This week, the pupils gathered to honour Holocaust Memorial Day, which took place on 27 January, marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi camp orchestrated under the Nazi regime.
The assembly began with a beautiful musical piece by two of our Music Scholars, Violinist Tommaso L (Upper Sixth, Murry), and Pianist Adam G (Upper Sixth, Priestley).
Ms Kleimberg (Teacher of Psychology) and Ms Sanitt (Head of German) led a powerful assembly where they retold the remarkable story of Sir Nicholas Winton, a non-Jewish, British man, who dared to risk his life by rescuing 669 mostly Jewish children from Czechoslovakia, who were most likely to be murdered under the Nazi regime during the Holocaust.
After Kristallnacht, which took place on 9 November 1938, where the Nazis had initiated a campaign of hatred against the Jewish population in all Nazi territories, the British government relaxed its immigration laws and agreed to allow a limited number of children from Germany and Austria via Kindertransport into its borders. Knowing this, after Winton visited the Czechoslovakian refugee camps, he compiled an exhaustive list of children who needed rescue from the refugee camps he visited in Prague.
Winton, presenting the British government with the list of the Czechoslovakian children in need of rescue, pleaded that they permitted them into UK borders. The UK Government eventually granted permission for his request on the condition that each child was matched to a host family who would care for the children until they were 18. Each child had to have a guarantee of £50 paid by their family. Through his noble efforts, Winton was able to arrange the rescue of 669 children who came to the UK over nine months in 1939, saving their lives.
Ms Sanitt (Head of German) told us about her father, Herbert Emsheimer, and how he had a few vivid memories of life in Germany. Emsheimer remembers the violent Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, as his grandad was attacked on this night, and his mother was paraded around the village having food thrown at her. After Kristallnacht, Ms Sanitt’s father’s grandma decided that they had to leave their home; many Jews were still reluctant, as they thought there would be a different outcome. Kristallnacht was also important as the British decided to relax their immigration laws and allow a few unaccompanied children to travel here. They would be out on trains called Kindertransport. Ms Sanitt’s father and aunt were lucky as they were able to obtain these Kindertransport tickets.Unfortunately, some of Ms Saint’s family, including her great-grandparents and cousins, did not make it in the concentration camps. However, her grandmother and grandfather were able to escape just in time.
In reflection, the assembly invoked Nicholas Winton’s words: “If I can do something, I must.” As a community, we must use these words as a moral compass, stand for tolerance, decency, and acceptance, and against discrimination in all forms, regardless of religion, race, gender, or beliefs. The assembly left a mark, honouring the past while inspiring a commitment to a compassionate future.