Holocaust’s horrors live on in memories for Dorset man

Bournemouth Echo: SHARING MEMORIES: Holocaust survivor Walter Kammerling chats to Bournemouth School for Girls sixth form student Philippa Hathaway, 18, about her trip to Auschwitz SHARING MEMORIES: Holocaust survivor Walter Kammerling chats to Bournemouth School for Girls sixth form student Philippa Hathaway, 18, about her trip to Auschwitz

HIS parents and sister were among the hundreds of thousands who perished at Auschwitz concentration camp.

Sixty-five years later, Walter Kammerling ensured their memories lived on during moving Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations in Bournemouth.

Civic dignitaries and religious leaders were among those who joined at the Queen’s Hotel yesterday to reflect on the terrible repercussions of the Holocaust and listen to Walter’s chilling story.

As a youth, he witnessed Nazi persecution in Vienna before his parents sent him to Britain; a decision that would ultimately save his life.

Now 86, he was 14 when Nazi Germany occupied Austria. Recalling how 44,000 Jewish flats had been seized in one year alone, the father-of-two, who has lived in Charminster since 1966, said: “The Jews in Vienna were completely outlawed. Anybody could do anything to them and they did.

“On my walk to school I was running the gauntlet. I heard shouting and screaming from people in anguish but didn’t dare to look around. They took over shops, department stores and industries.

“All the synagogues were desecrated and torched, Jewish shop windows were smashed. It was a free for all.

“We weren’t allowed to go into parks or public buildings; life became oppressive.”

After a failed attempt by his father to obtain a visa to Columbia, Walter and one of his sisters were sent to Britain.

He said: “I was just told I was going to England; the whole thing is a haze. It struck me when I said goodbye to my father, who had angina, in a Jewish hospital. He was in tears – I’d never seen him cry and I didn’t want to leave his bedside.”

After spending time at Dovercourt summer holiday camp, Walter was sent to work on a farm in Northern Ireland.

He joined the British Army in March 1944; two years after marrying Herta who also came from Vienna on the Kindertransport scheme.

Walter said: “Contact with my family stopped abruptly. Every day you wished somehow that we would be reunited again – it didn’t happen.” The couple returned to Austria in 1946 and had two sons, returning to Britain in 1957.

He said: “Going back to Britain was like coming home. The memories in Vienna were too painful. Britain had saved our lives.”

Another speaker yesterday was Bournemouth School for Girls’ student Philippa Hathaway, 18, who visited Auschwitz last year.

She said: “I was shocked by the scale of it; it was absolutely horrific and very emotional.

“There were rooms full of shoes and suitcases. We went into a gas chamber and saw the sort of conditions that Jews were forced to live in; I couldn’t get my head around it.

“It made a lasting impression. I learned that the role of the bystander is just as important as the perpetrator. If we stand by it will happen again.”

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5:00pm Fri 29 Jan 10

Pat the Painter says...

On a recent trip to the region, I visited the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. As the searing afternoon heat and swirling eddies of dust enveloped the camp, I sought cover, slumping under the shade of a palm-roofed hut on the edge of the dunes. I was momentarily defeated by the grit that covered my face and hair, the jostling crowds, the stench of the open sewers and rotting garbage.

Barefoot boys, clutching ragged soccer balls and kites made out of scraps of paper, squatted a few feet away under scrub trees. Men, in flowing white or gray galabias-homespun robes-smoked cigarettes outside their doorways. They fingered prayer beads and spoke in hushed tones as they boiled tea or coffee on sooty coals in small iron braziers in the shade of the eaves. Two emaciated donkeys, their ribs outlined on their flanks, were tethered to wooden carts with rubber wheels.

It was still. The camp waited, as if holding its breath. And then, out of the dry furnace air a disembodied voice crackled over a loudspeaker from the Israeli side of the camp's perimeter fence.

"Come on, dogs," the voice boomed in Arabic. "Where are all the dogs of Khan Younis? Come! Come!"

I stood up and walked outside the hut. The invective spewed out in a bitter torrent. "Son of a ****!" "Son of a whore!" ''Your mother's ****!"

The boys darted in small packs up the sloping dunes to the electric fence that separated the camp from the Jewish settlement abutting it. They lobbed rocks towards a jeep, mounted with a loudspeaker and protected by bulletproof armor plates and metal grating, that sat parked on the top of a hill known as Gani Tal. The soldier inside the jeep ridiculed and derided them. Three ambulances-which had pulled up in anticipation of what was to come-lined the road below the dunes..

There was the boom of a percussion grenade. The boys, most no more than ten or eleven years old, scattered, running clumsily through the heavy sand. They descended out of sight behind the dune in front of me. There were no sounds of gun-fire. The soldiers shot with silencers. The bullets from M-I6 rifles, unseen by me, tumbled end-over-end through their slight bodies. I would see the destruction, the way their stomachs were ripped out, the gaping holes in their limbs and torsos, later in the hospital.

I had seen children shot in other conflicts I have covered--death squads gunned them down in EI Salvador and Guatemala, mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights and watched them crumple onto the pavement in Sarajevo--but I had never watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.

Chris Hedges, "War is a Force that gives us Meaning"
On a recent trip to the region, I visited the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. As the searing afternoon heat and swirling eddies of dust enveloped the camp, I sought cover, slumping under the shade of a palm-roofed hut on the edge of the dunes. I was momentarily defeated by the grit that covered my face and hair, the jostling crowds, the stench of the open sewers and rotting garbage. Barefoot boys, clutching ragged soccer balls and kites made out of scraps of paper, squatted a few feet away under scrub trees. Men, in flowing white or gray galabias-homespun robes-smoked cigarettes outside their doorways. They fingered prayer beads and spoke in hushed tones as they boiled tea or coffee on sooty coals in small iron braziers in the shade of the eaves. Two emaciated donkeys, their ribs outlined on their flanks, were tethered to wooden carts with rubber wheels. It was still. The camp waited, as if holding its breath. And then, out of the dry furnace air a disembodied voice crackled over a loudspeaker from the Israeli side of the camp's perimeter fence. "Come on, dogs," the voice boomed in Arabic. "Where are all the dogs of Khan Younis? Come! Come!" I stood up and walked outside the hut. The invective spewed out in a bitter torrent. "Son of a ****!" "Son of a whore!" ''Your mother's ****!" The boys darted in small packs up the sloping dunes to the electric fence that separated the camp from the Jewish settlement abutting it. They lobbed rocks towards a jeep, mounted with a loudspeaker and protected by bulletproof armor plates and metal grating, that sat parked on the top of a hill known as Gani Tal. The soldier inside the jeep ridiculed and derided them. Three ambulances-which had pulled up in anticipation of what was to come-lined the road below the dunes.. There was the boom of a percussion grenade. The boys, most no more than ten or eleven years old, scattered, running clumsily through the heavy sand. They descended out of sight behind the dune in front of me. There were no sounds of gun-fire. The soldiers shot with silencers. The bullets from M-I6 rifles, unseen by me, tumbled end-over-end through their slight bodies. I would see the destruction, the way their stomachs were ripped out, the gaping holes in their limbs and torsos, later in the hospital. I had seen children shot in other conflicts I have covered--death squads gunned them down in EI Salvador and Guatemala, mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights and watched them crumple onto the pavement in Sarajevo--but I had never watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport. Chris Hedges, "War is a Force that gives us Meaning" Pat the Painter

1:54pm Sun 31 Jan 10

Laurie H Marsh says...

It is strange that every man and his dog wants to comment on fairly mundane topics but no-one wants to wade into a topic like this.
6,000,000 killed in the camps. How many killed in the Middle East?
It just goes on and on with no end in sight.
It is all about how you worship your particular god.
How bl**dy grotesque!
I wonder what these people say to their version of (supposedly) the same god at their moment of truth?
It is strange that every man and his dog wants to comment on fairly mundane topics but no-one wants to wade into a topic like this. 6,000,000 killed in the camps. How many killed in the Middle East? It just goes on and on with no end in sight. It is all about how you worship your particular god. How bl**dy grotesque! I wonder what these people say to their version of (supposedly) the same god at their moment of truth? Laurie H Marsh

2:18pm Sun 31 Jan 10

Pat the Painter says...

Laurie H Marsh wrote:
It is strange that every man and his dog wants to comment on fairly mundane topics but no-one wants to wade into a topic like this. 6,000,000 killed in the camps. How many killed in the Middle East? It just goes on and on with no end in sight. It is all about how you worship your particular god. How bl**dy grotesque! I wonder what these people say to their version of (supposedly) the same god at their moment of truth?
I couldn't agree with you more, as long as we have the same stuff flowing through our veins, we are the same.
[quote][p][bold]Laurie H Marsh[/bold] wrote: It is strange that every man and his dog wants to comment on fairly mundane topics but no-one wants to wade into a topic like this. 6,000,000 killed in the camps. How many killed in the Middle East? It just goes on and on with no end in sight. It is all about how you worship your particular god. How bl**dy grotesque! I wonder what these people say to their version of (supposedly) the same god at their moment of truth?[/p][/quote]I couldn't agree with you more, as long as we have the same stuff flowing through our veins, we are the same. Pat the Painter

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