Holocaust survivor tells his emotional story to Sunderland children

Students at a Sunderland school had the chance to learn about the Holocaust first hand.

Monday, 28th May 2018, 9:00 am
Updated Monday, 28th May 2018, 1:01 pm
Holocaust survivor Rudi Oppenheimer (centre) with (left to right) Poppy Butler, Michael Colquhoan, Sammy Wright, Steve Garrett, Ruby Lynn and Alex Stonehouse.

Southmoor Academy pupils were privileged to welcome survivor, Rudi Oppenheimer, along to the school.

Rudi is one of few remaining survivors of the Holocaust so the event was something really special for the young people and the staff.

Holocaust survivor Rudi Oppenheimer talking to students at Southmoor Academy.

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The pensioner spoke for more than an hour to the Year 8, 9 and 12 students and also answered a lot of their questions on his personal experiences.

Kayleigh Jobes, history teacher at the Ryhope Road school, said the visit was very emotional and informative for everyone.

She said: “To be able to hear the story of someone who was there was an amazing opportunity for the children, and the staff as well.

“It was a very positive thing and had a real impact on the young people, showing just how mature our students can be.”

Holocaust survivor Rudi Oppenheimer with Southmoor Academy Year 8 students Michael Colquhoan and Ruby Lynn.

Ms Jobes said the Year 8 pupils have been discussing what they learned through the story from Rudi and have all written him letters thanking him for his visit and what it meant to them.

Rudi was born in 1931 in Berlin before his family moved to the Netherlands.

In May 1940, German troops invaded the Netherlands, and by October 1942 Jews in Amsterdam were being rounded up and deported from the city.

In June 1943, Rudi and his family were rounded up and sent to the transit camp Westerbork, situated close to the German border in the north-east of the Netherlands.

Later the family was sent to Bergen-Belsen in 1944 as increasing numbers of Jewish prisoners were brought to the camp from Auschwitz-Birkenau and elsewhere.

Rudi and his family suffered increasingly horrific conditions during the winter of 1944-45. With tens of thousands of prisoners now arriving, overcrowding, starvation and disease were rife. In January 1945, Rudi’s mother fell severely ill and died. His father died just two months later.

On April 10, 1945, Rudi and his brother and sister left on the last train to leave Bergen-Belsen and after travelling for 14 days they awoke to find the SS guards had gone and they realised they had been liberated.

The trio came to live with their aunt and uncle in London.

Rudi is now retired and talks regularly about his wartime experiences in schools and universities all over the country.