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Ibi Ginsburg

Surviving Auschwitz

Ibi Ginsburg (left) photographed with her mother in the early 1930s. (c) HSFA.
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Ibi was born in Hungary into a strict religious family. She survived Auschwitz-Birkenau and a death march. After the war she met Val, a fellow survivor, and they fell in love.

 

“Even though we only had one year of the troubles, instead of three or four like in Poland and Czechoslovakia, the end product was devastating. They did everything fast and very efficiently.”

 

Early Life

Ibi grew up in a small town in Hungary. Her family was strictly religious but lived happily alongside people of all different faiths. Ibi was the eldest of four daughters.

             Ibi and her mother

1944

On 19th March 1944 the Germans invaded Hungary and the Jewish population was immediately ordered to wear yellow stars. A few weeks later the Jewish people were rounded up and sent to live in overcrowded ghettos. After two weeks in the ghetto, Ibi’s family was ordered to pack for a journey to Germany for work.

Ibi and her family were forced into a cattle wagon with only a bucket for sanitation. The journey took three days. People were terrified – they didn’t know where they were going or what would happen next.

“Everybody was full of foreboding, frightened. Where are they taking us? What is going to happen to us?”

After three days in the wagon they arrived at their destination, which was not in Germany but in Poland. They had arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Auschwitz-Birkenau

Ibi and her family were helped from the wagons by men in striped uniforms and had to wait in a queue with hundreds of other people who had been crammed onto the same train. People were frightened and confused – they had no idea where they were and had barely eaten for days.

They were then separated. Ibi’s father was taken away first, then her mother and two youngest sisters were led away. Ibi and her 13-year-old sister Judith were sent in a different direction and told that they were going to work, and that they would see their family later. Ibi later learned that her mother and younger sisters had been immediately taken to the gas chambers.

Ibi and Judith had their possessions and clothing taken away, their hair shaved, and they were issued with a camp uniform. They were sent to a wooden barrack that had a concrete floor and wooden bunks. They were given very little food and had to stand for hours every day in all weathers as the thousands of prisoners were counted.

“And I thought to myself “But they can’t stop birds flying over” and I was looking for birds, I remember the whole afternoon and there were no birds, birds didn’t fly over us.  I thought to myself, “This must be Hell.”

 

The End

After three months in Auschwitz, Ibi and Judith were taken to work in a forced labour camp in Germany. By this time they could see British and American planes flying overhead and were aware that the war was going badly for Germany. In the final days of the war they were taken on a death march towards a concentration camp in Germany.  Ibi was liberated before they got there, on 1st May 1945.

 

“We were constantly hungry, humiliated, we worked, but we knew that the end was coming… We just hung on to life.”

 

A New Life

After liberation Ibi was taken to a hospital to recover. When she was well enough she began working in the hospital administration. There she met Val, who was recuperating after surviving forced labour in several concentration camps. They fell in love and married, but neither of them wished to return to their home countries.

Val’s cousin Margaret had also survived the Holocaust and was living in West Yorkshire with her husband Joseph, where they were setting up a textile firm.  She invited Val and Iby to join them. The couple moved to England in 1948 and worked in the textile industry. They had two daughters and remained a devoted couple for over 60 years. Both Val and Ibi devoted their lives to Holocaust education.

Ibi sadly died in February 2010 and is greatly missed.

Ibi and Val

 

To learn more about Ibi’s story visit our exhibition, ‘Through Our Eyes’, at The Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre.

Videos (7)

Ibi's story: journey to Auschwitz

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Ibi's story: arriving in Auschwitz

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Ibi's story: life in Auschwitz

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Ibi's story: no longer human

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Ibi's story: labour and liberation

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Ibi's story: meeting Val

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