OVER 150 people attended a service of remembrance at Solihull Library last Thursday, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
One of the speakers, Holocaust survivor, Dr Martin Stern, from Leicester, spoke to the Solihull News about his experiences of the World War Two atrocities.
In 1944, at the age of just five, Martin was snatched out of school in Amsterdam, and flung into a prison camp in the Netherlands, because his father was a Jew.
The young boy and his one-year-old sister, Erica, were then transported to Theresienstadt, which Nazis propaganda described as ‘a model Jewish settlement’ but which, in reality, was a concentration camp.
Martin described the atrocious conditions they were forced to live in: “It was disgustingly overcrowded, it stank to high heaven, and we couldn’t wash properly. I probably wore the same clothes all the time I was there. There were fleas, bed bugs, mice. And towards the end of my time in that place, there was a typhus outbreak. It killed a lot of people, those who had not already died of starvation.” Martin and his sister were cared for by Dutch woman, Catharina Casoeto de Jong, imprisoned there for marrying a Jewish market trader. In 1945, the Red Army liberated the “Camp-Ghetto” where brother and sister were imprisoned. Martin said: “Amazingly, we survived when the majority of children who went into that place died. Miraculously, my sister’s name and mine weren’t called out when the train was loaded for Auschwitz.” Theresienstadt was also a transit camp for Jews en route to Auschwitz to be gassed.
Martin, now 71, uses his experiences to teach children about the Holocaust. He said: “This is a hard thing to do as we don’t want to give children nightmares, but it is important the story is told.”