I, Witness

Firsthand accounts from the Holocaust

Georgia Hing of the Daily Telegraph interviews Sydney-based Holocaust survivors Olga Horak, Paul Drexler, Yvonne Engleman and Jack Meister.

It started with Yvonne Engleman noticing her school friends had started to treat her 'like she was invisible'. But the growing scourge of antisemitism soon gave way to far worse as Jews were legislated against, 'selected' for enforced labour and transported to camps. Yvonne, 15, found herself alone in Auschwitz and marked for death by sadistic camp physician Dr Joseph Mengele. Yvonne made her way to Australia after the war and now volunteers at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

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The sole survivor from her family, Olga Horak details the downward spiral of Jews living in Bratislava from comfortable, happy lives to a persecuted, terrorised minority, eventually transported to the death camps of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Olga married after the war and immigrated to Australia with her husband in 1949.

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The tattoo on Jack Meister's arm reads B488. The now 89-year-old recalls the day in Auschwitz when it was imprinted on him as a 10-year-old boy. Having been rounded up with other Jews from his hometown of Kielce in Poland he was confined to a ghetto before being sent to Auschwitz, but survived the war after transferring to the less egregious Buna concentration camp. He was liberated in April 1945 from Buchenwald and migrated to Australia after the war.

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At the age of six Paul Drexler was transported with his mother to Hitler's show camp Theresienstadt, where the Red Cross and the rest of the world was tricked into believing Jews were being treated humanely. In reality it was a squalid ghetto, but one nonetheless designed to obscure the far greater horrors of the Nazis' Final Solution. Paul's father was murdered in the final days of the war, but he and his mother survived and were able to migrate to Australia in 1947.

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