October 2, 2019
Survivor Portraits – Kitty Lowinger
This month we introduce child survivor of the Holocaust, Kitty Lowinger. Kitty was born in 1941 in Budapest, Hungary.
Kitty was three years old when Germany invaded Hungary. However, growing up Kitty’s family rarely spoke about the war, trying not to dwell on the past and getting on with their new lives. As such, for a long time she wasn’t sure if her memory flashes were real. Many years after the war, Kitty’s granddaughter asked her what happened to her in the war, so Kitty took the opportunity while her mother was still alive to piece together her earliest memories of a three-year-old in wartime.
In 1944, on Kitty’s third birthday, two Nazi soldiers burst in to take her grandfather, just as Kitty blew out her birthday candles. Her grandfather was the Chief Doctor at the Budapest hospital. Before he was taken away, he gave Kitty’s mother cyanide and said, “If they come for you and Kitty, take this.” To that, Kitty’s mother said, “No, we will survive.”
Four months later Kitty’s mother was taken on a death march to a death camp, but managed to escape, boldly returning to Budapest to find her daughter. Kitty’s mother found a place for them to hide. They were starving. Kitty’s mother noticed a large group of people swarming over a dead horse in the street to get its meat, so she snuck in amongst them to feed herself and her daughter.
The war ended in 1945 and German troops surrendered to the Soviet armies. Under communism, all were equal. However, conditions were not quite equal for the Jews. Kitty and her mother escaped through the Iron Curtain to Vienna, and then made their way to Paris via Switzerland. They lived in Paris for six months, waiting and negotiating to come to Australia.
Two weeks after they arrived in Australia, on Christmas Day of 1949, Kitty woke to hear a noise in the kitchen where the milkman put the bottles through a trapdoor, and out poured presents from people on their street, saying, ‘Welcome to Australia, to your new home.’
In this photograph, Kitty is holding a photo of her on her third birthday. By this time, her father had been deported to a forced labour camp. Kitty’s mother wished to document the important milestones in her daughter’s life for her husband upon his return, but he was murdered by German soldiers upon attempting to escape the camp.
To tell her story of living under Nazism and communism as a young girl, Kitty wrote a book for young readers, titled Tika’s Amazing Journey. For more information or to purchase a copy, click here.
To read more from our Survivor Portraits blog series, click here.
To explore the personal stories and anecdotes of Holocaust survivors, click here for our first online exhibition.
Photograph by Katherine Griffiths.