Last train to Auschwitz

Arbeit macht frei. Work makes you free.

Three words knotted in metal above the gates to a hell on earth. Auschwitz. A living nightmare from which you cannot wake. The world doesn’t seem to care what happens to you: the way in is on a cattle train and it seems that the only way out is death. Last Train to Auschwitz shows a group of women and children being herded onto the platform before being forced onto this train.

Written by Jo Mac, whose Nan survived the Liverpool Blitz, Last Train to Auschwitz begins with a haunting monologue. This heart-stopping story is told against a backdrop of tears, screams and the haunting sound of the train rattling down the tracks. The cold twisted gates projected across the back of the stage are interspersed with historical photographs of Auschwitz, bringing to the fore the reality of the true horror which happened there.

The production took the unusual step of using over ear microphones giving the voices an unnatural tinny quality that emphasised the haunting nature of the story. 

Huddled onto this train platform designed to look like a normal train station are women and children from many backgrounds united by their tragic fate. Rosa (Katie Rose) is a Romany gypsy trying to protect her two grandchildren Anna and Karl (real-life brother and sister Libby and Jordan Drinkwater-Burke). 

They are joined by movie star Sara (Lesley Butler) and her sister Ruth (Maggie Lynch). As tensions rise between the rich and poor they are joined by Miriam (Crissy Rock) and Rachel (Lucy O’Neill). Esther (Jodie Nesbitt) is then violently thrown onto the platform by a German soldier (Alan Walsh) and the group of passengers is complete. 

Terrified and traumatised the group argues amongst themselves and almost come to blows over their different backgrounds and experiences. They are shortly joined by the violent psychotic Captain Holst (Saul Murphey) a Nazi officer who is to become the personification of their worst nightmares. He has Greta (Bernie Foley) under his control, a Jewish woman who is obeying and helping the Nazis in a vain attempt to save her own family.

The group turns on her and each other as they are beaten, stolen from and left desolate on that cold train platform. 

The darkness of Auschwitz is looming and these women will form bonds that will last the rest of their lives. Hunger, guilt, suffering, hope, love, and faith all play a part in this gut-twisting story of one of the darkest periods of our history.

Arbeit macht frei. Work makes you free.

A statement, written above many concentration camps. A lie, believed by many prisoners in these camps who thought that they would eventually be let go. A hope, that freedom would come back to those who had been incarcerated.

Last Train to Auschwitz is the tragic story of what humankind is capable of. The Germans treat the Jews as cattle, the Jews call the Germans inhuman beasts. When they are hurt they all bleed red and blood is plentiful in this prison of torture and suffering. The heart-wrenching stories of these women in wartime, for whom everything is lost, is a scream of despair and desperation, a warning and a wailing plea to never go down that track again.

Last Train to Auschwitz runs until 24 September at the Epstein Theatre. Be sure not to miss this heartbreaking tale of love and loss. Click here to buy tickets.

Donna Day

D M Day is a writer and actor who lives in Liverpool, England. She writes flash, science and fantasy fiction, and poetry. She is currently working on a war poetry collection and a parallel universe trilogy. She runs acting and writing workshops and performed in the first Liverpool Fringe Festival in June 2017.