Iby Knill: an Auschwitz promise

Iby Knill: an Auschwitz promise

This documentary film follows the story of 89 year old Iby Knill.

It was July, 1944. Auschwitz. A young twin crawled over to Iby one night in the hut. They had earlier seen their parents enter the gas chamber and they were both being used in experiments. ‘Once they have finished, they will send us to the gas chamber,’ she told her. ‘Remember what you have seen and tell the world, because we will not be able to.’ It took 60 years before Iby could finally talk about what happened in Auschwitz. She had kept secret the fact that she had survived Nazi concentration camps – even from her own children. Now she is telling her story.

Final year BA (Hons) Television and Film Production student Robin Pepper contacted Iby Knill after reading her book, to ask if he could make a film about her. And the resulting documentary – based on Iby’s story – is to be added to the archives at the Auschwitz Museum in Poland.

Robin, 21, from Northallerton, said: “Iby was born in Czechoslovakia where she was excluded from school for being Jewish. She later fled to Hungary, where she was eventually arrested and taken to Auschwitz.

‘One of Iby’s most moving stories related to a promise she made to a twin girl while in Auschwitz. She promised she would tell the world what she had seen. It’s what is still motivating her today.’

Iby, who now lives in Leeds, was invited to see the film premiered at Cineworld in Middlesbrough as part of the University’s week-long Creative Teesside event, which celebrates the creativity and diverse work of creativity of the University’s School of Arts & Media students due to graduate later this year.

Iby, 89, said: ‘It was while working with Robin on his film that through his sensitivity and understanding, his ability to pick out the salient points, that I felt that I was fulfiling that promise – to make young people aware of the dangers that the dehumanisation, denigration and differentiation of people can lead to.

‘I regularly visit schools and organisations to give talks about my experiences and my book, but it was a very emotional experience making the film as it was a very different to giving a talk. Robin has done a marvellous job and I’m hoping be able to pass his film on to schools so that it is widely seen.’

Robin made the film with help from Teesside University colleagues Mark Oxley, 25, and Ian Orwin, 21, both from Middlesbrough, who are completing the same degree. All three travelled to film at Auschwitz and also Budapest, where Iby was captured before being sent to the concentration camp.

Robin said: ‘It’s been a real journey, from meeting Iby before we started filming, to interviewing her and travelling to Poland and Hungary to film. The sheer size of Auschwitz-Birkenau really hits you, it was really quite disturbing.

‘It’s an honour knowing that we’re now playing a part in helping Iby fulfil her promise to tell the world her story.’

Auschwitz has asked for a copy of the film for their archives and a museum in Budapest has also asked to use the film as part of their collection.

More information about Iby and her book can be found on her website.