Commemorating the Holocaust | Lilian Black

 

 

 

 

In April 2010, survivor Eugene Black and his daughter Lilian travelled to Germany at the invitation of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorial Foundations to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the liberation of both camps.

 Eugene was transported from Auschwitz-Birkenau in May 1944 to the 'Little Camp' at Buchenwald. This was originally a quarantine zone set up on the northern edge of the camp and separated from the main camp by barbed wire. Between May and July 1944, 8000 Hungarian Jews selected from the extermination process were sent there. They stayed in the 'Little Camp' before being sent for slave labour in armament production carried out in sub camps. The arrival of mass transports from the Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen camps in 1944/45 turned the Little Camp into a place of dying and death.

Eugene was subsequently taken by lorry from Buchenwald near Weimar to Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp near Nordhausen, where he was forced to work as a slave labourer in the underground rocket tunnels where the V1 and V2 rockets were manufactured. He was forced to live and work in the most inhumane conditions, alongside many other prisoners from occupied Europe. He loaded rocks onto wagons and pushed the wagons to the tunnel entrance for 12 hours a day without proper nourishment or sanitary conditions. He was made to stand for hours before and after work, whatever the weather conditions, as the prisoners were counted on 'Appel'.  Over 20,000 prisoners perished under these terrible conditions. Eugene survived this gruelling experience for five months until he became ill and was sent to another camp at Harzhungen nearby. In March 1945, as the allies advanced, he and other prisoners were transported by train to Celle near Bergen Belsen. The journey took 7 days and nights. There was no food and water - only 300 survived the journey out of approximately 3000 prisoners. On 15 April 1945 Eugene was liberated by the British forces. He was 17 years of age.

 At the commemoration events former prisoners and their families came together from France, Belgium, Canada, Israel, the Ukraine and Germany itself to remember those who did not survive. Over the three days of events there were many opportunities to talk together and re-visit the scenes of their imprisonment and reflect. On the last evening a concert was given for the former prisoners and families hosted by the Mayor of Nordhausen, Mrs Barbara Rinke, and Dr Jens Wagner, head of the Mittelbau-Dora Memorial Foundation. Thirty former prisoners were presented with a certificate of remembrance and the town is planting a tree for each survivor as part of the legacy of remembrance for the future. The occasion was funded by the regional government. Also in attendance were many dignitaries, including Andrew Noble of the British Embassy in Berlin, who thanked Eugene for representing Britain, and local people who joined the events with survivors and families.