Reflections: Kitty Hart-Moxon OBE


Kitty Hart-Moxon OBE

Holocaust survivor and honorary graduate (Hon DUniv, 2013)

My childhood was wonderful until the summer holidays of 1939 when the invasion  started. I was 12. We fled to a town called Lublin and there they were rounding  people up, taking them out of town and killing them. We tried different escapes  but you always had to get back to the ghetto at night to register because Jews  weren’t allowed to move around.

I was sentenced to death aged 16. My mother and I had already been parted from my  father and brother, and a priest had got us non-Jewish identities so we were taken  to work in a German factory. But we were betrayed, taken to Gestapo headquarters,  interrogated and sentenced to death. We lined up facing a wall, but the death  squads shot into the air and our sentence became life imprisonment at Auschwitz.

On 2 April 1943, I arrived at Auschwitz. I was there for almost two years, which was  exceptional because the average lifespan of an inmate was between three weeks  and three months. It was dangerous for your face to be known to the privileged  prisoners. To stay alive, it was important to be invisible.  I felt like giving up many times. I was working in the sick bay for some time and  managed to hide some of my friends there as they recovered. Every day the SS  doctor came in to make a selection for the gas chamber. He would mark the bed  with a cross and you were dead. One day he said: ‘We’re emptying the whole block’,  more than 1,000 women. I had to help load my friends onto lorries. We all knew  they were going to die.

Working near the gas chambers, I knew I was doomed because of what I witnessed,  day in and day out. We were told: ‘The only way out is through the chimney.’ 

We hoped conditions would improve after being evacuated from Auschwitz, but things  were actually worse during the last six months of the war. My mother and I were  forced on a death march over the mountains, barefoot in deep snow. Then we were  loaded onto open coal trucks and taken on a seven-day journey without food or  water. Our destination was a cave where we had to work 11 shafts underground.  Soon again we were evacuated. This time we were pushed into airtight container  trucks and took turns to breathe through gaps in the floor. We heard footsteps and  banged against the doors. One truck was opened by soldiers and when we fell  out, my mother said: ‘We’re not going back, you can kill us now. We demand  to be taken to a camp.’ Out of 100 women, just 12 of us had not suffocated. 

Nobody wanted to hear when I first came to England. As my uncle drove me and my  mother from the docks he said: ‘Remember, in my house I don’t want you to speak  about anything that happened to you. I don’t want to know and I don’t want my  girls upset.’ I was very angry at the indifference, the hostility, and the lack of  understanding. It took 15 years for anyone to ask me the first question.

I felt a duty to document my experiences not only because of what happened to me,  but what I witnessed. People must be warned of the consequences of discrimination. 

Auschwitz was my university because you learnt everything about life. You saw the  worst of human nature but also saw the best. Friendships and mutual support  were vital, you couldn’t survive on your own and you often risked your life for friends.  Auschwitz taught you to cope with everything life would throw at you because  it could never be as bad as that.



Return to Auschwitz by Kitty

Hart-Moxon and the DVD of the same name are available from the Holocaust Educational Trust for £10 for both.

Visit or call +44 (0)20 7222 6822. 

To be entered into a prize draw to win the book and DVD set, email your name and degree details to alumnicommunications@ by 31 May 2014.