During a talk held at English Martyrs’ Catholic School, Holocaust survivor, Simon Winston BEM, (British Empire Medal) shared the moving story of his early life as a young Jewish child, growing up in WW2.
Our year 9 history students went along to listen to his story which, because it was a first- hand account, added so much depth to their study of the Holocaust and the events of WW2.
Simon’s talk was a once in a lifetime opportunity which brought the student’s learning to life by allowing them to listen to his experiences of the terrible events and how they impacted on his later life.
Simon Winston was born in 1938 to a Jewish family in Radzivillov, Poland.
In 1941, the Nazis occupied Simon’s town, imprisoned Simon and his family in a ghetto and subjected them to antisemitic laws. Conditions in the ghetto were abysmal, and, following an execution of 2000 Jews in 1932, Simon’s father arranged for the family to escape the ghetto by bribing one of the German guards.
After escaping from the ghetto, the family survived by hiding in the cellar of a barn until liberation in 1945. After the war, the family were unable to return home and spent time in several Displaced Persons camps before emigrating to England, where they settled. After attending school, Simon became a civil engineer and then a teacher.
Now retired, Simon is working to make sure that the impact of the Nazi ideology on the lives of millions (not just Jews but gypsies, the disabled, other ethnic groups) of people who were deemed ‘unworthy of life’ is not forgotten but also to encourage young people to be active in their world by accepting difference, valuing democracy, and avoiding prejudice. He also raises awareness of the genocides that are sadly still happening in the world.
Miss Lehane, teacher of History comments:
“The 44 year 9 students attending showed exemplary behaviour and respect during the talk. They evidently understood the importance of the trip and showed the utmost respect by following instructions and listening attentively to the Holocaust survivor throughout.
They also demonstrated their confidence and interest by frequently answering Simon’s questions.”
Our students realised how fortunate they were to have this experience:
‘It was amazing, we are so privileged to hear the story of someone who lived through the Holocaust.’
'It was really interesting to hear what he went through.”