Landmark - A Survivor's Story
19 May 2002, BBC TWO (West Midlands), 7.20pm
In the last six months of World War II orders were issued to evacuate
Nazi slave labour and prisoner of war camps in the path of the Allied
advance. In the freezing winter of 1944 thousands of starving and
ill-clad men and women, most of them Jews, were force-marched over
the roads and countryside of the collapsing Third Reich.
Only the strongest survived. Stragglers were shot and those that
fell down exhausted were clubbed to death or left to die. Among
them was Kitty Felix, barely 17, but already a veteran of the Auschwitz-Birkenau
Kitty and other women, including her mother, were selected to work
at a radio factory: "I had a good apprenticeship in Auschwitz
and our group survived all the way to Porta. They all survived the
death march, they all survived the train journey intact, whereas
thousands actually died."
Today she is married and living in Birmingham as Kitty Hart-Moxon
and 57 years on, she goes back to the scene of this horror with
the director of Britain's Holocaust Centre. In A Survivor's Story,
she retraces the route of their 1,000 mile journey from Poland to
Starting in Auschwitz they travelled on foot in the snow for seven
to ten days across the Great Owl mountains between Poland and Czechoslovakia;
followed by six days in an open coal truck across Southern Germany;
a month of slave-labour working in an underground radio factory
near Hanover; and then a final train journey to Salzwedel in the
former East Germany, where Kitty and the remnants of her Death March
were left to die in a sealed container truck.
Kitty's travelling companion for this return visit is Stephen Smith,
the Director of Beth Shalom in Nottinghamshire, Britain's first
Holocaust Memorial Centre.
Stephen probes Kitty's memory of the march and finds that while
the landscape might have changed beyond all recognition, the details
are etched in Kitty's memory.
years can go by, but your memory will not fade. Certain events,
if they are extraordinary, you never forget them. They stay with
you for the rest of your days," says Kitty.
At the time, the reason for this long journey across Poland and
Germany seemed senseless. Now the reason is known.
The programme reveals the existence of a secret telex from Albert
Speer, Hitler's armaments minister, to his friend Karl Hanke, governor
of Silesia in Poland. Speer asks for Hanke's support in moving the
Telefunken workforce from Poland to Porta Westfalica because of
their "unique skills in the production of jamming transmitters
and equipment for high-performance aircraft." The orders were
given and the women moved, no-one gave any thought as to how humane
the journey would be.
A Survivor's Story also reveals the extent of German underground
war production. Kitty visits the Giant complex in the Polish mountains,
seven vast underground factories intended to be connected by rail
and where the Nazis planned to make V-2 rockets and by some accounts
were already experimenting with other advanced secret weapons.
In Porta, Kitty worked in such a factory making valves. It is closed
now and local historians tell her that some secrets of what was
going on there are still too sensitive to be revealed, not least
by the internationally known companies who made cynical use of her
and others' slave labour.
A Survivor's Story is on BBC TWO (West Midlands) on Sunday 19 May
at 7.20pm. The producer is David Nelson.