On Wednesday 13th February, Year 9 pupils at King’ School were treated to a thought provoking, valuable and rewarding experience of hearing two Holocaust survivors speak about their experiences, as part of the school’s Holocaust Memorial Day. Building on the work that they have been doing in their Religious Studies lessons, the day began with an assembly run by Miss Banwell and Miss Rooke about Holocaust memorial and subsequent genocides, which set the scene for the day.
The first of the two speakers was Marcel Ladenheim who as a young Jewish child survived the holocaust in Nazi occupied Paris by being hidden by two sisters. He spoke of the loss of his childhood and some of his family, but also of the risks and care of the two sisters. Marcel was a true inspiration, as shown by the number of questions he delicately answered. The second survivor Scarlet Epstein talked of her experiences growing up in Vienna during the Anschluss and her experiences of the anti-Semitism she endured whilst at school, until she was no longer allowed to go to school. She talked of the risks she took whilst attending a Nazi rally and an incredible encounter with Hitler and his “hypnotising” speeches. She eventually escaped after much drama with immigration, from Vienna via Albania and Germany to England where she became a Professor of Anthropology and received an OBE for her work.
As part of the Holocaust Memorial Day pupils were taught within their curriculum subjects aspects of the Holocaust, which included a study of zyklon B the compound used in the gas chambers and a comparison of positive and negative science. In English, discrimination within Othello was studied. The Annex and the story of Anne Frank is being taught in Drama, and pupils were able to go to the King’s Theatre the week before to see the excellent play, The Annex. In German pupils looked at how the German population responded to the events of the Holocaust, whether they knew about it and could it happen again and in Music pupils were inspired by the music of Schindlers List. Finally the Art department created a superb memorial display of some of the belongings confiscated during the Holocaust, in particular shoes.
Our thanks go to Marcel and Scarlet who gave up their time to share and bring to life the true horrors and reality of being Jewish during the Holocaust and to the departments who offered relating themes to this thought provoking day. There is no doubt that the day was a true inspiration as well as a day of reflection.