Auschwitz survivor Iby Knill, 90, ended 70 years of silence to keep a promise she made on the first night she spent at the death camp, in July 1944, when a frail teenage twin crawled over to her and begged, “if you live, please tell our story,” the UK Daily Mail reported on Friday.
Knill had repressed the awful memories of the camp her whole life until four years ago, when she enrolled in a university course in theology, in Leeds, UK, where she now lives. The class was discussing whether the Holocaust was a result of evil or sin, and the professor said that “only a person who was there could answer that question,” to which Knill responded simply, “I was there.”
The admission opened the floodgates and, fulfilling her promise to the unknown girl, she decided to write her memoirs.
Remembering her first night at Auschwitz, she said: “The girl told me that her and her sister were going to be experimented on. She said they were then going to be gassed and therefore exterminated.”
“She made me promise to tell the story of the camps, if I were to live. Of course I said yes, but after the war was over it didn’t seem right to talk about what had happened,” she told the Daily Mail. “There, you were one of a number, and it came down to how long you could survive.”
A documentary was made from her memoirs, ‘The Woman Without a Number,’ by film and television student Robin Pepper, 22, at Teesside University. Pepper and fellow students Mark Oxley, 26, and Ian Orwin, 22, made the documentary after reading her book in just one day.
About the film, ‘Iby Knill: An Auschwitz Promise,’ Knill said: “Robin has done a marvelous job, and I am very happy with the film. It goes some way towards fulfilling the promise I made to the twin all those years ago.”
Pepper said, “It was an honor to work with Iby. She is an amazing lady, and we are really pleased we have helped her keep that promise she made so long ago.”
Knill was born in Czechoslovakia but escaped to Hungary in 1942 when the SS began rounding up Jews. Two years later, when Knill was 20, Hungary was occupied and she was transported to Auschwitz.
The Auschwitz death camps also played host to some of the most gruesome Nazi medical experiments, from which few survived, the Daily Mail reported upon, citing Auschwitz.org.
“Nazi Professor Carl Clauberg oversaw the mass sterilization of hundreds of Jewish prisoners by putting chemicals in their Fallopian tubes and exposing their [private areas] to X-rays. The procedures were brutal, often causing infections and radiation burns,” the Daily Mail said.
Some “patients” were used for human medical trials of the drugs Rutenol and Periston, reacting with bloody vomiting and painful diarrhea, while others were experimented on with “no apparent purpose” done “merely for practice – or pleasure,” the newspaper wrote. Doctors deliberately made the lungs of tuberculosis patients collapse and killed others by injecting lethal phenol into their hearts.
One of the most infamous doctors, Josef Mengele experimented on twins and people of different races, even infecting them with contagious diseases to see how their survival rates compared.
Knill spent six weeks in Auschwitz before being transferred to the German labor camp Kaunitz, which was eventually liberated. She later moved to Britain, married British Army major Herbert Knill, and had two children, Christopher Knill, a psychiatrist, 65, and Pauline Kilch, 58, a teacher.
Watch a trailer from the documentary, ‘Iby Knill: An Auschwitz Promise,’ below: