A Nazi concentration camp survivor has called on people to never forget the horrors of the Holocaust as he urged society to reject hate in all its forms.
Speaking to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Thursday, Harry Spiro told the Standard his message nearly 80 years on was that “by hating you don’t achieve anything”.
His mother, Tamma, forced him to leave, and he was the family’s only survivor. Along with others in the ghetto, his mother and sister were taken to Treblinka and murdered. He told the Standard: “She said, ‘hopefully one of us will survive.’ She must have had a premonition.”
After spending time in a labour camp where he remembers inmates’ skin turning yellow from chemicals used to make ammunition, Harry was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp. He said: “You could smell the gas, at the beginning you thought, ‘what is it?’ And you were quickly told what it was, they were burning people.”
He was one of just 270 people out of 3,000 who survived the long march from Rehmsdorf, a satellite of Buchenwald, to Theresienstadt in what is now the Czech Republic.
After the camp was liberated by the Russians, Mr Spiro was brought to the UK as one of the “Windermere Children” and went on to establish tailoring shops in Stoke Newington and in Holloway Road.
He called on everyone to remember the millions murdered, saying: “People normally can’t believe what happened to Jews and how people can do to each other what they do. Things like that should never repeat themselves. People are capable of doing the worst things even to children.”
Harry is among the survivors working with the Holocaust Educational Trust to share his testimony to a younger generation and has given many school talks.
The charity’s Karen Pollock said: “It is incumbent on all of us to grapple with the truth of the past, and to pledge to never be silent in the face of the anti-Semitism and hatred.”
At 8pm on Thursday people will light candles in their windows to remember those who were murdered.