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Nazi concentration camp survival retold to King's Lynn students

Lynn history pupils listened to the remarkable story of a Holocaust survivor born at a concentration camp in Austria.

Eva Clarke, 74, was invited to speak to Springwood High School pupils on Wednesday in which she retold losing most of her family due to the Nazi regime including her father four months before she was born.

Mrs Clarke was born at the Mauthausen concentration camp on April 29, 1945, and told pupils she would not have survived if her brother had not died of pneumonia at the age of five.

Eva Clarke with students at Springwood School before the talk
Eva Clarke with students at Springwood School before the talk

Speaking in the school hall, she said: “To become pregnant was considered to be a crime punishable by death.

“When the Nazis discovered mother was pregnant along with five others, they had to sign a document saying they would be handed over and killed.

“My brother died of pneumonia and and his death meant my life because if she was holding my brother at Auschwitz she would have been sent to the gas chamber.

Eva Clarke, Holocaust survivor
Eva Clarke, Holocaust survivor

“But she lived to see another day. No-one knew she had me.”

Mrs Clarke’s father, Bernd Nathan, died during a death march, yet her mother Anka was sent to an armaments factory in Freiberg for six-months as she was deemed fit for work, and her pregnancy was not visible.

She recalled two close shaves for her mother; one in which she had fainted during a roll call at Auschwitz, yet was held up by friends either side of her so no attention was drawn to her.

With the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws in place before the war in occupied Prague, Anka had defied the Nazis by watching a film at a cinema.

Eva Clarke spoke to the students for over an hour
Eva Clarke spoke to the students for over an hour

The Gestapo came into the cinema, stopped the film, and starting checking the audience row-by-row, which left Anka terrified.

Mrs Clarke said: “They left the cinema just one row in front of where my mother was and boy, did she breathe a sigh of relief.”

Springwood headteacher Andy Johnson told his pupils they were “very privileged” to hear Mrs Clarke’s Holocaust survival story.

He described Mrs Clarke’s talk as sending “very, very powerful messages” and encouraged the pupils to tell others about it.

Eva Clarke is married and lives in Cambridge. She has two children and three grand-children.

Her mother Anka “could never get over the fact she had three great-grandchildren having survived the war”.

When asked if she forgave the Germans, Mrs Clarke replied: “The Christian ethic is to forgive but my mother says the only people you can forgive are the dead. If someone was suspected of war crimes, she would have wanted them brought to justice.

"Just because they are in their 80s or 90s does not lessen the crime.

"As far as Hitler was concerned it was not a religious persecution, it was a racist persecution."

Mrs Clarke told the pupils she continues to retell her story to remember those who lost their lives, to retell a unique family story and to discourage racism and persecution.

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