Lily Ebert, aged 96, a survivor of the death camp at Auschwitz, has been astounded to see herself in rare film footage taken when former prisoners were sent by train to Switzerland in June 1945.
When the Germans occupied Hungary in 1944, the Hungarian authorities assisted them in rounding up the Jewish population and transporting them to Auschwitz. Lily Ebert and her family were included in this transport.
Lily survived Auschwitz, but her mother, sister, and brother were murdered in the camp’s ovens. As Soviet troops invaded from the east, thousands of prisoners were forced to march across Germany towards the west. The SS guards on the marches killed any prisoner that was too weak to keep up with the forced march. Thousands of others died of illness, malnutrition, and cold.
Some 10,000 completed the march. In January 1945, they were interred at Buchenwald, where thousands more passed away before the Allied forces arrived to liberate them.
On the 11th April 1945, the US army’s 6th Armoured Division arrived at the camp and liberated the 21,000 prisoners found there.
Mrs. Ebert was 21 years old, and one of the US soldiers gave her a banknote. On it, he had written a message wishing her good luck for her future life.
75 years later, Lily Ebert showed the banknote to her great-grandson, Dov Forman, who posted it online, sparking a wave of interest from around the world.
Lily said that the soldier did not have a piece of paper to write on, so he took the banknote out of his pocket and wrote the note to her. She was amazed at how people from around the world had found it fascinating.
Mr. Forman, aged 16, undertook research on his great-grandmother and located a piece of rare film footage showing female survivors of the holocaust leaving on a train to Switzerland. The footage was held by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Dov looked at the footage and immediately recognized his great-grandmother. The family was delighted and stunned to find the footage and compared it to locating a needle in a haystack.
They carefully compared photographs taken of Lily at that time and went through the film frame-by-frame, finding Lily’s two sisters as well. Seeing the footage allowed them to piece together where his great-grandmother was after being liberated.
Lily was interviewed for the BBC’s Today Program and said that the film was of happy times as they were leaving to start their new lives. She was amazed to see the movie for the first time. She did not remember the footage being shot, and it was unbelievable to suddenly see herself and her sisters in the film.
The family also managed to locate the soldier’s family that had written the good luck note to Lily. The soldier was Private Hayman Shulman, and Lily enjoyed an emotionally charged chat with his family over Zoom. Mr. Shulman died seven years ago.
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Mr. Forman said that he was determined to ensure that her life was documented before she dies. Being separated from her for two months during the novel Coronavirus lockdown brought home how fragile she is.