Minia Jay says it was a “miracle” she did not die at the hands of the evil SS officer, notorious for carrying out deadly experiments on prisoners.
Minia, 90, recalled how Mengele would be surrounded by an entourage as he picked people to be sent to the crematorium complex, where Zyklon B, a cyanidebased pesticide, was used as a weapon of mass murder.
“I was sent to the corner of this dark room by the crematorium,” recalled Minia, now a greatgrandmother.
“We were waiting to die but then no transportation arrived from the ghetto so the guards couldn’t be bothered to go through the process for just a few people and I was sent back.”
The second time, she said, “We were selected naked and I’d lost so much weight you could count my ribs. I had tuberculosis so I knew I would be picked.
“Mengele pointed at me and said, ‘You, this way’.
"At that moment I could see I was not going to leave Auschwitz alive but I was still a young girl so I decided to save myself.
"I was watching him like a hawk as he was continuing to select people. When he turned, I turned.
"I could see this woman at the door, stopping people from escaping. If she had seen me I wouldn’t be here today.
“I could see that those who had not been selected had been grouped into fives.
“A girl in one of the groups spotted me and put four fingers up – they were one short. I don’t know how but I managed to stand with her and then we were all sent to work in Germany.”
A girl in one of the groups spotted me and put four fingers up – they were one short. I don’t know how but I managed to stand with her and then we were all sent to work in Germany
Minia remains close friends with the girl, Rela, now 80 and living in Israel.
Born in Warta, Poland, in 1925, Minia was 17 when she was separated from the rest of her family and sent to the Lodz ghetto in central Poland in 1942.
To this day she still does not know exactly what happened to her parents Jakob and Freida, and five of her six older siblings.
For her, however, being sent to Lodz was a lucky escape.
She said: “I didn’t want to go. I was running back to my mother and she was pushing me, saying, ‘Go, go, go’. I never saw her again.”
However, in 1944 Minia was sent to Auschwitz, where she soon encountered Mengele.
After being liberated in 1945, Minia and Rela were among 729 young Jewish people offered safe haven in Britain and were sent to the Lake District in a group of 300 children who became known as the “Windermere Boys”.
Minia said: “We went from hell to heaven. I didn’t speak a word of English but the people were so kind to us.
“In Auschwitz you weren’t like a human being. I don’t know how we survived it.”
Twice-married Minia now lives in Golders Green, north London, and enjoys weekly bridge games at the nearby Holocaust and Jewish Care centre.
“When I lost my parents it was terrible,” she said.
“You didn’t know if you wanted to survive.
“Now I have got my daughter, my grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. That’s the only thing that keeps me going.”
She says she doesn't know what happened to her parents or siblings, but then talks about losing her parents. You wonder what she was told by the international tracing service - or if she ever did contacted them. Not much clarity from the journalist.