My mother saved my life: Survivor recalls Holocaust as thousands tune in to live webcast

Harry Spiro, 89, was the only member of his family to survive the Shoah after his mother's life-saving intervention


Thousands of pupils tuned in today to a live stream of a conversation at a North London school between a Holocaust survivor whose entire family was murdered by the Nazis and Robert Rinder.

Harry Spiro, 89, came from the same town in Poland, Piotrków, as Rinder’s grandfather, and the two were among The Boys, 732 child survivors who were brought to the UK to after the war.

The pair spoke for an hour-long webcast from Stoke Newington School which was broadcast to more than 550 schools and more than 100 other organisations, including government departments, universities and workplaces.



Mr Spiro told pupils that he was saved from the gas chambers because of his employment at a glass factory in his home town – a job he had acquired by lying about his age.

In October 1942, there was an announcement that everyone in the ghetto had to stay inside their homes except for those working in the glass factory.

Although he wanted to stay at home, his mother forced him to go in the hope that at least one member of his family would survive.

While he was at the factory, the Piotrków ghetto was liquidated and all 22,000 inhabitants, including his family, were taken to Treblinka extermination camp, where they were murdered.

“Unfortunately I am the only survivor from my entire family,” Mr Spiro said. “If I could speak to my mother, I would tell her that I didn’t want to leave but yes, you were right.

“I am glad you pushed me out [of the door]. I survived because of you.

“Terrible things [the Nazis] did to me. But by hating them – no, you will not solve anything. Killing each other, hating each other, where do we end up?

“The young generation does take notice. They do learn. That gives me encouragement to carry on. Hopefully, eventually, we will successfully overcome this terrible hatred.”



George Neyhus, a Year 11 pupil at Stoke Newington School, told the JC afterwards that he found Mr Spiro’s testimony “horrifying” - but that it “brought the Holocaust to life.

“Whenever we hear about the Holocaust and whenever it’s taught, it’s facts and figures. These are the people you never see or hear about – the real stories.

“Families were torn to pieces. I am Jewish, and like [Harry] I am close to my mum. That could have been me.

“It’s like I can’t describe it. I can identify with it.”

Holocaust Memorial Day is on January 27. The main national ceremony in Westminster on Sunday will be attended by survivors, religious leaders and political figures.

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