Remembering the Holocaust - Hurstpierpoint College

Remembering the Holocaust

As part of a series of Holocaust Commemoration events this week, Hurst welcomed two Holocaust survivors—Marcel Ladenheim BEM and Dorit Oliver-Wolff BEM—to share their stories with the College community.

Interviewed by broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky OBE, herself a member of the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission, Marcel told of the harrowing experiences his family suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime. Having fled to France following the Anschluss in 1938, Marcel’s parents hoped to find refuge in Paris, yet the capital soon fell to Nazi Occupation in 1940. Over the course of the war, Marcel’s father was sent to Auschwitz, never to return, and his heavily pregnant mother suffered a severe nervous breakdown, for which she was hospitalized. Marcel was thus forced to fend for himself, and was fortunate enough to be taken in by two brave sisters: Olga and Esther Masoli. He would only be reunited with his brother at the end of the war, when the pair moved to Manchester to live with their aunt and uncle.

The following evening, Dorit shared the story of her equally troubling experiences of WWII. She remembers her childhood years with great clarity; nights spent risking discovery in air-raid shelters, escaping a German holding camp hidden in a laundry basket, and spending nine months in a cellar without any light. At the end of the war, Dorit emerged as a nine-year-old weighing three stone and without hair, with supposedly just three months to live. Yet she was absolutely determined to carry on with her life, and did exactly that—Dorit went on to become an extremely successful recording artist in Germany and, more recently, has written a book detailing her wartime experiences: Behind the Smile: From Yellow Star to Pop Star.

At a time when there are increasingly fewer Holocaust survivors still with us, it was an absolute privilege for our pupils, parents, and staff to hear these testimonies first-hand. Throughout their talks, both Marcel and Dorit emphasized the absolute necessity of continuing to remember and reflect upon the atrocities of the Holocaust, as well as the lessons we must learn from this terrible period of History. In particular, Marcel stressed that while he can never forgive the Nazi regime for the Final Solution, we must turn our gaze forwards to the future to ensure that ‘never again’ is not just a phrase, but our reality.

Find out more about our recent history trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau.