Mindu Hornick Talk
On 11th March 2016 Mindu Hornick came to ABEC to deliver a talk on her experiences. Below you will find a video of that event.
Mindu Hornick is the last holocaust survivor in the west midlands. In 1942, she was captured by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, and we got to interview her.
When we asked what she felt was the worst part of her ordeal, she answered that it was the train journey between the ghetto and Auschwitz. She told us that on the way they were packed in like sardines and that because they weren’t fed, there would be people who had died standing next to you. There was only a bucket in the corner, but often people couldn’t get it so couldn’t go to the toilet for the whole time. The journey lasted a terrible 3 days and nights, none of them had any idea where they were going and that most of them wouldn’t survive. She said that no one could imagine what was to come through the gates of hell.
When they arrived, they were split into two lines. One for women and children and one for men and boys. A man sent them either to the gas chambers or to the labour camps depending on if they looked too young or weak to work. Mindu and her sister Eva were told by a man to lie about their age so they didn’t get sent to be gassed. He told them to say they were 17 and 19, instead of 12 and 14. After that moment, she never saw her mother or brothers again.
There were 1000 women to each block in the concentration camp and there were 8 to each of the triple bunks. Often, the beds would collapse, crushing the people beneath to death. When they arrived, Mindu and Eva had to sleep on the cold hard floor because there was no room for them.
They were made to work in Canada, which was a big warehouse. This meant taking all the luggage the people were forced to leave on the station and searching them for valuables. They had to take the lining out, to make sure no one had hidden anything in it. All of the valuables they found had to be handed over to the Nazis.
Twice every day, there would be inspection to see if you were still up to working. This would last 2-4 hours twice every day, regardless of the weather. Dr Mengele who always held a pristine white glove would walk up and down the rows and rows of women, stopping occasionally to wave his glove at someone. That person would then be dragged off to the gas chambers and never seen again. Dr Mengele was notorious for his experiments on twins, roma gypsies and dwarfs.
One day, during the inspection Mindu and Eva were chosen to go and work in an ammunition factory. Around 500 people were chosen, and this was a stroke of luck for the sisters. They were there from that point on, until the day before the war ended.
On September 1st, 1945 Mindu and her sister were taken on a train, this time allowed to sit down. Part way into the journey, English planes flew overhead and bombed the train, killing more than half the Jews on board. They hadn’t realised this, and later when the sisters were rescued and told them what had happened they were shocked.
After the war, Mindu and Eva were sent to their aunt and uncles in Prague. Whilst there, they went to school and caught up on everything they missed. One day, while they were in school, Mindu started coughing badly. The teacher got worried and called her aunt to pick her up. It was later found that she had the beginnings of Tuberculosis. To help her with her recovery, an uncle in England sent regular calcium injections which you couldn’t get in Prague. After she was better, Mindu went and lived with that uncle in England. Her sister however was sent to another aunt and uncle in Australia. Mindu now lives in Birmingham.
We got the chance to interview Mindu Hornick on March 11th 2016 and we feel very lucky to have this once in a lifetime experience. All of her answers were long and detailed, and we learnt so much about what it was like for the holocaust survivors. When we asked her what it was like, she answered that there is no words in existence that could describe it. What happened to her has stayed with her all her life, but she told us that she only began talking about it when she was older, having tried to block it out for most of her life. She told us that there were so many horrific experiences that it was difficult to choose just one.
She now works with the Anne Frank trust, going into schools talking about her experience.
We feel that it’s very important to talk about these things, especially as history has repeated itself many times. If we don’t learn about why it’s wrong to discriminate, people will think that Genocide and prejudiced is acceptable. We will never forget this opportunity that we had.
By Kathryn and Rosie
Mindu Hornick Interview
Mindu Hornick is the last remaining survivor of the Holocaust who currently lives in the West Midlands. She is 86 years old and came to our school to tell us about her experience in Auschwitz, when she was only 12 ½ years old. Mindu was originally from the city Prague.
In school we have been learning about the holocaust and WW2, we have written an article about Anne Frank and we wanted to learn more about the holocaust. This is why we thought that it would be good to interview Mindu to get an insight into what the holocaust was like and her experience.
On Friday the 11th of March we interviewed Mindu and asked her 30 questions between us to get a deeper understanding of what the holocaust was really like. We all thoroughly enjoyed this once in a lifetime opportunity and we will never forget that day. The information that Mindu gave to us was very detailed and emotional, some of the things that Mindu explained to us about were: the horrific train journey to Auschwitz, the lack of food, nutrition and water, her “strokes of luck” that she had along her way, how she didn’t get a number tattooed on her arm because the Nazi had either ran out of ink or his needle had snapped. She also told us that she didn’t hide from the Nazis because she and her family didn’t expect that it was going to happen, many others didn’t expect for this to happen but some of the lucky ones saw it coming and went into hiding.
Some of the things that she also told us were: whilst she was on the train to Auschwitz nobody knew where they were going and they were crammed in very tightly with other people. Every morning you would have to stand in fives and they would count you for 2-4 hours and if you didn’t look well you would be sent to be killed. In the concentration camp there was a horrific smell and it was coming from the crematorium in which they were burning dead bodies. Mindu also told us that every day you lived with the hope that you didn’t get selected; if you did you would be sent to die. In one block at the concentration camp there would be 1000 women and the Nazi realised that there wasn’t enough room so they had to build more blocks. Mindu Hornick also told us that where she slept (on a bunk bed)there were 8 people on a thin piece of wood and often the wood broke so the people sleeping underneath you would get crushed a usually die.
In Auschwitz Mindu had to work on Canada, this was taking all the clothes of all of the dead bodies from the gas chambers and take the lining out of coats and jackets left on the train in case there was gold inside. It was called Canada because Canada was a very wealthy country and often people found wealthy things on the dead bodies. One day Mindu got selected to go and work in an ammunition factory and she looked quite healthy. When she was there she was forced to make bombs and ammunition for the German army.
In Auschwitz there was a Doctor called Dr.Mengele who commonly held a white glove and if he pointed at you for looking unhealthy you would be sent straight to the gas chambers. This led to people often pinching their cheeks to bring colour to their face and make them look healthier. Dr.Mengele often did experiments on twins, dwarfs, gypsies and giants because he thought these types of people were unusual. When he did the experiments he did it without anaesthetic so the experiment would have been extremely painful.
After the ammunition factory in which they were working at was liberated by the Russians Mindu along with other survivors were sent to a holiday village by the Americans. Mindu survived with her sister, Eva, and Mindu said that people commonly survived in pairs.They treated them very well and they all had to be fed very slowly because they would have died due to their stomach shrinking. Their stomachs would have shrunk because of the lack of food they were given; only tasteless turnip soup and a slice of bread. After she recovered 6 months later she went back to school in Prague, whilst in school she started coughing. Therefore the teacher rang her Auntie to get her checked out at the hospital. It turned out that she was starting to get tuberculosis due to the lack of calcium. This led to them giving her calcium injections.
Mindu Hornick now lives in Birmingham in the West Midlands whilst her sister lives all the way in Australia. We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience of interviewing Mindu and we thank her for giving up her time to let us interview her. We all now have a broader understanding of what the terrible holocaust was actually like. All of us now think that it is very important for other people of our age to learn about the holocaust and WW2 as many people don’t know enough about this terrible event in history.