Anka Bergman, 20th April 1917 - July 2013

Anka Bergman was born in Prague, then part of Czechoslovakia, on 20th April 1917 - sharing a birthday with Hitler himself. Her early life was just like that of any young woman - a law student at university, she loved to socialise and attend the theatre and the cinema. She met her first husband on an evening out and the two were married a few months before the hell of the Second World War came into being for both of them.
Both Anka and her husband were Jewish. Once the Nazis had invaded Czechoslovakia, they began to impose anti-Jewish laws and regulations as had been outlined at Nuremburg, Germany, in 1935. This, however, was just the tip of the iceberg.
In 1941, Anka's husband was told to report to a warehouse in the city; a couple of weeks later, Anka received the same message. Both were transported to Terezin concentration camp. Because they were young, fit and able, Anka and her husband worked in the camp for three years. Although men and women were forced to live separately, the two often managed to meet, resulting in Anka's pregnancy in 1943. Although Anka and others in the same situation were made to sign a paper that stated their babies would be taken away as soon as they were born, this never came to be. Sadly, however, the baby boy that Anka gave birth to in February 1944 died of pneumonia when he was just two months old.

This was just the start of bigger problems for Anka. Later in the year, she discovered she was pregnant again, but never got the chance to tell her husband; he was deported to Auschwitz. The Nazis informed those in Terezin that, if they wished to see their husbands again, they should also ask to be transported. Therefore, Anka was sent to Auschwitz voluntarily, having no idea exactly where she was heading.
She never saw her husband again. After the war, Anka discovered that he had been shot and killed whilst in Auschwitz. The rest of Anka's family had also been taken to Auschwitz - kept in the 'Family Camp' at first, but later all murdered in the gas chambers of Birkenau.
Anka spent a harrowing 10 days in Auschwitz-Birkenau, before being selected to go and work in an armaments factory in Germany, helping to make the V1, 'Doodlebug' bombs. As Anka's pregnancy advanced, so did her fears of being discovered and being sent back to Auschwitz to be gassed.
In January 1945, however, Auschwitz was liberated by the American Allies, the gas chambers having already been blow up to destroy evidence of the Nazis' crimes. As the Allies advanced further into German territory, Anka was put onto a transport heading south. On 29th April 1945, after a three-week journey in open coal wagons with no food or water, the transport arrived at Mauthausen concentration camp. Anka always maintained it was the shock of discovering where she was that sent her into a quick labour. She began to give birth to daughter Eva in the coal wagons. At that time, Anka weighed approximately five stone; new baby Eva was thought to weigh only 3lbs.

The gas chambers at Mauthausen had been dismantled on 28th April 1945, so Anka was already spared the danger of murder for herself and her new baby. Furthermore, the Allies were already advancing, and so the Nazi guards simply disappeared. A few days later, the Americans liberated Mauthausen. Mother and daughter had survived perhaps the most incomprehensible tragedy ever witnessed, and committed, by man.
After liberation, Anka travelled back to Prague, where she discovered the loss of her entire family. Fortunately, a cousin and her family had survived the war in Prague, and Anka was able to find them and live there for three and a half years. She remarried in 1948 and the family moved to the United Kingdom, where Anka remained until her death two weeks ago. Her daughter Eva lives in Cambridge and still gives regular talks about her and her mother's experiences during the Holocaust for the Holocaust Educational Trust.

Anka's is a story with something of a happy ending after so much unhappiness. After losing her family in the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, she had a new familly a few years after liberation. She insisted that "a mother's love" and the birth of Eva really saved her life and helped her look to the future. She lived to the fantastic age of 96 - quite a feat for any person, let alone someone who survived the Holocaust.
I never had the privilege to meet Anka, but I very much hope to be able to meet Eva one day. Both Anka and Eva used, and have used, their experiences to warn young people about the dangers of prejudice and intolerance. My thoughts are with Eva and her family.

In 2011, the BBC made a 30-minute documentary about Anka and Eva's story entitled 'The Baby Born in a Concentration Camp'. In memory of Anka, the documentary was shown again on Monday 29th July - whilst it is still on iPlayer, you can watch it here. The documentary can also be found, in parts, on YouTube.

May Anka Bergman rest in peace.