Holocaust survivor’s eye-opening talk for Hartlepool students

Arek Hersch with the Year 10 students at St Hilds Church of England School.

Arek Hersch with the Year 10 students at St Hilds Church of England School.

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Students were moved after hearing first-hand from a man who survived the Holocaust.

Arek Hersch, 87, who was at Nazi death camp Auschwitz, spoke about his life to a group of Year 10 pupils at St Hild’s Church of England School in Hartlepool.

It is important to teach young people what human beings did to other human beings and we must never forget that

Arek Hersch

Mr Hersch, who was born in Poland and now lives near Leeds, was sent to his first concentration camp when he was only 11 before being taken to Auschwitz.

He puts his life down to switching from a group of sick, young and old people destined for the gas chambers to a queue of fitter people during a commotion.

The school said the visit was part of its commitment to marking the Holocaust. Some of the students will travel to Auschwitz later this year.

Head girl Kate Alvin said: “It was really inspiring. You hear all these things about the Holocaust, but you never see someone who has survived – it’s a completely different experience to reading about it in a book.”

Head boy Ben Harrison added: “It was one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen. It was amazing to see someone who has been so brave and lived through the horrors of the Holocaust.”

Mr Hersch was eventually liberated at Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia in May 1945 by the Russian army.

He was one of 300 Holocaust-surviving children who were brought to the Lake District and was awarded an MBE for voluntary service to Holocaust education in 2009.

Mr Hersch said: “It is important to teach young people what human beings did to other human beings, and we must never forget that.”

The visit was organised by history leader Cath Hurst and made possible thanks to Rondo Travel, based in Bedale, North Yorkshire.

Acting headteacher Tracey Gibson added: “Learning about the Holocaust in the classroom is one thing, but to meet a survivor in person, who is willing to talk about his experiences, was a chance for students to gain a very powerful and never-to-be-forgotten insight into this period of history.”