Young Je ews who hid in the heart t of Nazi Berlin; AMAZING STORIES OF CHILDREN WHO SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST Three Germans te ell how they evaded the evil Gestapo.
EVERY lash of the bullwhip brought a fresh wave of agony for Rolf Joseph.
Stripped naked in a basement cell in Berlin at the heart of Nazi Germany, the young Jew was attacked by a Gestapo torturer.
"Where is your brother?," was the question repeated after every blow.
But Rolf refused to betray his younger brother Alfred, knowing the information would be a death sentence for both men.
Rolf and Alfred went into hiding in June 1942, after they watched helplessly as the Gestapo bundled their mum and dad into a car. It was the last time the brothers saw their parents.
The young men survived in the belly of the beast thanks to luck and extraordinary cunning. Rolf twice escaped from certain death at the hands of Hitler's henchmen.
As Germany fought World War II, the Nazis ruthlessly pursued their horrific Final Solution - shipping Jews to death camps.
Amazingly, some Jews survived the genocide despite living in Berlin. Now their inspiring stories are told in a new book - You Don't Get Us, by Tina Huttl and Alexander Meschnig, which will be released in English this year.
Rolf and Alfred had a normal childhood in Berlin's working class Wedding district until March 1933 when Hitler came to power. Rolf knew things had changed when his teacher wore a Nazi brownshirt uniform instead of a suit.
"He had a cane," Rolf said. "And he liked to hit the Jewish children with it a lot."
Rolf recalled cycling home from school on November 9, 1938, and seeing flames lighting up the sky.
It was Kristallnacht, when the Nazis instigated mass persecution of Jews. Rolf tried to persuade his dad to leave Berlin. He said: "When I saw our synagogues burn, I knew I had to go."
But his father, who fought for Germany in World War I, said: "Nothing will happen to us."
When their parents were arrested, the brothers' lives changed for ever. "We were homeless. Our apartment was sealed, we had only the things we carried on our backs," said Rolf.
They went underground, spending three weeks in Berlin's Tegel Forest before seeking more permanent help. Alfred turned to the family of an ex-giwhile Rolf was shelteand bone woman. Ro in the old woman's ceout to meet his brothevery Wednesday. Bu 1942, Alfred did not t"I was wondering whappened when sudd was a sharp voice " said Rolf, who was in 20s. "I turned around soldier. 'Why aren't yirlfriend ered by a rag lf, who lived ellar, ventured her at 11am ut one day in turn up.
what denly there my shoulder," n his early d and saw a you in the Wehrmacht?' he barkhim I worked in the m industry." ked. I told munitions But the soldier was by Rolf's fake ID card hauled off to the GesBurgstrasse in the cit"I was interrogated They wanted to know brother was and whe " Rolf said nothing amoved to a cell wher to strip. "We get everyend," said the torturehim with the whip. s not fooled d and he was stapo in ty centre. for hours. w where my ere I hid." nd was e he was told ything in the er who beat Despite 50 lashes, Rsilent. He was thrown where he heard a low outside saying: "The tAuschwitz leaves tom" The next morning, Rolfstayed n into a cell w voice transport tomorrow."
Rolf was chained together with five other men and driven off in a van.
Rolf stole a pair of pliers from a toolbox above the driver's cab before the captives were left at Putlitzstrasse railway station.
Like thousands of others, were then loaded into the cattle cars bound for Auschwitz death camp.
'I But as the train rattled along, Rolf used the pliers to free himself and his five fellow prisoners from their handcuffs. They prised a plank loose from the remember every The dead, hopeless the ROLF wagon and jumped into the night air as the train crossed into Poland.
But they were betrayed by a shepherd as they walked back to Berlin and were re-arrested by the Gestapo. Rolf was beaten again, attacks that left him with epilepsy.
In a moment of desperation at Gestapo HQ, Rolf scratched his body all over, claiming he had scarlet fever. "That was a good idea - the Germans were really scared of infections," he said.
Weighing less than seven stone, he was taken to a Jewish hospital. His fellow escapees were shot.
IAt the hospital, with a guard outside his door, he jumped out of the second floor window by squeezing between the bars. With bones broken in his back, he dragged himself to his old hiding place with the rag and bone woman - to find his brother there.
dead, the and heroic' JOSEPH They survived in her cellar until it was hit by the RAF. The brothers moved to the suburbs, where the old lady owned some land, and they built an underground bunker to live in.
In April 1945, Russian troops found the brothers. "You SS? Nazi?," the Red Army asked in broken German. "No," said Rolf.
The brothers were taken to the soldiers' commanding officer who was Jewish.
"He asked me to say a prayer in Hebrew. I did, and we were free."
After the war, Rolf became an engineer, working for a firm that built railway coaches. His brother was a butcher. Rolf, died two months ago at the age of 92, just before the book was finished.
He told the authors: "I remember every day. The dead, the hopeless and the heroic. People who gave us life because they acted with dignity."
Another survivor was Rahel Renate Mann, now 75, who still lives in Berlin.
She was just a girl when her mum was taken by the Nazis.
But a network of people helped Rahel stay one step ahead of the death squads. She was passed from family to family, cellar to cellar before a Christian pastor provided her with a hiding place in the church crypt.
When Rahel was seven, the Gestapo arrested the pastor and Rahel was returned to a family who built a compartment in their cellar for her.
"I spent all day on a cold stone floor sitting on a mattress, just a sliver of light coming through a nailed down window," she said.
"I could not cry, talk or make noise. This was 1944 and air raids were pummelling Berlin. I was taken up after a raid and breathed fresh air for the first time in a year. There was barely a house standing. Dead bodies everywhere. The image always haunted me." s were ge has After more months cellar she was hauled 1945 by Russian soldiers. went on to marry, had two children and moved to Israel where she became a therapist. in the d out in iers. Rahel do She moved back to Berlin two decades ago after her marriage ended and is now a helper hospice. Rahel says: "My childhood taught me the value of living every second of your life." elper at a f ent " In 1942, schoolboy Eugen Herman-Friede was sent to do forced labour for the Nazis. The year after, he went into hiding. He said goodbye to his girlfriend and never saw her again - she was murdered at Auschwitz.
o rlfriend tz. rs rs Eugen lived in cellars until he reached his saviours - a non-Jewish family who hated the Nazis despite having a son in the Hitler Youth. Eugen even wore the uniform to escape detection.
Recalling the family who protected him, the 87-year-old says: "They were so courageous."
ROLF DARING J He escaped from train going to Auschwitz. Inset, Rolf just before he died aged 92 EUGEN CUNNING J In Hitler Youth uniform, and, inset, now aged 87 RAHEL BRAVE J As a child in 1942 and now, still living in Berlin
the cattle Auschwitz dragged himself hiding and find 'I remember every day. The dead, the old hopeless and the heroic' ROLF JOSEPH the built bunker In April as the Poland.
EUGEN ROLF DARING J He escaped from train going to Auschwitz. Inset, Rolf just before he died aged 92 CUNNING J In Hitler Youth uniform, and, inset, now aged 87
RAHEL BRAVE J As a child in 1942 and now, still living in Berlin
ROLF DARING J He escaped from train going to Auschwitz. Inset, Rolf just before he died aged 92
HATE Hitler's brownshirts on the march
PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES