Mrs Engelman will be one of three Australians to return to the site of the death camp in Poland for Monday’s ceremony, among a thinning delegation of 200 Auschwitz survivors travelling there from all over the globe.
It is potentially the last major anniversary of the liberation that will have living survivors present.
They will be joined by world leaders from more than 50 countries, and an Australian delegation including the president of the Senate Scott Ryan and ambassador to Poland Lloyd Brodrick.
“I’ve been back there before and it was very traumatic; it brings back all these terrible memories and no one can really understand,” Mrs Engelman said.
“But it is a very important task that a survivor has – to perpetuate the memory of the 6 million people who have been murdered – so they haven’t perished in vain.”
Her comments come as Prince Charles warned at a gathering of world leaders in Israel for the anniversary that “hatred and intolerance still lurk in the human heart” and French President Emmanuel Macron said anti-Semitism was “once again rearing its violent head”.
In November, a report by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry found a steep rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported across the country.
Mrs Engelman was raised in Dovhe, a picturesque farming village in a mountainous region of Czechoslovakia. An only child, she was “spoilt with a lot of attention and love”.
But German occupation of the country under Hitler from 1938 cast a bleak shadow over her happy childhood.
“My father used to be taken to the police station at least twice a week,” Mrs Engelman recalled. “One day he came back and he had his front teeth knocked out.”
The family were deported to the Berehove ghetto in Ukraine in 1943. After several months SS officers arrived, cramming them into cattle wagons so crowded they could “hardly breathe”.
Mrs Engelman’s father did not know where his family was being taken, but made his daughter promise him she would survive.
“Of course I will survive,” the 14-year-old replied.
Two nights later the doors swung open; revealing the brass gates of Auschwitz inscribed with the words: “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work makes you free”).
A doctor waved Mrs Engelman to his left, and her parents to his right. It was the last time she saw them.
She later learnt he was Josef Mengele, a notorious Nazi physician branded the “angel of death” for his gruesome medical experiments.
Mrs Engelman’s group were stripped, shaved and marched into the gas chamber. Nothing happened. They trembled through the night and, in the morning, were marched out.
“To this day I do not know what happened,” Mrs Engelman said.
Her group were then forced into labour, recovering valuables from the thousands of people who entered the gas chambers each day, in terror they would be next.
“While working there, we could hear people choking from the gas,” she said. “We could smell human flesh being burnt.”
As the Allied forces closed in, the Nazis began to dismantle the camp. Mrs Engelman, then skeletally thin, was sent on a death march, walking up to 60 kilometres a day in Poland’s bitter winter cold.
“We had no hair. We were like zombies. If you could not keep up, you were just taken out of the row and shot,” she said.
The girls arrived at a munitions factory where they were tasked with assembling clocks for bombs.
When Mrs Engelman fell ill with scarlet fever, her workmates hid her and secretly performed her duties so it went undetected by the SS officers.
The Russians liberated the camp in May 1945, when Mrs Engelman was 17.
“It seemed unreal,” she said.”You know how beautiful May is in Europe. Suddenly it is over and there is nobody there.”
Mrs Engelman was penniless and alone in the world. Under a quota system, various countries agreed to sponsor war orphans. Mrs Engelman put her name down for Australia, and was sent to Paris to board a vessel for the three-month voyage.
“I had never seen the sea, so when we arrived in Marseilles and I could hear the roar of the sea, that was such an exciting experience,” she recalled.
Mrs Engelman found work making costume jewellery at a factory in Surry Hills. She fell in love with John Engelman, another Holocaust survivor from Czechoslovakia who lost most of his family in the war.
“We were the first children survivors that came to Australia that were married,” she said. “We had nothing, we had nobody, but at least we had each other.”
The couple went on to have a large family of their own, which today includes great grandchildren. Mrs Engelman has led school groups on tours of the Sydney Jewish Museum every Tuesday for 28 years since it was founded in 1992.
Two years ago, Mrs Engelman was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for her services to the community.
“The children I talk to are wonderful. They listen and ask questions,” she said.
Mrs Engelman is drawing on her steely optimism ahead of Monday’s ceremony.
“You have to regain your faith in human nature, and it wasn’t easy. I shall never forget or forgive but I can honestly say I don’t hate,” she said.
“I lost everybody but I survived it. I’m going there as a person that was there at the time. And now I have four generations, so I’m surrounded by my children.
“This is living history which has to be told.”
Mr Ryan told the Herald: “This is the second time I will visit Auschwitz, having been on a personal trip in January 2002.
“It is a privilege to represent Australia at this important commemoration, particularly as this may be one of the last commemorations with survivors able to attend, and also due to the number of Holocaust survivors who subsequently made their home in Australia.
“I will be joined by the Australian ambassador to Poland, Robert Groot from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and we will be honoured to meet with Mrs Yvonne Englemen, an Australian survivor of Auschwitz, and her family who are attending the commemoration.
“Auschwitz is a place where evil and inhumanity has occurred like nowhere else on earth. It encapsulates the depravity of the Holocaust across Europe.
“This commemoration, and ongoing education, are critical in ensuring we never forget the consequences of racial and religious hatred, but also the millions of individuals who were murdered and their stories.
“As the survivors themselves pass, it is our duty to ensure this history is taught to future generations and never forgotten.”
Carrie Fellner is an investigative reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.