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Auschwitz survivor tells pupils of Holocaust horrors

10/10/12

Auschwitz survivor Kitty Hart-Moxon OBE has taken part in a presentation about the Holocaust with senior pupils at Aberdeen's Harlaw Academy today [Wednesday 10 October].

Kitty Hart-Moxon with Harlaw pupils,Tanya Gubta (16 6th Year) and Axel Kurszewski (17 6th Year) a student originally from Poland studying at Harlaw Academy, whose Grandfather was died in a concentration camp during the war. The presentation included a screening of 'Death March: A Survivor's Story,' a documentary made in 2003 by the BBC, in which she retraced the death march from the Gross-Rosen concentration camp back to Germany, having been transferred there from Auschwitz.

Mrs Hart-Moxon's two-day visit to the school was arranged by Ken Mackintosh, principal teacher of religious studies, who organised a four-day trip by 23 S5 and S6 pupils to Poland as part of their religious studies and history Higher courses.

Death March: A Survivor's Story was shown on the second day of Kitty's visit to the school. Yesterday [Tuesday 09 October] she spoke to senior pupils about her experiences of growing up in Poland before World War II, her family's experience of the Lublin Ghetto, her family's struggle during the war and how at 16 years of age she was sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Yesterday, Kitty showed excerpts from her international award-winning YTV [Yorkshire Television] documentary 'Kitty: Return to Auschwitz', which, as she says "gives an account of the daily struggle for survival."

Following the presentation Mrs Hart-Moxon OBE, said: "Talking to young people in schools is very rewarding as it brings an understanding of the Holocaust to a new generation and it ensures the Holocaust has a permanent place in our nation's collective memory.

"DiscrimiČnation and bullying can often start in the playground so by teaching young people of the consequences and dangers of prejudice gives young people knowledge - bigotry's worst enemy."

Ken Mackintosh, principal teacher of religious studies, added: "It is such a privilege for the pupils to have met Kitty and to have heard her personal testimony to the horrors of the Holocaust. They will never forget what they have heard today.

"Kitty's experiences clearly demonstrate how easily a civilised nation can slide into prejudice and bigotry leading to mass murder based on race. She pointed out how easily such an evil may still happen in the world today. There was much food for thought for the pupils."

In September [2012], accompanied by Mr Mackintosh, deputy headteacher Anne Douglas and modern studies teacher Tom Whyte, the pupils embarked on an intensive study tour of pre-war Jewish life in Krakow and the impact of the Holocaust, as well as a day-long visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp.

The pupils visited the Jewish cultural area of Kazimierz, which included an active synagogue and the Jewish Ghetto in the Podgorze district including Oscar Schindler's factory in the Ghetto. Schindler famously saved many hundreds of Jews by providing them with work.

The visit to the Auschwitz camp brought home the horrors the Nazi regime to the pupils and teachers, however the event which perhaps had the most impact on the pupils was meeting camp survivor Lydia, who had, as a child in Auschwitz, been subjected to appalling medical experiments by the notorious Dr Mengele. She had been separated from her mother on entering the camp and, after being adopted by a Polish couple after the war discovered at the age of 21 that her mother and father had both survived the war. Lydia still has the infamous camp number tattooed on her arm.

Kitty Hart-Moxon OBE, was born Kitty Felix in 1926, in the southern Polish town of Bielsko. As a child, she represented Poland as part of the Youth Swimming Team in 1939. She won a bronze medal and was the youngest selected on the squad. Kitty (front, second from right) at a displaced persons camp in 1946 - her arm is bandaged  where she tried to remove her Auschwitz tattoo.

During a holiday when Kitty was 12, her parents decided to leave Bielsko because of its proximity to the German and Czechoslovakian borders and the family moved to Lublin, in central Poland. They left on 24 August 1939 and on 01 September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland.

After the war, in 1946, Kitty immigrated with her mother to England to live with her uncle who had resided there since before World War II.  In 1949, she married Rudi Hart, an upholsterer, who had escaped to England before the Holocaust. They had two sons, David and Peter.

In the 2003 Queen's Birthday Honours, an Order of the British Empire was conferred on Mrs Hart-Moxon for services relating to Holocaust education.