Watford Synagogue welcomed almost 400 students from local schools and West Herts College to a series of educational sessions on 4 and 5 February.
Speaking at a Holocaust Memorial Day event at Watford Synagogue, Holocaust survivor Manfred Goldberg urged, “After the war we said ‘Never again’ and I never thought I’d see all the genocides we’ve seen since in my lifetime. I think social media has a lot to answer for. It could be a force for good but so often it allows evil to spread.”
Manfred, who was only 9 years old when war broke out, came to England in 1946 after surviving Riga Ghetto followed by what he described as “three and a half years of hell” in Stuthoff concentration camp, Poland. On arrival at the camp, during the selektion process that determined who would live and who would die, a stranger behind him in the line whispered, “If they ask you your age, say you’re 17.” The 14-year-old Manfred did as instructed and was put in the group chosen for hard labour instead of the group of women, children and the elderly destined to go straight to the gas chambers. He believes, “I owe my life to that stranger”.
For many years Manfred could not bring himself to speak of his wartime experiences but, with the rise of Holocaust deniers and antisemitism, he became convinced of the need for survivors to speak out to ensure that the younger generation knows what really happened.
Watford Synagogue welcomed almost 400 students from local schools and West Herts College to a series of educational sessions on 4 and 5 February. The students, from years 9 to 13, had the rare opportunity to listen to a Holocaust survivor recount their personal story first-hand and take part in a workshop relating historical facts about the Holocaust to contemporary issues such as racism, discrimination and personal responsibility. As well as Manfred, this year’s speakers sharing their remarkable stories of survival were Eva Clarke, Peter Lantos and Tracy Moses on behalf of her father Harry Spiro.
Participating schools from the local area included Watford Boys’ Grammar, Hemel Hempstead School and Abbott’s Hill School (Hemel Hempstead), Kings Langley School and Challney Boys (Luton), along with students studying Health & Social Care at Watford’s West Herts College.
Students’ feedback such as, “I have learned about the massacre of the Holocaust and how truly terrifying it must have been for a young person. I hope our generation can learn from it and it won’t be repeated,” and “It’s hard to believe that a horror of this magnitude was permitted to happen” showed the impact of the programme on those present.
Any school or college wishing to register their interest in taking part in a Holocaust Memorial Day event next year should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 08456 448 006.