Leeds Holocaust survivor Iby Knill dies aged 97 - exactly 77 years since she was liberated from Auschwitz on Easter Sunday

The Leeds Jewish community has confirmed the death of one of their most eminent members - Holocaust survivor Iby Knill.

Poignantly, Mrs Knill passed away on Easter Sunday - the same date in the calendar she was liberated from Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945.

She was 97 and had lived in Chapel Allerton for many years.

Born Iby Kaufmann in Czechoslovakia, she was raised in a middle-class Hungarian-Slovak family in Bratislava. In 1942, her parents smuggled her over the border to Hungary when she was 18 after being warned that Jewish girls were being rounded up to be taken to work as prostitutes for the German soldiers on the Eastern Front.

Iby Knill had lived in Leeds since the 1960s

She was arrested shortly after for being in Hungary illegally and for her suspected involvement in the underground resistance movement, and was tortured.

She was taken to several prison camps and eventually to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Nazi-occupied Poland where she would spend 40 hellish days.

She left the camp after agreeing to travel as a nurse with the slave labour transportation of 500 women. They marched at night so as to avoid being detected band slept in barns during the day. If there were no barns they would lay in the fields. That she even made it was remarkable as she had been hit by a rifle butt causing tendon damage, and was warned that those that lagged behind were shot.

All the while she had no knowledge of the whereabouts of her family - or even if they were still alive.

Iby pictured in 1945

She was liberated by Allied forces on Easter Sunday in 1945 and started working as an interpreter for the British Government, as she had learned German during her childhood. She later found out that her mother and brother survived the war, yet her father was gassed in the last occasion that the chambers were used.

She met and married her husband Bert Knill, who was an officer in the British Army, and they eventually moved back to the UK.

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Mrs Knill moved to Leeds in 1964 when she was offered a job as a planning officer in civil defence. Her children did not find out about her wartime experiences until they were in their 40s.

She told the Yorkshire Evening Post in 2019: “I got married, had children here and as far as I was concerned, my home was here. I visited Bratislava as I have relations there and still do. But, temperamentally England suited me, particularly Yorkshire, you can call a spade a bloody shovel. I have always been outspoken, Yorkshire suited me and I made lots of friends.

“I married a British officer and came to England in 1947 - it was not the sort of thing you talked about in an officer’s mess. My husband passed away in 1984 and that is when I thought I want to do something about it. My children did not know until they were in their forties about my background. My husband’s family goes back to 880, he has a terrific family story, it was easier to talk about that."

Jewish Leeds said: "We are very saddened to announce that our dear friend and supporter, Holocaust survivor and author, Iby Knill, has passed away aged 97, 77 years after she was liberated on Easter Sunday 1945. We are heartbroken. Our thoughts are with her family at this time.

"Iby was an inspiration to so many people in both the Jewish community and in our faith communities. May her memory be a blessing."