Kitty Hart-Moxon OBE at the University of Birmingham, Friday 8th February 2013

Kitty Hart-Moxon is an incredible woman.
She was born in the same year as well-known figures such as Marilyn Monroe and Queen Elizabeth II. Whilst they enjoyed wealth and fame in young adulthood, Kitty endured starvation and the constant threat of death; whilst their lives were handed to them on a plate, Kitty struggled through ghettos, concentration camps, a Displaced Persons camp and, after moving to England, no financial or psychological support of any kind. It is easy to see, then, why I would consider Kitty much more of a role model than those two more prominent figures.

At the age of 86, Kitty still visits schools, colleges and institutions across the U.K., as well as occasionally taking commemorative or educational trips to former death camps in Germany and Poland. I arranged for Kitty to come to speak at my University, the University of Birmingham, alongside Hannah Skolnick, a second-year student but also the Anti-Racism Anti-Fascism Officer at the Guild of Students. I was only too pleased when the Holocaust Educational Trust informed me that Kitty would be available on the chosen date.

Naturally I was incredibly nervous before the event began. What if hardly anyone turned up? What if the technology didn't work, so Kitty had no presentation to go on? Luckily, however, my nerves were soon calmed. Around 100 people turned up, almost completely filling the lecture theatre we had been given. I introduced myself and Hannah before handing over to Kitty.

Kitty has quite a story to tell, spanning from the outbreak of war in 1939 to her move to England in 1946. It is filled with details of her "wonderful childhood"; her family's move to Lublin and imprisonment in the ghetto; their five escape attempts; obtaining false non-Jewish documents; betrayal by a non-Jewish Pole; the time she spent in Auschwitz (just shy of two years); her liberation and adjustment to adulthood in an unfamiliar country. Kitty also played a 25-minute extract from the documentary she made in 1979 with Yorkshire Television, 'Return to Auschwitz'. You can read a review of the documentary that I wrote here. There is simply too much of Kitty's story to be written here, but it is an incredible testimony to listen to, especially as she is such a fantastic public speaker.

We then had around half an hour for a Question and Answer session, in which Kitty was asked all sorts of questions, such as:
"Who do you feel is responsible for what happened to you, the Nazis or all Germans?"
"After losing your brother, father and grandmother during those years, how did you cope and keep on going?"
"Why do you think you were one of the people who survived?"
"What do you think is the area of the Holocaust that younger generations know the least about?"
Kitty's answers were straightforward, insightful and unbiased; for example, she certainly does not blame "all Germans" for the Holocaust. She also attributed the fact that she survived as being able to withstand the Polish winters - "I did not come from, say, a bed in Greece" - and her youth.

At the end of the event, I encouraged any donations, big or small, that could be made to the Holocaust Educational Trust to allow the good work they do to carry on. I am extremely pleased to say we raised just over £70.00.
As predicted, Kitty had a literal queue of people waiting to talk to her afterwards, if even just to shake her hand. She later told me that one Polish girl had even approached her in tears to apologise for what the Polish people had done to her during that time. Clearly, people are still interested in Holocaust education, and much of what happened resonates with and affects people who were not even there to witness it.

I am so glad to be able to say that the event was a resounding success, and in my capacity as Regional Ambassador to the West Midlands, there is a good chance that similar events will take place in or around the University in the future.