Holocaust Memorial Day: ‘There was no God in Auschwitz or any of those camps’
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
Primrose Hill couple Tommy and Judith Konrad, both 84, were yet to meet each other when the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944 and began rounding up Jews in Budapest.
Mr Konrad and his mother managed to escape the occupying troops and amazingly sought refuge in a five-star hotel in the Hungarian capital where they laid low until the Russians liberated the city.
Mrs Konrad was less fortunate and ended up clinging to life in Austria’s Lichtenworth concentration camp for four months until the Russians reached her.
“It was hunger and filth and vermin,” she said. “We were just left to rot, they didn’t know what to do with us. I was very, very weak. I could hardly walk.
“When the Russians came in they opened the doors and they were crying because they had never seen anything like it – all these emaciated creatures. There was no God in Auschwitz or any of those camps.”
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Mr Konrad, whose only sister died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, said: “I’ll tell you one thing, it certainly took our belief in God away. There were some people who went the other way and believed they had been saved, but my wife and I, we lost our faith.
“When it all ended we were all relieved to be alive and we tried to make a new life for ourselves and for some 20 or 30 years we didn’t think about what happened to us.
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“But then all of a sudden it started coming back and there is not a single day I don’t think about it. It must be remembered and all of our children and grandchildren are all aware of it.”
Josie Reeder, 35, of Peckham, is one of the Konrads’ three grandchildren and the mother of their two great-grandchildren.
She said: “As they get older, I feel they talk about it more. They started talking about it when I was about 10.
“My biggest memory is on my 16th birthday, my grandmother wrote me a letter which was wishing me a happy birthday and [recalling] her memories of her 16th birthday, which were of living in a concentration camp in quite horrific conditions.
“I remember thinking then that I was a very different adolescent to how my grandmother was.
“I do feel that it is important to remember so that we can try to learn lessons from it and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
“When the last generation of Holocaust survivors die, what is going to be left in their families? What will be left of the Holocaust when my grandparents are no longer here, will we still talk about it?
“We definitely will. It is a big part of my family’s story so I will carry it with me.”