Sunderland filmmaker captures Holocaust survivor’s return to Auschwitz

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A WEARSIDE filmmaker immersed himself in one of the most horrifying parts of history to tell one woman’s story of survival.

Film and TV production university graduate Ian Orwin travelled to World War Two death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau to record footage for a film based on the experiences of 90-year-old survivor Iby Knill.

Ian Orwin filming at Auschwitz

Ian Orwin filming at Auschwitz

The 22-year-old, of Seaburn Dene, made the trip with fellow students Robin Pepper, 22, and Mark Oxley, 26, who decided to record An Auschwitz Promise after Robin read the book The Woman Without A Number written by Iby.

The filmmakers spent three days recording in the gas chambers, on the infamous rail track into the camp, and other areas around the two sites of Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Ian said the experience gave him extra insight into the Holocaust.

He said: “I’ve learned so much from going to Auschwitz. What you learn in school is nothing to what you experience when you are there.

Creative Teesside, SAM, Media screenings at Cineworld Holocaust survivor Iby Knill with Robin Pepper

Creative Teesside, SAM, Media screenings at Cineworld Holocaust survivor Iby Knill with Robin Pepper

“I appreciate what happened now that I’ve been there and seen the place, and all the stuff that they have kept there like the hair and the clothes.

“We could see a bit of what Iby had gone through and it made us better filmmakers.”

Iby, who was born in the former Czechoslovakia, was 20 when she was sent to the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

She spent six weeks there before being transferred to the German labour camp Kaunitz, which was eventually liberated.

Iby witnessed atrocities in Auschwitz, and made a promise to a young girl that if she survived she would tell the world what they had seen.

After the war, she moved to Britain where she married and had two children, Christopher, 65, and Pauline, 58.

She now lives in Leeds, and finally gathered the courage to pen her story four years ago when she wrote The Woman Without A Number.

Filmmaker Ian said: “It was quite harrowing. At times we were the only people in there and it was so quiet.

“We were there to do a job, and we just had to get on after learning about all of the atrocities that took place. But then we managed to get some beautiful shots of the sun rising and the flowers starting to grow. It was a strange experience. Everyone has so much respect for the area.”

Robin sent the film to the Community Channel, who will broadcast it on International Holocaust Memorial Day – January 27 – marking the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945.

Ian added: “We had to redo some of the interviews with Iby when we came back from Poland.

“She said she never wanted to go back to Auschwitz, but I think she appreciated the fact that we made the effort to go there and try to understand a bit of what she had been through. She is a lovely lady and it is an amazing experience to meet someone who has been through what she has.’’

An Auschwitz Promise will air on the Community Channel at 8pm on Monday, January 27.