We thought we’d entered hell
On January 23rd, a group students from both History and RE A-Level classes attended an insightful and inspiring talk from Holocaust survivor Mindu Hornick. The main thing that Pip and I took from this was to pass on her horrific story as even though it was an inhumane event, it should never be a forgotten one.
Imagine being separated from your mother and two brothers knowing you’d never see them again, seeing children beaten to death and the smell of burning flesh constantly around you. This was a reality for Mindu who spent a year in Auschwitz. She, and six million others, experienced things that no human ever should. At just 12 years old, she was forced onto a train with her mother, two brothers and sister; for three days she was stuck in a cattle cart with seventy other innocent Jewish people. They were given no food, no place to excrete and they didn’t see the light of day for the duration of the journey. The suffering had already started and they hadn’t even entered Auschwitz yet.
“There was an immediate air of shock and panic, and SS guards set out to disorientate and scare you.’’
Upon arrival, they were stripped of their clothes and possession, as well as their dignity, and put into groups based upon skills. Those who had a skill, for example Mindu could sew, were taken to work houses, those who had no skill were immediately taken to the gas chambers and murdered. There was no mercy in Auschwitz. A fellow inmate told Mindu and her sister to lie about their age to avoid immediate execution. However, her mother and two brothers lacked any relevant skills and were set to the gas chambers. Mindu never saw them again.
For the next year and a half, she looked death in the face daily at the afternoon roll call where the ‘Angel of Death’ would pick inmates to conduct his experiments on. Four hours they waited, not knowing whether they’d survive or not. Nights spent shivering in the icy winds with no beds, blankets even warm clothes. 70 people to one block conditions were extremely cramped. Guards roamed the camp striking at inmates whenever they felt like it.
After being sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942 Mindu and her sister were sent to an underground ammunitions factory hidden in Polish woodland, which would ultimately secure their survival. Girls aged at young as 11 would slave all the day receiving burns from the oil they poured into containers. They managed to survive until the end of the war despite constant hunger, brutal treatment and the threat of disease. Mindu said even though conditions were awful they weren’t as horrific as Auschwitz.
“When people ask how I survived, I always tell them the same thing – sheer luck,”
This year’s theme of the Holocaust Memorial Day is the power of words and throughout the talk Mindu emphasised the importance of passing on her story ensuring that it is never forgotten. We as the younger generation have the responsibility to pass on the survivor stories. It may have been a harrowing and sickening event however we should never disregard what happened. We owe it to the millions of innocent people who were brutally executed throughout the many genocides in history to never forget them.
“I feel it is my duty to express in my words, what we suffered there and to convey the message that it is wrong to stand by when others are being persecuted.”
By Jaz Harber VIPM and Pip Carey VIDC