Born: September 6, 1923;

Died: January 1, 2022

FREDA Wineman, who has died aged 98, was a French-born Jew whose stories from four Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War made the horrors of the Holocaust real for younger generations after she settled in Britain.

In June 1944, as a 20-year-old transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, in German-occupied Poland, she came face to face with Dr Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death”, who immediately decided the fate of new arrivals – work or the gas chamber. A prisoner said the older women should take babies from the younger ones.

“She told my mother to take the baby of a lady standing next to her – a stranger,” recalled Wineman in an article she wrote for The Independent on Holocaust Memorial Day last year. “She was sent to one side with my brother, Marcel. The baby’s mother and I were sent to the other side.”

Wineman told the historian Martin Gilbert: “Dr Mengele said, ‘She is going with the baby to a place where there are special creches to look after them.’”

Unknown to Wineman at the time, her mother, brother – and the Dutch-born baby – were dispatched to the gas chamber. Meanwhile, she was disinfected, tattooed with the number A.7181 and given work digging trenches.

When she was moved to the Kanada Kommando, sorting through the belongings of new arrivals and the dead, she smuggled clothes back to her friends – until three were discovered with them and hanged, a horror that she and others were forced to watch.

Wineman returned to digging trenches – outside the crematoriums, where the burning of bodies left the sky black all day. “We thought it was night-time all the time,” she said.

Later that year, she was moved to Bergen-Belsen, a camp across the German border, where prisoners did not work but were woken up each day by guards beating them with sticks.

With little food, many died of starvation and conditions were so bad that Wineman developed an abscess on her stomach – the result of another prisoner scratching her with a dirty toenail as they slept.

From there, in February 1945, she and other female prisoners were transferred to Raguhn, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, where she worked in an aircraft factory, and suffered a finger abscess infected with worms, leading a fellow prisoner to cut the tip of it off with scissors.

As the Allies advanced, Wineman was transported to the camp at Theresienstadt, in Czechoslovakia, which was liberated by Russian troops in May 1945, just weeks after her arrival.

Only with the end of war did she discover that her parents and brother Marcel had been killed at Auschwitz. Returning to Lyon with typhoid, she was hospitalised before being reunited in August 1945 with her two other brothers, David and Armand. They all settled in Paris and she started a jewellery business with David.

On visiting some of her father’s cousins in Britain, she met David Wineman, a lamp factory director, and married him in London in 1950. When he died two years later, she was left to bring up their two daughters.

In 2009, after more than half a century of feeling unable to talk about her experiences, she returned to Auschwitz, when she was filmed by the BBC children’s programme, Blue Peter, for a feature on the Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations.

Softly spoken and elegantly dressed, Wineman then gave talks in schools and colleges that led her to be awarded the British Empire Medal in 2018 for services to Holocaust education.

She was born Dvora Frieda Silberberg in 1923 in Metz, in the Lorraine district of north-eastern France, the second of four children. With her Polish-born father, German-born mother and three brothers, she moved to Sarreguemines, near the German border, when she was eight.

In August 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, the whole town was evacuated and the Winemans moved around until eventually settling in Saint-Étienne, near Lyon, south-west France, where she worked in a steel factory.

The following year, the country was invaded by the Germans and, in 1944, the family was identified as Jewish, arrested by the Milice, France’s paramilitary organisation – something Wineman was always bitter about – and handed over to the Gestapo.

After being interrogated, they were sent to Drancy transit camp outside Paris, then transported to Auschwitz in a cattle truck.

Weinman settled in Britain after the war and tried to leave her haunting memories behind, saying in a 1989 interview: “You just have to get on with life and look forward. You cannot live with the past. It troubles you all the time, but you cannot live with it.”

Nevertheless, she eventually realised the benefit of educating those who were not even born during the Holocaust. “When I speak in schools, I ask students to tell their friends and family what they have heard,” she wrote in her Independent article.

“I say that in the future, if they ever hear anyone question what happened, they should tell them that they heard Freda Wineman, and she survived the Holocaust. I ask them to be my witnesses.”

Wineman is survived by her two daughters, Sandra and Irene.