Arek Hersh tells his story of survival at Holocaust memorial assembly

Wednesday 1 February 2017

At the age of just 11, Arek Hersh was taken from his home in Poland and sent to a camp run by the SS. After 18 months he was sent home, one of just 11 survivors from the original 2500 prisoners. In answer to enquiries he told people that their relatives were working because he couldn’t bear to tell them the truth.

Accompanied by his wife Jean, Arek told his story at a Holocaust Memorial Day assembly for students in Years 10 to 13 at GSAL. Hearing this first hand testimony was powerful and thought-provoking for the students, who learned that his terrible ordeal didn’t end there. Just two weeks later the Nazis decided to liquidate the ghetto and by pretending that he was older than he was and had a profession, Arek escaped the gas chambers and was put to work, eventually being sent to Auschwitz.

When the Germans decided to clear the camp in 1945 the remaining prisoners were sent on a three-day ‘death march’ in deep snow to Germany, which many did not survive. After four months 3000 people were put on trains to Czechoslovakia, a month long journey after which only 600 were alive and were liberated by the Russian army in May 1945.

Arek was among 300 children who were flown to England after the war. They had had to grow up very fast but had missed out on their education and lost their families. They began to build a new life for themselves, learning English and a trade.

Introducing Arek, Ivan Green, volunteer with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: “This year’s theme for Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘how can life go on?’ Think of being on that journey and at the end you survive. Life must go on and Mr Hersh is a brilliant example. He created a new life for himself in England and never became a victim of despair.”

Holocaust Memorial Day is held on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The day commemorates victims of the Holocaust in WW2 as well as those who suffered in subsequent genocides around the world.

Photo: (L-R) Ivan Green, Arek Hersh, Ben Myerson, Jean Hersh, Toby Winston and Arielle Kaufman

Or, if you prefer to chat with someone please call our admissions team on 0113 229 1552