For survivor Joseph Kiersz, Coventry’s HMD service brought back memories of the horrific scenes he witnessed as a boy.
The Nazis captured his family, who lived near Lodz, in Poland, and he was interned first at Belsen and later at Auschwitz. His mother, brother and sisters died in the gas chambers.
“I carried on but everyone was like skeletons, they were dropping dead one after another,” he recalled. “In the town of Dobra I saw the Germans take out the rabbi and strap him to a cart of manure. They wanted him to pull it but he did not have the strength, so they beat him and beat him until he died. They took a 90-year-old woman and buried her alive because she was of no use to them. SS men shot lines of inmates for taking potatoes.
“The lorries came to take people to Chelmno. It took 15 minutes to gas them in the back of the lorry — they all died. They always buried people in the forest because the Nazis believed the roots of the trees would suck out the ‘Jewishness’ from the bodies.”
Mr Kiersz, 83, travelled from North London to be at the Coventry commemoration. “What happened to us is unimaginable, but this helps people to learn about it,” he said.