Holocaust Memorial Day: ‘With one movement of his hand he decided who lived and died’ Lilly Ebert

Lilly Ebert, 82, of Golders Green, had a protected childhood in Hungary before the Nazis arrived.

“I came from a very middle class Jewish family in Hungary and had a very protected childhood. The day the Nazis arrived everything changed.

“Day by day they brought in a new rule, first we were made to wear the yellow star then we were not allowed to go out past 6pm, we were made to give up our jewellery and telephones and eventually were moved into a ghetto where whole families had to share one room. It was very difficult but that was only the beginning.

“I remember that hot summer’s day when we were taken to the station and put onto a train with about 80 others packed into one carriage - babies, children and the elderly. We had one bucket for water and one for human waste. Some people died on that train.

“When we arrived at Auschwitz we were made to file out of the train and Dr Josef Mengele was there sorting people into two lines. With one movement of his hand he decided who would live and who would die.

“He took the old people and the babies – my mother, younger sister and brother – to one side and young people, including two of my sisters, to the other. It all happened so quickly that we never even thought of saying goodbye and that was the last time we were all together as a family.

“After we had our hair cut short, showered and given rags to wear we came out and saw fumes coming out of the chimney of a factory and this terrible smell. We asked people who were already there, ‘What smell is that and what kind of factory is it?’.

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“They told us that’s where they burn parents and babies. We told them they were wrong – even then we could not believe it.

“People who half an hour ago had walked on their own two feet, walked to their death.

“However much we try and talk about it and try and explain it, it is still unbelievable that it happened.”