Wales

Holocaust survivor Eva Clarke returns to Mauthausen birthplace

Eva (left) and Anka (right) in their early years in Wales
Image caption Eva Clarke remembers having a happy childhood in Wales

A woman who was born at Mauthausen concentration camp is returning to the site on the 68th anniversary of its liberation.

Eva Clarke, 68, grew up in Wales after her widowed mother remarried and the family moved to the UK in 1948.

She has contributed her Austrian-issued Mauthausen birth certificate to a time capsule for the camp's museum.

Ms Clarke, who still talks at schools in Wales on the Holocaust, said: "It is something of a unique document."

A three-day-old baby when the camp was liberated, she is attending the opening of new exhibitions to the memory of those murdered there.

Her heavily-pregnant mother had arrived from Auschwitz, where she had spent three years.

Ms Clarke said just seeing the name of the Mauthausen concentration camp struck such fear in her mother that she went in to labour there and then.

Fortunately for both of them, the retreating Nazi had blown up the gas chambers the day before she was born.

And on 5 May 1945 the Americans advancing through Austria liberated the camp that even the Germans had nicknamed "the bone grinder".

That is how Eva Nathan as she was then came into the world against all the odds.

Weighing just 3lb (1.5kg) she clung to life just as her mother, Anka, had clung to it despite her ordeal as a slave labourer.

Incredibly, both women are still alive to tell the tale.

Anka Clarke, now 96, remarried - her German-Jewish architect first husband was shot at Auschwitz a week before it was liberated by the Russians - and moved to the UK in 1948.

Her new husband found work at Pontypridd in south Wales.

Eva remembers arriving in Wales at the age of three where she enjoyed a childhood far away from the horrors that claimed 15 members of her family, from three grandparents to a seven-year-old cousin.

To mark the anniversary of the camp's liberation, she has accepted an invitation from the Austrian government to return to her birthplace for the opening of two new exhibitions.

Image caption A birth certificate from a place of death: Eva Clarke is contributing this to a time capsule for the museum

She is taking with her the birth certificate issued by the authorities in the town of Mauthausen in 1948 proving she was born at the "former concentration camp" complex where an estimated 150,000 people were "exterminated through labour".

She said: "It is something of a unique document.

"My mother had such a shock when she arrived at the station that she went into labour almost immediately.

"She said it was the shock of seeing the name that put her into labour.

"When she arrived at Auschwitz, she had no idea what the place was. But she knew about Mauthausen early on and here she was at this appalling place.

"The Germans allowed a prisoner doctor to come to my mother and we assume they allowed it because they could hear the guns in the distance."

Anka Clarke has described herself as a "scarcely living pregnant skeleton" at this point.

But the camp's liberation meant both were to survive the ordeal and return to Anka's native Prague before relocating to Wales.

'Ancient and vast'

Eva, who spoke only Czech when she arrived, said: "I remember being taken around the school in Llandaff [in Cardiff] by the the headmistress.

"I remember thinking that she was ancient - she was probably about 40 - and she was vast - she was probably plump.

"And I do remember not understanding a word she said. My mother said I learnt very quickly.

"My mother lived in Cardiff until three years ago. I would go there regularly to visit her.

"I now go to south Wales more often then when she was living there as I speak in schools all over the country for the Holocaust Educational Trust."

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