independent

Monday 22 December 2014

Enthralling tale of a Holocaust survivor

ERICA O SULLIVAN

Published 22/01/2013 | 15:15

SOME 250 senior cycle students at a Swords secondary school were given a first hand account of the horrors of the Holocaust last week.

Belsen survivor Tomi Reichental, who lost 35 members of his family in the genocide of Jews during World War 2, was invited to Fingal Community College last week to give a talk to fourth, fifth and sixth year students about his horrific boyhood experiences. The students and their teachers were enthralled by an eyewitness account of the horrors of the Holocost when they met 78 year old Tomi Reichental, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Tomi, who was born in Slovakia, was nine years old when he was transported to Belsen in October 1944 with his mother, brother Miki and several other family members because they were Jewish. Students heard Tomi recall the daily torture, confiscation of property, starvation and lack of dignity at the concentration camp. When Bergen-Belsen was liberated in 1945, thirty-five of Tomi `s family members had perished. Just listening to Tomi speak, it is obvious that the memories of his past still haunt him today. Tomi told his audience that at just ten years old when they were liberated he knew that if he had not been freed, then he could not have lasted much longer. After liberation Tomi, his mother and brother were reunited with his father. The family returned to their home and later emigrated to Israel. Tomi studied engineering and has lived in Dublin since 1959. He could not speak about his experience for over 55 years but realising he is one of the last witnesses Tomi broke his silence and is now a regular speaker at schools all over Ireland. Students at Fingal were very grateful to hear Tomi speak and have received a better understanding of the horrors of the concentration camps and the effects they had on the survivors. While signing a copy of his book, 'I was a Boy at Belsen', published by O'Brien Press, Tomi met with several of the students and teachers who thanked him for his talk.

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