Mr Rudi Oppenheimer, a Holocaust survivor, delivered a testimony to the whole School on 18 June 2018. The visit was the initiative of two sixth formers, Sophie and Thalia, following a visit to Auschwitz as part of the 'Lessons from Auschwitz' project.
Emily (12MAC) reports:
The whole School had the privilege of welcoming Mr Rudi Oppenheimer, (now in his late 80s), who along with his older brother and younger sister, survived the Holocaust after being sent to the transit camp Westerbork until February 1944, followed by deportation to Bergen-Belsen in Germany. Sadly both of his parents died of illness due to the horrendous conditions at the camp, and all four of his grandparents were gassed upon arrival at Sobibor. A more in-depth overview of his story can be read on the Holocaust Educational Trust website.
It was fascinating, yet also heartbreaking, to hear Rudi's story. The shear horror of the whole ordeal was balanced by more pleasant anecdotes about Rudi's life as a child. Beginning in Germany, then moving to Britain (including the excitement when he realised his uncle had a car), and on to the Netherlands, and even into the concentration camps, when he used to sit in the toilet building to do homework, with the help of dozens of other imprisoned men shouting out the answers. It was also unbelievable to hear that Rudi not only lived in the same area as Anne Frank in Amsterdam, but she was also brought to Bergen-Belsen, where she unfortunately lost her life just weeks before liberation. Paul, Rudi and Eve left on the last train from Bergen-Belsen in April 1945.
Every Holocaust surviver's story is different. However, each story seems to carry the same message, including Rudi's. During the Q&A session at the end of the testimony, Rudi advocated the importance of continuing to learn from history to ensure that such horrors are never forgotten or repeated. He mentioned the fact that genocide does still exist in some countries, including places in Africa and Syria, and how it is our job, as the next generation, to ensure this is finally ended.
On behalf of Farnborough Hill I would like to thank Mr Oppenheimer for taking the time to visit us and share his story. The Holocaust should not merely be taught as a history lesson, but as a lesson that it must never happen again. By hearing survivor's stories, like Rudi's, and keeping those terrible memories and experiences alive, we may finally be taking a step in the right direction.
It was a privilege for us to welcome Rudi Oppenheimer to our school; his 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 Rudi’s testimony, it will encourage our students to learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and make a positive difference in their own lives.
Mrs Alexandra Neil, Head
Overall I feel the visit and workshops were an amazing experience for the girls, especially as we will be one of the last generations to be able to hear a survivor speak, and I am very grateful to Mr McCready and Sophie for their help in organising this.