On Thursday 28 June all Year 9 pupils were involved in a day of activities to promote awareness of the Holocaust. Throughout the day the pupils were involved in workshops and other activities all connected to the Holocaust, and how it is remembered.
Mrs Susan Pollack, Holocaust survivor
The most important point of the day was a visit, organised with the support of the Holocaust Educational Trust, by Mrs Susan Pollack. Born in 1930 as Zsuzsanna Blau to a Hunagrian Jewish family, Mrs Pollack grew up with an awareness of anti-Semitism at an early age. While most of her childhood was peaceful, she did experience occasional acts of vandalism against her family home, and in 1938 her uncle was murdered by fascists. However, Mrs Pollack considered her family to have been well integrated into Hungarian life, a situation that would change horrifically during the Second World War. During wartime, Hungary allied with Nazi Germany and gradually implemented laws enforcing discrimination and segregation against the Jews.
In April 1944 the leading Nazi Adolf Eichmann visited Hungary to pressurize its government into deporting Hungary’s Jewish population to Nazi-occupied Poland. The following month, Susan Pollack and her family were deported in cattle trucks to the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Although she repeatedly survived selection at the hands of the infamous Josef Mengele, her mother was sent to the gas chambers. Deemed fit to work, after ten weeks in Auschwitz Susan Pollack was transported to Germany where she worked as a slave labourer in a munitions factory in Gubben. As the Third Reich collapsed in the spring of 1945, she was force-marched in hideous conditions to the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen, where a typhus epidemic was raging. Susan Pollack describes Auschwitz as ‘a place of fear’ but Bergen-Belsen ‘as a place of death’ due to the appalling risks of infection from thousands of unburied corpses. She attributes her survival to the rescue mission sent to Bergen-Belsen by the British Army on 15 April 1945, and believes that she could not have lived more than a couple of days longer in the camp, as she was severely malnourished and no longer able to walk.
Susan Pollack also reminded us that, after liberation, the survivors often lived in destitution and without friends or family, and that many suffered severe psychological problems. Although finding the details of her year in the extermination camps deeply upsetting to recall, Susan Pollack spoke with great authority and dignity, and gave a presentation that none in the audience will forget. In recalling her own experiences after the war, she showed that survivors could make new lives for themselves, gaining qualifications, entering careers and starting families. She is committed to sharing her experiences with school pupils, and has done so for the last 20 years.
Read a creative response by Year 9 pupils