Eugene's memories of liberation

LEGACY: Eugene with daughter Lilian Black who chairs the Holocaust Survivors' Friendship Association

ERIC Pickles, secretary of State for Communities, has called for Britons to "keep the memory alive" at next year's Holocaust Memorial Day.

Holocaust survivor Eugene Black has taken him at his word by recalling the day of his liberation.

Eugene, born Jeno Schwarcz, came from Munkacs, which at the time of his deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau in May 1944, was in Hungary.

From Auschwitz, he was sent to Buchenwald and then to Dora-Mittelbau, where he was a slave labourer in the underground V2 rocket factories.

After he became ill, Eugene was sent to camp Harzungen where he was hospitalised until he was transported on a death march with 3,000 prisoners to avoid the Allies advancing.

Eventually he arrived at Bergen Belsen in mid-March 1945.

Speaking from his home in Leeds, Eugene said: "I remember only too well the day I was liberated 69 years ago this week, on April 15.

"It must have been about 3pm and we had been given nothing to eat or drink for seven days and nights.

"We didn't know what our fate was to be, but we knew we could not hang on for much longer."

Eugene remembers a jeep coming into the camp with lorries and a soldier jumping out and going straight to Joseph Kramer, the camp commandant, and then arresting the SS and bundling them into a building.

"They came out pretty quickly looking dishevelled and without their weapons and were made to start collecting the dead bodies.

"We had no idea who the soldiers were or what was happening, we were just lying there with thousands of dead bodies."

But on that afternoon Eugene, who weighed only 35 kilos, was to witness further terrible acts of violence.

"Those who had the strength killed about 80 Kapos, prisoners in the camps who were assigned to the SS guards to supervise forced labour.

"They threw them out of the barrack windows in camp number two - I actually witnessed this."

After liberation the British troops took him and others to a hospital in Celle where they were cared for. When he regained his strength he was visited by a British army doctor, Dr Ellenbogen, from Liverpool.

"When I eventually came to the UK in 1949, he helped me get my first job at Marks and Spencer, so I have Britain and the British army to thank for my freedom and my new life," Eugene said.

At the time of his liberation Eugene was 17, an orphan, and stateless.

"Yes, I was free but I was in the land of enemies who had murdered my family, just because they were Jews," he said.

Today Eugene lives happily in Leeds. He has four children and two grandchildren.

He continues to speak about his experiences at schools, universities and colleges on behalf of the Holocaust Survivors' Friendship Association.

Next January's Holocaust commemoration will mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia.

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