she learned that he was killed.

By 1943 in the ghetto of Vilnius destroyed about 50 000 people. Tamar and her mother were sent to a concentration camp. Along the way, they tried three times to escape. The first two attempts failed: the first mother Tamar was sentenced to 25 lashes. At the third blow she lost consciousness. Despite this, it is believed that it is better to be killed while trying to escape than to meekly accept what is happening. The second time they were again caught but not killed. Mother Tamar was hit on the head and she was unconscious for two days.

“On the last shipment we were sent to shower. Thank God it was a normal shower. All undressed. Mom found the pile of clothes a costume and I dress. She even tied me a bow, raised his head proudly, and we went,” recalls Tamar.

Well-dressed woman with a child freely passed by all the guards and out the gates of the camp. Maybe the guards thought it was the family of one of the officers.

After that Tamar’s mother had long been in hiding from the Nazis, moving from village to village, from one yard to another. One day they were hiding from a manhunt in the booth of a watchdog. Somehow the menacing dog was not given his unexpected neighbors and even gave them food from his bowl: “Every time he brought food he did not eat, and left us. Mom said that people are worse than animals, because the beast will eat the prey, be satisfied and settle down, and people don’t. People are not coming saturation, they always want more.”

“When we were hiding, my mother often asked me to sit in silence, so I accidentally have not been issued. So when the war ended, I came to realize that everything that we’re free. It was a long process. To resurrect a person, it takes time,” says Tamar.

But for her, the struggle against fascism did not end in 1945, nor even ten years later. In 1959 the husband of Tamar got a job in Munich, and it is, but I didn’t want to go to Germany, agreed.

“When we moved from Israel, and the place was still full of Nazis. And was unbearable I can see them everywhere to meet them and know that they go unpunished. Not everyone is in fact condemned. Many were not even remorseful. And to accept that it was incredibly difficult,” – says Tamar.

Tamar husband can’t just look at it — they started to help the so-called “hunters for Nazis” — the volunteers who tried to find those who went unpunished after the Second world war. Tamar and her husband managed to achieve punishment at least for one person — the former chief of the Gestapo in Cologne.

Tamar admits to return to normal life after the war helped her family, friends and books.

Tamar now lives alone: her husband died a few years ago, and the children had families of their own. Tamar carefully monitors current policy: “the far-right come to power around the world. And this makes me very wary. People again do not like strangers. This attitude needs to change. People need to take regardless of their skin colour, religion and language in which they speak. But for that to be so, we still have to fight”.

Many days Tamar painted almost on minutes: presentations to students, lectures in universities and at conferences, interviews on TV. She hopes the modern and the ultra-right would hear her speech and would think several times before “to hide behind its catchy slogans.”

“I believe in the youth of today. Between us — decades of difference, but I think we understand each other. In the end, in front of these guys faces the same questions as me 60-70 years ago, but in a slightly less radical formulation. And I’ll be glad if you can help the young to find answers,” says Tamar.

“War taught kindness”

Confident and quick gait, painted lips — looking at Maria Neumann, it’s hard to believe she is 90 years old.

“The morning interview, and in the evening go to a cafe: we every two weeks there are going with the guys. Sit, share experiences, discuss something the news sometimes, but most of the book. Love to read,” says Maria.

Erzael-cafe in Cologne is the meeting place of those who went through world war II. There she often sees Tamar Dreyfus. The war gathered to remember infrequently. But some history first, and sometimes the only time was in this cafe.

Pair of shoes on a wooden course

The war for Maria began on June 23, 1941, when in Borisov (now in Belarus) the Nazis came. All Jews were immediately herded into a ghetto.

“We get up early. Pulled all I could pull and went to work. Worked hard until late in the evening. Was cleaning the street, dragged along by gravity. We were often beaten. And usually for no particular reason,” recalls Maria. She was then ten years old.

20 October 1941 the ghetto was liquidated during the day, shooting almost everyone. According to historians, managed to save only a few dozens of people from more than 7,000 inmates.

“We managed with my little sister to be saved by the mother. She told her father to hide in the cellar with older children. Mom slammed the cover over us and closed the course of the Mat. Youngest mother left with me upstairs — I was afraid that they might cry to give us, and then all will be lost. In a moment the house the Germans came and took mom and our youngest to be shot”.

From the cellar Mary, her sister Genia and his father went out for two days. All this time, they heard the Nazis are killing residents of Barysau.

“Start talking about it, and even now I have frost on the body. Not depart from me, these feelings live in the heart. Can’t go anywhere. But one must live and tell God thank you for every single day,” she adds confidently.

After two months of wandering through the surrounding villages of Mary’s father joined the partisans. And the girls sent me to the orphanage.

“Goodbye, dad said, believe in God and believe in people. This Covenant and I live to this day. Anything was possible, but always met people who helped me, seemingly in a desperate situation. Not everyone can be trusted. But the heart is always right prompted who to open”.

After the war, Maria found out that her father died in the summer of 1944, a little before the age of the liberation of Borisov.

“In the orphanage was difficult. We had one pair of shoes on the wooden course. We are there and typhoid, and what was not sick. And frequent bombing. The separation of boys the boys died. But we were lucky — our Windows dropped high-explosive bomb, but did not explode,” — says Maria.

After the war Mary returned to Borisov, graduated from high school and enrolled in culinary school. One autumn day she met Dmitry — the guy they lived in the neighborhood prior to the German occupation. A few months young people got married. Dmitry died early — only a few years after the wedding. Again look for the love of Mary did not want to. But the experience did not embitter her.

“The main lesson I took away from the war and all the tests about kindness. Kindness is, and it is stronger than evil. I have tried to be good, and it gives me strength.”

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