I am watching the story of a survivor of Auschwitz. Stephen Nolan on BBC1 Northern Ireland is talking to Kitty Hart-Moxon and hearing her “Story of a Lifetime”. She was sent to the Auschwitz labour camp in 1943 at the age of 16, where she survived for two years. She was also imprisoned at other camps. Shortly after her liberation in April 1945 by American soldiers, she moved to England with her mother, where she married and dedicated her life to raising awareness of the Holocaust. She has written two autobiographies entitled I am Alive and Return to Auschwitz.
She was born Kitty Felix in 1926, in Bielsko in southern Poland. She had one brother, Robert, who was five years older. Her father operated an agricultural supply business. As a child, she represented Poland as part of the Youth Swimming Team in 1939. She won a bronze medal and was the youngest selected on the squad.
During a holiday when Kitty was 12, her parents decided to leave Bielsko because of the anti-Semitic mood that had swept the town, which was close to the borders with Germany and Czechoslovakia. To escape the danger, Kitty’s family moved to Lublin, in central Poland. They left on 24 August 1939. On September 1st 1939, Hitler’s Germany invaded Poland. A priest obtained false documents for her and her mother and the family split up to help their chances of survival. They blended in with a group of Poles heading for work in Germany and ended up at a rubber factory in Bitterfeld. They were rounded up with a number of other Jews and sent to Auschwitz.
Well over 1 million Jewish men, women and children died in Auschwitz/Birkenau. Other groups of people who died included Polish political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, gypsy families, homosexuals, people with disabilities and prisoners of conscience or religious faith (including several hundred Jehovah’s Witnesses). Kitty was 16 when she was taken to Birkenau. She witnessed the German soldiers sorting children and adults. Many were sent directly to the gas chambers. The buildings in this section now lie in ruins and for anyone who visits the site it is an emotional experience, reflecting on the mass murder that occurred. When I was there a few years ago, a group of orthodox Jews, some with Israeli flags, paused among the rubble to pray.
It was Kitty’s job at the concentration camp to sort through the mens’ jackets and remove all the valuables. In an exhibition there are piles of possessions, along with the hair removed from victims before they died and later used to make cloth. Block 25 was known as the death block. Female prisoners were held there before being taken to the gas chambers.
Kitty was fortunate to survive. Now she tells her story to others, to remind people about the genocide, in the hope that new generations can learn from the horrors of the past.