Henry Wermuth was not afraid. He knew what he was doing was right. Fuelled with the desire to save his mother and sister, and working under the cover of darkness, the then 19-year-old piled wood, stones and debris onto the train track near Klaj, Poland, with a sole objective in mind – kill Hitler.

The 91-year-old Holocaust survivor recalls: “Even though I did not know it, the Holocaust was in its full swing and by killing Hitler, or at least hurting him, I may have been able to prevent some of what was going to happen.”

Having been forced to leave his home in Frunkfurt, Henry, a German Jew, and his family were driven to Poland where they were separated. His mother, Ida, and his sister, Hanna, were then taken east and Henry and his father, Bernhard, to Klaj in southern Poland.

“We said goodbye to my mother and sister, but we did not hug. We did not want to show our fear that it might be for the last time,” says Henry.

“The next morning they came out from where they were being held and I turned around to see them. That was the last I saw of them.

“I engraved the picture in my mind.”

At Klaj, a low security camp, he and his father worked in an office alongside a disgruntled German soldier.

“He hated the war, Hitler and the whole situation.”

During one of their conversations the guard told him that Hitler would be travelling past Klaj, heading east by train.

“I was young and, not thinking rationally, I thought that by derailing the train I would be able to free them and end the war.”

But the train did not derail. Perhaps a passing farmer or patrol saw the debris and removed it, but the true story of what happened remains a mystery.

When Henry returned to the camp he told Bernhard what he had done. He was furious and scolded him for acting so recklessly.

Bernhard would not survive the Holocaust. He died on April 26, 1945, eight days before Mauthausen concentration camp, which was where the pair were later incarcerated, was liberated by US forces.

“If my family had survived I would have thought it was all a bad dream.

“I still can’t believe it.”

  • The London Jewish Cultural Centre, Ivy House, North End Road, Golders Green, Tuesday, November 18, from 8pm. Details: ljcc.org.uk