HOLOCAUST survivor Mady Gerrard, who now lives in St Arvans, Chepstow, was one of the Hungarian Jews deported by the Nazis.

She recalls her life, including her time at the infamous Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen camps as well as being reunited with the British SAS officer who liberated her.

“I was born in Budapest on April 27, 1930. I was an only child. My mother, she was a housewife and unfortunately she contracted tuberculosis and died in 1937. She was 31. My father was a timber merchant and he died in Auschwitz in 1944. He was 41.

“When my mother was already ill I had a great aunt who lived in a very beautiful little town, called Keszthely, on the southern side of a big lake in the middle of Hungary, Lake Balaton.

"She was my grandmother’s sister and lived there with her husband. She had a handcrafted wool shop, and a few weeks before Christmas, when I was five, she invited me to go with her. I stayed there with her and never left.

“It was wonderful. They couldn’t have been nicer to me even if they were my own parents. We had a very nice life. Because of the lake, after school, we went swimming every day. In the winter we used to ice skate.

“In 1944 I was deported to Auschwitz. The Germans came in and invaded Hungary in the March. We were forced to wear the yellow star and move into ghettoes. Then we were deported. The Hungarian Jews were the last to be deported.

“We arrived in Auschwitz on July 8, 1944. It was like hell. I remember every bit of it. We didn’t have underwear, just a dress and a pair of shoes. We had our heads shaved.

"Young children went to the gas chambers with their mothers. They didn't send the people who had thought they would be able to work.

"We were taken to the camp and went into barracks. More than a thousand girls my age were in one barrack with me. And by the time I left Auschwitz in October that year, there were only 180 girls alive. The rest of them all died, mostly of starvation.

“If you became ill, they immediately sent you to the gas chamber. Anybody who became ill had to die. A number of people knew Dr Mengele. He was called the angel of death. He was in charge of who went to the gas chamber and who didn't.

"We had to walk in front of him, totally naked, with our hands up, and he looked at our bodies to see if we had even mosquito bite. One of my best friends developed a pimple on her stomach. She was selected out and we never saw her again.

“Every morning at about 4am we had to get off our so-called beds. Each bunk slept 16 girls. We had to go outside and stand totally motionless for the Germans to count us.

I don’t know why – you couldn’t escape.

"On one occasion I had developed some type of bite or something on my left arm. A German noticed it. My red-headed friend and I were selected out. At the end of each barrack there was a little sort of space which was separate from the rest of the area and we were taken there.

"There was door on it which was like a barn door, only three quarters of the way up. I kept saying to my friend, 'We have to climb out of here. If we don't we are going to be gassed'.

"She wouldn’t come with me. She must have had her reasons but she didn’t come. I left her and climbed back to the rest of my friends. Nobody ever saw her again after that night.

"I always think that was the most horrible day of my Holocaust because I thought it was my fault. I thought that maybe I could have done more; I could have tried harder to make her come with me; that she was gone and I was here.

"It must have taken me 20 or 30 years to get over it. When I think logically there was nothing I could do. I was powerless.

“We didn’t realise the war was going to be over. Nobody knew. We were just vegetating, we were not living. We didn’t think about anything like normal people because we weren’t normal people. You can’t be normal in those circumstances.

“I lived there until October and then they took us to Germany. We went to a little town called Guben. It was a small camp, just 350 girls about the same age.

"In Guben we had to work, unlike in Auschwitz. In Auschwitz we did not do anything, absolutely nothing. We were just lying and dreaming and thinking about normal life. But in Guben we did night shifts in a factory.

“We were making components for radio equipment for planes. We used a very, very fine wire in lots of different colours – yellows and greens and blues. I figured we could steal some of this wire and, I don’t know where we got a pair of scissors from, but we did, we pulled the wire out. It was like a skinny spaghetti. I used the colours and made a necklace. "I was good with my hands because I’d learnt knitting and embroidery in my aunt’s shop.

“So in any case we made these necklaces and the next evening I took it into the factory and gave it to one the German women. She was very nice to us, a very decent German lady. "I knew she would know where I had stolen the wire. I didn’t even think it would be dangerous for me. But she took it and she loved it. She asked me how many we could make. "We made many more and she distributed them amongst the rest of the women working in the factory. They paid us with food.

“The camp there was paradise compared to Auschwitz. We knew that the Russians and the British had to be very near because we heard guns going off and we heard noises like tanks.

“After Christmas we were told we would have to work at a different place. So we walked through snow in German woods for 14 days to our final destination of Belsen.

"First of all we didn’t have very many clothes and sometimes the snow was up to our knees. I think a number died on the journey. We walked all day and slept in stables and sheds. "When we arrived we realised we hadn’t seen horror yet before. It was absolute hell. There were thousands of bodies decomposing right outside in the courtyard. They were just rotting outside. We had food maybe once a day, consisted of some water with something like cabbages.

"We had this hot liquid every day and there was something like bits of branches or leaves too. Maybe we had swede if we were lucky. We lived on that for the last three weeks. "People just died of starvation.

“We knew we only had a few days left on Sunday April 15 in 1945 though.

"We were all sitting on the floor when I noticed a jeep was coming and I knew it wasn’t a German one.

"Two young British officers climbed out and came to the door. Those of us who could stand up went to them and, in various languages, thanked them for liberating us. They gave tins of beans with sausages and beans with bacon. A great number of people died because they couldn’t digest it, the food was too heavy.

“Two days later we were moved to a place which was used during the war as a SS youth training camp. Then was the end of the war.

"I got into hospital and the Swedish Red Cross came and offered to take some people to recuperate. I was one of the lucky ones and had a wonderful year. I stayed there and worked for a family.

“I was hoping my father would have survived. So a year later I returned to Hungary to look for him, but he was dead. I stayed in Hungary for 10 years and it was 1956 by the time I left for this country.

“Then, on the anniversary of the liberation of Belsen exactly 60 years later something else happened.

"It was a Sunday and as I opened the Sunday Telegraph there was a photograph which could only be Belsen concentration camp. There was also another tiny photograph of a very handsome SAS officer and when I saw it I began to scream. It was the SAS officer who liberated me, John Randall. The next morning I phoned the Telegraph and asked whether I could write a letter for them to pass on. I was absolutely bowled over. We made a date for me to go up to London the first week in May and I’ve met him regularly since.

“When came to the UK in 1956. We came by bus from Vienna as refugees. We were taken to Yorkshire for three years, and were looked after. We didn’t go through the things the refugees are going through now. There was a lady from Cardiff who invited me and my three-year-old daughter to Wales to see what I could do for a living.

“I became a knitwear designer,and I’m still working today.

"Ten years after that I went to Canada for two years and then on toNew York for 16 years. I started a business there, but before my grandson was born last week I decided I was coming back to Wales.

“I married twice. I got married in Hungary first, but divorced. Then 33 years later I married again, to Paul in New York. He was Hungarian as well. We got married in this country and were married for 14 years but then he died. I now have one daughter, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.”