Despite her ordeal in wartime concentration camps, Kitia Altman’s work to make sure the horrors of the Holocaust were not forgotten was always in pursuit of a more humane society.

Kitia Altman, an articulate, elegant, accomplished and astute woman with an indomitable spirit who was one of the most powerful voices of Holocaust survival in Australia and beyond, has died in Melbourne aged 95.

Henrietta Szpigelman was born on March 1, 1922 into a traditional Jewish family in Bedzin, a Polish town with a population that was predominantly Jewish. Kitia, as she became known, was 17 years old at the outbreak of World War II.

On September 9, 1939, five days after the Nazis entered Bedzin, local Volksdeutsche – ethnic Germans – burned the Great Synagogue, destroying about 50 surrounding homes inhabited mostly by Jews, and killed 60 Jews. These events put paid to Kitia’s plans to study at an institute of languages in Paris.

Instead, she began work in a Bedzin factory producing uniforms for the German army. With an influx of Jews fleeing large Nazi-occupied Polish towns, the Germans pronounced the formation of a ghetto, styled “the Jewish Quarter”, in July 1942.


Read the full obituary by Michael Cohen at the Sydney Morning Herald.

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