VIDEO: Survivors tell their stories 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau
Watch the following video to hear from two survivors on the importance of remembering what happened at Auschwitz and at concentration camps around Europe during the Holocaust.
Today marks 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, with people from all around the UK, Europe and the world commemorating the date as part of Holocaust Memorial Day.
Auschwitz survivors Zigi Shipper, of Bushey in Hertfordshire, and Lily Ebert, of Golders Green, have joined with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to talk about their experiences at the camp.
Watch the video to hear them talk about why the world should never forget what happened at concentration camps across Europe, to make sure everyone is challenged to confront all forms of hatred and discrimination.
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Zigi was born on January 18, 1930, to a Jewish family in ?odz, Poland, and attended a Jewish school.
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When he was five years old his parents divorced but because they were Orthodox Jews and divorce was frowned upon, he was told that his mother had died. Following his parents’ divorce he lived with his father and his grandparents.
In 1939, when war broke out, Zigi’s father escaped to Russia, believing that it was only young Jewish men who were at risk, and not children or the elderly.
However, in 1940 Zigi and his grandparents were forced to move into the ?odz ghetto.
During this year his father attempted to return to see Zigi but could not get into the ghetto.
Zigi never saw his father again and still does not know what happened to him.
In 1941, all children, elderly and disabled people, including Zigi and his grandmother, were rounded up and put on lorries to be deported from the ghetto.
Zigi managed to jump off the lorry and escaped back into the ghetto where he remained, working in the metal factory, until the ghetto’s liquidation in 1944.
When the ghetto was liquidated, all of the people from the metal factory were put onto cattle trucks and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
On arrival, they were sent to the showers, where they were stripped, shaved and showered. Everyone else from the ghetto had to go through a Selektion, where a Nazi officer decided who was fit enough to work and those who should be killed immediately.
Within an hour of the Selektion, those from Zigi’s transport who were not classed as fit for work had been murdered.
A few weeks after arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau, all of the surviving workers from the metal factory were sent to a concentration camp near Danzig.
Once there, Zigi volunteered to work at a railway yard, where he was able to get more food.
With the Russians advancing, Zigi and the rest of his group were sent on a Death March, arriving in the German naval town of Neustadt.
Here they were told they were going to Denmark.
However, before this could happen there was a British air attack, and during the chaos that followed Zigi realised that all of the Nazis had left.
They were surrounded by British troops and liberated on May 3, 1945.
As soon as they were liberated, Zigi and his friends from Danzig and the march went looking for food.
Three days after liberation, Zigi ended up in hospital for three months due to the effects of overeating after a long period of malnutrition.
Once he left hospital, he and his friends were sent to a Displaced Persons’ Camp.
Zigi finally arrived in the UK in 1947, where he married and had a family.
He now lives in Hertfordshire and regularly shares his testimony in schools across the country.
When Lily was a very young child of about four or five her mother gave her a small gold pendant.
Even then it wasn’t very expensive or unique but young Lily was very pleased with her present.
Lily had a happy childhood growing up with her sisters and brothers in Hungary within a loving family.
Life was good until the Nazis came. Lily was a teenager when the Nazis arrived in Hungary and her life was to change forever.
The Nazis hated Jewish people and would not allow them to lead normal lives.
They confiscated property and valuables and made Jewish people live in terrible conditions.
Lily and her family were Jewish. One day they were ordered to hand in all their gold and jewellery.
Lily’s brother knew how important the tiny gold pendant was to his sister so he hid it in the heel of their mother’s shoe.
In July 1944, when Lily was 14 the Nazis deported her from her town of Bonyhad with her mother, brother and three sisters.
They were taken by train, crammed into dark and almost airless cattle trucks, to Auschwitz. The small pendant went with them.
It was still safe inside the heel of her mother’s shoe. Lily and her mother wore the same size of shoe and as they arrived at the camp her mother asked Lily to swap shoes with her. Lily put on her mother’s shoes.
Although this happened over 70 years ago Lily can still remember her arrival at the camp.
After the long and terrible journey “everyone was half-dead”. They were ordered to climb out of the train and stand together five in a row.
There was a man with a stick in his hand. It was Dr Mengele, the notorious Nazi doctor who became known as the Angel of Death for his brutal experiments on inmates, though at the time Lily didn’t know who he was.
With one movement of his hand Dr Mengele sealed the fate of the people before him. He sent people right or left — to life or to death.
The people who were sent to the left were taken immediately to the gas chambers and crematorium.
Lily and her two sisters, Renee and Piri, went right.
Her mother Nina, brother Bela and sister Berta went left. She never saw them again.
Lily and her two sisters were ordered to take a shower, their hair was cut and their remaining belongings stolen.
The Nazis left them with only their shoes and in the heel of Lily’s shoe the tiny pendant lay hidden, Lily’s last link with her mother.
Lily and her sisters saw a fire in the chimneys, and a smelt a terrible smell.
They thought it was a factory and asked people about it. They were told it was not a factory and that it was Lily’s family who were being burned there with all the others who had been sent down the path to the left.
This knowledge made Lily even more determined to keep her pendant safe.
It was her only remaining possession and a reminder of her happy childhood. It was a link to her murdered mother and a symbol of defiance. The Nazis would not be allowed to steal it.
The guards ordered valuables to be handed over but her pendant stayed in the heel of her shoe. When the shoes wore out she placed the pendant in her daily ration of bread.
After about four months in Auschwitz, the sisters were transferred to an ammunition factory near Leipzig. The pendant went with them.
Allied forces liberated Leipzig in 1945 and the sisters sought refuge in Switzerland. Lily tried to rebuild her life.
She wore the pendant every day in memory of her murdered family.
Eventually she married and had children. In 1953 she was reunited with Imre, one of her brothers, who had been imprisoned in a Nazi labour camp.
In 1967 she came to London with her husband and three children.
Over 70 years have passed since liberation and Lily is now a proud grandmother.
She still wears the tiny gold pendant and shares its remarkable story with all those who have time to listen.
Any gold arriving in Auschwitz was stolen by the Nazis so Lily believes that her pendant is unique, the only gold to enter and leave the camp with its rightful owner.
Like Lily herself, it survived against the odds.
Lily asks that now we know the Untold Stories surrounding it we will share them with other people.
She hopes that everyone who listens will acknowledge just how terrible human beings have been and still can be to each other.
She wants young people especially, as the future of the world, to understand the importance of tolerance and love and asks them to promise to be kinder to each other.
The Nazis ruled through policies of discrimination and hatred but Lily believes that on Holocaust Memorial Day young people should remember the adventures of one tiny pendant and use its Untold Stories of survival to challenge such hatred by reminding everyone that no matter what different skin colours, religions or nationalities exist, all human blood is red.