Manchester exhibit captures the spirit of survival in the wake of the Holocaust

Four new pictures tell the story of what it meant to survive the Shoah


What does it mean to survive? For those who made it out of mankind’s most systematic attempt at genocide, three things: freedom, family — and victory.

Those values beam out of four new photographs taken for the Imperial War Museum North's collection of Holocaust survivor portraits, which testify not to death but the power of human resilience.

As Anne Super, photographed grinning alongside her son and grandchildren, told the JC: “I’ve lived every minute of my life; I had to because my parents never could.”

While on a death march aged just three, Ms Super was pushed to safety by her mother, who she never saw again.

And Ike Alterman, pictured standing proudly near his daughters and granddaughter, said he saw his own freedom as a victory for all Jews.

Mr Alterman, who survived three different death camps, said: “I’ve been able to carry on, get married and bring up a family. We defeated Hitler.”

For Mr Alterman, the act of being photographed carried an extra significance. The photo was taken in his local town square in Bury — he last saw his family when they were forced by the Nazis to assemble in a similar square in Ostrowiec, Poland.

“I lost my mother, sister and little brother there and then,” said the 94-year-old who, by standing as tall as a boy of 14, was selected for work rather than extermination.
“My father and I were saved and the rest were marched out…. never to be seen again,” he says of the selection for Treblinka made around Yom Kippur 1942.

The photos celebrating the lives of Ms Super, Mr Alterman and fellow Mancunians Marianne Philipps and Werner and Ruth Lachs will be added to those of 60 Holocaust survivors in the Imperial War Museum, on show from today at IWM North, in Salford.

It was crucial for photographer Simon Hill that all four portraits were taken in a setting that resonated with the survivors in some way.

For Ms Super who is photographed with her son and grandchildren in her conservatory, that meant featuring the colour green.

“My first memory is seeing the green coat of a German officer through the bars of my cot,” she says.

Hours later, the colour flooded her vision again when her mother pushed a three-year-old Ann through a hedge, saving her life. “A milkwoman grabbed me, put me under her arm and ran — I never saw my parents again.”

Her next memory is of being sent to live with an aunt in Poland who had converted to Catholicism. After the war, another aunt, who was living in South Africa, tracked her down via the International Tracing Service run by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

She moved to South Africa to be with her, living there until early adulthood: “She was the first person who showed me love after I was separated from my parents.”

After she married Maurice Super, the couple lived in Namibia and Edinburgh before settling in Manchester where she worked as an optician and where they raised their three children. “I have always surrounded myself with greenery,” she told the JC.

“Every plant you see in this photo has been tended by me.”

In Ms Philipps’s portrait it was crucial to include the chronicle of her family’s history that her father wrote before the war. He was murdered in Auschwitz along with Ms Philipps’s younger brother.

“I so enjoyed the photography session,” said Ms Philipps. “My late husband Harry loved photography and would have been excited by the Hasselblad camera that Simon used. It was his dream to own one.”

She arrived in Britain alone on the Kindertransport, aged 13. After she married Harry, the couple set up home in Maidenhead, but after his death, she moved to Manchester to be closer to their two children.

A professional dressmaker, her embroidered copies of Marc Chagall’s Jerusalem Windows hang in Manchester Reform Synagogue, of which is a member.

Mr Hill, president of the Royal Photographic Society, photographed the Lachses with three of their ten great-grandchildren, using candlelight to reflect the couple’s familial “warmth”.

“They showed me the same warmth when they welcomed me to their home, and allowed me to light the menorah, which is also pictured in their portrait.”

German-born Mr Lachs, 96, escaped to Britain in 1939 thanks to Frank Foley, the British passport control officer for the British Embassy in Berlin who saved 10,000 Jews from the Nazis by falsifying their papers.

Three months after he arrived, he celebrated his barmitzvah. He was still in his teens when he learned that he was completely alone in the world: his entire German-Jewish family had been murdered in the Shoah.

His first wife died in 1957 four years after they married, leaving him to raise their daughter alone.

German-born Mrs Lachs survived the Shoah in Holland where she was a hidden child.
She went on to become a medical technician and met Mr Lachs when she visited Britain for a seminar.

The couple married in Amsterdam in 1962.

The exhibit is part of the My Voice initiative of The Fed, Manchester’s Jewish social care charity.

Generations: Portraits of Holocaust Survivors runs until summer 2023 at the Imperial War Museum North, with a digital exhibition including all 10 northern subjects at

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