‘I saw the blood on the snow’ - Holocaust survivor at Baldock’s Knights Templar School relives seeing Nazi death squad gun down her mother

Hannah Lewis, second left, with Knights Templar students Alexander Massie, Mila Vasey and Beth Mance

Hannah Lewis, second left, with Knights Templar students Alexander Massie, Mila Vasey and Beth Mance. - Credit: Archant

A Holocaust survivor has relived the childhood horror of watching a Nazi death squad gun down her mother, during a talk at a Baldock school.

Hannah Lewis' father Adam risked immediate execution by taking this photograph of the forced labour

Hannah Lewis' father Adam risked immediate execution by taking this photograph of the forced labour camp at Adampol. - Credit: Archant

Hannah Lewis, who was only six when her mother Haya was murdered at a forced labour camp in eastern Poland, gave the moving testimony when she spoke at Knights Templar School on Wednesday last week.

“Early one morning there was a whack of a rifle butt on the door, with barked orders to march outside,” she said.

“My mother got up very calmly, hugged me and firmly closed the door behind her.

“I waited patiently, I expected her to return. I became anxious and opened the door to see my mother and many others from the camp being ushered to the central well.

Hannah Lewis' father Adam risked immediate execution by taking this photograph of the forced labour

Hannah Lewis' father Adam risked immediate execution by taking this photograph of the forced labour camp at Adampol. - Credit: Archant

“I just watched, trying to make eye contact with my mother. Then came the order to shoot.

“I watched my mother fall to the ground. I saw the blood on the snow. I could not scream, I just lay down on the straw. That day I grew up.”

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Hannah was born in 1937 in W?odawa, a market town in eastern Poland where Jews made up about half the population before the war and the Nazi occupation.

In 1943 she and her family were rounded up and sent to a forced labour camp in Adampol.

Holocaust survivor Hannah Lewis speaking at Knights Templar School.

Holocaust survivor Hannah Lewis speaking at Knights Templar School. - Credit: Archant

Her father and cousin were able to escape, join the resistance and warn Haya that a Nazi Einsatzgruppe (death squad) was on the way – but Haya stayed because she was unable to move Hannah, who had typhus.

On liberation Hannah was found starved and hiding in a ditch by a Red Army soldier, and was reunited with her father. She moved to Britain in 1949 and now has four children and eight grandchildren.

Knights Templar pupil Mila Vasey reflected on the talk: “It is easy to be overwhelmed by the scale of the genocide, but we must remember that every victim, perpetrator and bystander was a human being.

“Hannah gave us a human side to the Holocaust. We should not forget every victim had their own personal stories and hopes for the future.”

The talk was organised with the help of the Holocaust Education Trust, which sent Mila and other Knights Templar students to Auschwitz earlier this year.

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