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Concentration camp survivor visits Aldershot school

Rudi Oppenheimer told pupils at the Connaught about his experiences living at Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany during the Second World War

Holocaust survivor Rudi Oppenheimer with pupils at the Connaught

A harrowing first-hand account of life in a Second World War concentration camp was given to students at The Connaught School, in Aldershot.

Years 9 and 10 GCSE history students were visited by Holocaust survivor Rudi Oppenheimer, who spoke about his childhood memories of being a prisoner in the notorious Bergen-Belsen camp, in Germany.

Mr Oppenheimer, 83, recalled the death of his mother and father at the camp, and showed the Star of David patch that was sewed onto his prison uniform to mark him out as a Jew.

Following his talk, the students were shown an exhibition put together by staff in the school’s history department, which gave more information about the Holocaust and genocides that have taken place since.

Mr Oppenheimer spoke about his early years growing up in pre-war Berlin and Amsterdam. Germany invaded Holland in May 1940 and started to round up and deport Jews in October 1942. In June 1943, the Oppenheimers were rounded up and sent to a transit camp in Westerbork, in north-east Holland.

Mr Oppenheimer’s youngest sister had been born in Britain so the family were considered ‘exchange Jews’, meaning they might eventually be exchanged for German prisoners of war.

He was just 12 years old when his family was deported to Bergen-Belsen, where they faced harsh conditions and often went starving. His parents died there in 1945.

Mr Oppenheimer said that after Bergen-Belsen was liberated he travelled to England with his brother Paul and sister Eve to live with their uncle. He has lived in the UK ever since.

History teacher Claire Manning said: “Rudi’s was a tale of the strength of humanity that displayed such courage and honesty.

“He told us he has now given more than 1,000 talks in his life and has no desire to stop any time soon.

“One thing he was very certain about was the need for this story to keep being retold for generations because there is still so much for us to learn.

“Our students and staff alike were very moved by Rudi’s talk and the strength he has to retell his tragic life story with such honesty.

“We were very privileged to have him at The Connaught School and we know it’s a story we will never forget.”

Year 10 student Lauren Woodford, said: “Listening to Rudi’s story has made me realise I shouldn’t take things for granted, such as food and water.

“They seem simple to us but they were a luxury to Rudi. He also taught us to always keep our families and friends close as we could lose them at any point.

“His story was very emotional and it makes you re-evaluate life carefully.”

 

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