Auschwitz Survivors Succumb to COVID-19
COVID-19 may have taken the lives of Auschwitz survivors Henri Kichka and Margit Buchhalter Feldman, but their legacy of survival, in the face of atrocities, will always live on.
September 2nd 2020 marks the anniversary of 75 years since the ending of World War II, and in commemoration I attempt to recreate the experiences of one family of Auschwitz-Birkenau victims. This story is told from the perspective of a survivor, who did me the great honour of sharing it with me before they passed.
Rachel wraps her blanket around her baby doll, Iris, and reaches for her mother’s hand. They are being ordered out of their home and into the street. Down three flights of well-worn dark oak steps they hurry, black cast iron railings keeping them safe in their panic. It seems that everyone in their apartment block has been ordered onto the street. The shouting is deafening to small ears, and four-year old Rachel’s tears drip onto Iris’ blanket.
Rachel’s mother, Anita, keeps a firm grip of her daughter’s right hand — despite all the pushing and thuds to her back. Her other hand clutches the handle of a small brown leather suitcase. It is the sum of their belongings. Mrs Aarons from number eight is lagging behind and crying. Her ulcerated, arthritic legs are painful, as she has not left her apartment in many years. She is given no special treatment, just ordered to hurry up.
Daniel and I try to slow our pace, so we can help Mrs Aarons, but we are pushed forward with a blow to our backs. Whatever has been used to deliver it, the blow feels cold, and hard, and unforgiving. I try not to show my pain.
In the street below, we are herded together. We are told we are being taken to a new area, where we will all have work. Ordered not to talk and to hurry, we scramble as fast as we can over cobbled streets in tired shoes needing repair. Some of the group have placed their belongings in a makeshift wooden cart. Smaller children sit atop, wide-eyed and…