03/12/2013 12:28 GMT | Updated 02/02/2014 05:59 GMT

How I Helped an Auschwitz Survivor Share Her Story With the World

I've always been interested in people with a good story. So when I had to make a graduation film to conclude my Film and Television BA Hons degree at Teesside University, I knew I wanted to use it, to find an inspiring story that needed to be told. In November 2012, after a few weeks of relentless researching, I picked up 90-year-old Iby Knill's book, The Woman Without a Number. Iby kept her time at the notorious death camp a secret from friends and family for almost 60 years because she felt unable to talk about it.

I was fascinated by Iby's story of determination and how she survived being persecuted by the Nazi's. I finished the book within the same day and I knew that this was the story I wanted to tell. I enlisted the help of two other students on the same course at the university, Mark Oxley and Ian Orwin, and travelled down to Leeds to meet Iby.

Iby was born in Czechoslovakia, where she was excluded from school for being Jewish. She was later smuggled over the border into Hungary, where she ended up working for the Hungarian resistance in Budapest. She was eventually captured and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Iby is a remarkable lady and to have her in front of us sharing her story was truly captivating.


Auschwitz survivor Iby Knill talks

As the director, the most difficult challenge I had was to pick the most salient parts of Iby's complex story and create a simplified narrative. After the meeting, we decided pretty early on that the only way we could truly bring Iby's story to life and do it justice was to go to the places that she was telling us about, and capture it on film. This meant traveling to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

In December 2012, I started to research into Auschwitz more and more to build on Iby's story. I knew it would be horrific but wasn't really prepared for it. At one point, after watching some deeply harrowing archive footage, I wasn't sure I could even carry on with the project. A few days later after another conversation with Iby I knew we needed to do it.

The three of us had a ridiculously small budget so we trawled through websites offering bargain basement flights and cheap accommodation and we managed to stretch our meagre budget to travel to Krakow and Budapest. With careful planning and a no-frills approach we managed to make the trip happen.


At the end of January 2013 we flew into a wintery Krakow. We were sat in the early hours of the morning at the airport, with all our equipment looking over the schedule. I couldn't help but wonder what on earth we were doing!

I felt really uncomfortable filming at Auschwitz and it felt really strange being there. I was really lucky to have Mark and Ian filming with me. I think that people need to visit Auschwitz to see for themselves just how horrific and harrowing it is. It's important for people to learn from it, in the hope that we can prevent it from happening again.

Upon returning to the UK I finished editing the film and someone suggested I sent it over to The Community Channel to see if they would broadcast it. I did and now Iby's story will be shown across national television.


Making the film was very challenging, but working with Iby has helped my film-making immeasurably. I hope to continue travelling and finding people with stories that need to be told. I hope that people will learn something from the film that we made. And I hope that we did Iby's story the justice that it deserves.

The Auschwitz Museum and the Holocaust Centre in Budapest have both requested a copy of the film for their archives. It's a huge honour knowing that I've played a part in helping Iby tell the world her story.

The documentary Iby Knill: An Auschwitz Promise will be screened at 8.30pm on Saturday, 7 December 2013 on the Community Channel, which is Sky Channel 539; Virgin 233; Freesat 651. The programme will be available on BT Vision and on demand. The program will be repeated on Monday 27 January 2014 at 8pm and then again at half past midnight to coincide with the International Holocaust Memorial Day