Holocaust survivors share heartbreaking wartime experiences with students at Watford Synagogue memorial event

Speaking at a Holocaust Learning event at Watford Synagogue yesterday, survivor Hannah Lewis recalled that the day she saw her beloved mother shot dead by the Nazis was the day her childhood ended.

Published: Wednesday, 5th February 2020
Holocaust survivor hannah lewis with mayor peter taylor img 1897
Holocaust survivor Hannah Lewis with Watford Mayor Peter Taylor

“I saw her lying there with her blood staining the snow and I always say that is when I grew up. I now knew why she wasn’t looking at me when she left, as she always did, and that I mustn’t make a noise.”

Hannah was just eight years old. Her father and his cousin had managed to escape to join the partisans, so Hannah had to fend for herself in the labour camp at Adampol. She was finally liberated in 1945 by a Russian soldier who picked her out of a trench, dirty and starving.

Seventy-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Watford Synagogue welcomed some 430 students from local schools and West Herts College to a series of educational sessions on this year’s theme ‘Stand Together’ on 3, 4 and 6 February. The students, from years 9 to 13, had the rare opportunity to hear 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 Hannah, this year’s speakers sharing their remarkable stories of survival were Susan Pollack, Rachel (Ruzena) Levy, Ziggy Shipper and Manfred Goldberg.

Holocaust survivor hannah lewis with students from challney boysHolocaust survivor Hannah Lewis with students from Challney Boys

Participating schools included Watford Boys’ Grammar, Hemel Hempstead School, Kings Langley School and Challney Boys (Luton), along with students studying Health & Social Care at Watford’s West Herts College.

Watford Mayor Peter Taylor and Councillor Ian Stotesbury also attended. Mayor Taylor remarked, “It’s so important to learn about the Holocaust and hearing the survivors’ testimony first-hand today is incredibly powerful. With rising antisemitism today, it’s especially important for the next generation to hear where hatred can lead.”

Students’ feedback such as, “I believe it’s of the utmost importance not to allow such atrocities to occur again and the work you are doing talking to future generations is needed because those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it,” showed the impact of the programme on those present.

Any school or college wishing to register their interest in taking part in a Holocaust Learning event next year should complete the short form at holocaustlearninguk.org/contact-bookings/.    

Susan pollack with west herts college student aaliyah campbell brownHolocaust survivor Susan Pollack with Aaliyah Campbell-Brown, a student at Watford’s West Herts College

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