‘Holocaust survivors show that while recent memories fade, horrors rem…

‘Holocaust survivors show that while recent memories fade, horrors rem…

Sara Wallis reviews the powerful BBC2 ­documentary, Survivors: Portraits of the Holocaust, which coincided with Holocaust Memorial Day on Thursday

Manfred Goldberg on Survivors: Portraits of the Holocaust (

Image: BBC/Justin Evans)

Holocaust survivor Manfred Goldberg can nevertheless hear his mother’s agonised wails after learning his little brother – her son – had been murdered by the Nazis.

The 91-year-old, who was imprisoned in a slave labour camp in Latvia in 1943, was just 13 when he was forced to go to work each day, repairing the railway tracks.

German-born Manfred, from London, recalled: “Every inmate had to go out to work, except four little children. My brother Herman was just nine and allowed to stay in the camp.

“One day we returned from work and the children could not be found. Two members of the SS had taken them away. I can nevertheless hear my mother’s wails.

“The next morning, she and I had to get up as if nothing happened and go to work.”

Clara Drummond and Manfred Goldberg (


BBC/Angel Li)

Manfred’s harrowing testimony was told as part of a powerful BBC2 ­documentary, Survivors: Portraits of the Holocaust, which coincided with Holocaust Memorial Day on Thursday.

It followed a project spearheaded by Prince Charles to commission portraits of seven Holocaust survivors for the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace.

Each survivor’s unimaginable story was as harrowing as the next.

Lily Ebert in Survivors: Portraits of the Holocaust (


BBC/Tom Hayward)

And what was remarkable is that while ­recent memories may fade with age, these horrors keep crystal clear.

Rachel Levy, 91, remembers arriving at Auschwitz, having been taken from her village in Czechoslovakia.

She said: “My brother and I were considered fit enough to go one way. The rest of the family went the other way. We never heard from them again.”

Zigi Shipper also shared his story (


BBC/Justin Evans)

Rachel’s father had been already taken by the Nazis and her mother, two sisters aged 10 and eight and three-year-old brother were gassed on arrival. “Everyone was crying,” said Rachel, who later ­described a horrific death march to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

She said: “There was no water, no food… my aunt got very ill. She died in the night, they threw her on a heap.”

Zigi Shipper, 92, recalled: “They separated people left and right. Women hung on to their babies. If they couldn’t separate them, they shot the baby.”

And Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, 96, who survived only because she could play the cello to entertain the Nazis, said: “No one who wasn’t there could ever understand what it was like.”

Telling their stories is an ordeal for these survivors. It churns up memories that have haunted them their whole lives.

But they carry on, determined to pass lessons of kindness to future generations. “I cannot believe now that it really happened,” said Lily Ebert, 98. We must never forget.

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