Last Sunday I was privileged to hear a very special person, Arek Hersch, speaking about his life and his experiences as a Jewish boy during the second world war.
A large part of my university degree was spent studying the Weimar Republic, WWII, the Holocaust and then the following occupation and separation of Germany, and I still find that period of history absolutely incredible. There are so many links to be made with the world events of today, and I really think everyone should take the time to listen to someone like Arek and hear the awful things that he and many others had to go through.
Me speaking about it can’t do justice to his story, but his book is gripping and extremely well-written. You can buy it from the Beth Shalom Holocaust centre, which is where I went to see him at the weekend.
Beth Shalom was started in the 1990s by a family who had been touched by the plight of the Jews during WWII. It’s now a very popular museum and the venue for many Holocaust survivors to come and speak about their stories. I’ve personally attended talks by 3 of these amazing people, each with a different story to tell, and each one has really made me think about my own life and how lucky I am.
But the biggest message I’ve taken from all three is that it’s so important to learn from the past. Arek’s wife was really disappointed that some people in our country seem to be making the same mistake as so many hundreds of German people did, all those years ago; the mistake of thinking that one race, or one religion, is better than the rest and has more of a right to live in peace, wherever they choose, than the others.
Listening to people who have felt first-hand the effects of this way of thinking has really made me address my own prejudices, and really try to be more tolerant and open to others, and I wish that more people could do the same.