AUSCHWITZ survivor Iby Knill, who for 60 years kept secret the fact that she had survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, even from her children, will be telling her story at the Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre for the North, based at the University of Huddersfield.
This event is the third in a series of talks delivered by Holocaust survivors and is taking place on Sunday 7 April at the Centre, which has so far this year has welcomed talks from Holocaust survivors Trude Silman and Arek Hersh.
The Centre, which the first of its kind in the North of England opened at the University in 2018 in partnership with the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association in Leeds. Home to the exhibition Through Our Eyes, it tells the personal stories of people who survived the Holocaust and then came to settle in the North of England.
Iby grew up in an educated, cultured family in Bratislava, then the capital of Czechoslovakia. Her mother was Slovak and her father Hungarian, and Iby and her brother grew up speaking several languages.
Much of Iby’s childhood was spent in Czechoslovakia before her parents smuggled her over the border to Hungary immediately after being warned that Jewish girls were being rounded up to be taken to work as prostitutes for the German soldiers on the Eastern Front.
The Germans invaded Hungary in 1944 and Iby spent six weeks in Auschwitz on starvation rations, crammed into inhuman conditions with thousands of others. One day, she and some friends answered a call for volunteer nurses to go with a slave labour transport. They were taken to work in the hospital of an armaments factory in Germany’s Ruhr Valley.
In the final stages of the war, the Germans evacuated the camp and Iby and the other women were taken on a forced march towards the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Anyone lagging behind was shot. Iby and her friends were finally liberated on Easter Sunday in 1945.
After a stay in hospital, she got a job as a translator for the Military Government in Germany and there met Bert, a British army officer. They married in December 1946 and Iby moved to England the following year. She has lived in Leeds ever since.