After learning about the Holocaust this term in History, Year 8 students were privileged to be visited by a speaker from the Holocaust Educational Trust. Due to the Holocaust being around eighty years ago we are not able to hear from survivors any more. However, a new generation of speakers are now sharing the stories of their families. On Monday Natalie Meltzer shared her grandfather Harry Balsam’s Story.
Harry was only a child when Hitler took over Poland, where he lived. Harry lived under Nazi occupation, supporting his family by smuggling goods in and out of his local town. This caused his brother to be shot right in front of him. As the war progressed he was deported many times to different locations. When he arrived at Belzec camp, he was separated from his family and some of them were murdered instantly. Harry went to a further six concentration camps, dodging death many times and in early 1945 he was part of a Death March, being one of only 300 survivors. This ended up in Theresienstadt (a concentration camp) where on the 8th May 1945 he was liberated.
Against all the odds he made it through the war and immigrated to Britain where he married his wife and had a family. He later found out that his father and brother Danny had also survived the war. Harry passed away in 2003 aged 74.
Students found the whole experience thought-provoking and when asked for feedback here are some of the things they wrote.
- Why is it still important for us to hear survivors’ stories ?
It reminds us about the tragedies, to prevent it from happening again and so we can educate the further generations
So we have first hand views about what happened and we can hear what people went through.
- Why is learning about the Holocaust still relevant today?
Because it is one of the most important and harrowing points throughout World History.
As things similar to this are still happening today and it teaches us on how lucky we are to live in a safe world.
- How has the experience of hearing from a survivor family helped you to learn more about the Holocaust?
It has helped me learn more about the Holocaust as the stories were told directly from the survivor.
It helped me learn more and it becomes more real when you hear it from someone who actually went through it. It also comes with more emotion when it’s someone whose family went through it telling us and educating us about it rather than sitting in a classroom as the mood and reality of it is very different.
- What are you going to tell others about what you heard today?
I’m going to tell them the experiences of what it was like in the concentration camps and how it affected people.
How amazing Harry’s story is and how well Natalie communicated it.
Facts I heard and how it affected people and the fact that some Jews actually lived in a house helping/doing errands for the higher powered Nazis.
- Why is it important to tell others?
It’s important to tell others so it’s never forgotten about and so the people who had to experience it are not forgotten.
Because we should tell the story of people, and how they have lived and survived and even died so their legacy lives on.
It is important to tell others about what happened in the Holocaust as it explains the brutality of the past and lets us learn how not to treat others.