Saturday 20 January 2018

Tribute paid at Holocaust memorial to 12 million victims of Nazi brutality

Anne-Marie Walsh

"MY father is dead. You are now my father."

These were the words spoken by a little boy called Zoltan when he met an Irish doctor at a concentration camp after the Holocaust.

Zoltan was just four or five years old when Dr Bob Collis, a volunteer with the British Red Cross and paediatrician at the Rotunda Hospital, met him and his sister Edit at the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany.

He took them home to Ireland in 1947 and reared them as part of his own family.

Born in the Czech Republic, Zoltan Zinn-Collis was among three survivors at the Mansion House in Dublin last night at the 10th National Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration.

He sat with his friend and another survivor, Suzi Diamond, whom he met at the Bergen-Belsen camp.

Remembering his first encounter with Dr Collis, Mr Zinn-Collis recalled that he spoke in German because it was the most common language at the camp.

"He spoke in English, so neither of us knew what the other had said until it was translated later," he said.

"I also lost a brother and sister and among the sort of things that go through my mind is the fact that I would have sorted out my sister's boyfriends for her and gone for my first pint and chased women with my brother.

"That's what you do with a brother, and that's what's been taken.

"You have documentaries and books about what happened, but nothing about the little personal things like that and how people have to live their lives without all these memories.

"There are 12 million people who cannot be here and they've nobody to speak for them and nobody to remember them and that's why I'm here."

Ms Diamond, who was born in Hungary and was fostered when she came to Ireland, never found out what happened to her father, who was in the army.

"The experience affected my brother all through his life," she said. "He passed away four years ago, but he never really got over it. He wouldn't talk about it.

"I don't have any family. If there was anybody that survived, they were never found."

President Michael D Higgins and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Andrew Montague, were among those who paid tribute to the victims of the Nazi regime during the evening of music, poems, and memories.

Irish Independent

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