How blonde hair kept ex-Aylesbury High School teacher alive during the Holocaust

Renata with her mother before the outbreak of war and below, Mrs Calverley today (photos courtesy of Bloomsbury)
Renata with her mother before the outbreak of war and below, Mrs Calverley today (photos courtesy of Bloomsbury)
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Renata Calverley, 74, taught English at Aylesbury High School for 27 years until 1998, before in April releasing the Bloomsbury published book Let Me Tell You A Story.

Born in 1937 in south-east Poland Mrs Calverley was left to fend for herself at just five years old when both her mother and grandmother were sent to Auschwitz.

But the young Jewish girl survived on her own, thanks to the kindness of strangers and her blonde hair and blue eyes.

She said: “My luck was blonde hair. No one in my family in had blonde hair.

“The Nazis thought it indicated being part of the Aryan race.”

And despite her memories being almost 70 years old that has not stopped her vividly recalling them.

“This is completely written through my memory.

“This is how I saw things as a child,” she said.

“When you have poignant experiences, the memory keeps them.

“I look at it as how lucky I am to be alive, to be happily married, to have children and to have survived.”

Mrs Calverley recalls one occasion when she was saved from joining Hitler Youth.

She said: “That was one of the scariest moments.

“I was selected to go off and be part of Hitler’s master race.

“I was rescued in the nick of time by my now dead step-mother.

“She arrived a day or two before I was meant to go.”

Eventually thanks to the help of a Polish rabbi the youngster was put on a boat to England in 1946 where she was reunited with her father.

She added: “I had not seen him for six years. He didn’t know he had lost his entire family.”

Mrs Calverley said she relished teaching English at the high school but it was only after leaving that she returned to discuss her experiences with students.

And despite losing many members of her family to the Nazi regime she bears no grudges.

“I have many German friends,” she said.

“I bear no hatred towards them.”