Camp survivor is unsung hero

Eva Neumann at the Minerva Jewish Care business lunch at Grosvenor House with members of her family

Eva Neumann at the Minerva Jewish Care business lunch at Grosvenor House with members of her family

An elderly woman reduced an audience of business leaders to near tears on Monday as she accepted Jewish Care's Unsung Hero award.

Now living in Manchester, Eva Neumann, nee Birenbaum, was 15 when she was deported from Hungary to Auschwitz in 1944 with her parents, grandmother and two younger brothers. The following year, as news came of the Russian advance, the SS marched 1,000 prisoners out of the camp. Eva was one of only 13 survivors.

She told the 600 guests at the Minerva Jewish Care business lunch at Grosvenor House that for 60 years she had not wanted to talk about what happened to her. But her grandson was active in Aish HaTorah and in 2005 persuaded her to lead a group of Aish students to Auschwitz. Now she regularly accompanies such groups and shows them around the camp, recounting some of her experiences.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to play a small part in making sure that the Holocaust is never forgotten," she said. "I do it for the young people, and for myself. For them it is a horror film. For me it is my family cemetery and I take the time to spend a few moments praying for my family." Nothing, she said, could replace the personal testimony of survivors.

Northern Rock chairman Ron Sandler, the keynote speaker, paid tribute to Mrs Neumann, whose experiences put the current economic difficulties into perspective. Cautioning his audience not to react hysterically to "oversimplified" and "misleading" media reports, the Zimbabwe-born economist said he detected a lessening of pessimism, particularly among his colleagues at Northern Rock.

The lunch raised £275,000.

    Last updated: 3:02pm, November 13 2008