The Holocaust is a poignant but haunting chapter in modern history and today, it is a key part of every child’s formal education in England.
Holocaust education outside of the classroom allows students to learn about the realities of WWII in new and more perceptible ways. This concept is reinforced in the age of modern technology, through greater accessibility to real-life personal accounts from survivors.
We’ve collated the stories of five Holocaust survivors from around the web to give an insight into the rich learning benefit of real-life encounters that we cannot afford to become complacent about in modern education.
As the oldest living survivor of the Holocaust until her death in February 2014 at the age of 110, Alice Herz-Sommer’s story is one of the most famous. She had been sent to Therensienstadt concentration camp by Nazis because of her Jewish origins at the age of forty and remained there until the camp was liberated in 1945.
During her time in Therensienstadt, she played in more than 100 concerns along with other musicians for the prisoners and guards, and credits this for her life. Commenting about her stretch in the camp, she said:
“We performed in the council hall before an audience of 150 old, hopeless, sick and hungry people. They lived for the music. It was like food to them. If they hadn’t come, they would have died long before. As we would have.”
Though she was liberated from the camp, Herz-Sommers’ husband sadly died in Dachau shortly before that camp was also liberated.
Eva is the youngest person alive to have survived the Holocaust. Born in Poland in 1937, Eva was just two years old when the war began. Her legacy is as a ‘miracle child’, having faced and eluded death a number of times during WWII.
Shortly before the war ended, Lavi was taken to Auschwitz with her mother, where “the black smoke from the chimneys rose high and the bodies lay in layered piles, gun shots and dropping bodies on the ground.” Her life was saved, in the end, by Oskar Schindler who took her at the age of eight to work in one of his factories, making her name one of those on ‘Schindler’s List’.
Alter Weiner witnessed the brutal death of his father by German invaders in Poland on September 11th 1939 when he was just 13 years old. He was incarcerated for 35 months, surviving five different Polish concentration camps before eventually being liberated in 1945 at the age of 18 and weighing just 80lbs.
He is the author of ‘64735: From a Name to a Number’, an autobiographical account of his life as a survivor of the Holocaust, published in 2007. He continues to share his life story with audiences across the US.
Schwartz arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944 at the age of 14 on account of being a Hungarian Jew. He remained a prisoner of war for one year until Hitler was defeated.
(Picture Courtesy of Here & Now)
On arrival at the camp, he narrowly escaped being sent to the children’s barrack where anybody under the age of 15 was taken to be killed. According to Schwartz, all of the other children died. Schwartz is a survivor because he pretended to be 17 and persuaded his friend’s brother to sneak him into the adult barracks. He was then able to join the adults on a transport train out of Auschwitz. To this day, Schwartz credits this with his life.
Leslie Schwartz remained silent on his experience for 65 years. He decided to start telling it at the age of 84, co-authoring a book, ‘Surviving the hell of Auschwitz and Dachau: a teenage struggle toward freedom from hatred’, and lecturing in German schools.
Thirteen-year old Marsha Kreuzman would spend five years in concentration camps before she was freed from the German ‘Mauthausen’ camp by American soldiers. Weighing just 68lbs and close to death, Kreuzman relocated to New Jersey and dedicated her life to talking to students about the horrors of the Holocaust.
(Picture Courtesy of NBC News)
Earlier this year (2014), Kreuzman was reunited with her liberator. Joe Barbella (93) was featured in a local New Jersey newspaper for celebrating his 65th wedding anniversary. The announcement noted that Joe had served in the US Army’s 11th Armoured Division during WWII – the same unit that helped liberate the Mauthausen concentration camp. He was living in the same town as Kreuzman.
After a tearful reunion the pair remain firm friends, both dedicated to keeping the memory of the fallen six million Jews alive.
WST run a number of secondary school trips to Krakow in Poland, where it’s possible to explore the Holocaust from a historical or a religious educational standpoint. For more information, help or advice about our trips, don’t hesitate to take a look at the following pages, or get in touch with one of our team today:
History trips to Krakow
Religious studies trips to Krakow