Kitty Hart-Moxon OBE is a Polish English Holocaust survivor. She was sent to the Auschwitz labour camp in 1943 at the age of 16, where she survived for two years, as well as in other camps. Shortly after her liberation in April 1945 by American soldiers, she moved to England with her mother, where she married and dedicated her life to raising awareness of the Holocaust. She has written an Autobiography, "Return to Auschwitz".
Kitty Hart-Moxon was born Kitty Felix in 1926, in the southern Polish town of Bielsko. She had one brother, Robert, who was five years older. Both her parents were educated—her father studied to be a lawyer, and her mother was very skilled at languages.
She learned some rudimentary English from her mother in her early schooling. Kitty was also a very good swimmer. She represented Poland as part of the Youth Swimming Team in 1939. She won a bronze medal and was the youngest selected on the squad.
Her parents were always busy with their work. Her father, operating an agricultural supply business, was often out of town and her mother was a teacher. As such, Kitty was often looked after by nannies and maids. She was always pushing the boundaries, bending the rules, so that nannies never lasted long – they gave up trying to control her very quickly. To counter this unruly behavior, Kitty was sent to a local school run by Catholic nuns. Here, she continued to rebel against authority figures. From a young age, she had a motto of sorts – “never obey” – and it was to serve her well during the war.
Then, during a holiday when Kitty was 12, her father decided to leave Bielsko because of its proximity to the German and Czechoslovakian borders. The house was emptied in response to the anti-Semitic mood which had swept the town.
Lublin was fast becoming a hard place for Jews to live. They had to bow to passing German soldiers or risk being killed. There were raids of houses daily and food was confiscated by the Einsatzgruppen. Eventually, all the Jews in Lublin were moved into an area of the city, creating the Lublin Ghetto.
Leaving the ghetto was punishable by death, but it was necessary to do so to survive. Conditions in the ghetto were such that there were epidemics of typhus and cholera. Food rations were low, so Kitty was often sent to barter for food for the family in the outside world, as she was the only one in the family who could fit down the manhole to the sewers which led outside the Ghetto.
Times had become so desperate that Kitty's father decided to try to escape the ghetto and cross the Russian front to the east. It was the winter of 1940–41, and Kitty, her mother, father and grandmother were making their way by horse and cart eastward to the River Bug. They made it to the frontier, but found that it had closed 24 hours previously. Their last hope was to cross the river to Russian territory when it froze. Temperatures dropped, and they secured a sleigh to attempt a crossing. They were about three-quarters of the way across when they were sighted and gunfire opened upon them. They all managed to land on the bank they had just left. They had failed, and Kitty's father decided that they should return to Lublin.
Eventually, they reached a village which still had some Jewish families. Zabia Wola was 15 miles (25 km) from Lublin and they found themselves welcomed for Kitty’s mother's offered to teach English to various noblemen.
They made their way back to Lublin again, but this time to Father Krasowski’s vicarage, where he provided them with fake documents and passports, birth certificates and identity cards.
They arrived at I.G. Farben in Bitterfeld two days later and commenced working at a rubber factory. On 13 March 1943, Kitty and 12 other Jews at the factory, including her mother, were betrayed. The Gestapo took them to their headquarters in Bitterfeld.
They were each interrogated in turn, and were charged at trial three days later with entering the German ReichJewish. The punishment was to be an execution, to take place the next day. They were led out into a courtyard and told to face a wall. The order was given to fire. There were gunshots, but all of them missed. It was a mock execution. illegally, being in the possession of false documents and being
Their sentences had been commuted to hard labor.
In Auschwitz II (Birkenau)
Kitty Felix arrived in Auschwitz on 2 April 1943, at the age of fifteen, with her mother.
In Auschwitz, Kitty organized such things by two methods: trading what little she had, and by taking from the dead. Kitty and her mother refused to take from the living, because by doing so they felt they were condemning them to death.
There were various jobs in Auschwitz that either kept the camp running or helped the German war efforts. Kitty Hart, in her 20 months there, maintained a variety of jobs, constantly changing to suit her and her mother’s needs.
Due to the bad conditions, however, Kitty eventually came down with typhus.
Then, in April 1944, a job was offered to her, a rare occurrence in Auschwitz, even if it was a night shift with the Effektenkommando, called Kanada Kommando by the prisoners because of Canada’s association with wealth and prosperity.
Kitty took the job of sorting through the masses of possessions arriving by train, which belonged to the Jews arriving at the camp. Additionally, the Kommando witnessed all of the trains arriving, and all of the prisoners disembarking and being marched straight into the gas chambers. Then, there was the constant smell of burning flesh as those who were gassed, or those who were still alive, were cremated.
The death marches
Rumors began in August 1944, that Auschwitz was to be evacuated.
Kitty’s mother was selected as one of the hundred privileged prisoners to be removed from the camp. She requested that her daughter be allowed to leave the Kommando. The commandant, maybe by compassion, out of respect for the age of Kitty’s mother or the fact that she spoke to him in fluent German, obliged. So, in November 1944, Kitty joined the hundred prisoners on the train out of Auschwitz.
Every day, the camp occupants would be marched to the nearby town to work in a factory, where social contact was strictly prohibited and monitored diligently; but the factory was warm.
Four months later, on 18 February 1945, her mother’s birthday, in response to advances by the Allied Forces, Gross Rosen was evacuated and all 10,000 prisoners were driven over the Eulengebirge mountain range. The prisoners were forced to hold the guard’s belongings on empty stomachs and tired, weak legs. Anyone who fell behind was shot or clubbed to death. When some people in the group began to fall behind, others would help carry them for short periods. Food rations on the march were irregular, and there was little to go around. But, when the group came upon passing groups of Germans, they would take advantage of their numbers and take as much food as they could manage. By the time they reached the train over the range, about 2,500 people were left, but remarkably all 100 from Auschwitz survived.
They were in the train for days. People died from lack of food and their bodies were thrown out of the train. Finally, after 5 days and nights, the train stopped at Porta Westfalica. Only 200 were left from the original 10,000, 100 were still from Auschwitz. There Kitty, was sent to work in an underground factory. There were constant air-raids, so, when it all got too much, the Porta Westfalica camp was evacuated to the station of Fallersleben. There were only 14 Auschwitz girls left, the others had been gunned down in the forest before departure.
At Fallersleben, there was an airtight bunker, which the Auschwitz girls feared was actually a gas chamber, and thus refused to go in. The S.S. guards, surprisingly, allowed them to remain on ground level. They could easily have escaped, but the conditions at Fallersleben were such that they decided being in a group was in fact safer than being alone. Again, Kitty and the group was transported away as the Allies drew nearer. This time to Bergen-Belsen, but it was too crowded, so they were herded into another train by the dogs. They were left there to die, until, by chance, three S.S. guards were passing and unbolted the doors at the sound coming from within – stunned at what they found inside. At this point, the only survivors were begging to be admitted to another concentration camp, anything that could at least hint at survival. So, it was arranged for them to be transferred to Salzwedel.
In the second week of April 1945, the S.S. guards disappeared from the camp. There were no more rations. On Friday the thirteenth of the same month, a bomb exploded in the camp. That same night, French prisoners told them that mines were laid out around the camp, intending to blow everyone up.
The next day, Salzwedel was liberated by the American army. Kitty immediately gained entry into the S.S. food stores and ate. Then, Kitty went off, with a small group of five, into the nearby village of Salzwedel and began looting. They filled a bathtub with food from the houses, put on new outfits, and went back to camp.
Three days were spent in the town, remembering the experience of how life used to be, until laws were enacted to end the violence. In a final act of defiance, the prisoners bore witness to the burning of the camp.
After liberation, Kitty and her mother both helped with translation of various documents for the British. These were mostly concerned with trials of S.S. men and liberated Poles. Then, the two moved to help with the Quaker Relief Team, outside Brunswick—helping bring families back together.
Kitty and her mother tried to locate their family members very soon after they were liberated. Kitty hiked across various sectors. They discovered they were the only two left. Kitty’s father had been discovered by the Gestapo and shot through the head. Robert, her brother, was killed by a sniper’s bullet in battle. Her grandmother was taken to Belzec concentration camp and selected for the gas chambers. The large family from Bielsko was reduced to two survivors.
After the war
In 1946, Kitty emigrated with her mother to England to live with her uncle who resided there prior to World War II.
This inspired Kitty Hart’s interest in educating people about the Holocaust. Primarily, she has done this by telling her story, her life, to the public. This began with her first novel I Am Alive (1961), which was a fairly short account of her life in Auschwitz. Then, in 1978, she persuaded Yorkshire Television to make a documentary on her return to Auschwitz. The production pioneered the way for other stories in its genre. The publication inspired her second novel, titled Return To Auschwitz, which was published in 1981.
A normal life
Apart from Kitty Hart-Moxon’s work for Holocaust survivors and victims, after the war she found a job, a husband and started a family. She moved out of her uncle’s home at 19, and began a nurse training course at the same hospital her aunt had worked. She felt she wasn’t suited to the job, so she quit, and decided to study radiology at the Birmingham Royal Orthopaedic Hospital. With no complete schooling, her entrance to the hospital relied on the utilization of a loophole which admitted some trained nurses to such courses. Also, she approached a distinguished doctor, Dr. Brailsford, to help her in her plight. She was allowed entry to the school through Dr. Brailford’s generosity.
In 1949, she married Rudi Hart, an upholsterer. He understood to some degree what she had been through, having lost family members in the Holocaust, but he had managed to escape to England before it caught him. When they were married, Kitty was still going through her training and the upholstery trade was in a recession of sorts in the area. Money was scarce, and Kitty had to support her mother, by then suffering from high blood pressure. Dr Brailsford helped again. He gave Kitty some money to help her and her husband get by. She then found herself a job in a private radiology firm.
In 1953, her first son, David, was born, and soon thereafter, her second son, Peter. Kitty and her mother were paid compensation for their wartime experiences by the Germans in the late 1950s. She then helped her husband set up his own upholstery business. As her sons were going through school, she followed their courses and bought extra copies of their textbooks so she could make up for the years she missed during the war. Her mother died in 1974, leaving Kitty the last Holocaust survivor in the family.
In the 2003 Birthday honors, an Order of the British Empire was conferred on Mrs Hart-Moxon for services relating to Holocaust education.
Kitty Hart-Moxon now lives in Harpenden, England. She has recently been interviwed by Tim Shaw explaining her incredible story, which Tim describes as supposed to be a one and a half hour interview, which was that interesting, turned in to a seven hour interview. It occasionally is broadcast in half an hour installments on Kerrang 105.2(FM) on Tim's old show, The Asylum (previously Sunday-Thursday 10pm-1am). The interview was also recorded on to a CD, currently only available through eBay. a thirty minute segment of this intervview is available free at tim shaws website http://www.timshaw.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=36&Itemid=43