On Thursday, the world will mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Nick Morrison talks to a survivor of the camp that claimed more than a million lives.

HARRY'S hut was close enough to the road that, as he lay in bed, he could hear the trucks being unloaded. If he looked out of the window, he could see the chimneys pouring their smoke into the night sky

"We used to hear the screaming and the shouting as the women were separated from the men and the children were crying and then they were taken to the gas chambers," he says.

"I used to lie in bed crying, begging God to do something, to drop a bomb on the railway line, just to stop it for a few days, to drop a bomb on the crematorium. I used to beg and beg and beg.

"When you see what is happening, seeing them getting undressed, being deloused and then going to be gassed... that was when I stopped believing in God."

Harry Nagelsztajn was one of the lucky ones. Between one and one-and-a-half million people are estimated to have died at Auschwitz, but Harry was one of just a few thousand who survived.

After the war, he came to the North-East and now lives just outside Newcastle. Now, at the age of 80, and 60 years after the camp was liberated, he mostly recounts his tale matter-of-factly. It is when he remembers the crying in the night that the tears come back to his eyes.

Harry, whose real name is Chaim, was one of seven brothers and sisters living with their parents in a small town just outside Lublin, in Poland, when the Germans arrived in 1939. But it was not until 1942 that Jews began to be taken away, at first with the promise of work elsewhere. Some volunteered to go, but others were suspicious. Harry's father, a builder, created a secret entrance to the cellar, and when the Gestapo came calling, the family hid until the danger had passed, before re-emerging to go about their business.

As the number of Jews remaining in the ghetto diminished, Harry's parents prepared once again to go into the cellar.

But Harry's older sister, Manya, wanted to hide with her boyfriend on a farm, so 14-year-old Harry volunteered to go with them. They hid in a hollowed-out haystack for a fortnight, supplied with bread, milk and potatoes by the farmer.

"We couldn't hide any longer, and when we came out someone said my parents had been buried in the Jewish cemetery. They had been shot," he says.

The surviving Jews, forced out of their hiding places in the forests and safe houses, were lined up in the town square and separated into two groups. Harry was singled out from his group and taken to the concentration camp at Majdank, not far from his home town.

He joined an 80-strong group building a factory to pack pickled onions, sauerkraut and gherkins. Harry put the skills his father taught him to good use.

As work on the factory came to a close, the Germans decided to liquidate the camp, and killed the remaining 20,000 inmates, all but the 80-strong group of builders, who had done such a good job on the factory they were allowed to live.

At first, they were taken to work on an airfield, in exchange for 80 elderly people, who were shot. Then, in early 1944, they were taken to Auschwitz. Harry was 16.

"We knew about Auschwitz, but I was a young lad, I thought maybe the war will end and I might survive to tell the world about what the Germans are doing," Harry says.

By now his group had acquired a reputation as expert builders, and were set to work constructing an SS barracks. But conditions were harsh.

"I was getting thinner and thinner and thinner. There was no food," he says.

"In the morning we got a hot coffee, sweetened by saccharine; at dinner time they used to bring a watery soup, and if you found a few potato peels it was a good dinner; in the evening we used to get one slice of bread, sometimes a bit of jam and a bit of margarine. That was it.

"Sometimes you wanted to leave half a slice of bread for the morning, but we were so hungry we ate it."

At one point, there was a glimmer of hope that his sister Manya might still be alive.

"I was building a wall beside the women's camp and there was a woman on the other side of the fence, picking up bits of paper. I said to her 'Can you find out if there is a Manya Nagelsztajn there?' She said she would try, but it was such a big camp.

"The following day, she came and said there was that name, so the following night I saved up a little bit of bread and wrapped it in a piece of paper so the woman could pick it up. I said to her, 'I have put some bread down, if you see Manya, just give her that'."

Harry saved his bread for several days, but although it was always taken, there was never any reply.

Towards the end of 1944, as defeat looked inevitable, the Nazis frantically tried to speed up the Final Solution, the extermination of European Jewry. But while some were gassed, others were hastily shipped out before the Russians arrived.

After eight months in Auschwitz, Harry was sent to Ebenzy, a camp in Austria, reaching the train after a walk of four days and three nights. Those who couldn't walk were shot, their bodies pushed into trenches.

At Ebenzy, he was set to work digging tunnels in the mountains, where the Germans planned to store equipment and munitions, safe from Allied air attacks. "Day and night we worked, and I was getting thinner and thinner and thinner," he says.

"One day, they wanted us all to go into the tunnels and they were going to dynamite them and blow us up, but we knew that and everybody refused to go and said 'If you want to kill us, you can kill us here in the camp'. They didn't bother."

Just hours later, the prisoners caught sight of an American jeep coming towards them, carrying two soldiers.

"I couldn't run out, I was just so weak. I looked out of the windows and they were lifting the Americans up. I couldn't do that," he says.

After liberation, Harry stayed in the camp for three months, being nursed back to health by the Red Cross. He then went to Italy and joined the Polish Army, but just two weeks into his training war was over. Churchill had promised Allied soldiers a home in Britain, so Harry went.

"I knew I had nobody in Poland. I had lost all my family, it was no good me going back."

He arrived at the Army camp at Gosforth, and then moved to Newcastle when he was demobbed. He got a job as a builder, met and married Cecilia, and now has four children and nine grandchildren.

After the war, he had contacted a cousin in Israel, asking if anyone had heard of his sister Manya, but there had been no word. He wrote several more letters, but then resigned himself to being the only survivor of his family.

In 1982, he was sitting down to his tea when the phone rang.

"This guy said 'Is your father called so-and-so, is your mother called so-and-so?', I said 'Yes, how do you know?'. He said 'I'm your nephew'. I collapsed, I couldn't take any more. I didn't know what I was doing."

The phone call was on the Monday; on the Saturday, Manya flew over from the US, where she had made a new life. Years after the war, her son had persuaded his mother to talk about her experiences, and they visited the farm in Poland where she hid, and then the cousin in Israel. It was then they learned that Harry had also survived.

The reunion received worldwide newspaper and television coverage, and amid the tearful conversations, it emerged that Manya had been at Auschwitz at the same time as Harry. She never received the bread he left.

Seeing Manya again restored his faith in God, lost amid the screaming and the horror of Auschwitz, but the struggle to forgive the Germans is still going on inside him.

"You can't hate them for the rest of your life, but forgive them? For what they did? It is hard to forgive something like that," he says, his voice rising for the first time.

"I wake up in the nights and I remember my little sister. She was three years of age. She didn't do anything. She didn't do any harm. It is impossible to forgive something like that. No, I don't think I could forgive them."