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Holocaust: The miracle babies of KZ Mauthausen-Gusen
By Helen Burchell
BBC Cambridgeshire


Mauthausen's Holocaust babies talk to BBC Look East reporter, Fae Southwell

Three babies born just days before the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp have been reunited at a Holocaust Memorial Day event in Cambridge.

Eva Clarke believed she was the only baby born at Mauthausen camp, until internet searches revealed that two others were alive and well in America.

Mark Olsky, Hana Berger Moran, and Eva were born within days of each other.

"I always grew up thinking that I was a miracle baby, and now there are three of us," said Eva.

KZ Mauthausen-Gusen in Austria was one of the largest labour camp complexes in German-controlled Europe.

Anka, Eva, Mark, Hana

In April 1945, three heavily pregnant women were among those being transferred by train from Freiberg and Auschwitz to the camp.

Each had been careful to disguise her pregnancy for as long as possible.

There was only one outcome for prisoners unable to work and very few babies born in camps lived more than a few days.

"Our mothers were all very strong women, and we are very grateful for that," said Eva Clarke, now aged 65.

She lives in Cambridge with her 94-year-old mother, Anka, and has spent years working with schoolchildren to educate them about the Holocaust.

Eva's story

Eva's father, architect Bernd Nathan, was shot in Auschwitz, and his wife, 27-year-old Anka, spent eight months in the same camp before being transferred by train to Mauthausen.

By this time, she was just days away from giving birth.

"We were on the train for about 20 days," said Anka.

"There was no food, no water, no hygiene. We were like sardines - and dirty - because it was a coal wagon."

It was only when the train eventually stopped that Anka realised where she and the other prisoners were being taken.

"We knew about Mauthausen. So many people were taken hostage and they never came back," she said.

"When I saw the sign at the station, my birth pains started, but we had to get off the train."

'Pregnant skeleton'

She recalled the kindness of a local farmer, who was helping to transport the prisoners to the camp.

Concentration camp barracks
Barracks in a concentration camp, but Eva's mother had her own bunk

"I must have looked like something he had never seen," said Anka, who described herself as "a scarcely-living, pregnant skeleton with a shaved head".

"But he took pity on me and gave me a glass of milk.

"And I must tell you now that never in my life do I touch milk, but this glass of milk was like an elixir.

"It was marvellous. I think at the time that may have saved my life.

"That glass of milk brought my humanity back," she said.

Eva was born in the farmer's cart, weighing just 3lb and surrounded by "women with typhoid fever and covered with lice".

Anka remembered that her baby daughter was completely still and did not make a sound.

When the cart reached the first aid station at Mauthausen, a doctor, who was also a prisoner, cut the umbilical cord, smacked her and only then did Eva begin to cry.

'Happiest person'

"My baby was wrapped in newspaper because there was nothing else there," said Anka.

"I was given a bunk for myself which was a miracle as all the rest slept anyhow.

"And I had my baby in my arms in the paper, and I was the happiest person in all the world."

Eva tells her mother's story regularly, and maintains that it was only because of Anka's strength - and the fact that the camp was liberated by the American army days later - that she survived.

"A baby that small would be straight in an incubator these days," she said.

"There were no incubators. I was wrapped in paper, but perhaps I had the best incubator. My mother just held me all the time."

Hana's story

Many years later, Eva would discover that she was not the only baby born at Mauthausen camp in April 1945.

Like Anka, Hana Berger Moran's mother had stayed alive by disguising her growing belly.

"She was a spitfire, and so adamant to bring this child to life," said Hana, who now lives in California.

"She managed to conceal her pregnancy. Her rags were big and she told me she always wore a big black coat."

Hana was born as her mother was being transported from Freiberg subcamp.

KZ Mauthausen-Gusen in Austria
KZ Mauthausen-Gusen was liberated days after the babies' births

"The other women prisoners at Freiberg had sewn two items for me from their rags," Hana said.

"One was a little shirt and another was a little hat. The clothes bore the crest of the Freiberg camp and are now in the Washington Holocaust Museum."

Eva only found out about Hana in 2009, when she read her story in a newsletter published by the Veterans' Association of the American 11th Armored Division - the unit that liberated Mauthausen.

Within 24 hours the pair were sharing their stories by email, and began making plans to travel together to a Mauthausen memorial service to be held in spring 2010.

Mark's story

Having spent years trying to find out more about other survivors from Mauthausen, Mark Olsky eventually gave up.

"I knew the information was out there, but this was before the internet was invented and it was very difficult."

Originally from Poland, Mark's mother was being transported on the same train from Freiberg to Mauthausen when Mark was born.

"My mother actually went into labour right in the middle of one of those coal cars," he said.

"The train was stopped at the time, in the middle of Czechoslovakia, and some of the locals brought the prisoners some food."

Years later, Mark's own son decided to take up the search for more information about his family history.

Again, he came across the miraculous stories of Eva and Hana on the army veterans' website.

"It was so similar, I could not believe it when he told me," said Mark.

He quickly got in touch and the three Holocaust babies met for the first time at the Mauthausen memorial in 2010.

Holocaust memorial

On 27 January 2010 Eva, Hana and Mark told their remarkable stories at a Holocaust Memorial Day event at Cambridge's Guildhall. Eva's mother Anka was in the audience.

"Having been brought up as an only child I am so delighted, because I call these people my brother and sister," Hana said.

"We feel such a sense of togetherness. Like a family.

"I am amazed that we survived and I continue to live my life as best as I can, and to fill those shoes that are so empty. Every day is a promise."

Eva Clarke and Anka Bergman
Eva Clarke and Anka Bergman make sure the Holocaust is not forgotten

Mark agreed: "Even though it goes back 65 years, it feels like I've found a whole new family," he said.

However, the fact that the three of them and their mothers had survived was tinged with sadness, he said.

"I'm hesitant to say I feel good about the fact that we survived, because it just happens to have been less bad for us.

"There are so many more who didn't make it. So many who were unlucky and for no good reason were killed in the war."

Both Hana and Mark have now returned to the United States, but the three will continue to talk, to email, and to share their stories so that future generations never forget about the Holocaust.

"I think it's very important to remember all those thousands and thousands of people who died, who were killed," said Eva.

"And especially all those thousands who have never had one single person remember them because all of their families, and their communities, were destroyed.

"It's my duty to tell that story."

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• Hann, you always amaze me. What a remarkable story.
Kathy Rosendale, Mt Airy, USA

• I had the pleasure to meet all three of them together at the Mauthausen ceremonies in May of 2010. I first met Mark during the Memorial Day weekend in 2010 at my father's house, again when he attended and asked to speak at my father's wake and funeral, and again at the final reunion of the 11th Armored Division Association.

I first met Hana at Mauthausen in May 2005 where she and my father were featured in a celebration of remembrance My father was a medic that was first in on the camp's liberation. He had found Hana (who was less than three weeks old and badly ill) and convinced his Major (Division Surgeon) Harold Stacy that this baby was worth trying to save.

To this day my family maintains a close relationship with Mark and his family, and a VERY SPECIAL relationship with my "Big Sister" Hana. Hana was also present in 2008 when my father was presented a Shofar Award at Temple Israel in Albany NY by Rabbi Silton and Anna Rosmus.

There are a lot of tragic stories of the Holocaust, their stories are ones of life, not death, they are feel-good stories with happy endings.

It is my pleasure to have met all three of them, and able to include Mark, Hana, and their families into the lives of my family to help carry the message of "we must never forget".

The BBC did an outstanding job on this story.
Brian Petersohn, Montgomery USA

• Eva's, Mark's and Hana's stories are truly remarkable and formed the culmination of Cambridge City Council's HMD commemoration last night(27 Jan 2011). Thank you to Keystage Arts for putting together such a moving programme.
Sheila Levy, Cambridge

• A wonderful example of what is best humanity rising above the mire of Hitler's abomination. It sends a message of hope to all who suffer for doing what is right and good, even today - don't give in - ever!
Tim Randall, UK

Holocaust Memorial Day in Cambs
27 Jan 11 |  Religion & Ethics
Survivor teaches Holocaust lesson
24 Jan 08 |  Northern Ireland
Glass of milk 'saved' Nazi victim
27 Jan 06 |  Wales



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