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My mother made the ultimate sacrifice - sending me away to save me from the Nazis... Coventry hosts this year's Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday - in the run up to the event, we talk to two women who escaped the Nazi death camps.

Byline: By Cara Simpson

SUSI BECHHOFER was just three when she and her twin sister Lotte were packed off on to a train out of Germany.

It must have been terrifying for the Jewish sisters - sent away from their homes with little idea of where they might end up.

Their mother was aware she might never see them again, but she also knew it was the only way of saving them from the persecution of the Nazis.

Susi, who now lives in Rugby, was one of 10,000 young war refugees taken out of Germany just before the Second World War on what became known as Kindertransport.

It probably saved them the horror of the Nazi death camps.

Susi and Lotte weren't alone. Thousands of other children were rushed out of the country to Britain.

They rode on trains in an evacuation made possible through a Britain rescue mission to save 10,000 Jewish children from what was to come - The Holocaust which claimed the lives of an estimated six million men, women and children.

The sisters' lives were saved, but their unhappiness was by no means over.

They were adopted by a childless Welsh Baptist minister and his wife. They were taken to live near Cardiff, their identity was stripped away and they went on to lead a life of misery and abuse.

Susi became Grace and Lotte became Eunice. Theywere told never to ask about their past.

The twins were brought up as Christians, never knowing of their Jewish ancestry and that their mother had perished at Auschwitz.

Lotte fell severely ill with a brain tumour and she was to die at the age of 35.

Susi suffered years of cruelty at the hands of her foster father.

Susi, now in her 70s, first came across her real identity as she entered an exam room to take her O-levels and was told to sit in the B section - B for Bechhofer.

Without the courage to uncover the truth at that time, it was only when Susi, of Lower Hillmorton Road, was in her 50s that she finally discovered the truth - that her mother Rosa Bechhofer was an unmarried Jew, her father, Otto Hald, a Nazi soldier.

Inspired in her search for her past after hearing a radio interview with a Coventry woman on the Kindertransport, she found a network of relatives in New York who she flew over to visit on the anniversary of the date she arrived in London with her twin.

Since finding out about her ancestry, Susi has drawn a line under her horrendous past and is determined to move on.

For her the Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations in Coventry will be a time to reflect on the event's theme of Stand Up To Hatred and the sacrifice her mother made.

"I think my mother stood up to hatred the day she put both me and my sister on to the Kindertransport," she said.

"Knowing what she did makes me respect her even more because it takes a lot of courage to stand up to hatred and there's a real need for it today.

"It's thanks to people like my mother who made the ultimate sacrifice of sending their children away that the story is still being told."

Susi, a psychotherapist whose book Rosa's Child was published in 1996, will be attending the Holocaust Memorial Day service at the Belgrade Theatre along with her husband Alan and the Reverend Mark Beech from Rugby's St Andrew's Parish Church.

Recalling her early years, Susi said: "Those who grow up with loving families cannot understand what it is like to grow up without a single relative in the world.

"I had become more and more lost as the years went by. I was depressed and it was becoming increasingly difficult to mobilise myself.

My life became quite dark and gloomy.

"It really was like a fairystory to find my family.

"The clouds have lifted and I do feel wonderful after all that pain."

CAPTION(S):

SISTERS... Susi (right) with her twin Lotte.; SO HARD... Those who grow up with loving families cannot understand what it is like to grow up without a single relative in the world says Susi. DJ090109SUSI1
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 21, 2009
Words:702
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