Holocaust survivor honoured for sharing nightmarish memories of Auschwitz to educate youngsters

Susan Pollack was awarded a MBE. Picture: Holocaust Educational Trust

Susan Pollack was awarded a MBE. Picture: Holocaust Educational Trust - Credit: Archant

A Holocaust survivor who recounts her terror-filled memories of Auschwitz-Birkenau to educate young people has been recognised in the New Year’s Honours List alongside two other local victims.

Agnes Grunwald-Spier. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Agnes Grunwald-Spier. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Susan Pollack, 85, of Temple Fortune, was sent to the concentration camp as a 13-year-old girl after being forced to live in a Jewish ghetto in Hungary.

Her parents and dozens of her relatives were murdered, while she was left alone to survive against incredible odds in what she describes as “a place of terror”.

Only she and her brother survived the camp, but he was left psychologically scarred for life after being tasked as a Sonderkommando – the men in charge of shovelling thousands of bodies from the gas chambers to the crematorium.

Last week, it was revealed Ms Pollack is to be made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), for sharing her story with young people for more than 30 years to teach them about the Holocaust.

Lily Ebert. Picture: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

Lily Ebert. Picture: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust - Credit: VisMedia

Ms Pollack, who testified at the trial of the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” Oskar Groening, last year, said: “I saw on the envelope it said ‘Cabinet Office’ and ‘highly confidential’ and I wondered if my passport needed to be renewed.

“I never expected such wonderful recognition, it was amazing. I gathered the envelope up like it was very precious.”

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Ms Pollack was recognised along with two other survivors from Golders Green: Lily Ebert, 85, and Agnes Grunwald-Spier, 71.

Ms Ebert was deported with her family from Hungary to Auschwitz, where her mother, brother and sister were killed in the gas chambers.

They travelled for five days to the camps in a train packed with about 80 people.

Her brother had hidden her mother’s necklace in the heel of one of her shoes, the only item Ms Ebert was allowed to keep.

Hiding the pendant in a piece of bread, it survived the camp and Ms Ebert still wears it to this day.

Now she shares the horrifying experience with young people in videos for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. For this work, she has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM).

Born in Budapest in 1944, Ms Grunwald-Spier narrowly avoided being sent to Auschwitz as a baby. She went on to publish two books about the history of the Holocaust.

She has now been made an OBE for services to the community and Holocaust awareness.

Ms Grunwald-Spier, a founder trustee of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: “Naturally I am absolutely thrilled. Lots of people do what I have done but don’t get acknowledged.”

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the trust, said: “These awards recognise the individual contributions that Lily, Susan and Agnes have made but they also recognise the contributions that all survivors make to the UK, and honour the memory of the millions of people who did not survive the Holocaust.”

Karen Pollock, chief executive of Holocaust Educational Trust, added: “These inspirational men and women, who have been through so much, continue to share their stories so that future generations know about the horrors of the past.”