Tonypandy Community College students heard the harrowing testimony of Holocaust survivor Joanna Millan as part of a visit to South Wales organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust.
More than 70 students, staff and invited guests heard the incredible story of 75-year-old Joanna who was born Bela Rosenthal in Berlin.
Her fascinating presentation enabled students to better understand the nature of the Holocaust and to explore its lessons in more depth.
Her visit to Tonypandy Community College was organised by Head of Humanities Faculty Claire Thomas.
Headteacher Nathan Prygodicz said: “It is a privilege for us to welcome Joanna Millan to our school 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.”
Joanna took the captivated audience on the story of her life.
She explained how in March 1943 her father was taken from the streets of Berlin and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau where he was killed on arrival.
Later that year Joanna and her mother were sent Theresienstadt, a concentration camp 50 miles outside of Prague.
In 1944, when Joanna was 18 months old, her mother died of TB leaving her orphaned.
Joanna was one of 140,936 Jews deported to Theresienstadt, which saw up to 50,000 Jews present at one time, seven times the amount the camp was designed for.
They lived in filthy and cramped conditions. Surviving on a meagre diet of watery soup, potatoes and bread, one in four died.
Perhaps the darkest picture was how 190 bodies were cremated daily in four ovens, which were originally designed for one body, but could fit four due to how thin they had become.
On 3rd May 1945, the Red Cross took over control of the camp and Joanna, who survived thanks to the kindness of a cook in the kitchens, was liberated by the Russians before being flown to England where she lived in children’s
Anna Freud studied the early life of Joanna and the other five youngest survivors of Theresienstadt which helped her better understand the story of her early years.
For the past 25 years Joanna has told her family’s story throughout schools and
universities in the UK and latterly in China.
The visit is part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s extensive all year round Outreach Programme, which is available to schools across the UK.
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.”
For more information about the Holocaust Educational Trust please visit www.het.org.uk