As part of the events to commemorate and remember the victims of the Holocaust, Third Form students were privileged to hear Ruth Posner BEM share her incredible testimony with school children nationwide through a live webinar. Ruth painted a shocking picture of what she went through as a 10-year-old girl awoken in the middle of the night by Gestapo agents. Little did she know that her life would be forever changed from that moment on as the family was sent to the ghetto in Radom.
Ruth reflected on how the smallest instances of chance gave her the opportunity to escape with her aunt and hide in plain sight, living under a false name and identity in Warsaw and the bravery and risk it took to get out. It was not long before the war machine caught up with her and she was arrested and moved to Germany as a Polish prisoner of war. She likened herself to a cat with nine lives and she explained how many times she narrowly escaped death from Nazi soldiers and indiscriminate machine gun fire from US bombers.
Ruth knew nothing of the fate of her parents although she did find out that her younger cousins, who had also escaped the ghetto had been denounced by the neighbours of the farmer who had taken them in and were executed at the ages of six and eight. Ruth found this very hard to talk about and even though many years have passed, she will never get over the callousness of the neighbours who went out of their way to denounce innocent children. Ruth knew that she was very lucky to make it through the war and was brought to England after the war where she met her husband and raised her family.
This year, the theme of the memorial day is ‘Ordinary People’, and how ordinary the victims and the perpetrations were. It is too convenient to say such atrocities were committed by ‘evil’ people and that such things will never happen again, but this does not do justice to the legacy of the Holocaust and the lessons we need to learn from it and how we can apply those lessons to the world we live in now. I hope that the Third Form found the talk as moving as I did and will take some time to reflect on the testimony they heard.