Welsh Council to honour Holocaust survivor Eva Clarke
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
An extraordinary meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council will take place at the end of March to bestow the county’s highest honour to an extraordinary woman.
The council is set to award the Freedom of Blaenau Gwent to Holocaust survivor Eva Clarke.
At a council meeting on January 26, councillors voted unanimously to bestow the award on Mrs Clarke, who regularly speaks about her family’s experiences for the Holocaust Educational Trust.
Mrs Clarke had been nominated for the honour by council leader Cllr Steve Thomas, who said she had “dedicated and devoted much of her life to spreading a message of hope in the darkness and outlining the harrowing story of the holocaust to young and old.”
She has visited Blaenau Gwent many times to deliver this message.
Mrs Clarke said: “I’m amazed.
“When I heard I was completely overwhelmed, surprised and completely honoured.
“It makes me even more proud of my Welsh connections and I look forward to returning to Blaenau Gwent in the spring.”
Cllr Thomas said: “I am delighted that Eva has accepted the Freedom of the Borough of Blaenau Gwent.
“She does invaluable work in raising awareness and understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust for future generations through her public speaking.
“It is always a pleasure to welcome her to Blaenau Gwent and we look forward to seeing her at the official ceremony in the spring.”
Eva was born in Mauthausen concentration camp, Austria, on April 29, 1945 – just a few days before the war ended.
She and her mother are the only survivors of their family, 15 members of whom were killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau: three of Eva’s grandparents, her father, uncles, aunts and her seven-year-old cousin, Peter.
In 1933, when Hitler came to power, Eva’s father Bernd Nathan left Hamburg in Germany for Prague in Czechoslovakia where he eventually met her mother Anka Kauderová.
The couple married on May 15, 1940.
In December 1941, her parents were sent to Terezín (Theresienstadt) which was a “waystation” to the extermination camps where Jews from all across Europe were transported to.
There the younger people worked for the Nazis as forced labour.
They were to remain there for three years, before Bernd was sent to Auschwitz.
Anka volunteered to follow her husband and arrived at Auschwitz in October 1944, but did not see him again.
Anka was sent to work at an armament factory in Freiberg near Dresden where she would remain for the next six months.
By the spring of 1945, the Allies were advancing on Germany with the Nazis in retreat, evacuating concentration and slave labour camps.
Eva’s mother and her fellow prisoners were forced onto coal trucks – that were open to the skies and filthy.
They weren’t given any food and scarcely any water during what was to become a three-week nightmare journey around the Czech countryside.
The train eventually arrived at Mauthausen concentration camp. Anka had such a shock when she saw the name of this notorious camp that her labour began and Eva was born.
If the camp’s gas chambers hadn’t been blown up on April 28, 1945 or the Americans hadn’t liberated Mauthausen just days after Eva’s birth, neither mother or child would have survived.
Eva and her mother returned to Prague, where Anna married Eva’s stepfather in February 1948.
In the same year they emigrated to the UK and settled in Cardiff.
Eva married an academic lawyer in 1968, has two sons and has been living in Cambridge ever since.
In 2019, Mrs Clarke was one of four Holocaust survivors awarded the British Empire Medal for their efforts to share testimonials of their experiences for future generations.
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