Susan Singerman

25th February 2011 at 00:00
The teacher and campaigner survived Dr Josef Mengele's selections at Auschwitz

Susan Singerman MBE, a Holocaust survivor and teacher, has died aged 85. She was born in Szekesfehervar, a small town near Budapest. Soon after the Nazis' invasion of Hungary in March 1944, she and her family were forced to move to a ghetto.

On arrival at Auschwitz in June 1944, Susan was standing with her sister, mother, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents when Dr Josef Mengele, known as the "Angel of Death", told all of them to go the left and sent Susan to the right. They all died that day, apart from Susan.

Over the next few months, Susan survived a number of other selection procedures by Mengele. At one of these, she clearly heard her mother, who had been dead for some time, say: "Off with your glasses." Susan was convinced this saved her life as everyone wearing glasses at that selection was sent to the gas chamber.

After a spell in a munitions factory, the Germans sent Susan and her fellow workers on a forced march to Belsen and put them in a barn for the night. The next morning when they awoke, there was no sign of their captors. They ran to the nearest village and were liberated by Allied soldiers. That day was 1 April 1945.

Susan then became an interpreter for the British Army in Germany, where she met her future husband, Paul. Through the Army she traced her aunt and uncle who had escaped and were staying near Glasgow. She joined them in November 1946.

Susan moved to London when she married but returned to Glasgow in 1952 with her two children, then aged four and three, after her marriage broke up.

After graduating from Glasgow University in French and German, she trained as a teacher. Her first job was at the Girls' High School. She went on to teach at Knightswood Secondary and was principal teacher of modern languages at Allan Glen's Secondary for more than 10 years before her retirement.

In the early 1960s Susan helped to form and run the Campaign against Racial Discrimination (CARD). For many years she was not willing to speak of her ordeal during the war, but on retirement she started visiting schools to talk about her experiences. She received hundreds of letters from pupils, saying how moved they had been by her story. In 1996 she was awarded the MBE for services to the understanding of the Holocaust.

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