Kitty Hart-Moxon

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Kitty Hart-Moxon, OBE (born 1926) is a Polish-English Holocaust survivor. She was sent to the Auschwitz labour camp in 1943 at the age of 16, where she survived for two years, and was also imprisoned at other camps. Shortly after her liberation in April 1945 by American soldiers, she moved to England with her mother, where she married and dedicated her life to raising awareness of the Holocaust. She has written two autobiographies entitled I am Alive and Return to Auschwitz.

Early life[edit]

Kitty Hart-Moxon was born Kitty Felix in 1926, in the southern Polish town of Bielsko. She had one brother, Robert, who was five years older. Her father operated an agricultural supply business.

As a child, Hart-Moxon represented Poland as part of the Youth Swimming Team in 1939. She won a bronze medal and was the youngest selected on the squad.

During a holiday when Kitty was 12, her parents decided to leave Bielsko because of its proximity to the German and Czechoslovakian borders. The house was emptied in response to the anti-Semitic mood which had swept the town. To escape the danger of proximity to Germany, Kitty’s family moved to Lublin, in central Poland. They left on 24 August 1939. On 1 September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland.

Ghettos[edit]

The conditions for Jews living in Lublin deteriorated after the invasion. Eventually, all the Jews in Lublin were moved into a single area of the city, creating the Lublin Ghetto. In the winter of 1940-41, the family attempted to escape to Russia. They made it to the border, but found that it had closed 24 hours previously. They attempted to cross the frozen river by sleigh, but were sighted when they were about three-quarters of the way across and shot at. Forced to return to the Polish side of the river, they abandoned their escape attempt and returned towards Lublin.[1]

The family returned to the vicarage of Father Krasowski, where her father bribed some officials and obtained false documents for her and her mother.[2] With these passports, birth certificates and identity cards, the two were smuggled onto a train of Polish workers bound for Germany. The family split up to increase their chance of survival. Hart-Moxon went with her mother to I.G. Farben in Bitterfeld and commenced working at a rubber factory.[1]

On 13 March 1943, Hart-Moxon and 12 other Jews at the factory, including her mother, were betrayed and were taken to Gestapo headquarters. The family members were interrogated, and charged at trial three days later with "endangering the security of Third Reich" and "illegally [entering] Germany with forged papers".[3] They were told that they would be executed and placed in front of a firing squad. After the squad conducted a mock execution, the victims were told that their sentences had been commuted to hard labor.[1]

Auschwitz II (Birkenau)[edit]

On 2 April 1943, at the age of 16, Hart-Moxon and her mother arrived at Auschwitz. They found jobs working with dead prisoners, which was less physically demanding than jobs outside the camp. In order to aid in their survival, they took items from the dead, and traded those and other items with other prisoners. At one point, Hart-Moxon became ill with typhus, but eventually recovered. Throughout their imprisonment Hart-Moxon maintained a variety of jobs, including that of night shift worker responsible for sorting through the confiscated possessions of prisoners arriving by train.

Rumors began in August 1944 that Auschwitz was to be evacuated. Hart-Moxon's mother was selected as one of one hundred prisoners to be removed from the camp. She requested that her daughter be allowed to leave the camp. The commandant, for unknown reasons, obliged. So, in November 1944, Kitty was taken along with several hundred prisoners to Gross-Rosen concentration camp.[1] Every day, the camp occupants were marched to a nearby town to work in the Philips electronic factory.

The death marches[edit]

After four months, in response to advances by the Allied Forces, the prisoners of Gross Rosen were forced on what would later be called a death march across the Sudeten mountains. These prisoners were chosen to be moved, rather than executed, because Albert Speer, the German armaments minister, felt that the special skills these prisoners had gained at the Phillips factory would be useful in other German factories for the manufacture of "jamming transmitters and equipment for high-performance aircraft".[4] The prisoners were eventually taken to a train station and shipped across Europe to Porta Westfalica in northwestern Germany. Only about 200 of the original 10,000 prisoners, including Hart-Moxon and her mother, survived the journey.[1]

In Porta Westfalica, the prisoners were sent to work in an underground factory. From there, the two were eventually sent to Bergen-Belsen, at which point they were abandoned in a locked train car and left to die. After being released by a group of German soldiers, they were transported to a camp near Salzwedel.[1]

Liberation[edit]

In the second week of April 1945, the SS guards disappeared from the camp. On Saturday, 14 April, Salzwedel was liberated by the American army. Hart-Moxon and her mother began working as translators for the British Army. Later, the two moved to help with the Quaker Relief Team, outside Braunschweigrunswick.[1]

Hart-Moxon and her mother tried to locate their family members soon after they were liberated, but found that everyone else had been killed: her father had been discovered by the Gestapo and shot; her brother was killed in battle; and her grandmother was taken to Belzec concentration camp and died in the gas chambers.[1]

After the war[edit]

In 1946, Hart-Moxon emigrated with her mother to England to live with her uncle who had resided there since before World War II. In 1949, she married Rudi Hart, an upholsterer, who had escaped to England before being caught in the Holocaust. They had two sons, David and Peter.

While in England, Hart-Moxon became interested in educating people about the Holocaust by telling her life story to the public. This began with her first novel I Am Alive (1961), a fairly short account of her life in Auschwitz. Then, in 1978, Yorkshire Television (YTV), while doing background research on a project about women who risked their lives to save others during the Nazi era, producer Peter Morley's team learned about Hart-Moxon and convinced him to meet her.[5] She didn't fit the parameters they'd set for Women of Courage, but after two visits, Morley was so impressed with Hart-Moxon, he submitted a proposal to YTV to accompany her to Auschwitz for her first visit in 33 years and film it, provided she brought along her eldest son, then a young doctor, for emotional support.[6] In his memoirs, Morley wrote, "This, no doubt, was going to be a very raw film... I felt this to be a unique opportunity to add fresh insight to the infamy of Auschwitz as had been portrayed in both fictional and non-fictional films and television programmes."[7]

The resulting documentary, Kitty: Return to Auschwitz, won international awards[8] and was seen by millions. She began to receive mail by the sackful, some arriving addressed only to "Kitty, Birmingham".[9] The documentary inspired her second novel, titled Return To Auschwitz, which was published in 1981. In 2003, she worked with the BBC to make a second documentary, titled Death March: A Survivor's Story, in which she retraced the death march from Auschwitz-Birkenau back to Germany.[10]

Apart from her work for Holocaust survivors and victims, she also worked as a nurse. She studied through a private nurse training course and at the Birmingham Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, after which she obtained a job at a private radiology firm. Later she helped her husband set up his own upholstery business.

Honours[edit]

In the 2003 Queen's Birthday Honours, Hart-Moxon was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services relating to Holocaust education. In 2013 Kitty Hart-Moxon was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Birmingham.[11]

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Jeffries, Stuart (27 January 2010). "Memories of the Holocaust: Kitty Hart-Moxon". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Morley, Peter. (2010), p. 224
  3. ^ Morley, Peter. (2010), pp. 224-225
  4. ^ "Death March: A Survivor's Story (page 2)". BBC. Retrieved 18 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Amanda Blinkhorn, "Review - A Life Rewound: Memoirs of a Freelance Producer and Director, by Peter Morley" Islington Tribune (June 9, 2011). Retrieved September 29, 2011
  6. ^ Morley, Peter (2010), pp. 224-226.
  7. ^ Morley, Peter (2010), pp. 226-227.
  8. ^ Abridged version of Peter Morley's memoirs (PDF) British Academy of Film and Television Arts "Peter Morley - A Life Rewound" (2010), p. 10. Retrieved September 29, 2011
  9. ^ Morley, Peter (2010), pp. 230-231
  10. ^ "Death March: A Survivor's Story". BBC. Retrieved 18 March 2011. 
  11. ^ http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/auschwitz-survivor-kitty-hart-moxon-honoured-5313594

External links[edit]