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On Sunday afternoon Wickersley students were privileged to meet Holocaust survivor Arek Hersh. Mr Hersh gave an audience at Thrybergh Academy to the students involved in the Anne Frank Trust Guiding Programme, along with their parents and other guests.
Arek was born in Sieradz, Poland in 1928. Born into a Jewish family, he told the audience of a happy childhood surrounded by family and friends. Arek’s world was shattered when, aged 11, he was taken away to labour in Otoschno concentration camp. Conditions in this camp were so horrific that after 18 months, only 11 men out of the original 2500 had survived. From 1940-1945, Arek was imprisoned in the Łódź Ghetto, and the Nazi concentration camps of Chełmno, Auschwitz–Birkenau, Buchenwald and Theresienstadt. Following Arek’s liberation by the Russian Army in May 1945, he was brought in a Lancaster bomber to Windermere in the Lake District. Arek was soon told that only one of his sisters had survived the Holocaust; the rest of his family had been murdered. In the years following 1945, Arek learned a trade a built a life for himself, helped by close friendships with other Holocaust survivors. In 1995 he wrote about his experience in his book, A detail of History.
Arek’s story was both shocking and humbling to listen to, as he spoke with great warmth and compassion about the lessons that could be learned from his experiences, as well as the thoughts that had kept him going during those harrowing years. Following his talk, the audience were given the opportunity to ask questions, and we are very proud of the thoughtful contributions and reflections made by our students.
The Anne Frank Trust also presented our students with badges, in recognition of their work with the Trust over recent months. They are now Anne Frank Ambassadors for life and will aim to challenge injustice wherever they see it, in order spread the lessons they have learned.
Arek’s book is now available to borrow in the school library and is a recommended read for Year 9, GCSE History and A-Level students.