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Sunday 21 September 2014

Concentration-camp survivor gives students real-life history lesson

Published 04/02/2011 | 05:00

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Concentration camp survivor Tomi Reichental with Larkin Community College students (from left) Fazire Zulkifli, Andrea Rus and Keji Ote

A SURVIVOR of the Holocaust is bringing living history into Irish classrooms.

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At the age of nine, Tomi Reichental was incarcerated in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany.

Miraculously, he survived one of the worst atrocities in history.

For years, Irish teenagers depended on the harrowing memoir, 'The Diary of Anne Frank', for an account of the horrors of the Holocaust.

Now, 65 years later, Tomi (75) vividly recalls the story, firsthand, for transition-year and Leaving Certificate students.

Although six million Jews died during the systematic persecution and murder carried out by the Nazis, Tomi, his mother Judith and brother Miki were among the survivors.

Tomi later qualified as an engineer, and subsequently took up an invitation to work at a zip factory being set up in Dublin.

In 1961, he married Evanna Blackman and they had three sons, and now, several grandchildren.

A widower, Tomi lives in Rathgar, Dublin, and has a new partner, Joyce.

Tomi didn't talk about his experiences for years, but when he visited his grandson's class a few years ago, he saw the impact his story had. He ended up crying and so did the children and their teacher.

Now he visits two schools a week and his testimony is being made available to all schools, through an 80-minute DVD prepared by the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland.

His memories of those terrible days include the yellow star stuck on his lapel on his first day at school, identifying him as a Jew.

"It was terrifying, Alsatian dogs barking and the SS shouting 'schnell, schnell' (fast, fast)," he said, recalling the seven-day train journey to Belsen.

Irish Independent

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