Hart (Moxon), Kitty

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Nationality: Polish. Born: Bielsko, 1 December 1926. Education: Gymnasium Notre Dame, diploma in radiology. Family: Married Randolph Hart in 1949; two sons. Career: Prisoner, Auschwitz, 1943-44; forced laborer, 1944-45. Moved to England, 1946. Radiographer, hospitals in Birmingham, England, and in private practice. Principal and narrator, documentary film Return to Auschwitz, Yorkshire Television, 1978; technical adviser to film director Alan Pakula for Sophie's Choice, 1982. Awards: Prix Futura and Commonwealth award, both for documentary film Return to Auschwitz.



I Am Alive! 1961.

Return to Auschwitz: The Remarkable Story of a Girl Who Survived the Holocaust. 1981.


Theatrical Activities:

Actor: Documentary Film— Return to Auschwitz (also known as Kitty—Return to Auschwitz ), 1979.

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In his study Perpetrators Victims Bystanders , Raul Hilberg describes some of the attributes that aided survival during the Holocaust. Among them were youth and physical fitness as well as a "psychological profile" that included realism, rapid decision making, and tenacious holding on to life. Kitty Hart possessed many such qualities. A swimming champion and lover of sports, she was 12 in 1939, when World War II started. Hiding with her mother before being captured by the Nazis, she taught herself to be alert. Later, in Auschwitz and on the death marches, she showed daring and initiative. In addition, she formed a mutually supportive "unit" with her mother and with other "Auschwitz girls." After the war, she settled in England and became a radiographer.

The story of Hart and her mother's survival is told in I Am Alive! (1961), one of the earliest camp accounts written in English. Written for her sons, it is very clear and straightforward and begins before the war and ends just after their liberation. Twenty years later Hart was the subject of a prize-winning documentary from Yorkshire TV, "Return to Auschwitz" (1979; also known as "Kitty—Return to Auschwitz"), which covers her first journey to Auschwitz after the war. Hart is accompanied by her son David, and she tries to explain the full horror of what she and his grandmother had experienced. She also wrote a book by the same name, and it tells much the same story but also covers the postwar period. It is written with the remarkable candour of her first memoir: "I was soon to discover that everybody in England would be talking about personal war experiences for months, even years… But we, who had been pursued over Europe by the mutual enemy, and come close to extermination at the hand of that enemy, were not supposed to embarrass people by saying a word." This sort of English response to the Holocaust is also discussed by Anne Karpf in The War After. Hart—after her initial recovery and establishment in England, and at first encouraged by an American friend, Nancie Beg—told and continues to tell the story of her time in Auschwitz.

It is a sign of her courage that Hart became a vocal Holocaust survivor, telling her story in public for more than 20 years and opposing racism and anti-Semitism. She has been particularly active in schools and concerned with education (in her accounts, she stresses that her school years were stolen by the Nazis). She is a "high profile" survivor in the United Kingdom—she was even mentioned in Hansard (the record of government debates) in 1990 and has given evidence in trials in Germany (for example, at the trial of Gottfried Weise ["William Tell"], an SS officer at Auschwitz). She is unsparing of the Nazis and of any hypocrisy associated with the Holocaust. The Allied powers and what she sees as their past and contemporary indifference also have been a target of her work.

At the end of the documentary Hart makes an odd remark on which she later reflects: "I declared that I thought the experience had been worthwhile." But, as she writes, this is not at all what she meant. Instead she was expressing a thought that other survivors have expressed: "If such a terrible thing had to happen, or was allowed to happen through human negligence and human wickedness, then personally I would sooner have gone through it than not gone through it." This reflection also demonstrates her courage.

—Robert Eaglestone

See the essays on I Am Alive! and Return to Auschwitz: The Remarkable Story of a Girl Who Survived the Holocaust.