Pupils get first-hand experiences from Holocaust survivor who visited Hartlepool school

Hartlepool pupils were given a first-hand account of the terrors of the Second World War when a Holocaust survivor visited their school.

Friday, 26th April 2019, 4:46 pm
Updated Sunday, 28th April 2019, 5:00 pm
Joanna with students

Year 9 students from High Tunstall College of Science heard testimony from Holocaust survivor Joanna Millan BEM as part of a visit organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust.

The testimony was followed by a question and answer session which enabled students to better understand the nature of the Holocaust and to explore its lessons in more depth.

Joanna with staff and students

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Joanna was born Bela Rosenthal in August 1942 in Berlin, Germany and in June 1943, Bela and her mother were taken from their home and sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto.

In 1944 when Bela was two, her mother contracted TB, leaving Bela orphaned and alone in the camp. Some of the women working in the kitchens would take food to the orphans and on May 3, 1945, the Red Cross took over control of the camp and Bela was liberated by the Russians.

After liberation Bela, along with five other surviving orphans, was flown to England and adopted by a Jewish couple living in London who decided it would be better for Bela to have a less German-sounding name so it was changed to Joanna.

The visit is part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s extensive all year round Outreach Programme, which is available to schools across the UK.

Mr Mark Tilling, headteacher at High Tunstall College of Science, said: “It is a privilege for us to welcome Joanna Millan BEM to our college and her testimony will remain a powerful reminder of the horrors so many experienced.

"We are grateful to the Holocaust Educational Trust for co-ordinating the visit and we hope that by hearing Joanna’s testimony, it will encourage our students to learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and make a positive difference in their own lives.”

During Joanna's early life she was told not to mention that she was Jewish or that she was born in Germany and to pretend that she was their natural daughter.

Growing up and hiding her identity was hard for Joanna, but she believes that the scale of antisemitism was such that Jews were discriminated against in all sections of society, even in England.

Joanna went on to marry a Jewish man and has three children and eight grandchildren. She is a magistrate and today speaks regularly about her experiences during the Holocaust.

Karen Pollock MBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, added: “The Holocaust Educational Trust educates and engages students from across the UK, from all communities about the Holocaust and there can be no better way than through the first-hand testimony of a survivor.

"Joanna’s story is one of tremendous courage during horrific circumstances and by hearing her testimony, students will have the opportunity to learn where prejudice and racism can ultimately lead.

“At the Trust, we impart the history of the Holocaust to young people, to ensure that we honour the memory of those whose lives were lost and take forward the lessons taught by those who survived.”