‘I stopped being a human. I was just a number’: survivor recalls ...

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‘I stopped being a human. I was just a number’: survivor recalls Auschwitz

Edith Grosman was one of the last survivors from the 999 women sent on the first transport to the camp

Heather Dune Macadam

A pale forehead with wisps of chestnut-dyed hair peers above the bottom of the FaceTime screen. “I can see you! Can you see me?” The voice is surprisingly chirpy. Ninety-two-year-old Holocaust survivor Edith Grosman moves her iPad lower so I can see her face, but I’m astounded that she even knows how to use one at all.

My own father is a few years younger and he can’t get the technology to work. I am thrilled to speak to her, however virtually, and we chat for about half an hour before making plans to meet in person. A few weeks later, I am in Poprad, Slovakia, standing in the lobby of a minimalist Soviet-Bloc era hotel, complete with brown, striped 1960s carpets and fake wood-panelled furniture, which reminds me of my dorm room in college. And Edith Grosman is the centre of a group of Slovak and Israeli dignitaries, who are escorting her to a concert in her honour.

Outside of Slovakia Edith may be of little importance, but here she is a star: a survivor from the first official Jewish transport to Auschwitz, she has sat down with ambassadors, presidents and prime ministers. And me. A diminutive, dynamic woman, Edith – who survived an unheard-of three years in Auschwitz and the death camps – seems undaunted by the horrors she experienced. Yet her story is one that sends chills down my spine...

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