Harry Lowit


The Jewish Chronicle - - Obituaries -

HOLO­CAUST SUR­VIVOR Harry Lowit owed his life to a teenager one year older than him, who per­suaded Men­gele to spare them from the gas cham­bers. The son of own­ers of a wa­ter­proof­ing fac­tory, Harry grew up near Prague. In 1941 his fa­ther was sent to Terezin, where he died. In 1942 he and his mother were trans­ported to Auschwitz and his mother sent to the gas cham­bers.

Se­lected for work, 12-year-old Harry made friends with a Ger­man-Jewish boy, Hell­muth Szprycer, who had also lost his fam­ily. Ger­man-speak­ing Hell­muth trans­lated for Harry. They ran er­rands and cleaned guards’ hel­mets.

Vis­it­ing in 1944, the no­to­ri­ous Men­gele or­dered thou­sands of in­mates to strip and form two lines. The boys were in the line des­tined for the gas cham­ber.

Hell­muth went up to Men­gele, clicked his heels and said he wanted to work for him, clean­ing his shoes, mo­tor­bike, any­thing but the gas cham­ber. Hear­ing he was from Berlin, Men­gele put him on gate duty.

Harry then begged him to ask Men­gele to take him on, too. Hell­muth went back to Men­gele, who held out two matches and said that who­ever picked the shorter one would die. Harry picked the short match and crum­pled.

Back went Hell­muth and said: “What is one more?” As­ton­ish­ingly, Men­gele re­lented. They re­ceived smart blue mes­sen­ger uni­forms. Harry later manned the in­fa­mous Ar­beit Macht Frei gate.

They were sep­a­rated in the forced march re­treat from the Red Army in the win­ter of 1944-45. Harry hauled coal trucks up to an Aus­trian moun­tain camp near Salzburg. He and his co-haulier, a Bel­gian boy, Leo, es­caped dur­ing a beer break and drove their guards’ van into the Alps. They hid for three weeks un­til res­cued by US troops.

Go­ing home with Leo to An­twerp, Harry con­tacted the Czech em­bassy and spoke to a woman who had, amaz­ingly, met his Lon­don-based un­cle, Ru­dolph Lowit, at a so­cial event. In 1946 Harry, now 15, joined his un­cle and stud­ied civil en­gi­neer­ing at Lough­bor­ough.

In 1997 he had an emo­tional re­union with Hell­muth Szprycer, now liv­ing in Bel­gium, who traced him through Steven Spiel­berg’s Sur­vivors of the Shoah Vis­ual His­tory Foun­da­tion. He had never stopped looking for Harry.

Harry is sur­vived by his wife, Zelda, whom he mar­ried in 1949, two daugh­ters and four grand­chil­dren.

Holo­caust sur­vivor Harry Lowit

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