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Kitty Hart Moxon - interview

Survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Death March from Gross-Rosen, Kitty speaks exclusively to the Auschwitz Study Group in a wide ranging interview from her time at Auschwitz, to educating a new generation.

Kitty Hart Moxon survived the Holocaust alongside her mother in an incredible journey that saw her escape the Lublin Ghetto, a mock execution, Auschwitz Birkenau, Gross-Rosen and the death march of the harsh winter in 1944.

After moving to Birmingham, England, with her mother just after the war, she became one of the first educators of the Holocaust in the UK and was recently awarded an OBE for her dedication to the subject. Kitty is still very active and can be seen on several documentaries, often with school children and on one occasion, even Neo-Nazis.

There was no formula for surviving Auschwitz. There was no such thing as a formula. Those who survived did so by shutting down all emotions and focusing on surviving another minute, another hour another day.

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Not of Public Interest? The Story of the Topf & Söhne Museum of Erfurt

In the last issue of the Auschwitz Study Group newsletter, I wrote about my visit to the Topf & Söhne museum in Erfurt. During WW2, Topf & Söhne made the incinerators in which hundreds of thousands of murdered Jews were efficiently reduced to ashes. I purposely avoid the term “crematory” because it implies a sense of human dignity and respect. The ovens of Auschwitz indeed were just “waste” incinerators, invented by German engineer Kurt Pruefer and produced by Topf & Söhne in Erfurt.

Today, just one building of the formerly vast industrial complex remains. It has been renovated and now houses the documentary center which tells the story of the place and the role the company played in the complex system which made the Holocaust possible. However the documentary center has its own history which has been neglected. It is my hope that this article will help to rectify this.

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Topf & Söhne Museum: Visiting the Sorcerer’s Apprentices of Mass Murder

Auschwitz Study Group member, Michael Graber, took part in a seminar of the German Janusz Korczak Association in Erfurt. During this event, the group visited the building of “Topf & Soehne”. The company does not exist anymore, only one of the administrative buildings has remained and is now a museum and a commemorial site.

 J.A. Topf und Söhne was a German engineering company, which designed and built the incineration furnaces (crematoria) used by the Nazis at concentration and extermination camps during the Holocaust; including Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buchenwald, Belzec, Dachau, Mauthausen and Gusen. In total, Topf built 66 coal-fired muffle furnaces for cremation at various camps; of which 46 operated at Auschwitz alone.

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The Auschwitz International Summer Academy

Last summer, approximately 25 intellectually curious, soon-to-be-colleagues from all over the world converged on the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum for the Auschwitz International Summer Academy.  I was privileged to be among them, thanks to financial support I received from my school’s Clough Center for Global Understanding. 

I’m a veteran secondary school teacher at the oldest public school in the United States, Boston Latin School. I’m a Museum Teacher Fellow and Regional Museum Educator for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. I’m a Master Teacher Fellow at the USC  Shoah Foundation. Before teaching, I was an art museum curator, so I have a keen appreciation for the challenges that museum staff face. I first visited the site in the summer of 2001, with a group of educators led by resistance fighter and Holocaust survivor Vladka Meed. Plus I have been bringing groups of 50 students and faculty since 2001 to the site annually, so Auschwitz was hardly new to me. I was well versed in the literature and have met with many survivors of the camp.

In short, I thought I knew quite a bit about not only the Holocaust in general but about Auschwitz specifically. Or so I thought. 

I was wrong. 

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I broke into Auschwitz - interview with Denis Avey

The opening words of his book read “The Man who Broke into Auschwitz is the true story of a British Soldier who marched willingly into Buna Monowitz, the concentration camp known as Auschwitz 3”.

In the summer of 1944, Denis Avey was being held in a POW (Prisoner of War Camp), E715, near Auschwitz 3. He had heard of the brutality meted out to the prisoners there and he was determined to witness what he could.

He hatched a plan to swap places with a Jewish inmate and smuggled himself into a sector of the camp. He spent the night there on 2 occasions and first experienced at first hand the cruelty of a place where slave workers had been sentenced to death through labour.

In July 2015, Denis Avey formerly of the 7th Armoured Division in the British Army sadly passed away aged 96. For over 5 decades following the end of the war, Avey remained largely silent over his time during the British North African campaign fighting Rommel’s armies. He rarely spoke of his subsequent capture and the time spent as a British Prisoner of War in the Polish town of Oświęcim (Auschwitz in German).

I was fortunate enough to meet Dennis Avey on a number of occasions and particularly over 2 talks in 2011 and 2012 as Avey presented his book to students and scholars. I took this opportunity to speak to him about his time in as a prisoner, writes Michael Challoner of the Auschwitz Study Group.

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