The Baby Born In A Concentration Camp Review: Stranger Than Fiction

THE BABY BORN IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP: Tuesday 19th April, BBC1, 10.35pm

Programmes about the Holocaust rarely make for uplifting viewing, but this tale of Anka Bergman – a woman who survived not one, but three concentration camps; Terzin, Auschwitz and Mauthausen and managed to have two children in the process is less morbid than most. Unfortunately her first child, a baby boy, didn’t survive for more than two months after getting pneumonia but her second, Eva, survived an now lives with her in Cambridge.

As Jews living in Prague, Anka and her husband, Bernd Nathan, thought that they would be safe from the reaches of the Nazis; but on March 15th 1939, German tanks rolled into the city. “We didn’t know what the Germans were doing,â€? says Anka, and even when they were taken off to the concentration camps most of them remained oblivious to their fate until it was too late.

In fact, it wasn’t until Anka was moved to Auschwitz that she found out just what the Nazis were doing. “It looked like hell,â€? she says, meaning it in the literal sense rather than as a comment on its condition. “One girl asked ‘when will I see my parents,’â€? she recalls, and the reply – given through bouts of sarcastic laughter – was “they are in the chimneys by now.â€?

Perhaps the most amazing thing is how upbeat Anka seems, and how she talks about her unerring positivity that she would make it out alive. Most people’s attitude to the day can change significantly depending on how stressful their journey into work was, so for someone to stay so optimistic despite seeing her parents, sisters, brother-in-law and nephew taken to the gas chambers – having already lost her husband – is truly incredible.

The day Anka arrived at Mauthausen, she was severely malnourished but still managed to give birth to Eva, who weighed just three pounds. She later found out that the Germans had dismantled the gas chamber there the day she arrived, and soon after the camp was liberated by the US Army.

It’s impossible to describe Baby Born in a Concentration Camp as either enjoyable or uplifting because, honestly, it’s another reminder of the astonishing cruelty of which humans are capable. But it is an amazing story, and one that Anka Bergman somehow manages to tell without a trace of bitterness.