Year 9 at the Holocaust Memorial Centre

Year 9 were privileged to hear the testimony of holocaust survivor Rudi Oppenheimer. A German Jew by origin, his mother, brother and he managed to get permission to visit an uncle in London. His sister Eve was born in London, therefore British, and this was to help some of the family survive. However, Rudi’s father could only get a job in Amsterdam, so the family settled in the Netherlands. By 1940, they were once more living under Nazi rule and life got harder by the month. They had to move house three times and were then sent to the transit camp at Westerbork, before being deported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Despite being ‘exchange Jews’ (Jewish people the Nazis hoped to exchange with the British for Aryan Germans), Rudi’s mother and father both perished of typhus in the disease ridden camp. The three children were looked after by other Jewish people and managed to steal enough food to live. After the war ended they came to London to live with their uncle and aunt in London, as refugee children who then made a life for themselves. Both boys became engineers, and the eldest brother was eventually awarded the MBE for services to engineering. This testimony was the central part of our day at the centre, exploring the museum, spending time in the memorial gardens and considering big questions about the fateful choices that were part of the Holocaust. As Sophie Lofthouse said: “Some people had choices, but chose not to take them up and instead let other people make them, with dreadful consequences.” Girls explored some of the reasons for the wide variety of choices that were made by ordinary people that made the holocaust happen. It was another thought-provoking day, with much resonance and plenty of lessons for all of us to take away

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