One of just a handful of Belgium’s last Holocaust survivors, Henri Kichka, died of coronavirus on Saturday in a Brussels care home at the age of 94.
HE was one of a remaining few men and women who managed to make it through Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in occupied southern Poland during the Second World War.
“You did not live through Auschwitz. The place itself is death,” he told the BBC in January.
His son, Michel Kichka posted a tribute to his father on Facebook: “A small microscopic Cornavirus managed where the entire Nazi army had failed. My father had survived the March of death.
“But today has ended his march of life. He had just celebrated his 94th birthday confined to the Happy Stay of Brussels, a wonderful home where he was surrounded, cared for, enjoyed and loved. I had a chance to talk to him one last time on the phone this morning.”
He added: “My dad gave over 550 testimonies of his survival in the Death Camps. He spoke in front of high school students, students, officials, elected officials, journalists, historians, and Steven Spielberg’s team.
“He accompanied classes 44 times in Auschwitz-Birkenau as an accompanying witness.
“Just recently, 94 years old, he gave a short interview to a Belgian journalist.”
Henri Kichka was born in Brussels in 1926, in a Jewish family of Polish origin.
His parents had fled anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe to build new lives in the West, but were deported in 1942 by Nazi Germans.
Together with his father, Henri was put to slave work while his mother, sisters and aunt were taken to Auschwitz and immediately gassed and cremated.
In 1945, Henri was marched to a German camp by Nazi guards and for a long time after the war, did not talk about his experience.
He went on to marry, open his own business and begin to give talks in schools, so the horrors would not be forgotten.
And 60 years after the war ended, Henri published a memoir of his life in the camps.
Henri and his wife had four children, nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.