Over 350 people attended an event with Holocaust survivor Tomi Reichental in Colaiste Ide agus Iosef, Abbeyfeale last Thursday. Senior students as well as teachers and parents, listened intently to the octogenarian speak for 75 minutes before answering questions from the audience.
Tomi had began his visit by unveiling a poster highlighting the diversity of nationalities of students in the school.This poster had been produced by the student led Justice and rights group in the school "The Justice League". Ceannaire of C.I.I, Caoimhe, welcomed Tomi to the school. Then Fidelia, a member of Justice League, spoke about the need for compassion and kindness towards all people, regardless of differences.
Tomi spoke for over an hour regarding his experience during the Holocaust. A Slovakian native, he was transported with his family to Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany when he was nine years old. The audience were captivated by Tomi’s account of the hardships he and his family endured at the hands of the SS Guards. In all, thirty five members of Tomi’s family perished during the Holocaust. Tomi survived and was liberated from Bergen Belsen in 1945.
Afterwards, Tomi took questions from the audience. One student, Kevin, posed a question regarding our world currently and the possibility of something as devastating as the Holocaust ever happening again. While Keith then questioned Tomi about his return to Bergen Belsen and how it affected him. Finally, Cillian asked if he had developed friendships amidst the hardship he endured during the Holocaust.
Students, teachers and parents alike were so grateful to witness a first hand account of the atrocities of the Holocaust. We are all aware of how privileged we were to have a survivor in our midst, considering many of those who survived are no longer with us.
Tomi signed some books and was happy to stand for photographs after he spoke. Several students approached him to thank him for his time, mentioning that they had really enjoyed it.