Holocaust survivor tells story of the horrors of Auschwitz

Horror: Iby Knill spent six weeks at Auschwitz. Pictured is the famous inscription 'Work makes [you] free'
“Work Makes You Free”. Iby Knill spent six weeks at Auschwitz during the World War II. In her stay in the camp, she made a promise to a teenage girl to let their story be known to the world.
A Holocaust survivor shares the horrors that she has witnessed in Auschwitz almost 70 years after the outbreak of the Second World War. She said she promised a girl the stories of those who suffered in the hands of the Nazis in the concentration camp will be known to the world.

Iby Knill, now 90, explained how she promised a frail teenage girl who told her, “If you live, please tell our story”, during her first night in the Auschwitz camp in July 1944. Mrs. Knill was then 20 when she was sent to the camp.

She took a course in theology about four years ago. In one of the group sessions, she breaks her silence and reveals her experience in the concentration camp.

In one of the testimonies, she described into detail the deaths that surrounded her during the war. She revealed the horror she felt realizing she the possibility of being experimented on like all the other prisoners in the camp.

In a new documentary, Mrs. Knill explains that during her theology class at Leeds University, there was a brewing discussion on whether the Holocaust was a result of evil or of sin.

Her theology instructor told the class that only a person “who was there [the Holocaust] could answer that question”. She breaks her silence and answered, “I was there”. She then went on to share her experience.

At the moment, she realized that it was time to fulfill her promise to the teenage girl who died in the camp. Mrs. Knill decided to write her memoirs of the war as a prisoner in one of the world’s most infamous concentration camp.

During her first night at the death camp in Auschwitz, a little girl told her that “her and her sister were going to be experimented on”.

“She said they were then going to be gassed and therefore exterminated. She made me promise to tell the story of the camps, if I were to live. Of course I said yes, but after the war was over it didn’t seem right to talk about what had happened,” she said.

She further revealed that, “There, you were one of a number, and it came down to how long you could survive.”

Mrs. Knill lived to survive the war after the camps were liberated. But, the brutalities and horrors she had witnessed at the camps left her scarred for life. She was not yet ready to fulfill her promise to the girl.

Survivor: Iby Knill, now 90, is the star of a documentary. She said: 'The girl told me that her and her sister were going to be experimented on. She said they were then going to be gassed and therefore exterminated'
Iby Knill, now 90, shares her memoirs of the war in a documentary film, The Woman Without A Number, almost 70 years after the Holocaust.

Mrs. Knill met Herbert Knill, a British Army Major, and married him. His husband was born in Czechoslovakia. He fled from his hometown when the SS soldiers started rounding up Jews and escaped to Hungary in 1942.

In 1944, Hungary was occupied by the Nazis. Mrs. Knill, who was then 20, was rounded up and transported to Auschwitz along with other Jews. She spent six terrifying weeks there before she was was transferred to another concentration camp, Kaunitz. The camp was liberated eventually and she became free.

After marrying, Mrs. Knill moved to Britain where she raised her two children. Christopher Knill, 65, is a psychiatrist and Pauline Kilch, 58, is a teacher.

A student at Teesside University, Robin Pepper, 22, decided to create a documentary film about Mrs. Knill’s real-life experience during the Holocaust.

The Daily Mail reports that the film, The Woman Without a Number, is a final project of Pepper’s who read Iby’s memoirs in a day. Pepper is working with two other film students, Mark Oxley, 26, from Darlington and Ian Orwin, 22, from Sunderland.

“Robin has done a marvelous job, and I am very happy with the film. It goes some way towards fulfilling the promise I made to the twin all those years ago,” Mrs. Knill said.

“It was an honour to work with Iby. She is an amazing lady, and we are really pleased we have helped her keep that promise she made so long ago,” Robin said.



Siegphyl is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE