Pleckgate High School students said hearing Joanna Millan talk about her experiences during the Holocaust had some of them in tears. The Year Nine students had a visit from Holocaust survivor Joanna, who lost her parents and a grandparent in the concentration camps and now works for the Holocaust Educational Trust. Joanna, originally named Bela Rosenthal and born in Germany, was one of 140,936 Jewish people deported to Theresienstandt, a camp outside Prague.
Joanna was taken there at just 10 months old and lost her mother in the camp six months later. She managed to survive in the camp and, after the war, was adopted by an English couple. Joanna told Pleckgate’s Year 10 students, who were also celebrating World Hijab Day, about her days in the concentration camps, her memories of the rations of watery soup and bread and the deaths around her.
Year Nine student Oliver Rigby said: “Everyone was so quiet listening to Joanna and it was eerie listening to her experiences of the camp. We have been studying the Holocaust for around a month now but Joanna’s talk has had the biggest impact. It was something I won’t forget.”
Kira Doyle said: “I was moved to tears and everyone was listening so intently. I admire Joanna’s bravery for talking so openly about it.”
Kiah Page-Masterman added: “When you study history in class, it’s secondary information so to hear from someone who has experienced an important part of history in real life was emotional and moving. It helped me understand the Holocaust a lot better and to understand what people went through. It was a real eye-opener getting to hear from someone who lived through it.”
It was Joanna’s second visit to Pleckgate and she said: “I enjoy coming here. I travel all around the country talking about the Holocaust and I think it’s an important thing to do. It acts as a memorial and also it’s important to make people aware it could have been prevented but for people’s indifference. We have to do better in the future.”
Head of History at Pleckgate Mr Bajkowski said: “Having Joanna visit and give her testimony to our students is a real privilege and honour for both the school and our students. It also shows that there is something special happening at Pleckgate. Not only do we have results that place us among the best in the country, but we understand that education is more than just outstanding examination results, is also about each student having an outstanding educational experience.
“Opportunities like Joanna’s visit are just a small part in our mission to educate our students at Pleckgate so that they can take on board the lessons learnt today to help build a better world.”
Pleckgate Headteacher Mr Cocker said: “It has been a fantastic day with students engaging in activities and experiences that allow them to come together and understand the importance of history and experience different cultures and beliefs.”