Born in a German concentration camp just three days before it was liberated by the Americans, Holocaust survivor Eva Clarke has a remarkable story to tell.
Speaking yesterday at a Holywood grammar school, the 63-year-old held her teenage audience in rapture as she told her family’s story of life – and death – in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia, Poland and Austria.
Almost all of Eva’s family were killed in concentration camps during World War Two, only a few survived – including her mother Anka who will be 92 this year. She spoke of her mother’s three-and-a-half years as a prisoner in Nazi camps Terezin, Auschwitz and Mauthausen and how she survived to give birth to Eva at the gates of one of the most notorious camps just days before the end of the war.
Starting with the gradual stigmatisation of Jews, she continued, with the aid of photographs and artefacts, to show how her parents were called to a warehouse from which they were taken to Terezin. They were lucky. Young and healthy they were able to work which kept them alive.
But they were separated and when Eva’s mother heard her husband had been moved to Auschwitz she volunteered to go after him, unaware of the horrendous nature of the camp. She never saw him again, but was lucky enough to survive the camp and was sent away to Dresden with a group of women to build V1 bombs.
From there she was sent to Mauthausen, where at just five stone, she gave birth to Eva as she climbed off the coal train at the entrance to the camp. Taken in a cart filled with the sick and infirm up the steep hill to the gates, she managed to give birth to her 3lb daughter.
The story is just one of many poignant and sad moments – from the comments from the Nazi officers and so-called doctors who carried out experiments, to the instances of luck and good fortune which enabled her mother Anka to survive.
And her message certainly got through to the pupils at Sullivan Upper in Holywood, where she spoke to junior and senior pupils.
Eva Clarke is in Northern Ireland on behalf of the Holocaust Educational Trust. She will be speaking at Fermanagh County Museum in Enniskillen today and tomorrow.
Belfast News Letter