Eva Clarke (picture courtesy of the Holocaust Educational Trust)
- Contributed by
- Neal Wreford
- People in story:
- Eva Clarke
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 27 January 2005
Eva Clarke's mother, Anka Bergman, survived Auschwitz Concentration Camp and gave birth to her daughter just days before they were liberated. Here, Eva talks to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire presenter Steve Riches...
Eva Clarke's mother, Anka, was a 23-year-old law student in Prague when the Nazis took Czechoslovakia. Her daughter, Eva, now 59, was conceived during Anka's imprisonment in Terezin, a Jewish ghetto 30 miles from Prague. She then spent the nine months of her pregnancy in Auschwitz before Eva was born en route to another camp.
Eva's father, Bernd Nathan, was a German-Jewish architect who was shot near Auschwitz a week before liberation. He never knew Anka was pregnant.
Eva, who now works for the Holocaust Educational Trust, tells BBC Radio Cambridgeshire presenter Steve Riches the story of her mother's internment in Auschwitz, her own birth and the work she now does with young people through the Trust.
Steve Riches: I can't understand how you can look another human being in the eye - with love and affection - after such awful things have happened to your parents. How do you manage that, or are you forever sullied by what has happened?
Eva Clarke: Not at all. We're certainly marked in some way, but my mother and I consider ourselves to be so extremely fortunate that we are alive, well, sane and have one another.
Steve Riches: Your mother has said: "When we arrived at Auschwitz, we saw the smoke and the chimneys - and smelt that indescribable smell." Your mother was already pregnant with you and managed to survive the awful things that she saw happen. She was sent to a munitions factory in Germany - whereas many others went straight to the gas chambers. When she was nine months' pregnant she then went to Mauthausen Concentration Camp and that's when you were born. Tell us the rest of the story...
Eva Clarke: My mother was sent out of Auschwitz because she was still strong enough to work even though by this stage she had been interned for three-and-a-half years. She was sent on an horrendous train journey on a coal truck which was open to the elements and filthy. They travelled this way for three solid weeks without any food and with very little water. When they eventually arrived at Mauthausen, my mother was in such a state of shock that she went into labour. I have to tell you, that at this stage she weighed just five stone.
My mother started to give birth to me on the train, and then she had to climb off it and onto a cart - the people who were not strong enough to walk to the camp were bundled into this cart and she was lying there with people all over her who had typhoid and other horrendous illnesses.
She was unable to move and she gave birth to me there. I didn't breathe when I was born, and I didn't move. When they arrived at the camp they found a doctor who was also a prisoner - he cut the umbilical cord, smacked me, and I began to breathe.
There are two reasons we survived - apart from my mother's inherent toughness. The first is that on the 28th April 1945 the Germans blew up the gas chamber at Mauthausen - this they were doing everywhere to try to conceal the evidence. My birthday was the 29th. The second reason is that three days after my birth the American Army liberated the camp.
Steve Riches: You were once asked by a little boy what you would say to Hitler if you ever met him...
Eva Clarke: My question to Hitler would simply be: "Why?"
Steve Riches: Tell us a little about your work with the Holocaust Educational Trust...
Eva Clarke: On the whole we get a very, very good response in schools because since the subject of the Holocaust has been on the curriculum we've been sending survivors and educators into schools. Because the survivors are telling a personal, family story, invariably the students are absolutely captivated. Much to the surprise of lots of their teachers, they will sit and listen for ninety minutes, and then come back with lots of questions. Everybody can identify with one family story - no one can identify with six million...
Steve Riches: Why do we still get people saying that the Holocaust was a figment of the imagination, when the body of evidence is so strong?
Eva Clarke: I find it totally inexplicable. There is so much evidence - and in fact, most of it was created by the Germans.
Steve Riches: People say it could never happen here, but with the right circumstances, it could all happen again, couldn't it?
Eva Clarke: When the Holocaust Educational Trust goes into schools, what we try to do is not only to remember and commemorate all those people who died, but to try to learn the lessons of the Holocaust. Tragically that seems to be a very hard lesson for the human race when you consider all the genocides that have happened since the war: Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, not to mention what is happening today in the Sudan. Even though these things keep happening, it's not a reason to stop trying to deliver that lesson... It's important to teach about respecting the individual from a very early age, otherwise, perhaps there is indeed no hope.
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