How brave Holocaust victims were forced to carry corpses & starve in Nazi camps like Anne Frank – before escaping death – The Sun

IT'S a tragedy that still sickens decades later – two families spent two years hiding from the Nazis in an attic, before being captured and killed in brutal concentration camps.

But the harrowing tale of Anne Frank sadly isn't unique. A new documentary out today on Netflix tells the tragic tale of five women who suffered similar fates – but, unlike Anne, and 1.5million other Jewish children, they survived to tell their stories.

Anne Frank: Parallel Stories follows the lives of then teenagers Sarah Lichtsztejn-Montard, Helga Weiss, Arianna Szörényi and sisters Andra and Tatiana Bucci, all of whom were tortured and starved in Nazi camps across Europe.

Here, they they watched their family members walk into gas chambers, never to be seen again.

From being forced to walk in the snow without shoes – and risk being shot if they fell behind – to hearing of gruesome experiments done on children and lining up each day in a selection queue that could lead to the gas chamber, these are their stories.

'I still remember the faceless dead bodies'

The Vel' d'Hiv round-up is one of the most infamous mass arrests to take place during World War II in July 1942.

It saw 13,000 Jews detained in a stadium near the Eiffel Tower in Paris at the order of the Nazis, before being shipped off to work in concentration camps.

Here they would encounter gruelling working conditions, where dead bodies were piled high in the courtyard, food was scarce and any misstep could get you killed.

Among them was Polish-born Sarah Lichtsztejn-Montard, then 14, and her mother, Maria, who had been woken up at 6am by police ordering them to gather their belongings.

Certain that they were headed to their death, Sarah managed to slip past the police and escape.

She spent two years in hiding, but sadly, by May 1944, the Nazis caught up to her – she was sent to Auschwitz and soon after, Bergen-Belsen.

"We heard the smashing of batons, they would hit us with batons. We were told you enter through the door and exit through the chimney," Sarah tells the documentary.

To keep their spirits up, she and the other children would sing songs and play with lice, despite barely having enough energy to do basic tasks.

After seven months of suffering, Sarah and her mum were liberated from the Auschwitz camp, but the experience left deep scars in both of them.

"My number is 7142," she says. "Once in my grave, the worms will eat it off me, but for the time being this is my mark, a mark of life, and I look after it."

Years later, Sarah married and now she has grandchildren and great grandchildren, which she says is her "revenge against the Nazis".

"I shall never forgive them for what they have done to the children, who were sent to the gas chambers," she adds.

'I lied to avoid the Angel of Death'

Helga Weiss was just 12 when she was separated from her parents, Otto and Irena, and spent three years living on her own in Theresienstadt ghetto in Terezín, Czech Republic, where she was exposed to disease, bed bugs and struggled to find enough to eat with starvation rations in place.

Three years later, she was deported to Auschwitz in cattle wagons, along with Irena. Meanwhile her father, uncle and first love, Ota, were sent away to build another ghetto.

Here, she encountered Josef Mengele, the officer and doctor best known for his inhumane experiments on Jews during the war.

"First they led us to the baths, where they took from us everything we still had," reads an excerpt from Helga's diary, which, just like Anne's, was later turned into a book.

"Quite literally there wasn't even a hair left. I didn't even recognise my own mother till I heard her voice…"

To avoid the gas chamber – or worse, the operating theatre – Helga lied about her own and her mother's age.

As they were stood in the selection line, she told the guard that she was older and that her mum was younger, and saved both of their lives in the process.

"He pointed – I don't know if it was luck, fate, a miracle," Helga describes the moment in an interview with The Guardian.

"I have friends who are still alive – they are the same age as I am – but their mothers were [sent to the left]. So I was lucky twice.

"Not only that I was not sent, but that I was together with my mother."

Deemed fit enough to work, they were sent to a labour camp in Freiberg, Germany, where women were forced to walk around barefoot in freezing conditions and heavy snow and suffered frostbite.

The torture continued when the pair of them were taken on a death march for 16 days to Mauthausen camp. If you fell behind or tried to escape, you were shot on the spot.

On 5 May 1945, when US army officers stormed the camp, she was freed.

Her mother also survived, but her father was never seen again and her boyfriend, Ota, who was in the Dachau camp, tragically died a few days after liberation.

Helga still has two of his shirts, which she keeps stored in her closet.

Many years later, she became an artist, married a musician named Jiri Hosek and had two children.

'We saw our family members walk into the gas chamber'

"The colours I see if I close my eyes are the white of the snow and the white of the corpses," Andra Bucci says.

"Flames from the chimney, snow and loneliness."

When they arrived at Auschwitz, she and her sister Tatiana were stripped of their names and given serial numbers 76483 and 76484 – these figures are still tattooed onto their skin.

On April 4 1944, the sisters, who were just four and six years old respectively, were arrested alongside their mother, aunt, grandmother and cousin in northern Italy.

Their aunt, Sonia, and grandmother, Rosa, were both taken to the gas chamber on the first day.

Meanwhile, in the children's barracks, officers tried to trick kids by asking those who wished to see their mothers to step forward.

Andra and Tatiana, who had been warned about this, stayed put, but 20 others including their cousin Sergio went with the officers – and were never seen again.

“We didn’t budge an inch, but he still stepped forward and was taken away with 19 other children," Tatiana told La Stampa last year.

"They were taken to the Neuengamme concentration camp in Hamburg where they became guinea pigs for atrocious experiments for tuberculosis.

"The day he was taken away was September 29, 1944 — his seventh birthday.”

It was later found out that these children were hung from meat hooks in a school cellar, with the Nazis attempting to hide the experiments from the world.

During their time in the camp, Andra and Tatiana tried to distract themselves from the torture by playing games.

She says: "I remember that we used to play with snow balls, but we were always surrounded by death.

"Because in the camp, among the blocks, were heaps of corpses. To see these corpses that they tried to push inside this barrack for us had become normal."

When the war ended and Auschwitz was liberated, the girls were sent to an orphanage in Lingfield, England, where they stayed until they were reunited with their mother in 1946.

'I was tortured and forced to carry corpses'

Arianna Szörényi's family were turned in by an informer who worked with one of her siblings.

On June 16 1944, she and her six siblings, as well as their mother and father were interrogated, forced to give up all their belongings and moved around to three different concentration camps, before eventually being sent to Auschwitz.

The Italian Jewish girl, who was 11 years old at the time, was kept there for several months before being forced to walk on a death march in the bitter snow to another concentration camp.

Arianna was whipped by the kapo (a prisoner in the camp, assigned to keep the others in line) and had bruises over her legs because "those witches had rubber lashes with an iron wire inside".

She also encountered Irma Grese, a woman who was known as the 'Hyena of Auschwitz' among the the SS Guard for her brutal handling of prisoners, and who was later sentenced to death for the murders she committed during the war.

With tears in her voice, Arianna says: "We were forced to load the corpses. Two girls had to hold the arms, and two girls had to hold the legs, yet four of us were not strong enough. So we had to drag those corpses along.

"Until one day one of the Nazis realised that we could not make it and beat us.

"He punished us, made us stand for hours holding a stone in our hand just to show that they were stronger and we absolutely had to do what they wanted."

On April 15 1945, almost exactly a year after her arrest,  Arianna was rescued by allied forces, but she had been tortured so badly that she had to be hospitalised for several months afterwards.

Out of her family members, only one other person survived – her brother Alessandro.

When the war ended, Arianna briefly stayed in an orphanage – where she ran into the daughter of the informant who had betrayed her family.

"What hurts me the most is knowing she was alone on the way back," Arianna's daughter Laura says. "The terrible pain of returning without her family."


For years, Arianna stayed quiet about her experience, but in 2014 she decided it was time to share her story and so the then almost 80-year-old wrote a book, titled A Girl in Auschwitz.

After reading it, her grandson Lorenzo decided to get a tattoo of the serial number, 89219, that his grandmother was given in the camp.

Anne Frank: Parallel Stories is available on Netflix now.

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