Holocaust Survivor Speaker: Harry Better

“I was born in a village in the South of Poland. When the war broke out, my father was taken by the Russians and eventually sent to Siberia, leaving my mother Rozia alone with three young children.

“The policy of the invading Nazis was to segregate Jews into sealed ghettos, and ultimately to exterminate them. In 1942, my mother and the three of us children were forcibly transferred to the ghetto at Sosnowiec. I was seven years old.

“Soon after, we three children were herded onto a train for Auschwitz. A family friend persuaded a German officer to allow us back into the ghetto, and my mother asked Jozef Skowron to take me into hiding.

“Anna and Jozef Skowron, a devout Catholic couple, took me and a cousin into their family home and they cared for me for the rest of the war. My cousin was ill with pneumonia when she arrived and died soon after, and Anna and Jozef  took the huge risk of going to the Jewish cemetery at night to bury her themselves.

“I did not attend school as it was felt I would be safer if isolated from other Polish children. I spoke rarely, ran away from visitors, kept my eyes downcast at all times and played the role assigned to me. I attended church as a member of the family, but the Skowrons did not force their religion on me.

“After the war, I learned that my mother and all but one sister had perished. I was eventually reunited with my father Moritz and my surviving sister.

“A few years ago, I returned to Poland and visited that village again to participate in a Yad Vashem ceremony to honour the Skowron family. I met the grandchildren of Anna and Jozef – it was extremely emotional. I was also surprised and moved to learn that my hiding place was known to many people in the neighbourhood who kept my secret from the Germans.

“I have been a speaker for Courage to Care right from the beginning, and will continue, so I can teach young people that they need to look out for others and stand up bravely if they can see people in trouble.”