My mother, Esther Brunstein, was a survivor of the Łódź ghetto, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. She spoke at the official opening of the Holocaust galleries in the Imperial War Museum, and at the first Holocaust Memorial Day in this country in Westminster Hall, London.
She died three years ago. She spoke and wrote extensively and beautifully about her experiences, but I wish to pay tribute to her with this anecdote.
As she lay in her bed in Barnet hospital, in London, her life very nearly over, a young junior doctor was attempting to put in a cannula in her concealed veins. My sister was at her bedside. My mother winced and cried with the pain of the needle repeatedly failing to hit its target, but eventually the doctor managed.
Related: Esther Brunstein obituary
My mum said out loud something like: “Not bad for an 88-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and Belsen!” The doctor was dumbfounded, and asked my sister if this was indeed true. She confirmed it.
He looked again deeply into my mother’s face and then asked her if she’d ever spoken at a certain school in Dorset. She thought about it – she had spoken to so many students and children in so many schools about her experiences – and she then said: “Yes, I did speak there.”
He told her and my sister that he went there, he was in the sixth form and heard her speak. He said you could have heard a pin drop, she spoke so engagingly and expressively. He told her and my sister that her presence and her words had such a deep impact on him and influenced him in his decision to study medicine.
And there he was, several years later, helping her in what turned out to be her last few days on this earth. We were all blown away by this story – me, my sister, my mother and the doctor.