Chiswick Resident Tells His Story for Holocaust Memorial Day
Uri Winterstein lost nine relatives in Auschwitz-Birkenau
Chiswick resident Uri Winterstein has marked this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day by telling his story on video.
He was born into a Jewish family in Czechoslovakia (now the Slovak Republic) during the Second World War.
He speaks about his family in a YouTube talk – specially commissioned and recorded for Hammersmith & Fulham Council – relating how nine uncles, aunts and cousins were killed in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
“As melodramatic as it sounds, I was born under a death sentence, because the Nazis had made the decision to exterminate all Jews in territory they held,” he said, adding that babies were at risk because they had no value as slave labour.
Born in October 1943, he was put into the care of a non-Jewish family for his safety and did not see his parents again until after the war. “I can only describe my survival as pure luck.”
Members of his family were forcibly deported, each with a single suitcase, and died in the Auschwitz gas chambers; the oldest, his 91-year-old great-grandmother, the youngest, his nine-year-old cousin.
Mr Winterstein, married with three children and five grandchildren, warns about allowing extremism to flourish. “I’m trying to speak about the future, but if we don’t learn from the past we’ll repeat the mistakes of the past,” he said. “Prejudice magnifies differences. When you hear extreme ideologies, you have to fight against them.”
He added that it was a privilege to be able to speak about his family.
“Uri’s tale is harrowing, but it is also a story of hope,” said Cllr Sue Fennimore, Deputy Leader of H&F Council. "He has been speaking in schools since 2013 in events organised by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, and we are grateful that he has shared his family’s history with us.”
A question and answer session follows the talk in which Mr Winterstein is asked about how he told his children about the horrors his family suffered.
January 29, 2021