Special award for Leeds Auschwitz survivor

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A Leeds pensioner who survived the horrors of the Holocaust and settled in England is to receive an honorary doctorate.

Iby Knill, 93. of Chapel Allerton, grew up in Czechoslovakia and escaped to Hungary in 1942 as Nazi persecution of Jews accelerated.

As a young woman, she spent time in hiding and helping the local Resistance movement before she was eventually captured and taken to the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Mrs Knill will be given an honorary degree by the University of Huddersfield, where she spoke last year as part of the Holocaust Memorial lecture event.

She spent much of her internment working as a slave labourer in an armaments factory, and was liberated by American troops while part of a forced march to Bergen-Belsen when the Nazi retreat began. She later discovered her father had died in the gas chambers, and was reunited with her mother and brother in their home city of Bratislava.

A fluent German speaker from childhood, she later used her language skills to act as an interpreter for British forces in post-war Germany. She met her husband, British army officer Bert Knill, and in 1947 she came to England as a married woman.

Mrs Knill, who is now a widow and has a Masters degree in theology, did not speak publicly about her past until 2003, and since then has told her story in books and during television appearances.

She will take part in an awards ceremony at the university in November, where she will be joined by experts from the fields of engineering, medicine and finance.

“Actually, I’m rather chuffed!” she said.

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