A unique exhibition depicting the memories of Holocaust survivors living in the UK has been launched. Justine Halifax spoke to one of the survivors now living in the West Midlands.

Magda Bloom was just 13 when she was forced to leave her Hungarian home at gunpoint with her mother and little brother, Gyorgy.

It was 1944, and her father, an honoured Hungarian soldier, had just been killed like many thousands of other men, clearing land mines to make it safe for German soldiers to cross.

Terrified for their lives, after spending a month in a Satoraljaujhely ghetto, they were transported to the most infamous Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenhau.

The incomprehensible horrors they faced began almost immediately when within seconds of arriving 12-year-old Gyorgy was ripped from his mother’s grasp by a German guard.

Frightened, he turned back crying “Momma, Momma, you come?”, but as she tried to run after “the apple of her eye” their mother was knocked to the ground by a German soldier for breaking away from the line.

By the time she got up Gyorgy had gone, lost in a crowd of thousands of people and was never seen again. The innocent child was taken straight to the gas chamber.

Grandmother-of-two Magda said: “When the guard took my darling little brother, the apple of my mother’s eye, it broke her heart.

“We later discovered he had gone straight to the gas chamber and the thought that my little brother had had to go alone, without any of his family, broke mine and my mother’s hearts forever.”

Magda lost her entire family in Nazi concentration camps. She stayed with her mother throughout her ordeal but her mother died the night before they were liberated by the British.

Now aged 81, Magda said: “I always said, even today, that I believe my mother struggled along just to see me through in any case, her heart already broken.”

The pensioner, who was adopted by the Hesselberg family of Birmingham, where she still lives, has helped to launch a striking exhibition which brings the incomprehensible horrors and experience of the Holocaust to a new generation and celebrates the lives that Holocaust survivors went on to build in England.

Portraits for Posterity is a collection of memories and images of Holocaust survivors still living in the UK

Magda is just one of the faces that makes up the exhibition, which is based over three Staffordshire sites – the Wedge Gallery at the Lichfield Campus of South Staffordshire College, Lichfield Cathedral and the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas.

While her story is an individual one, it speaks for the millions of Jews who perished as part of Hitler’s horrific industrial genocide.

Magda, who still bears a number tattooed on her left arm when she arrived at a Nazi concentration camp, believes it is vital that Holocaust survivors’ tales are told in the hope nothing like it can happen again.

She said: “The memories of the Holocaust live at the forefront of my mind every day. I lost my entire family to the Nazi concentration camps. We must make sure that the enormity of this unparalleled tragedy does not happen again.”

Jackie Reason, one of the organisers of the exhibition, said: “Very few survived the ghettos, extermination and labour camps of the Nazi regime. Those alive today are now elderly, but still bear witness to the crime of the 20th century.

“By creating images of the few, the exhibit provides a permanent memorial that also commemorates the millions who perished without portraits.”

* Portraits for Posterity runs at Lichfield Cathedral until November 12, and in the Wedge Gallery of South Staffordshire College’s Lichfield campus and the National Memorial Arboretum until November 15. www.portraitsforposterity.com.

Magda Bloom's story

"A short time after my father’s death, together with my mother and my little brother Gyorgy, we were forced to leave our home with rifles pointed at us. I can’t put into words the fear, terror and sadness we felt at leaving our home for the very last time.

We were taken to a ghetto in Hungary barricaded in with high wooden fences and observatory towers, there was no escape.

We were subjected to terrible conditions. We slept on the floor in crowded rooms of 40 to 50 people, there was no privacy, no water to even wash ourselves with and no sanitation.

We were very hungry, but most of all we were very, very frightened as we did not now what would happen to us.

Six weeks later we were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, 85 people to a cattle truck at the hottest time of the year I can remember. We travelled for two-and-a-half days without food, water or sanitation.

When we arrived in Auschwitz we were immediately separated from my darling little brother and we never saw him again. My mother and I were then herded into a large hall, ordered to undress and put our clothes in a neat pile. We were then herded into another room knee-deep in human hair and there was a circle of people with hair clippers. Within minutes they had sheared all the hair off our bodies.

In another room we were thrown a bundle of clothes and that was our grey prison garb. We were then ordered to march six to seven miles to our barracks.

On the way we saw long, long lines of people of all ages – grandmothers with little children holding on to them, some asleep on the floor because they were so tired, pregnant women, young women with babies in their arms, children hanging onto the clothes of their mothers. They looked tired and frightened.

The lines went for miles as we walked. There were four big buildings with smoke and fire bursting out of the chimneys and there was a terrible smell, but we didn’t know what it was at the time as we had just arrived.

But these were the crematoria. Within hours these people had been herded into the gas chambers and murdered, those little children standing there with their worn teddy bears and dollies.

This is at the forefront of my mind all the time.

Living conditions were horrific, where men, women and children lived every day in fear of their lives under the shadows of the gas chambers and smoking chimneys, subjected to eery possible pain and humiliation possible, murdered in mass shootings, buried alive, or kicked or clubbed to death. We spent eight months in Auchswitz.

Already skeletal and weakened in body and spirit we were transported to Belsen in arctic conditions. There were icicles on the trucks. We huddled together on the floor to keep from freezing to death. Many people froze to death.

At Belsen we slept on the damp, beaten earth we were each given a blanket covered in lice as our only cover to keep warm until both my mother and I caught and collapsed with typhus.

Sadly, my mother died on the night of April 14 and 15, 1945, just one night before we were liberated by the British troops.”

* After liberation Magda stayed in Belsen and befriended another Hungarian girl, Marta, who managed to get her onto transport to Britain. The two have remained lifelong friends.

She spent time with the Montefiore family in Wintershill Hall, near Southampton, before she was adopted by the Hesselberg family of Birmingham.

Magda married David Bloom and had two children, Stephen and Julia, who died in 2002.

She now lecturers about her experiences.

* Portraits for Posterity runs at Lichfield Cathedral until November 12, and in the Wedge Gallery of South Staffordshire College’s Lichfield campus and the National Memorial Arboretum until November 15. www.portraitsforposterity.com.