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24 September 2014

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You are in: Leicester > History > Local History > A Holocaust Survivor

The gates at Auschwitz

A Holocaust Survivor

To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, a Holocaust survivor now living in Leicester shares his memories. Dr Martin Stern was taken to a Nazi concentration camp at the age of five. Listen to his story!

What does The Holocaust mean to you? Are we doing enough to recognise modern day Holocausts?

Six million Jews died in a systematic, state-sponsored campaign of persecution and extermination now known as the Holocaust.

It persecuted, incarcerated and murdered millions of its own citizens, and those of the countries it invaded, on the basis of skin colour; disability; sexual orientation; ethnicity; religious belief or political affiliation.

Holocaust Memorial Day is commemorated on 27th January each year to marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and remember those who lost their lives in similar death camps.

Dr Martin Stern - Holocaust Survivor

Listen: Martin's Holocaust Story

One Leicester man who was taken to a Nazi concentration camp at the age of five is Dr Martin Stern. He spoke to BBC Leicester's Tony Wadsworth about his memories.

Martin's father and mother went into hiding when they fled to Holland from Germany, because it was illegal in 1938 for a German woman to marry a Jewish man.

Unfortunately he was later caught in a gun battle where he shot two German soldiers and was then sent to Auschwitz, from there he was moved and later died in 1945.

"Fifteen thousand children entered, but less then one per cent survived."

Dr Martin Stern, Holocaust Survivor

"My one year-old sister and I where picked up by the Dutch police and sent to a town, which was converted into a concentration camp. Fifteen thousand children entered, but less then one per cent survived.

"We survived because were taken from the group by a Dutch woman. Her father killed two German soldiers and therefore she could choose us to look after us.

"The camp had buildings and not huts, but flees and bedbugs were an everyday experience and there was an outbreak of typhus.

"People were dying like flies from malnutrition and overcrowding and so were shipped off in large numbers to places like Auschwitz to be killed."

A watchtower through the barbed wire at Auschwitz

Can I Forgive?

Martin and his sister's lives were heavily disrupted from an early age. He moved from two countries, five different families and five schools.

He cannot really describe his experience as his feelings are complicated.

"Disgust, anger and so on are beyond expression, even for I went through let alone what others went through. My feelings are complex.

"Can I forgive the German people? If they were like my mother, who spread anti-Nazi propaganda and risked her life in doing that, then there's nothing to forgive - these people are heroes."

Martin feels that even today lessons have not been learnt. "There are nice words, but no effective action!"

last updated: 18/04/2008 at 10:42
created: 25/01/2007

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